Friday, 1 August 2014

Controlling Rats

Rats are a fact of life and they are everywhere, including the allotments.  Rather than trying to achieve the impossible of eradicating them the best approach is to work to keep them under control.

In doing that we all have a role. Besides the fact that plotholders have lost crops, simply in terms of hygiene and safety of the food we produce then rat control is important.  Also in past years the local Pest Control Officer has visited.  On each occasion he has emphasised it is our own interests to do what we can to help control the rat population.

Looking for rodents

You may not see any rodents roaming around, but they will be nearby. Rats take regular routes and leave runs that can often be seen in damp weather.  Typical runs will be from compost heaps or from under sheds. You might also see entrances to their extensive burrow systems in the soil.  An entrance is typically around 3cm diameter.

Rats tend to love plastic 'Dalek' styled compost bins.  It is not unknown for rats to have excavated near the base, or even  tunnel through to the top of the contents.

Reducing the population

The Allotments Society has purchased a number of Fenn traps, a type of humane killing trap recommended by the Pest Control Officer. These do not use bait, but need a demonstration of how to set the mechanism, and daily checking. Traps arc available for loan from Heather Homer, Field 2 Plot 74.. Advice is also available on where to place the traps for best effect - and safety.


Use of poison bait is a matter for individual conscience. It is very effective, though expensive. It is cheaper in larger sizes.  A group of neighbouring plotholders could club together to do a bulk purchase.  When laying poison it is important not to under-bait.  Also it is an imperative to protect the poison from both weather and birds.

Other Methods

One interesting method is to half fill an old coffee pot and lay it on its side near the shed or compost heap where you know think is a rat run. Better still, a plastic milk bottle with just a part of the base removed provides a good protective container. Always replenish the bait as required. {f the bait is chewed on site rather than being taken that may mean you've. probably got rid of the rats and the mice have moved back in!

A temporary shelter for rats AND bait can be made from a sheet of old iron supported on four bricks. This is best if placed ov€r a known run. Altematively, make an artificial run from planks. Bear in mind the goal is to protect other wildlife whilst.making an enticing place for any rats.

Tips for reducing nest sites and food supplies

  • Lift up any sheet: iron or flat boards, and store them on edge
  • Also check that carpet or black plastic sheeting laid to smother weeds is not providing a perfect shelter for a rat family.
  • If rats are under a shed, try to seal the gap with fine mesh wire netting.
  • When building a new compost bin, include a layer of fine mesh wire netting in the floor and sides.
  • Lift root crops and store them in a clamp; a shallow pit lined with fine mesh wire netting.
  • Cover with more netting and soil.
  • Take care to be aware of ANY possible source of attractive food scraps, including compost bins and bird seed, and so forth.
Never think you  will remove ALL the rodents.  Rather think we are trying to give nature a helping hand to restore balance.


Please keep a brief log of sightings, actions, results, etc., to prove that we are taking some action. If things get very bad the Pest Control Officer may be obliged to step in.  If this is the case costs
might spiral...


Don't forget safety first!

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