Dealing with Pests in the Garden
Whether we like it or not our gardens are the perfect place for unwanted pests to make their homes, especially if you are careless when you feed the wild birds. Don’t panic though, there are steps you can take towards reducing the risk of this nightmare from becoming reality.
Remove food and shelter opportunities
Rodents, such as rats and mice, seek areas where food and shelter are both easily available. If your garden provides both of these factors then you are likely to see these unwanted visitors moving in to your garden. The easiest way to prevent an infestation of rodents in your garden is to remove food and limit shelter opportunities.
Rats and mice tend to venture out of their nests at night so they have less chance of being seen, so do not leave any left-over food out that is in easy access. Clear off bird tables and ground trays each evening, and if you feel rodents could easily get to hanging feeders by climbing then take them down at night. If you are unfortunate enough to see a rat or mouse during the day then chances are food is short and they are getting desperate, or you have a serious infestation of rodents nearby!
If you have a shed or a structure that could easily be dug underneath then raise it up on bricks to make it less appealing as a rodent home, the bricks will allow a draft and make the space under the structure feel more open, therefore may discourage rodents from making their home. It is important to seal any small gaps you find as they appear; rats only need a gap of 15mm to gain entry and mice 6mm.
Cut back overgrown areas and keep piles of wood and compost heaps tidy. If you have piles of rubbish or untidy areas in your garden then make it a priority to sort it out, rats and mice love piles of rubbish and unruly undergrowth as it makes a great place for undisturbed shelter!
Feed the wild birds sensibly
It is important to offer food to ground feeding birds, such as the Blackbird and the Dunnock, but only scatter minimal food on the ground to prevent any food being wasted. Use a bird table or a ground table and place out enough food for one day at a time, this will ensure there is no food left for rodents to clear up.
Store your wild bird food securely
Ensure proper storage for your wild bird seed, galvanised metal bins with a secure lid are great for storing food. Although it is not impossible for rats to chew a hole in metal bins it does make it very difficult for them to access your wild bird food.
Rats are particularly notorious for chewing through anything to get to food, and will climb and get anywhere they want if the food smells good enough. Their teeth are hard enough to chew through materials such as wood, rubber, and even low grade cement and concrete!
Keep your compost area tidy and secure
Make sure compost bins have a tight fitting closed lid to make it difficult for rodents to get inside for rotting food. Ensure bags containing household waste are not left outside for long periods of time, and make sure your rubbish is taken away on a regular basis. Don’t create an easily accessible restaurant for rodents!
Keep your wild bird feeding areas clean
It is a well known fact that rodents carry a variety of diseases, including Salmonella which is harmful to both us and wild birds. It is important that you are vigilant about pests to keep the risk of disease to a minimum, and another reason why you must keep your feeders clean!
Consult a pest control professional
The best and safest way to deal with a rodent problem is to get a pest control professional to sort out the situation as soon as you suspect you have rodents visiting or worse living in your garden. Avoid placing poison in your garden yourself in case pets or other wildlife ingest the poison. Predators may also eat the carcass of a poisoned animal and suffer from poisoning themselves.
Try using herbs to discourage pests
A natural way to help reduce the risk of pests visiting your garden is to grow herbs, such as mint, spearmint and citronella. Rats hate the smell of mint and other herbal aromas so will avoid areas where mint is growing. You could try spraying peppermint oil, castor oil or citronella oil around your garden if you do not want to grow herbs in your garden. Try soaking cotton balls in one of these oils and placing them in rodent holes or near areas you suspect rodents are present.
Dealing with a rodent problem
There are several types of traps on the market that are effective for controlling rodent numbers; spring or snap traps, electrocution traps and live capture traps. Rodents take time to get used to new things in their environment so if you place any traps out then allow time for the rodents to start using the traps, peanut butter is great for enticing rats into traps.
Ultrasound repellent devices are also available on the market, they emit a high-pitched sound that cannot be heard by the human ear but it is audible to rats and mice. There is no evidence that these devices work but you may find they could help deter rodents from your garden, just be aware rodents may become accustomed to the noise once they’ve initially been scared away.
Disposal of dead animals
Dead animals need to be disposed of safely by burying them deep into the ground, or place them in a sealed plastic bag and put them in your bin with your general waste. ALWAYS wear rubber gloves when handling contaminated material and dead animals to keep yourself safe from disease!
We are sure that by following these tips you can minimise the risk of a rodent infestation in your garden, but remember rodents are very resourceful and will get to food in any way they can! Seek advice from a pest control professional if you suspect you have a problem with rodents in your area.