Rats in the Yard or Garden

Can Rats Live in the Backyard?

Property that offers shelter and access to food and water will attract rats. Backyards often contain these amenities and provide the unsanitary pests a way to get inside, as well.

Evidence of Rats in Backyards

When there are rats in the backyard, it is possible to spot them in trees, scurrying along wires and fences, or traveling through pathways in vegetation.

Rats in the backyard leave plenty of signs if homeowners know what to look for. One of the most obvious signs is their small, oblong droppings.

Learn how to identify rat droppings.

The pests leave behind teeth marks on branches, fruit, piled wood, trashcans, and the bottom of garage doors or basement windows. Rat pathways can appear between their food sources and nests, which often appear near foundations and under decks or vegetation

Norway Rats

Norway rats are one of the most common rodents throughout the Northeastern United States. Property owners often find their burrows in yards, usually near or under buildings, shrubbery, or wood piles. Entrances are two to three inches in diameter and are not always easy to spot. These rats can be spotted in and around garbage cans or other easy food sources like gardens, compost piles, and bird feeders.

These pests cause structural damage by digging tunnels, which undermine foundations, patios, and sidewalks. Their gnawing of underground wires and pipes poses an unseen danger. Plus, the yard is still close enough to humans to pose a threat of disease.

Norway rat or roof rat?

Burrow Building

Norway rats wait out daylight hours in ground-level burrows they dig and line with shredded items from the backyard, like cardboard, leaves, and insulation. Burrows may be located near walls, along fences, next to buildings, or under bushes and debris. Norway rats in the yard then become active as the sun goes down and begin their nightly search for food and water.

Hard to Catch

A Norway rat in the yard is constantly exploring to learn about its environment. These pests are capable of memorizing the locations of convenient pathways to food, obstacles to avoid, and shelter for safe rest. This allows them to quickly detect anything new, such as bait or traps, making them that much harder to control.

Climbing Threat

In addition to strong digging ability, excellent climbing skills mean that Norway rats in yards are always threatening to come inside homes. To curb climbing on buildings, walls should be completely free of any ivy growth. All tree limbs should be trimmed back so they are at least six feet away from the perimeter of structures.

Identifying Rats in Gardens

Rats in the garden are destructive, contaminating and feeding on vegetables, fruits, nuts, and ornamental plants.

Because of the pests’ nocturnal nature and tendency to travel via burrow, droppings are often the first sign of their presence. Their droppings are about the size of a raisin and are usually scattered rather than clustered.

Rat Damage in the Garden

Rats are skilled at digging about an inch below the surface without leaving a single sign aboveground. These burrows are attractive to other pests and can cause cave-ins when located beneath stone or rock slab foundations.

Along with feeding on garden produce, rats may target bird feeders or seedlings as food sources. It is unsafe to eat produce when there are rats in the garden.

Protecting Gardens from Rats

There are several ways to keep rats out of gardens. Fencing is one option, though heavy materials are required to resist rodent gnawing. Another method is to make use of greenhouses and raised beds.

Placing a strip of gravel around the garden will reduce burrowing, while removing weeds, leaves, and other debris eliminates possible rat shelters. Additionally, keep trashcans away from gardens when possible.

Typical Rat Damage

The majority of rat damage occurs when the pests move indoors. From gnawed electrical wires to food contaminated by urine and feces, rodents can be major household pests. Outdoors, rats in yards can dig around in trash, eat garden plants, and spread disease by biting and scratching.

Eliminating Backyard Rats

One of the best ways to ensure rats in the yard do not become a permanent problem is to change the environment.

Eliminate hiding places by:

  • Removing wood piles.
  • Mowing overgrown grass.
  • Cutting back shrubs.

Remove food sources by:

  • Choosing trash and compost bins with secure lids.
  • Bringing pet food indoors.
  • Picking up fallen fruit, nuts, and pet waste.

Learn how you can get rid of rat infestations.