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The facts about rats and decking

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Have you seen a rat in your garden lately? Most people will undoubtedly shudder at the thought but the top and tail of it is (we apologise for the puns in advance), Mr & Mrs Ratty will have at some point visited your garden sanctuary – whether you have decking or not. 

There’s much misunderstanding around the behaviour of rats. We wanted to get to the (furry) bottom of the myth that ‘decking attracts rats to a garden’ – in short let us tell you that this is not true.

To back up our claim we enlisted the help of pest expert – Mark Robinson from the Pestforce network to address this and other tricky rat-based questions.

FACT 1: Where there are humans there are rats

Rats need three things to survive and thrive: readily available food; water; a ‘safe’ home.

When a rat finds a regular and reliable food source, they will set up home close by – usually between 15-30m away and a lot less if they can. We need food and water to survive too, so rats will always be around but they do their best to stay hidden. Every garden in the UK will get visited, sometimes as often as every night by a rat on the hunt for food, but you probably won’t see them.

So to dissuade rats from taking up residence in your garden, don’t feed them!

Minimise food and water left out, after a barbecue for example.

rat eating seeds.jpg

Many people will say “but I don’t leave food outside!”. Maybe not for human consumption but one of the main attractions for Mr Ratty is dining on the food we put out for our pets or the wildlife we actually want in our gardens, with nut and seed bird feeders being the main culprits.

We don’t want to stop people feeding and encouraging the preferred wildlife to their gardens – far from it, but there are steps you can take to minimise Roland getting his paws on it.

  • Choose a hanging bird feeder that doesn't allow food to fall on the floor - clear up any fallen food daily

  • Never put any sort of feeder on a deck – morsels can drop through the gaps and yes rats will try to get at it.

  • Put your feeder out in the open, in the middle of a lawn and away from any cover, rats don’t like being in the open. Don't use all year round – only at the hardest times for the birds (winter months, when their natural food sources are scarce).

    Read this blog for advice on rat-proofing bird feedinghttps://birdslife.co.uk/how-to-stop-attracting-rats-to-bird-feeders/

  • If scattering food (not a great idea), only put out a small amount and only in the morning so birds eat all that is there and clear up any leftovers before dusk.

  • If you feed your pets outdoors, be sure to clear food away after each meal and don’t leave out overnight

  • Placing cat or dog food at ground level for Hedgehogs often with a saucer of water is the perfect dining experience for a rat – be vigilant! If you regularly see the hedgehog feeding (say with a motion sensor camera) and clear away any uneaten food quickly that’s great but if a rat turns up then stop

Unlike us, a rat will eat almost anything and will burrow and chew hard to get to it – candles and soap are some of the more unusual menu items known to be consumed. So really what we’re saying is just keep things tidy in and around your garden – don’t provide a ready-made B&B for ratty!

- Mark from Pestforce -
hiding rat.jpg

FACT 2: In isolation, decking in your garden does not ‘attract’ rats

Yes, the dark and sheltered space underneath a deck structure can provide a rat with an attractive place to hide but usually they are mostly used as a staging post, a safe stop off from nest to food source – see FACT 1

Rats do like to burrow and often live both inside and under sheds, drains, embankments, under rubbish piles, under hedges or shrubs, compost bins / mounds or anywhere that can conceal their activity.

So do compost heaps attract rats?  

Well, yes it can be – home and food in one! 

  • If you have a plastic bin place on hard standing/slabs so they cannot burrow underneath and ensure doors or lids are fitted and fit well.

  • If you are regularly turning an open compost you’ll be aware of any 2-3" diameter holes suddenly appearing – rat burrows! Take immediate and appropriate action (ie contact your local Pestforce or preferred pest control company).

What can I do to prevent rats getting under my deck?

  • Install your decking in line with good practice guidance from the Timber Decking and Cladding Association.

  • Prevent access to underneath the decking; fit 5mm hole pattern welded mesh wire netting sunk 300mm vertically around the deck edge where it meets the ground. This not only stops rats but prevents leaves and other windblown litter accumulating under the deck which is good practice.

  • So you can inspect under your deck, always create an access point - a section of deck board that can easily be lifted, especially good over manhole/ drain covers and if needed, access for vermin traps to be laid.

  • In terms of drains, always ensure that they’re in good repair and that inspection chambers are in good condition and that the manhole covers are fully and easily accessible.

A pest controller's handy tip... if you can stick your thumb in a hole a rat can get through it, it's your little finger for mice.

- Mark from Pestforce -
Pestforce.jpg

Let’s sum things up – don’t panic!

There will always be a rat living near or visiting your garden – but don’t blame your deck.

If you follow the advice given here, they shouldn’t become a problem. Remember – make sure there’s no easy food or water for them to get at or any cosy place for them to sleep. And if Mr & Mrs Rat get busy don't ignore them, they breed rapidly and carry some nasty diseases.

Contact your local friendly Pestforce technician. 

For a summary of these points visit our FAQ page:

Does wood decking attract rats?