Common pests

Don’t let rats put you off composting

Having a compost bin doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a rat problem. However, if there are rats in the area then it’s likely they may pay an occasional visit. Here are some ways you can discourage them.

  1. Place a sheet of strong chicken wire or weld mesh under your compost bin. This will stop burrowing rats getting into the bin. Chicken wire/weld mesh is available from garden centres and DIY shops for around £5 for a 1m2
  2. Disturb your bin. Give it a bang or rattle every time you pass it. Rats might not be so keen on hanging around if there is activity around the bin.
  3. Consider locating your bin in an open place in your garden. Rats dislike crossing open spaces, preferring the shelter provided by walls or fences. Avoid siting the bin next to old sheds or hedges.
  4. Avoid putting cooked food, dairy products, meat/fish or bones in an ordinary compost bin. There are other units on the market which can safely take cooked food waste. Cooked food can be put in a wormery (though not meat, fish or dairy products), a Green Cone food waste digester (to be on the safe side you could put a special wire wrap, obtainable from the suppliers, round the basket) or a Green Johanna compost bin. If you have a Green Johanna, remember to mix your food waste with garden material or paper/card. A Kitchen Composter is a further option: with the help of a bran-based activator called Bokashi, all the food waste added will start to ferment without producing nasty smells, and after about two weeks it can be added to a compost bin or buried in soil.
  5. Keep your compost moist. Rats prefer dry environments.
  6. Try sprinkling cat pepper or chilli powder around the bin.

Some facts about rats

  • The brown rat, also known as the common rat, is found throughout the country. The smaller ship or black rat mainly inhabits port areas, though is sometimes transported inland with cargo.
  • A wild rat lives for around a year. During this time a female will typically breed around 5 to 7 times, producing a litter of between 6 and 12. A rat’s gestation period is about 3 weeks.
  • Rats are good climbers and swimmers.
  • Even when they’re not eating, rats need to gnaw on hard material to keep their teeth from overgrowing.

Was this page helpful?

Click or tap the rating which best represents your experience.