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Do Bird Feeders Attract Rats?

a rat in grass

Many people love to watch the birds that come to their yards. They set out feeders to make life a little easier for these much-loved animals and encourage many different types of birds to visit. But, can bird feeders attract other, less desired wildlife species? For example, do bird feeders attract rats? Unfortunately, the answer is yes: Bird feeders can and do attract rats to your yard.

Rats living in the wild feed on all sorts of things. They are scavengers and opportunistic omnivores. This means they will eat whatever they can find, whether it is plant or animal matter. Their primary food source in the wild tends to be fruits, nuts and seeds. This is why the seeds in bird feeders are a big draw for these pests.

Rats are also excellent climbers. Even if you hang a bird feeder in a tree or high-up spot, rats can easily climb up to reach it. Unfortunately, when rats visit your property and find a steady food source, it encourages them to take up residence. Worse yet, they might make their way to your garage or home next.

Why Rats Are Such a Big Problem

These pests are a big problem for several different reasons. They can cause property damage that can be expensive to fix. As rodents, they have daily gnawing habits that can damage drywall, PVC pipes and electrical wiring. Their urine can soak through insulation and drywall, damaging it to the point that it needs replacing.

Rats also carry bacteria and diseases that can make people sick, including salmonella, leptospirosis, hantavirus and plague. You don’t even need to come into direct contact with a rat to get sick. People can get sick from rat feces when it dries out, turns into dust particles and is blown into the air. For this reason, it is important to wear protective gear when cleaning up after rats.

Two other big problems with rats are how intelligent they are and how quickly they reproduce. If rats are drawn to a bird feeder in your yard, they will start investigating the area. And, if they find a way into your home, garage or other structure, they might build a nest and settle in. One female rat can produce more than 50 babies in a single year. This is how rat nests grow out of control quickly.

There are lots of things besides bird feeders that attract rats to people’s homes and property. It all boils down to these pests’ three basic needs: food, water and shelter. If you have trees in your yard that produce fruit, these will also attract rats. So will animal food stored in your garage, or garbage or compost bins that don’t have tightly fitting lids.

Once rats venture into your garage or your house, they will look for sheltered spots where they can safely build a nest. They might do this inside a wall void, on top of cabinets, behind appliances or anyplace else where they can hide and feel protected. Since these animals are most active at night, you might not realize you have a rat infestation until it’s very advanced.

Signs of Rats

Even if you never see an actual rat, you may notice other signs of rats in the yard or in your home. Here are some signs of rat activity in and around your home:

  • Droppings—these are usually dark brown or black in color, shiny and about a half-inch long. People typically spot rat droppings in the backs of cabinets or shelving, in the corner of a garage or shed, or in other out-of-the-way areas.
  • Chew marks on baseboards, drywall, studs, rafters, cabinets or PVC pipes.
  • Chewed-through food packaging or scattered food remnants.
  • Scattered insulation, shredded paper, shredded cardboard or other nesting materials.
  • Chewed-through cardboard boxes.
  • Squeaking or scratching noises coming from inside the walls or ceiling.

If you see anything that could indicate rat activity in your yard or home, it’s wise to reach out to a pest control specialist. A professional can thoroughly inspect your home and property to find out what type of pest you’re dealing with and where it’s getting in.

Then, the specialist can develop a customized plan to eliminate the pests and close off the rodents’ entry points.

a brown rat

Do Owls Eat Rats?

Owls are birds of prey, and they are hunters. They do most of their hunting at night, which happens to be when rats and other nocturnal rodents are most active. So, do owls eat rats? It may seem surprising since rats can grow to be pretty large, but owls do eat rats. They also feed on mice, gophers and other small rodents. Unfortunately, relying on owls for natural pest control is not a good plan. Here’s why.

Rats reproduce at a shockingly fast rate. If a male and a female rat breed, they can produce enough babies within a single year to grow their nest from just two rats to over 1,000. That is some seriously exponential growth!

Owls do hunt and consume plenty of wild rodents, but they usually can’t keep up with rat populations. This is especially true when there is a full-blown rodent infestation. For one thing, baby rats don’t venture out of the nest for food for the first month or more of life. They rely on the adult rats in the nest to leave the nest for food and bring it back to them.

Any adult rats that leave the nest at night searching for food and water are fair game for owls on the hunt. However, the owls have no way of getting to the many babies that are safe in the nest. There might be 10 to 12 baby rats for every one adult female, and that one female can produce a new litter every couple of months. It’s easy to see how a rat infestation can grow so quickly.

So while owls and certain other animals are natural predators of rats, people can’t rely on them for much help in the fight against these rodent pests. Some animals that prey on rats, like snakes, are themselves considered pests by people.

How to Avoid Attracting Rats

You can do several things to avoid attracting rats to your property. First, keep all food, including pet food, in airtight containers that rats can’t get into. You can also ensure that garbage or compost bins have tightly fitting lids that rats can’t breach. It’s a good idea to keep these bins as far away from the house as possible.

Also, it’s important to close any holes or small gaps that rodents might use as entry points into your home or garage. Though rats can grow to be rather large, they can fit through surprisingly small openings. An adult rat can squeeze through a hole smaller than an inch across.

Hood and dryer vents and openings around hose bibs are common places for rats to get into homes. Cover any openings or gaps in these spots with wire mesh to keep pests out. Close off other gaps in the eaves, around doors or windows, or in other areas with caulk or steel wool.

The best way to stop and prevent rat infestations is with a professional pest control plan. A pest control specialist can inspect your home and property, find all entry points and set up a rat control plan customized to your specific space and needs.

a squirrel on a fence

Do Squirrels Eat Rats?

Most people think of squirrels as nut eaters, so it may come as a surprise that these rodents are omnivorous. They prefer to live on plant matter like fruits, seeds and nuts, but when they are hungry, they’ll eat whatever they can. This sometimes includes small insects, snakes and even other rodents. So does that mean that squirrels eat rats?

In rare instances, squirrels have been known to eat rats and mice. The problem is squirrels aren’t good hunters. Furthermore, rats are very smart. They are excellent at hiding or escaping from predators. This is an adaptation they have developed over time as they have evolved to stay safe in a world that largely sees rats as nasty, disease-ridden pests.

So while squirrels might occasionally eat a rat or a mouse, they are not a good source of natural pest control. The most efficient way to resolve a rat problem is to seek professional help. A pest control specialist is highly trained and experienced in locating rats’ nests and entry points, and determining the best combination of products and techniques to eliminate these pests.

ABC Can Get Rodents Out of Your Home and Garden

It can feel defeating when rats damage your home, garden and yard. Instead of spending your precious time trying to control rodents, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our professionals will be able to identify the rodents on your property. Then, we will create a custom treatment plan, so you don’t have to worry about these creatures.

Holt Myers

Holt joined ABC in 2021 as the Electrical & Appliance Operations Manager before transitioning to Division Manager for Pest Control. Before ABC, Holt worked as a Project Manager and Superintendent in Construction. Holt also served in the US Marine Corps from 2003 to 2007. Holt is a member of NPMA’s PestVets, Stewards of the Wild and Texas Wildlife Association. Holt is an avid outdoorsman, who loves to travel and spend time with his wife and daughter.

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