How to Compost Without Attracting Rats

How to Compost Without Attracting Rats

Composting is a great way to reduce food waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. However, rats are often attracted to compost piles because of the free food source. Rats can spread disease and cause damage by burrowing and gnawing. The good news is there are several effective strategies to keep rats away from your compost bin.

Prevent Access to The Compost

The most important step is to prevent rats from being able to access your compost in the first place. Here are some tips:

Use a Closed Compost Bin

Invest in a compost bin with a locking lid and small openings. This restricts access for rats while still allowing air flow. Look for bins made of galvanized metal or thick high-density plastic. Some options include:

  • Tumbling compost bins – These drums rotate to mix and aerate the compost. When locked, rats can’t get in.

  • Bin composter systems – Multiple bins allow compost to finish safely while new waste is added to a separate bin.

  • Rodent-resistant compost bins – Specialized bins have rat-proof designs with locked lids and molded openings.

Avoid Open Piles

Open compost piles are easily accessible to rats. Avoid open piles and place compost inside an enclosed bin instead.

Use Hardware Cloth

If using a homemade wooden compost bin, line the bottom and sides with 1⁄4 inch hardware cloth. This strong metal mesh blocks rats while allowing air flow.

Keep Lids Sealed

Always keep compost bin lids tightly sealed to prevent entry. Check for gaps or damage. Repair or replace damaged lids right away.

Manage The Contents

Properly maintaining the contents of your compost bin also makes it less attractive to rats:

Avoid Meat, Bones, and Fats

Avoid composting meat scraps, bones, oils, and fatty foods like cheese, butter, and meat trimmings. These can quickly attract rodents looking for an easy meal. Stick to fruit and vegetable material.

Turn and Aerate

Turn and mix your compost weekly using an aerator tool. This distributes air and speeds decomposition. Faster decomposition means less time food is sitting there tempting rats.

Keep it Moist

Rats are most attracted to compost piles with easily accessible dry foods. Keep compost evenly moist, like a wrung-out sponge. Add water as needed.

Add Browns

Mix in carbon-rich “browns” like dry leaves, sawdust, or shredded paper. Browns balance the nitrogen in greens and also make food less accessible to rats.

Cover Food Scraps

Bury any food discards under 8 inches of compost so it is inaccessible. Avoid adding food to the very top.

Discourage Rats From The Area

There are also tips to make the general area around the compost unappealing to rats:

Place Away From House

Locate compost pile at least 100 feet from house. Avoid areas near sheds, woodpiles, or tree cover. Set up near the center of your yard.

Eliminate Other Food Sources

Remove outdoor pet food at night when rats forage. Keep bird feeders away from compost area and clean up spillage.

Keep Area Clean

Rats are attracted to clutter and garbage. Keep the area around the compost bin clean. Prune vegetation to eliminate hiding spots.

Use Predator Scent

Sprinkle coyote or fox urine around compost. The scent of predators helps deter rats from investigating.

Use Moth Balls

The strong odor from moth balls helps mask food smells. Place moth balls around the exterior of the closed compost bin.

Take Extra Precautions With Diseased Plants

Specific care should be taken when adding diseased garden plants to your compost:

  • Wear gloves when handling diseased plants to avoid spreading pathogens.

  • Cut or tear diseased plants into small pieces to speed decomposition.

  • Allow plant matter to decompose fully before applying finished compost.

  • Maintain high temperatures in the compost to kill pathogens – ideally between 131-170 F.

  • Do not use unfinished compost with diseased plants in your vegetable garden.

Proper composting methods go a long way in keeping rats away from the compost pile. With a few preventative measures, you can safely compost without attracting vermin. Follow these guidelines for clean, easy composting. Let me know if you have any other questions!