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Rat-Proof Compost Bin

A new gardenerd wrote in recently:

“Any suggestions [for a rat-proof compost bin]?  We do trap and try to control the rats but they just exist and like to
come around compost in our neighborhood.”

There must be a global increase in rats this year.  We’ve been seeing an increase in these critters around our community garden as well.  I had them nibbling away at my tomatoes all summer.   Here are a couple suggestions I can across in my research:

First of all, you will want to make sure that you aren’t composting any animal fats, bones or flesh.  Rats are particularly attracted to these items.

Next, make sure your compost pile is wet and turn it regularly.  Rats don’t like nesting in wet places, and if you turn it often, they won’t feel safe making a home there.

Given that you are doing those things, there are a few options for composters that are rat-resistant (I won’t say rat-proof, because with rats – well – one can never be too sure).  I read about a few folks who created metal compost bins out of galvanized metal trash cans.  They drilled 1/4″ holes in the body of the can (about 20 or 30) and in the lid (10-20) using a metal drill bit.  You would want to cut out the bottom of the can, of course, and either line it with chicken wire, or as the folks on a couple of sites did, dig a 15″ hole in the ground and set the can in that.  If you have Norway rats, though, they borrow, so you might want to dig a hole AND use chicken wire on the bottom.  Make sure the lid is tight fitting.  If it isn’t, you can put a couple of bricks on the top to keep a tight seal.  (I do that with my metal storage can for fertilizers).

I have gotten metal trash cans at IKEA, but a quick search for metal trash cans on the web yielded a good selection.

Some other options include using a thick plastic bin that doesn’t have slots (meaning, not the Bio-Stack that you can buy from the City of Los Angeles – which I have).  Or, if you have the space, you can opt for a composting tumbler, which is entirely enclosed and often times on legs, which helps keep critters at bay.  Perhaps something like this:











Here is a site I found on helpful tips for keeping rats out of compost:

Bottom line: keep it moist, keep turning it and get a tight lid on it.

Please keep us posted on how this works for you.  Thanks for writing in!

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. cathryn

    I wrap my plastic container (bottom and over the vents) with 1/4 welded wire mesh (AKA here as hardware cloth).

    1. Christy

      Great idea, Cathryn! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Christy Wilhelmi

    Thanks for sharing your tips.  It sounds like a great plan.

  3. andrew

    I have ratproofed several compost bins with hardware cloth. Line the frame and staple the cloth in place, making sure there are no gaps and that the overlapping seams won’t be pulled apart by the weight of the bin’s contents, i.e., install the cloth flush with the frame so downward speading force won’t increase the dimensions of the enclosed area and create gaps.

  4. Sam - Torquay

    Got rats gettin into my compost bin, had enviromental health around, but the poison only keeps them away for a couple of months. Been advised to staple several layers of chicken wire to the bottom of the bin, so guess what I am doing tommorrow!?

  5. Sarah Supernova

    Our foolproof way of keeping rats away from the compost? We’ve got a great cat!

    1. eve

      would love to know your foolproof way as my partner insists on not having a compost bin or system if there is any risks of incurring mice or rats, and I too am very vermin averse but would love to make my own compost..

      Many thanks

      1. Christy

        There is no foolproof way, since we’re talking about living creatures here. Some are more persistent than others. My tips above are the best options for keeping them away. And I’ll also offer this. People think they don’t have rats. We all have rats. They just leave different levels of evidence.

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