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Washington State University

Rats in Compost

It is disturbing to open your compost bin and watch a rat scamper out! We have been getting inquiries about how to manage compost to avoid rat problems. Although it is almost impossible to completely rat-proof your compost, here are methods and suggestions for bin types that can help minimize the problem.

Properly manage your pile:
Rats might look on your compost pile as an ideal nesting spot, especially if it’s dry and undisturbed. So keeping your pile moist and regularly turned will make it less attractive.

Bury food:
Rats may also be looking for food in your pile, so if you bury it, and make it harder for them to reach, they will probably look for other food sources.

Enclose your pile:
An open compost pile can be inviting, simply because it is so accessible. Consider building an enclosed bin especially for yummy kitchen waste like fruit peelings and using your open pile for not as yummy grass clippings and other yard waste.

No meat, greasy or dairy products:
Rats love such treats. They shouldn’t be composted in a backyard bin anyway, not only will they make your pile smell, but they carry pathogens that could hurt you.

Suggestions for Bins:
Keep a lid on the compost, and securely fasten it
If rats are burrowing under your bin, stand it on some ¼ inch strong wire mesh.

If rats have gnawed into a plastic bin, try reinforcing all sides plus top and bottom with ¼ inch strong wire mesh.

You can stop rat activity before it becomes a major problem if you know what signs to look for. For information about rat habits and signs, check Principles of Vertebrate Pest Management.

Good luck!