Having bird feeders in your yard can be great, but many people don’t anticipate the other critters that tend to come with the birds. People who place bird feeders in their yards often experience increased problems with rats, who start eating spilled food under the bird feeders and sometimes even climbing up onto the feeders themselves. In this article I’ll go over some helpful ways to keep rats from your bird feeders and out of your yard.
Bird feeders typically aren’t the main thing attracting rats to your yard, but they can make an already present rat problem much more visible. Birdseed and nuts scattered on the ground under your feeders can draw the rats out from their hiding places and cause them to be even more of a nuisance in your yard.
Obviously you want to get rid of rats and other rodents in your yard, but whenever possible, do not use rat poison or other chemical means. Birds of prey and other animals can be harmed or even killed by eating dead rats containing traces of rodenticides. I’ve outlined two main ways to deal with a rat problem: using bird food that rats won’t eat and making your bird food inaccessible to rats
Use bird food that rats won’t eat
Rats love to eat many of the common types of bird food, especially nuts, seeds, and fat balls. To keep rats away from your bird feeders you can stock them with foods that rats won’t eat. One time getting a taste of something horrible will ward off rats for good. The only trick is making sure you use food that is still appetizing to the birds you want to attract. Rats will eat almost anything so this can be pretty difficult, but there are a few things that will work.
The best way to do this is to use birdseed or suet that has been treated with hot peppers in your feeders. Hot pepper flavoring will not affect birds, but is very unpleasant for rats and other mammals. Rats are sensitive to spice just like humans, and they tend to avoid it whenever they can, but birds have very few taste buds and will eat spicy things just fine. You can buy birdseed pre-treated with hot peppers or you can just mix some cayenne pepper in with your seed.
Nyger seed is another popular bird food that rats don’t like very much. The tiny seeds are ideal for small birds like goldfinches, doves, and, but they’re not usually of any interest to rats, squirrels, and other rodents. Nyger seed is a great source of energy and protein for birds. By using it in your bird feeders you can help your local wildlife be more healthy too!
Make bird food inaccessible to rats
Another effective way to keep rats and other rodents away from your bird feeders is by keeping your bird food out of reach and out of sight from the rats. The majority of rat problems around bird feeders are caused when birds spill nuts, seeds, and other food from your feeders. A bad rat problem can be greatly reduced by preventing spillage of food onto the ground. Here are a few different ways to do this:
Cylinder feeders use gelatin to bond birdseed and nuts together and eliminate the problem of spillage from your feeders. You can get cylinder feeders with many of the same bird food blends as a loose birdseed mix. These let birds peck at the seeds they want individually instead of having to sift through a bunch of birdseed to find what they want. Sifting, which inevitably leads to spilling some on the ground and attracting rats.
Suet is hardened beef fat that is often used in bird feeders. You can buy suet balls or suet nuggets. Birds will come peck at the treat without having anything to spill on the ground. Woodpeckers, starlings, and jays all particularly like suet, and it doesn’t usually attract rats.
Seed catcher trays
If you want to still use a loose birdseed mix in your feeders, seed catcher trays can be a helpful way to ensure that your birdseed stays off the ground and out of the reach of troublesome rats. These plastic trays sit underneath your bird feeders, and collect bird seed when it falls down, making it available to be reused in your bird feeders. These trays are available online and at most pet stores.
A squirrel baffle is a helpful device that stops squirrels from climbing up a pole and onto your bird feeders. This also works well for keeping rats away, it’s essentially a plastic cone that sits at the top of the pole right under the bird feeder and blocks the path of any animal trying to climb up onto the bird feeder. Try using one of these if you’re keeping your bird feeders on a wood or metal pole instead of attached to a tree.
How to keep rats out of your yard
Although rodent-proofing your bird feeders probably won’t completely rid your yard or garden of rats, there are plenty of other ways to deal with the problem. One of the most effective ways is simply to destroy whatever shelter or improvised nest the rats are living in. By clearing out thick brush, wood piles, or junk heaps you can make your yard a cleaner place while taking away any cover for rats to hide under.
There are also many rat traps available that don’t pose a danger to other wildlife. Rats can be lured in with peanut butter or other treats. This gives a chance for the trap to clamp down on the rats so you can rid your backyard of the problem.
In conclusion, rats coming to your bird feeders can be irritating, but are overall not difficult to deal with. By switching up the bird food you use, rat proofing your bird feeders, or just working to make your yard a less desirable place for rats you can take care of the problem for good.