How to stop rats in the garden - why rats are invading Britain’s gardens and what you can do to keep them at bay

Wondering why rats are scurrying around more than ever? Well, there’s a reason for that

Close up of rat amongst leaves
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you’re convinced you spotted a rat tail darting from one end of the garden to the other or you’ve noticed rat droppings on your flowerbeds, knowing how to stop rats in the garden is essential. But keeping these critters at bay is more difficult now than ever.

At the moment, it seems like no garden is safe from rat infestations. These animals are invading Britain’s gardens quicker than you can say “Ratatouille” and are leaving homeowners vulnerable to dangerous diseases. And as they’re considered to be pests (and, let’s be honest, they’re not paying rent), it’s important get rid of rats as soon as you can.

But how do you get rid of rats from your garden naturally? Well, we’ve spoken to the experts, and they’ve shared some handy tips.

How to stop rats in the garden

Rats in your garden? Well, you’re not alone. Ask anyone you know, and we have no doubts that either they - or someone they know - has spotted these four-legged critters raging havoc in their garden.

In fact, Ideal Home’s very own Editor-in-Chief, Heather Young, has spotted rats hanging out in her garden recently.

She says, 'There's nothing worse than being outside enjoying your garden, then seeing a large rat scamper along the top of your fence! We found evidence of rats in our shed last summer and managed to banish them, but they appear to be staging a comeback this year.’

And while we’re sure the rats appreciate Heather’s outdoor design aesthetic, it’s probably not the main reason why so many people like Heather are experiencing an influx of rats at the moment.

Close up of rat amongst leaves

(Image credit: Getty Images)

‘The warmer weather might be welcomed by some, but it can also bring with it a surge of rats in gardens - which are not only unsightly but dirty too,' explains Adam Juson, pest control expert and co-founder of Merlin Environmental.

'One reason that you might see more rats in your garden at this time of year is that warm weather in spring and summer can increase the breeding of rats, which means there are more numbers of them.’

‘Another factor greatly impacting the current rat population is the new council initiative of reducing the bin collections to fortnightly. This change means more food waste is being stored outside in easy-to-chew-through plastic containers, and the rats are thriving.’

But just because there are more rats than usual doesn't mean that you have to play host to these critters.

5 ways to get rid of rats in the garden

Unfortunately, there’s no single solution to getting rid of rats in the garden. Dr Daisy May, veterinary surgeon and pet care writer for All About Parrots, suggests a multi-dimensional approach instead.

She says, ‘A well-integrated pest management approach targeting rat food, shelter and access is key for taking back your garden from the jaws of these unwanted visitors. With some conscientious effort, those bold garden rats will think twice before overstaying their welcome.’

So, give a few of these ideas a go:

1. Move bird feeders

Two birds on seed-filled plastic bird feeder

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rats are scavengers, and birds are messy eaters. While these little personality quirks wouldn’t be an issue in the wild, they become a match made in heaven when you have a bird feeder in your garden.

‘Bird feeders attract rats as they provide a dependable source of food that they can continue to return to,' explains Daniel Steward, managing director at Shield Pest Control. After all, why wouldn’t they want free food time and time again?

That doesn’t mean you must remove bird feeders completely, though. There are so many ways to protect your bird feeders from squirrels and rats, and if you’re trying to stop rats in the garden, we’d suggest moving them out of reach or buying rat-proof bird feeders.

In fact, my neighbours swapped their tree-hanging bird feeders for window-mounted bird feeders recently, and they now have more birds than ever. Plus, they get an up-close-and-personal view of their feathered friends on a daily basis.

2. Use scent to your advantage

Copper kettle and glass coffee drip

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to steer clear of chemicals and opt for a natural way to get rid of rats in the garden, you can use a rat’s impressive sense of smell to your advantage.

To keep them at bay, you should focus on the smells that are particularly pungent for them; including coffee grounds, garlic, white vinegar, onion, eucalyptus, and peppermint.

The easiest way to do this is to simply scatter used coffee grounds, garlic powder, or essential oils around the boundaries of your garden. Just be warned that you’ll need to reapply these items every few days as the scent will fade and may be washed away in the rain.

Adam also adds, ‘While compost is a great eco-friendly addition to gardens, it also serves as a food source for rats and their babies.’ So, it’s also a good idea to add these scents to your compost heap to make it less desirable, too.

3. Keep your garden tidy

A back garden with a green lawn and a view of the back of the house and the kitchen

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

We love the concept of No May May as much as the next person (who really loves No May May), but if you want to stop rats in the garden, you might need to break your promise.

Yes, rats love hiding in long grass and will always choose to hang out in gardens that are long and overgrown rather than short and tidy. So, if you have a tidy garden, you can reduce your chances of a rat infestation.

To give your garden a much-needed tidy-up, use one of the best lawn mowers to cut the grass, invest in garden storage to keep clutter off the ground, and cut back any overgrown shrubs or trees that could provide shelter for these pests.

4. Block access points

BBQ in outdoor kitchen with decking and large white planters

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Although rats are much bigger than some of the other critters that roam around your garden, they’re still relatively small. This means that they can burrow their way through any nook or cranny - including tiny holes in fences, cracks in your decking area, and gaps in your garden shed.

‘Decking is a safe location for rodents to hide and nest beneath,' warns Daniel. 'It is crucial to ensure that you are extra careful about food leftovers falling through your decking as this provides rats with an active food source. You can also create a barrier that prevents rodents from accessing underneath the decking and stop them from nesting.’

So make sure that you’re cleaning up any spills or scraps as soon as you can. Then, make sure that you block all access points by filling any holes with steel wool. In an ideal world, you should then secure the steel wool in place using caulk.

5. Seek expert advice

Rat on grass

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’ve tried all of the above and still aren’t having any luck getting rid of rats in your garden, it may be that you need to seek expert advice. The last thing you want is for these brave animals to start coming into your home, after all.

As well as dealing with the rats in a safe and professional way, they can also help to identify the reason why rats keep coming into your garden. This way, you can rectify any issues and keep them at bay.


How can I keep rats out of my garden?

To keep rats out of your garden, you need to make your garden undesirable to rats. So, take away any food sources, such as bird food and pick ripe fruits or vegetables as soon as they are ready to be picked.

You should also keep your garden tidy, as rats love to hide themselves under cover. Keep your lawn trimmed, clutter at bay, and block access to any holes or cracks in decking, sheds, or fences.

Should I be worried if I see a rat in my garden?

If you’ve spotted a single rat, you don’t necessarily need to be too worried. But if you’ve noticed a few rats on multiple occasions and have spotted the tell-tale signs that rats are in your garden (rat droppings, teeth marks on wood or crops), then you should investigate further and aim to get rid of them as soon as possible.

Sorry, rats, it’s time to go…

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.