Bird Feeders and Rats – is there an answer?
**This is a collaborative post**
British people love animals, it is just part of our national psyche and that’s a good thing. When winter starts poking its head around the corner one of the things a lot of us do is to break out the bird feeders. The thought of a cheerful Robin going hungry on a cold day is just not something we can handle so we fill out gardens with seeds and nuts and the birds, thankfully get lots to eat.
But sadly, other animals also turn up and that can become a problem… we love animals but we are not over keen on rats!
It is a sad fact that British song bird populations are not doing well. Habit change as always play a role along with climate change but our love for cats can also be a bit of a problem.
So, because we know our wonderful sing birds are in need of help choosing to use a bird feeder is a great idea. It not only helps our birds but it provides useful nourishment for migrating birds as well as other British birds like Woodpeckers. Feeding birds is a good thing so please do not stop doing it.
Rats are intelligent, social and even affectionate animals, we shouldn’t hate them. However, they can carry disease and we really can’t live alongside them around our homes and certainly not in our homes. Rats breed all year round and are always on the look out for a safe and rich food source. Bird feeders can provide a great source for them and once they find it, they will keep coming.
As the birds feed, they will spill food onto the floor below the feeder, this is an easy meal for our furry friends. Rats are also very acrobatic and will eventually start trying to climb up and eat directly from the feeders. They are more than capable of moving along branches and hanging upside down while enjoying food meant for the birds.
What tends to happen is that once your bird feeder is included in the usual foraging pattern then rats will breed and more and more will arrive. Next, they will forage for more food in the area and this could mean they explore your shed, garage or even home in search of your stored bird food along with anything else edible. Then, the odd rat showing up next to your feeder can soon turn into a rate problem. If that happens its time to call in the pest experts, wherever you are in the UK you will find a local expert like Empire Pest Control in London for example.
What Can Be Done?
Well, first of all its worth calling the pest control people as mentioned before. But they may well suggest simply removing the bird feeders. This does work, removing the food will remove the rats but it also removes valuable food for the birds. This is fine in the summer where food is in abundance but in the winter it could mean life or death for some birds.
The other issue is that as soon as you start feeding again the rats will probably come back. If they don’t in the first couple of weeks, they will over time. There are other things you can do. One really easy one is to buy the right feed and the right feeders.
- Choose non-messy feed mixes to minimise the amount that ends up on the ground.
- Avoid seeds with husks like sunflower seeds and keep the area clean.
- You can even put a large tray under the feeders which you can empty daily to avoid any kind of build up.
- Use a water trough under neath so any bits simply fall into the water and are no use to rats.
There are also a number of rat proof feeders which minimise mess and even stop rats actively feeding. It is also worth looking at where the feeder is, avoid thick branches rats can climb down, use vertical surfaces where they simply cant get too like walls.
It is also really important to secure your food stores, sheds can be easy to break into so use metal containers or move feed into the house in a secure location. Block up any holes in sheds and garages and just be aware rats will be looking for the food!
Other options for bird feeders include using ultra sonic devices that scare the rats off but they only work for a short period of time and really aren’t a long term solution.
Our birds really do need the help so please don’t give up and stop feeding them. But to avoid any kind of rat issues do it right. Get the right food, the right feeders and plan your feeding station properly.
Rats can be cute but if you have kids it’s especially important to make sure you have a rat free home and garden.