Portland rats are everywhere! Wondering how to avoid rats at home naturally? Many people around the world wonder the answer to this question. This article will explain exactly how to use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) to control rats outdoors in the most natural way possible.
Prevent Rats At Home with IPMIn most cases, a few adjustments to habitat and food sources will control rats outdoors without poison. Adjusting habitat and food first before using pesticides is part of IPM. IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management. Farmers, gardeners, homeowners, food handlers, and pest control use IPM to control mice, rodents & other pests effectively.
How to Avoid Rats NaturallyWhen you wipe your counters and take out the trash, you’re using IPM. The basic concept is to develop good cultural practices to prevent pest issues. So to avoid rats at the home naturally, you’ll want to learn & understand the basics of IPM. Integrated Pest Management looks at everything in 5 chronological steps. Starting with:
- Tolerance level, determining when when the pest becomes and economic or health problem,
- then Sanitation, or removing food and habitat which causes pests to thrive,
- Exclusion and manual trapping,
- Biological controls,
- and lastly, Pesticides when all else fails.
What should I do if I see a rat outside?If you’re seeing rats outside, you should call at rat control professional. For many pests like aphids, simply tolerating them for a period of time may be the best natural pest control option. Oftentimes right when we’re about to act, some ladybugs will give us a free aphid control service. Problem solved. But rats are smarter than aphids. They choose to live in human habitats and are expert at avoiding natural predators. Rats are one of the most challenging pest problems in human history. Since rats are a significant ecological (invasive species), economic (millions in damage anually) and health issue (can spread diseases), we shouldn’t increase our tolerance for them. Failing to act will worsen the problem by allowing rats to breed and reproduce out of control.
Dealing With Rats Outside
Eliminating food sources and hiding places is the best option to get rid of rodents outdoors without poison.
- Yard debris & rock piles, overgrown vegetation, unused outbuilding all provide ideal nesting areas for rodents.
- Dropped bird seed, chicken scratch & pet food dishes outside are free groceries for rats to take home to their growing families.
- Eliminating hiding places & food sources controls rats by not allowing them to reproduce successfully in the first place.
Oftentimes food sources like bird feeders & chicken coops in the neighbors’ yard creates a difficult situation for you. If you have a dialogue with this neighbor, be diplomatic. But explain to them that you are dealing with rats in the garden and you may resort to calling a professional exterminator to kill the rats outdoors.
How To Trap Rats Outdoors
Traps should always be part of a good IPM strategy for mouse and rodent control inside. But how do we trap rats outside? And shouled we even?
Humans have designed thousands of different rat traps over five centuries. Some catch multiple rodents at once. But none have been the end-all. Unfortunately, rats are so smart they will learn to avoid traps over time if they see other rats trapped.
For this reason, trapping rats outside is severely limited in effectiveness. You would need to switch out trap styles and bait types after every single capture to prevent rats catching on. Most professional rat exterminators don’t offer this as a service, because it would be too expensive due to the equipment and labor involved, and isn’t viable long-term.
There are also safety concerns for songbirds, squirrels and other wildlife that may be harmed by a snap trap outside.
So food & habitat modification and exclusion are usually the keystone for natural AND effective rat prevention.
Organic Rat Control
For some pests like mosquitos we have developed ways to control them with natural, biological pesticides. For instance, the miraculous bacterium BT (bacillus thurengensis) is famous for safe organic mosquito & garden insect control. Unfortunately, there are no known biological pesticides for rat control.
What Eats Rats?
In the ecosystem, coyotes, hawks, owls, weasels and other predators hunt & provide biological natural rat and mouse removal services. In the city, domestic cats and dogs provide only a fraction of the rat extermination Portland needs.
Safety Tip: Don’t encourage pets to eat dead rats. Dead rats found should be bagged and placed in an enclosed garbage bin. Most domestic pets are NOT inclined to actually eat dead rats. However, some expired or slow-moving rodents found may contain small amounts of rodenticides. So if your pet is known to eat rats, they should be discouraged from using dead rats as a primary food source. Generally the risk of secondary poisoning to domestic pets is very low, even if they do consume multiple rats containing rodenticide.
What Naturally Controls Rats & Mice?
It is impossible to say exactly what controls rats and mice in the city while we’re not watching. They are difficult to study because of their elusive behavior. Realistically it’s probably some combination of rodenticides & traps, natural predation, internal competition (including cannibalism, yuck), road kills, injury, pathogens & other causes of death.
Rats that do not succumb to the natural environment after about 2 months have 7-14 babies, and the rat issue worsens exponentially.
How To Control Rats Without Poison
If we want to control rats outdoors without poisons, we need to prevent them from running around and breeding out of control. There is basically no other way.
- Eliminate any possible food source for rodents;
- Although feeding birds & wildlife is a common American pasttime, it is not recommended due to rats and mice utilizing these food sources.
- Chicken coops should be enclosed on all sides with quarter inch galvanized steel mesh, and allow no gaps or rodent entry. Feed should be placed inside a mouse and rodent proof coop.
- Compost bins should also be enclosed on all sides, including bottom.
- Harvest garden veggies and fruits regularly, and remove fallen tree fruits and nuts.
- Enclose food storage, pet kibbles & fertilizers in the basement, shed or garage in air tight containers.
- Reduce vegetation wherever possible, particularly within a foot or two of the ground, sides of buildings & along fence lines where mice & rodents like to hide.
- Eliminate yard debris, wood storage & unused masonry to control rodent harborage.
- Inspect your home, garage & outbuildings regularly and seal any gaps and areas where rodent damage appears.
- Fill any burrows found with small diameter pea gravel, and keep some on hand for when it opens back up again.
Outdoor Rat Control
By now hopefully you’ve internalized all the different challenges of outdoor rat control. Sadly, in 5 centuries we have not found a great way to get rid of rats outdoors besides rodenticide baits. Even the best professional rat deterrent and repellent products are happily chewed through by rats, and have absolutely no effect.
The reason we rely on rodenticide baits is that they are designed to have a delay in effect, so the rats cannot associate the bait with danger. Rodenticide bait stations do not need to be emptied of dead rodents weekly like traps, and can be maintained as infrequently as every few months.
Removing Rats Under a Deck or Shed
If you want to get rid of rats under a shed or deck, follow the steps outline above. For burrows under a concrete slab, they will likely need to be baited and backfilled. Anticipate that even if a rat burrow is backfilled, it may be re-excavated, or simply burrowed around.
Luckily, removing rats from under a deck may be as simple as making a cat door. If raccoons, feral cats, and other rat predators are able to access a crawlspace under your deck or porch, rats are unlikely to nest or live there. If the space under your deck is closed off to cats, then rats are more likely to hang out down there.
Rat Removal & Inspection Services
If you have cleared any food and habitat, but are still seeing rats, inspect your home thoroughly for gaps. If there are no gaps greater than 1/4″, then you may not need to take any further steps.
Unfortunately, others may need to take additional steps to control rats & mice because their homes aren’t able to be closed off without tens of thousands of dollars worth of modification to the home. Increasingly, homes with earthen crawlspaces are susceptible to underground burrow entry from Norway rats. Sometimes homes entire gutter lines separate from the roof board and create roof rat entry.
If you’re interested in a professional inspection and custom IPM strategy for rats outside, give us a call. We’ll help you avoid rats at home naturally.
Pest & Pollinator specializes in knowledgable, dynamic & ecologically responsible rodent control for Portland.