This is a tricky one. Rats, like hedgehogs, are a part of our native British wildlife. They are comfortable around humans; they’ve been living near us for thousands of years. They are smart, fast and they eat just about anything.
Making your garden hedgehog-friendly by providing hedgehogs with food certainly could attract rats. And many of the things you could do to deter rats will also make life more difficult for hedgehogs, or even harm them.
But putting out food for hedgehogs won’t automatically attract rats. It very much depends on what other food sources there are in your area. You could feed hedgehogs for years and never see a rat. And remember, rats are most problematic in winter when natural foods are scarce. You won’t be feeding hedgehogs in the winter because they are hibernating.
If you do think you have a rat problem and you want to keep feeding your hedgehogs and keep a hedgehog friendly garden we have some suggestions for you.
Read on for our top tips on how to feed hedgehogs without attracting rats.
Feeding Hedgehogs Without Attracting Rats
Is The Hedgehog Food Really the Problem?
Before you start to worry about whether your hedgehog food is attracting rats it’s worth looking at what other rodent-magnets you might have in your garden.
First of all, do you feed garden birds? Birdseed dropping on the ground can certainly attract rats. There are plenty of things you can do to stop this being a problem. Read our guide here.
Check your compost heap. Compost heaps a terrific eco-option for your garden. But they can be a mecca for rats. They offer both food and a nesting site. Never put cooked food on the compost.
If you think you have a rat problem stop putting raw food waste there as well. Turn your compost regularly to be sure there are no nests. If your heap is close to a boundary, fence or hedge consider moving it to a more open site.
You could also consider swapping your heap for a sealed compost bin.
Store food securely. If you are storing pet food, hedgehog and bird food, or human food in garages or sheds make sure it’s stored securely. Rats will gnaw through paper, card, plastic and wood to get dinner. So keep outside food stores in garages or sheds in secure glass or metal containers.
Secure your food waste bins. If you store kitchen waste bins outside make sure they are secure. We have seen rats, foxes and badgers tip over food waste bins to get a look at what’s inside. A brick on top should solve the problem.
Clean up. Don’t leave unused food lying around. Clean up the uneaten bird and hedgehog food each day. Clean up any food you spill when transferring food to feeders.
If you are eating in the garden clean the table when you finish, just like you would indoors. Sweep underneath if your table is on a hard surface. And always clean up a barbecue as soon as possible after use.
A barbecue covered in fat and bits of sausage and steak is a ratty banquet!
Safer Hedgehog Feeding
If you still have a rat problem there are some changes you can make to the way you feed your hedgehogs.
Feed-in the open. Rats like to keep under cover if possible, whilst hedgehogs are happy to eat in the open. So think about moving your feeding station to the middle of the lawn.
Feed as late as possible. The less time the hedgehog food is out there the less chance it has of attracting rats. So if your hedgehogs feed later in the night put the food out late.
Supervise dinner time. If your hedgehogs come to feed regularly in the early evening (and many do) think about putting out the food as they arrive and staying to watch them feed.
Hedgehogs won’t mind a quiet human but rats will be much less keen. Then clean up when the hogs are finished.
Try cat food. There are some reports that rats are less keen on cat food than a dog or hedgehog food. We’ve not tried this, but it could be worth a go.
Go Natural. Whilst rats love most of the supplementary food that we put out for hedgehogs they are not much interested in the things that make up a hedgehog’s natural diet.
Beetles, caterpillars, slugs and snails are all loved by hedgehogs and ignored by rats. So instead of putting out extra food, you could work on encouraging natural hedgehog food in your garden. Take a look at our guide here.
Deterring Rats Without Hurting Hedgehogs
If you’ve tried everything we have suggested and rats are still a problem you may need more drastic measures. But here you must be careful. Many traditional ways of deterring rats may also harm hedgehogs. So here are some Do’s and Don’t.
Don’t block up holes in and under fences. Although these might be letting rats in they are also essential “hedgehog highways”.
Do try some mint. Rats apparently hate the smell of mint, whilst hedgehogs seem to quite like it. Peppermint essential oil sprinkled by their bolt holes, or plenty of mint planted in your garden, could work as a deterrent.
Don’t use rat poison. Rat poison could also poison hedgehogs, other wildlife and even your pets. Bad idea.
Do consider getting a cat. If the rat problem is long term a cat could be the answer. Rats will do their best to avoid cats. Even the smell of cat pee can keep them away. Some people even suggest borrowing used cat litter from a neighbour to sprinkle around your garden if you don’t have your own cat.
Don’t block up holes under sheds or get rid of your log pile. Both places make great nesting grounds for hedgehogs as well as rats.
Do try a humane rat trap. Traditional or “kill” traps are probably not an option for you if you are an animal lover. But a humane trap could be worth a go. These do just trap the animal, so no harm is done if you happen to trap a hedgehog by mistake.
The downside is that once you have caught your rat you will have to load the trap into the car, with the rat in it, and take it somewhere a good couple of miles away to release.
Conclusion: Don’t Let Rat Worries Stop You Feeding Hedgehogs.
Most people, even animal lovers, don’t like the idea of rats hanging around the house.
Rats will certainly enjoy many of the foods you might offer to a hedgehog. But don’t let rat worries put you off helping out hedgehogs with extra food.
Many people feed hedgehogs for years without ever seeing a rat. And if rats do become a problem there are plenty of things you can do to deter the rats whilst still offering hedgehogs the extra support that may help them to survive.
We hope you have found this article useful.
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