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Whether you are looking to attract more birds or to stop the growing rodent population of your backyard, you need to know that feeding birds and other animals in your garden can have dire consequences.
However, there’s good news for bird lovers, because there is a plan of action you can follow. It all comes down to how to stop rats eating bird food when they’re out on patrol in your backyard.
Rats on bird feeders are a major problem in home gardens and urban green spaces. These pesky pests not only eat all the bird seed intended for garden birds, but they also have been known to consume small animals such as mice and rabbits. Yes, if you’re not careful, rats can even kill your pet!
Do Bird Feeders Attract Rats?
Bird feeders do attract rats, and the resultant mess can be very hard to remove. However, although fallen food such as seed drops from a bird table is known to attract rats, it doesn’t necessarily create a rat problem; it just highlights an existing one.
People who see a rat running up to a bird feeder or hear worrying noises from inside their loft space may understandably conclude that their use of bird feeders is at fault for attracting rats. In reality though, the real cause of rats in gardens is more likely to be directly related to nearby sources of easy food such as household rubbish. A cleaner, tidier home is far less likely to have any rodent problem – with or without the use of bird feeders.
Understanding rat behaviour will help you keep your garden and bird tables free of them. Nonetheless, I have observed rats climbing and gnawing at the bird feeders, damaging the perches and eating the fallen seed and food on the ground.
One particular culprit that makes bird feeding difficult is the brown rat. These creatures are quite cunning and can go unnoticed for quite some time.
The brown rat does not become aggressive unless it is threatened; therefore, anything that can be used to scare them away will certainly do so. The brown rat is quite enthusiastic about eating what our feathered friends feed on – sunflower hearts, millet, peanuts and suet.
Are Rats In The Garden Bad?
Gardeners have seen their bird food diminish because of these rodents. Some have lost the bird feeder in the process, and others have just given up on trying to keep their garden clean and fresh. Brown rats love to nest in piles of debris, so cleaning up your yard is a must if you wish to keep them out.
Many gardeners fear these creatures because of the nuisance they cause, and others do not wish to kill them for fear that they may be an invasive species or a pet someone once owned. I can assure you that these animals are dangerous, destructive and aggressive, with little redeeming value in our gardens or society.
They will gnaw on power lines and other items that can be dangerous to touch and are also contagious with a disease called Leptospirosis, which can be spread to humans by the urine of rats. When they move into your garden, they can cause extensive damage, and if you wish to keep them out of your yard, you must remove anything that may encourage them to enter.
How To Keep Rats Out Of Your Garden
Traditional methods of rat-proofing include setting poison bait stations on your property and loosely covering them with cardboard or plastic to catch their scent. However, there are many more methods which you can try beforehand.
Below are some pointers on how to keep rats out of your garden and ultimately off of your bird feeder.
Use Rat Traps
If you place your traps where they can be seen, the rats will become wise to the situation and avoid them. If you do not have the time or supplies to regularly clean out your trap, do not hesitate to purchase rat baits that contain brodifacoum pellets.
The rodent will ingest bait on its own, but if exposed again by an outsider, the poison becomes absorbed into its blood stream. The more bait consumed, the more it will die until it finally expires.
Use Rat Repellents
Rats perceive different scents and chemicals in different ways. There are many rat repellents on the market, but these are proven to work best in most cases. Place them near your bird feeding areas on the ground for best results.
Keep Your Home Clean
Keep your property free of rubbish. Rats love to eat anything and everything, even not very tasty or toxic items like cigarette butts.
So if you have any holes in your bin bags or wheelie bins that rats can gain easy access to, cover them with something solid or cover them with plastic sheeting. Leaving any holes or open spaces for them to enter will just cause more trouble in the future.
The best thing you can do is make sure all trash cans are tightly secured with lids that cannot be chewed through. Keep your gardens free of leaves and other debris, as this is where they will nest if given the opportunity.
Spread mulch around plants to help keep rats away as well as other bugs like slugs. Usually, applying two inches of mulch around a plant will be enough to deter this type of pest from coming into your garden in search of food.
Remove or repair any fences around your home that are found to have holes in them that are large enough for rats to gain access. These types of holes will also allow them entrance into your home as well.
Keep Pets Secured
If you have any pets in your home, it’s always good to keep them inside when possible. Rats love to sneak into homes through open doors and windows and can cause severe damage to both your pet and home.
If all else fails, try using poison to rid yourself of these pests. Be sure you follow these instructions carefully and use rat poison that is specifically aimed at rats and not other rodents, which can be similar in size and may be attracted by some baits (I have had this happen). Before you begin poisoning larger areas, do a test area to see what works best for you.
How To Feed Birds Without Attracting Rats
If you do not wish to resort to the use of traps and poisons, luckily, there are several steps you can take to prevent rats in your garden and keep them off your bird feeders:
Place Bird Feeders In Trees
This will help keep the rats from scampering down onto your garden. If they do, I highly recommend that you place a tall piece of wood (like a broomstick) against the tree trunk; although they are good climbers, they will not climb up any slippery surface and will stay away from high surfaces.
Place traps baited with peanut butter on the ground near your shed, trees, bushes, or dark corners where rodents like to hide. You should also place them at ground level near signs of recent rodent activity, such as burrows or tracks in the dirt. You should set up a few traps around 20 feet apart to give rats an equal chance of getting caught.
Use a Feeder Pole
Instead of using a bird table, which we know for sure attracts rats, try placing your bird food at the end of a feeder pole. This system allows you to hang bird food effectively on a metal pole, making somewhat rat-proof and squirrel proof feeders. Although seeds and other types of bird food you offer will inevitably fall to the ground, there is good evidence to suggest that this is one of the best ways to feed birds without
Use a Cover
Always add a cover to your bird feeder, whether it is a screen, cage or bird table. This will prevent them from climbing on top and eating your bird food directly.
Fresh Food Source
Keep bird feeders clean and fresh. If you allow the food to become stale or mouldy, the rats will enjoy it even more.
Offer More Bird Food
Wild birds are the natural enemy of rats. Please place a bird feeder or two in your yard, especially if you do not want to use bird seed feeders for the birds it attracts. This will help keep them out of your garden and provide enjoyment to the birds present.
Keep a Cat
A neighbourhood cat can be great for driving away rats, but could be a problem for ground-feeding birds.
Take a Break
Sometimes it’s good to take a break and stop feeding the birds for a few weeks while you sort out the vermin problem. When you resume, take note of all the points above to keep rats (and squirrels) away. Once you continue feeding, birds will come back to your feeder very quickly, while rats may never return if you keep on top of the issue.
The Bleach Effect
Finally, try making a mixture of water, sugar and bleach (1 part bleach to 3 parts water) and spray it around problem areas to rat-proof your garden. They will not eat anything sprayed with this mixture because of its bitter taste. Remember to wear rubber gloves when handling bleach.
The Final Word
Keep birds and the rodents that love to eat their food away from your bird tables and feeders by placing a few of these steps into action. I am sure you will be able to spend time enjoying the garden without having to worry about these pests!
If you have an issue with rats on bird feeders or have any other suggestions on how to stop rats eating bird food I would love to hear from you in the comment section below.