Rat Free Birdfeeding – What works and what doesn’t?
Yes, you can feed birds without attracting rats. The way to control rats is to:
One...keep them off the feeder... and two, keep the food off the ground...which can be done!
Rats can be attracted to any food source, including compost bins, dog and cat food bowls, pet waste, unsecured garbage containers, barbeque grills, open compost bins, etc. In other words, the bird feeders in backyards are probably not responsible for attracting rats.
- An Advanced Pole System (APS) set-up with a squirrel baffle, installed properly, using the same spacing as for squirrels, (4-5 feet high and 5-10 feet away from trees and structures) will stop rats from gaining access to feeders.
- The addition of seed tray beneath a feeder helps to prevent extra seed from reaching the ground and becoming available to rats.
- Consider feeding a single type of seed in each feeder. Sunflower chips seem to work best when tidy feeding is the priority. Another option is Nyjer seed for finches. Nyjer is a tiny seed which Finches will crack open to eat the edible interior. Neither squirrels nor rats are generally interested in this seed. We recommend solid tube feeders with feeding ports specifically sized for Nyjer to avoid the rare instance of animals damaging mesh Finch socks.
- Small hanging trays also work well in containing seed from spilling onto the ground. The small amount of seed that does get knocked out is usually eaten by ground feeding birds before the rats have a chance to find it. Weather guards are available to protect seed from rain and snow.
- The Eliminator® feeder, when adjusted to accommodate the weight of small birds, works very well. The factory adjustment that targets squirrels will need to be reduced to be effective against rats. Sunflower chips work well in this feeder when filled with only the amount the birds will consume in a couple of days. To limit problems with seed spoilage, only fill the Eliminator 1/3 full with sunflower chips.
- Good quality WBU suet, hung from a properly placed and baffled APS set-up, will also work well. If the suet feeder is not hung on an APS unit, it should be taken indoors each evening.
- Most window feeders are safe from rodents and provide great views of the birds.
What does not work:
- Any of the cage feeders or cage accessories do NOT work! Rats go right inside and munch away. On-guard® cages and starling resistant feeders are not good options for deterring rats.
- Seed blends, even no-mess blends do not work well for deterring rats because many birds, i.e. finches, chickadees, and grosbeaks pick through blends, ultimately sweeping their least favourite seeds to the ground where rats can gain access to it. Poor quality mixes with copious filler seeds that birds won’t eat are a leading cause of rat-attracting debris under feeders.
We can help you achieve the twin goals of keeping rodents off your feeders and food off the ground, and are always happy to discuss your birdfeeding with you. And If you know others who are having a negative experience with birdfeeding due to rodents, please recommend they read these tips or send them to us for advice.