Should I be worried about visiting rats?

Hello, I'm a new member having joined the RSPB a fortnight ago.
I moved to a rural location in northumberland last year and immediately put up loads of bird feeders. I'm enjoying so much watching all the visitors to the garden. It's part of my morning wake up with coffee.
Despite choosing feeders which hang from a single pole mount, and despite having three cats and a Jack Russell, this week alone I have seen rats visiting the front and back garden. This morning I watched one shimmy up the pole, eat from the flat feeder (for non perching birds), jump down, have a drink in my garden ponds and bolt back down his hole again. I fell like I'm putting on a full board with buffet for the rodents at the moment.
Should I be worried about hygiene? Should I be bothered by this, after all, all welcome?
If I should be bothered and worried about hygiene, what can I do to deter them or discourage them. I will not poison them nor am I prepared to stop feeding the birds. I have looked at trays to help avoid spillage but I've also seen how messy the birds who feed are, and can't see anything but giant bin lid sized trays catching all the feed they throw around.
Please advise.
  • Hi Sue,   we get asked a lot about what to do with the presence of rats.     Suggestions are to add those seed catcher trays to the bottom of your feeders and you can add a baffle dome to your feeding post which will prevent the rat/s reaching the feeders.     If you have more than a single rat I would suggest you stop feeding for a couple of weeks or so as they will then disperse.   Also a good idea to move feeding station around every 2 or three months so there is no large build up of fallen seed beneath and I would dig over the ground now and again,  even if it is grass, you can just reseed the area in springtime.     Most folk that feed birds on a regular basis may encounter unwanted vermin so I'd give it a couple of weeks, move the feeding station and try keep the ground beneath as clean as possible as fallen seed will attract them.   The baffle dome will prevent them from reaching the feeders.     Here's a baffle dome fitted to show you how it looks;  I had to use them because we had a lot of grey squirrels and the baffle prevented them from reaching the food and will work the same for rats.

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Hi - I have rats in my garden all the time but they stay at the bottom of the garden where my feeders are and they never bother me. In the past, If they have become a nuisance I have simply trapped them with a humane trap and relocated them into the countryside away from houses. We can't choose what wildlife comes into our gardens and they all need to survive, I would never suggest poisoning them as other animals feed on them, I have foxes dens where I live and love seeing the fox cubs frolicking in the sun. I couldn't hurt an animal, not even a rat and I'm sure we can all live happily together but it cuts both ways. If they do become a nuisance, a humane trap and relocation is a good choice.

    https://www.flickr.com/people/156359183@N07/ 

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/joanneshaw1967/

  • In reply to Joanne:

    I totally agree Joanne. I'm just looking up humane traps on amazon as we speak, but even then I feel guilty about moving them. They were here before I was. I guess I was just a bit worried about disease spreading to my dogs and cats.
  • In reply to Sue McCabe:

    I have dogs and although I try my best to keep them away from the feeding corner they do go around that area but have never been ill. Be careful with the traps, mine is really old and I had a rat escape through the bars a few weeks ago, I think the new ones are better - they are a bit like crab pots now. I have one like this www.amazon.co.uk/.../ref=sr_1_10 but the new ones look like a much better design www.amazon.co.uk/.../ref=sr_1_12

    https://www.flickr.com/people/156359183@N07/ 

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/joanneshaw1967/

  • I tried the Big Cheese one and put out a trail cam to monitor the trap. The rat could stretch far enough to reach the food without triggering the catcher so I ended up throwing the trap away. Doesn't work for mice either as they can get through the mesh !

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • In reply to HAZY:

    It does take a few days to trap them. They will eventually slip up and get trapped. Rats are so clever. One took me 7 days to trap - I trapped it with salmon in the end. But remember, once you have trapped one, wash it thoroughly to get rid of the smell or the next rat wont go anywhere near it. After I caught the first large male, I got the female the next day.

    I am new to this site although Ive been registered and doing the big bird watch for years. Any ideas how i attach photos to these replies please?

    https://www.flickr.com/people/156359183@N07/ 

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/joanneshaw1967/

  • In reply to HAZY:

    They are designed so mice get through the bars - I had 5 mice in it one day all eating the bait. I've also trapped a hedgehog and a blackbird and probably about doz rats and only had one escape.

    .

    https://www.flickr.com/people/156359183@N07/ 

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/joanneshaw1967/

  • I see you have managed to attach the photo, well done.   Here is a link created by one of the members to adding photos including the change of default needed

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again"