How to Get Rid of Rats in Your Yard and Keep Them Away for Good

Brown rat looking to the side.

Rats are clever, curious rodents who thrive on the outskirts of our homes and businesses. They make a better living off our scraps and trash than they can in truly wild lands. These canny critters are extraordinarily adept at survival, making getting rid of them challenging. Rather than using powerful poisons or cruel traps that can harm other forms of wildlife, the most effective way to get rid of rats in the yard is to stop giving them what they need. When you roll up the welcome mat, rats move on, looking for a cushy home elsewhere.

Signs You Have a Rat Problem in Your Yard

The most obvious sign you have rats is when you see one scuttling across your path or spot that long, naked tail whisking away through the foliage. (Ugh!) But there are other signs you may spot that indicate you have rats in the yard:

  • Rat Droppings: Rat droppings look like small, dark, rice-like pellets, pointy at one end and rounded at the other. You’ll find droppings near food or the rats’ runways.
  • Gnaw Marks: Rats’ teeth never stop growing, so they must gnaw constantly to keep them worn down. Gnaw marks on wooden fence posts, plant stakes, bags of soil, or organic plant food are common signs.
  • Damage to Plants and Vegetables: Like many pests, rats feast on our plants, especially fruits and vegetables. Half-eaten veggies or plants indicate someone is busy in the yard.
  • Burrows: Rats form burrows near walls or fences. A burrow has an opening about 2 to 4 inches wide, and all debris is cleared away from the hole.
  • Funky Smell: A weird smell, like stale ammonia, can indicate a rodent problem.
  • Footprints: Soft soils and mud may show tiny, thin footprints as rats go about their business. Rat tracks show four toes on the front feet and five on the back.

If you note any of these signs, it’s time to learn how to get rid of rats in the yard.

Why It’s Important to Get Rid of Rats in Your Yard

Some homeowners want an oasis free from anyone but family, while others are not just tolerant of wildlife — they cultivate it. The world is big enough for both views, but even wildlife lovers should not welcome rats as neighbors. Not only are the rodents utterly filthy, scattering their urine and feces everywhere they go (sorry!), but they also carry a wide range of diseases, bacteria, parasites, and germs that can make people and pets sick. Further, unlike most wildlife, rats are delighted to move right into your outbuildings or even your home, where they promptly cause significant property damage. Feed the birds and watch the deer if you like, but getting rid of rats in the yard is critical.

Understanding Why Rats Invade Your Yard

Rats are highly practical and come to your yard looking for just three things: food, water, and shelter. These essentials are typically easier to come by in our yards than “in the wild.”
While rats can climb trees in search of nests full of eggs or baby birds, rooting around in our garbage is far easier and more rewarding. Spilled birdseed and leftover pet food are also welcome meals. Leaky faucets, full catch trays, and water caught in tire swings or debris offer the water they need. Cultivated soil, long grass, and overgrown shrubs and flower beds provide plenty of shelter. Eliminating these attractants is the key to getting rid of rats in the yard.

How to Make Your Yard Unattractive to Rats

Leaky faucets and spilled birdseed act like the equivalent of a neon motel “vacancy” sign on the highway. The best way to get rid of rats in the yard starts with eliminating the amenities they come for. Take these steps for effective rodent control:

  • Eliminate food sources in the yard.
    • Temporarily remove bird feeders.
    • Clean up all spilled birdseed, and tightly secure any stored seed.
    • Tightly seal all garbage cans and keep them clean.
    • Keep the composter tightly closed.
    • Harvest fruits, vegetables, and nuts promptly.
    • Don’t leave pet food outdoors.
  • Eliminate leaks and standing water.
    • Fix leaky faucets and irrigation.
    • Empty plants’ catch trays and bird baths until the problem is resolved.
    • Eliminate clutter that can hold water after a rainfall.
    • Unclog and clean gutters and downspouts.
  • Eliminate hiding and highways.
    • Mow the grass regularly.
    • Trim all shrubs, vines, and trees, keeping growth away from the walls and roofline.
    • Chop up fallen leaves, and do not mulch more than 3 inches deep.
    • Choose large bark chip mulch rather than finely shredded materials.

How to Trap Rats in Your Yard

We know you’d rather clean up the yard ten times than trap a single rat. The tips listed above will eventually succeed in getting rid of rats in your yard, but if you’ve got a bad infestation, you may be reluctant to wait.

When ridding your yard of rats is urgent, snap traps are highly effective. Set the trap along the rats’ runways and bait it with peanut butter. A nonlethal trap that catches multiple animals without hurting them is a tall, smooth-sided bucket with peanut butter and crackers in the bottom. Provide a ramp for the rodents to climb and use a purpose-built lid that drops the hungry rodent into the bucket. The smooth sides prevent the rats (mice or squirrels) from climbing back out. Then, drive at least a mile away to release the animals away from housing.

Considering Professional Rodent Extermination

If your rat problem is bigger than you can manage, consider rat exterminators. Mosquito Joe® offers effective methods for getting rid of rats in your yard, so you don’t have to face the problem alone. We’re mindful of the potential impact on the environment and other wildlife, so we avoid potent poisons and killing traps. Instead, we use humane lures to trap every rodent on your premises. We remove them from your property and leave a repellent in strategic locations to prevent local populations from moving in.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Mosquito Joe!

When knowing how to get rid of rats in the yard isn’t enough to get ahead of the problem, call on the pros at Mosquito Joe. We’ll make sure they scuttle away and leave your property in peace. Not sure what kind of pest you have in your yard? Our Mosquito Joe pros can tell the difference between rats or other rodents. The Neighborly Done Right Promise™ and Mosquito Joe Satisfaction Guarantee back all of our pest control services, ensuring your satisfaction.

If you’ve got something better to do than learn how to get rid of large rats outside, we’re ready to help! Request a free quote today.