Scary Rats

“This grosses me right out. Aaaahhhhh help me!!!” My friend emailed me in a panic this week. She found rats in her compost, one of the plastic models. This is what I wrote in response. More or less.

Oh boy, no fun. Okay, first thing to do is set some rat traps near the bin. Then check to see where they’re getting in. Wear gloves. Have they chewed a hole in the bin? If so, depending on how bad it is and where it is, you may have to recycle the bin. You also want to make sure they haven’t set up a nest in the bin (yuk!). If they have, you should probably set the trap right in the bin.

If it looks like they aren’t nesting and haven’t chewed through the bin, then do the following. Empty the contents and bury it in an ornamental area. Again, make sure you’re wearing gloves. Then set the bin up again. I assume you didn’t have any wire mesh under the bin? You need to buy a sheet of 16 gauge 1/2” wire mesh (hardware cloth) to set under the bin. You can get it at a hardware or lumber store. Set it on the ground, then put the base on top of the mesh, then screw the screws in through the mesh into the ground.

The most important thing once you start over is to make sure you are adding enough dry brown material (leaves or straw are better than newspaper). The rats will only be attracted (for the most part, there are exceptions) if they can smell the bin. I know you aren’t adding cooked food or meat, fish or dairy, but raw decaying food can smell pretty bad too if you don’t have the right balance of greens (grass, garden trimmings, food scraps) and browns. Every time you add food scraps, you need to sprinkle it with some soil, then make sure it is well covered with leaves or straw.

This is what the scaredy cat wrote back: “Thanks for the advice.  I’ve forwarded it to Blake [her husband], I think this is a man job.”

If you find rats in your compost bin and you don’t have a Blake, call a pest control company. Happy Hallowe’en!

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