If you are seeing rats in your yard then you ought to take steps to destroy their nest locations so they will become more vulnerable to natural predators. Here is a list of a the most common places where rats make their nests outside.
Both Roof rats and Norway rats like to eat and build their nests nearby and within gardens because they provide a free feast for the adult rats and their young. Gardens with freshly planted or mature fruiting plants and vegetables can supply food and shelter for Norway rats that like to dig tunnels and burrows beneath it.
You may be earth friendly and have a green thumb, but those organic food scraps are going to cost you some critters as visitors. Rats love the decomposing scent of food, stealing it at night and returning to their nests during the day. Norway rats will likely try to build their nests near compost heaps, leaving behind dirt tracks or holes where they’ve made their home.
Crops and orchards
If you’re a farmer, fruit or vegetable harvester, or have a nut or fruit orchard, you’ll see both Norway and Roof rat-size holes on the ground or at the base of plants, if you’ve got a nest. Look for chewed up leaves, stems, and bites on fruiting plants. Often times, Roof rats will climb up the vertical length of a tree trunk to get to citrus, leaving them hollowed out with only their rind or sour fruit left behind.
Roof rats love to climb trunks of trees, using the thick leaf and branch coverage to secure rat pups in their nest and as a way to travel onto rooftops, walls, and utility wire. On the Gulf Coast of the US you will find palm rats living in the dead fronds of palm trees. Rats can jump from a tree that’s 4 feet above a roof. Norway rats can climb trees as well, but are less suited and will give up on that task quickly, unless there’s something yummy worth climbing for.
Norway rats prefer to stay on the ground floor near basements and building foundations. Bushes are perfect for these pests to reach and crawl up into. Thick bushes provide the perfect coverage for rats to go back and forth quickly to gain materials and build their nests.
Wood and hay piles
Pests love piles they can hide in. Wood and hay, as well as other piles, attract Norway rats and even Roof rats because these materials provide them with a 2-for-1 opportunity to build their nests and to be sheltered. Rats will contaminate hay feed and can be dangerous for the horses, cows, and other animals to eat it.
Trash cans and rubbish piles
Consider these types areas a sponge of smells and a magnet for attracting rats of all types. Both Roof and Norway rats love eating from trash and chewing on rubbish. If rats can climb into an open trash can or have a reliable trash can they can get to, they’ll build their nest nearby. Rats will collect greasy oil and dirt on their coats and will rub up against surfaces to leave their scent markers, pheromones, or to give themselves directions. They’ll leave these dark and smelly streaks on surfaces where they’ve been.
Cars, tractors, and machinery
Rats have been known to climb into and build nests in the undercarriage, wheel well, or even the engine of cars and tractors, as well as inside stationary or moving machinery. Rats and other pests like the warmth a car or tractor can provide after it’s been used and can give them an escape from the heat, wind, rain, and snow. Prevent an infestation by inspecting the car, tractor, or machinery frequently if you know or suspect this is an issue.
Walls and fences
Rats can chew their way into and make nests inside walls of wood and hollow concrete. They can scale up fences like they’re nothing. If there’s a textured surface, rats will dig in their claws and climb it. They can climb upside down and can grab onto pipes that are 2 or more inches wide.
Kennels, stables, chicken coops, crates, barns, and any area where an animal lives or plays, will attract rats. Rats love the scent of food and waste and will build their nest and tunnels near them. The free buffet of unguarded animal food and feed is too good of a setup for them to leave. A rat’s teeth are so strong that they can chew through plastic animal feed holders, so it’s best to keep feed inside a reinforced storage area where they’ll have a hard time getting to it. You’ll want to check inside the animal housing to make sure rats aren’t living directly inside with the animals, as this can lead to bites and disease. You’ll also want to make sure all animal waste is cleaned frequently to prevent this from being another rat attractor.
Parks and campgrounds
Where there are people, food, and shelter, there are rats breeding. Norway rats prefer the coastal climates and Roof rats prefer any climate they can exist. Both types of rats can be found building their nests where there are parks, play structures, and campsites due to the environment of trees and manmade structures. Park and camp trash, even if lidded, is plentiful and will give rats a reason to live nearby. They’ll live in trees, brush, or hidden away beneath the surface, coming down during the night or throughout the day when they see their opportunity to feast.
Beaches and piers, lakes and docks
Norway rats and Roof rats love to crawl onto docks and piers because they act as a hideaway for their nests, and serve as a way to travel from place to place. The proximity to water, shelter, and rich human food (popcorn, candy, and s’mores!) is too much for a rat to resist. Rats will also live in ice plants and ivy, among staggered rocks, or near trash cans and lifeguard stations in these locations. Docks are especially popular for rats, as boats serve as a way to bring and transport these castaway rodents to far off places.
Streets, sewer, and storm drains
Rats have been known to fit in a ¼ to ½ inch space. A general rule of thumb is, if a rat can fit its head, they’ll fit. Rats have been known to use sewers and storm drains as a means of transportation. Rats can travel up to 300 feet away from their nests to find food and materials for themselves, their young, and their colonies. Rats have been known to use sewers as a way to get into pipes that lead to toilets.