Getting rid of rats in the garden is challenging and will take some detective work. This is typically a DIY project as most rodent exterminators won’t take this kind of job.
One of the first things I tell people when they are dealing with outdoor pests like palm rats is to remove any food sources in your yard that are attracting them. The problem is that your garden is a GREAT food source and I have no intention of telling you that you need to dig it up 🙂
That being said, you do need to clean things up and remove as many food sources as possible.
Open compost piles are ideal nesting and feeding locations for rats. The piles have plenty of food and are nice and toasty inside. If you compost your garden material then move your operations into a hard plastic or metal composting system.
Any open animal food (bird seed, chicken feed, pet food) needs to be removed or placed in metal cans.
Some people think they can put out cat food for feral cats and have the cats solve the rat problem “naturally”. Please do not do this. The feral cats will kill more birds than rats and the food you are putting out is attracting rats.
Rats will dine on dog poop. If you have canine companions then you are going to need to keep their poop picked up on a regular basis.
If you have fruit or nut producing trees then keep your yard then try to pick up and throw away any fruit or nuts that have dropped. I am not saying that you need to pick up every acorn but you should be picking up dropped apples, etc.
It is important to remove as many food sources as possible so we can induce the rats to eat what and where we want them to eat.
Once your yard is free from as many food sources as possible it is time to put out food that is more attractive to the rats than your garden plants.
Rats travel in pretty much the same paths every day and you are going to want to place the food directly in this path. Although you might get “lucky” see the rats during the day the rats are usually nocturnal are you will probably need to do a little detective work.
See if you can find a burrowing hole or an opening in a shed, etc where they are coming from. If the rats have a favorite section of your garden start from there and work backwards as far as you can.
Once you have an idea of where the rats are travelling, place a little bowl of cat food in the path. If the rats are traveling along a fence rail you will need to get creative on securing the bowl.
The rats might not find the cat food on the first night. That’s okay, they will find it eventually.
Keep feeding those rats every night for a week but vary the food a little. Mix a few peanuts into the cat food one night and maybe a few crackers on another night.
You will be training the rats to go to a specific spot in your garden every night to eat tasty treats.
After the rats have been trained it is time to start killing them.
How you kill them is up to you. If you want to use poison then simply replace the bowl of cat food with a Tier 1 bait station that is loaded with rat poison. A Tier 1 station is tamper proof (child safety) and chew proof (dog safety). Use this link to learn more about Tier 1 bait stations and rat poisons.
If you want to use traps then buy a bunch and put them all out in a single night. You don’t want to kill one or two at a time. You want to kill as many as possible as fast as possible before they figure out what is going on. Use this link to learn more about rat traps that work.
If you go with the poison rat then you need to be diligent in the search for any rat corpses that might be laying around in an open area. Please dispose of any poisoned rats as fast as possible to prevent them from being consumed by pets or predators.
Here is a video by another gentleman who is dealing with rats in his garden. He shows you what a burrow hole looks like and his favorite traps.