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It will happen whether you live in the deepest reaches of the south or the coldest corners of the pacific northwest. If you own a shed, you are going to eventually run into a rat problem. But as gross as rats can be, it is not the end of the world. All you need to know is how to evict your unexpected guests.
Rats are looking for food and warmth and will leave your shed if they can find it elsewhere.This means they can be easily lured out with the proper methods. Remember that rats are organisms with biological needs. If they are not getting those needs from your shed, they will leave it.
How do you convince rats to leave your shed? Well, there are two main methods.
Method 1: Clean out Your Shed of rat Food
Rats favor foods that are easy to find. Anyone who has left cheese in their fridge for too long will tell you that it gives off an impossible-to-miss smell. Rats do not enjoy cheese for the flavor, but rather find themselves eating it because it is easy to find by smell.
Rats are also the least picky eaters on the planet. They will eat old food, half-eaten food, poorly prepared food, and even things we would not consider food, like paper or cardboard.
Naturally, the first step is to get anything you recognize as food out of your shed. Even crumbs of old food are appealing to rats, so vacuum those up first thing if you have not already.
Then there are the things you will not immediately recognize as food. Seed bags are the biggest culprit of this. Unlike humans, rats can derive nutrition from the shell of a seed. This makes seeds an unexpected feast for rodents.
Rats can even eat food meant for other species, like birdfeed or dog food. It does not even matter if they can get to these foods. Rats will invade your shed just looking for them.
The last thing to clean up is “nesting material”. While cleaning out anything food-like from your shed, you probably also noticed things like sawdust, twigs, and dried grass. These are materials that rats love to use as materials for building their nests.
While a rat will not be sneaking into your shed looking for these, they will keep coming back to your shed if they ever find them. Rats are not “smart” in the way people are, but they have good enough memories to remember where they can find food and materials.
If you already have a rat problem in your shed, the first step will be luring those rats out. The best way to do this is by using the thing that drew them to your shed in the first place: food.
Anything with a smell that you can recognize, a rat will (literally) be able to smell a mile away. These are the best baits for getting a rat to go where you want.
Cheese, bologna, and tomato sauce are the most common baits in a household. Remember that you are looking for low-maintenance foods that can be cleaned up easily.
This is only a first step, however. You do not just want to lead rats away from your shed for as long as it takes them to eat the meal you have set out for them. And besides, you are looking to evict your furry guests, not ply them with snacks.
But what comes next? What do you do once you can lure the rat to wherever you want?
Method 2: Ward the rats Away
There are many solutions, but some are more lethal to the rat than others. Additionally, some require investment into specific rat-killing products than others. There are ways to mimic these products with household items, however, so the cost is not too high.
The most popular way of dealing with rats is with poison. But not everyone wants to shell out money for rat poison. Luckily, there are some at-home solutions using the same chemistry.
As stated before, rats find their food primarily through smell. But they also find things they cannot eat through smell. If a rat sees another rat eat a piece of food, then die, they will immediately associate that food’s smell with poison.
This means that if you put a small amount of bleach among the cheese (or bologna, tomato sauce, etc.) that you leave out for the rats, they will begin to associate that food with the lethal effects of ingesting bleach.
Once rats have learned the smell of bleach, you can take it one step further. Even a small amount of bleach at the doorway or corners of your shed will warn rats to stay away.
If the rats do not ingest the bleach-tainted bait, then that just means they already know it will kill them. That way you can use bleach on your shed without having to train the rats first.
If you want to get creative (or if you do not want your shed smelling like bleach) there is another way to train rats away from your shed. Instead of mixing in bleach with the bait to threaten them with death, instead slide a penny, nickel, or quarter into their cheese.
If a rat finds an inedible coin in their food, then they will start to associate the smell of metal with a lack of food. This can be useful because it means you will only have to leave loose change lying around your shed to give them the impression it is not worth going into.
Most tools are made of metal as well. If your shed is well-stocked with any metal tools, rats will likely smell the metal and decide that your shed is full of material they cannot eat.
This advice will only ward off rats looking for food. Especially in the winter, it is even more likely that they are looking for the warmth of shelter.
If a rat is desperate for warmth, then they will go into your shed even if they know there is no food there. If it is cold enough, they might even go there knowing there’s poison nearby.
Clearly you are dealing with some crafty and desperate animals. But that does not mean they are impossible to manage. The best way to fix an infestation is to prevent one from happening. Your shed needs to not just be rat-repellent, but totally rat-proof.
How does one rat-proof their shed? It all comes down to these four steps:
Step 1: Seal Your Shed’s Floor
Rats will almost always prefer to dig rather than climb. You can expect them to wiggle their way into your shed from underneath it if they can find a way beneath it.
The solution here is to tightly pack the dirt around the bottom of your shed. This method offers the most return on its effort. It might seem tiresome, but you do not need to move the whole Earth around your shed. You just need a thick enough barrier to convince a rat not to bother.
There is another solution, although be aware that it works better in winter than it does in the summer. If you have access to chicken wire, you can wrap it around the bottom of your shed.
The reason this works better in the winter is that chicken wire is susceptible to being moved or chewed through by rats. In the winter however, the chicken wire will be so cold that rats will be reticent to try and do anything to get through it.
The last solution to gaps under your shed is to use duct tape to cover it. Now you might think that this is even less reliable than the chicken wire. In general, you are correct. Try burying your shed’s gaps or blocking them off with chicken wire if you have access to it.
If you do not or cannot do either of those things, duct tape has an advantage neither of those methods have. Duct tape is thick and air-tight, meaning rats might not even be able to chew through it if they try.
But even once they do, they will immediately recognize the taste and smell of the tape’s adhesive surface. Rats know quite well how dangerous adhesive can be, as many rat traps use it to bind them up.
Step 2: Seal Your Shed’s Walls
Breaches in the walls of your shed present a slightly different problem than gaps in the bottom. The thing is rats can climb on most wood surfaces. This means even holes near the tops of your shed’s walls are vulnerable to rats’ intrusions.
To be clear right off the bat: You do not have to make your shed sea-worthy to keep rats out. It does not need to be completely sealed shut. It just needs to have no gaps in it larger than a dime. Rats can wiggle into any space larger than that.
Caulking a shed is the best way to seal it, and not just against rats. Caulking your shed practically adds years onto its life by giving it extra structural support and buffering it against the elements. If even moisture cannot get in, then rats are not getting in.
You will want to begin by caulking anywhere the siding of your shed meets anything else. This means where the siding meets the ceiling, the floor, and the other siding. As state previously, this is a good idea even if there are not any obvious breaches in these areas.
Once you start using caulk to solve some problems it can be tempting to use it to solve all of them. If you do find a sizeable breach in your walls, floor, or ceiling, do not try to fill it in with caulk. That is, unless you intend to make a whole shed out of nothing but caulk.
There are a few ways to seal holes in your shed, and almost all of them will require a trip to the hardware store. In a perfect world you could bypass such expenses, but alas.
The first method is to use steel wool on the breaches, bound to the wall with caulk or tape. Caulk is preferable as it is meant to last longer, but many brands of duct tape have proven reliable in the short-term. Use caulk if you have it, but duct tape is a viable stop-gap measure.
Another solution is lath screen (or lath metal, if you prefer), or the chicken wire mentioned before. There is a difference in application here though.
Whereas before you were protecting the underside of your shed, now you are only covering up holes in the walls. The difference is that now you can, and should, place the metal on the inside.
The hole you are trying to cover might be big enough for a rat to crawl through, and the lath metal you use might have gaps big enough for a rat to crawl through but layering one over the other will usually result in an obstacle no rat can navigate.
A small cement pour can also seal up the holes. This tip is included more for completeness than for advisability. Yes, you can do it. But it is far and away the most troublesome method.
Granted, cement is a sure-fire method of sealing a breach. The issue is that it is heavy, messy, and takes some additional know-how to use safely.
Step 3: Seal Your Shed’s Roof
The last obstacle you will face in securing your shed against rats is the roof. Even if the floor and every wall of your shed is sealed tight, rats can still climb all over it. That means the roof is just as vulnerable to their intrusion as the walls and must be protected with equal effort.
The first thing you will want to do is check for leaks in your roof. In this case, a visual appraisal might not be reliable, or even safe. Thankfully, there are sure-fire ways to find leaks.
Get a ladder that gives you a good view of your shed’s roof. Then, use a garden hose and spray your shed’s roof down until you have covered every inch with water.
When you go back inside your shed, the security of the roof will be revealed by how well it kept the water at bay. Anywhere that is leaking will have water dripping through it.
This is not everyone’s favorite way of testing for leaks, as it forces you to expose the leaks yourself. But these leaks would have existed even if you waited for rain to come and reveal them for you. Better to solve the problem before a storm than after. Or worse, during.
After you find leaks you have two options: The first is protecting them just against rats. This will involve similar steps as before. Use caulk, lath fence, or concrete. If you want to seal up your shed’s roof entirely, consider hiring a professional, as roofing can be hard and dangerous.
Step 4: Bring in a rat Hunting Specialist
There is one last method of scaring rats out of your shed. It is, in a way, the highest maintenance. Yet it is also far and away the most popular.
Your shed attracts rats because it is a good environment for them. But you can keep your shed free of rats simply by making it a good environment for one of their predators.
In short, get a cat. Even domesticated housecats prey on rats. Dogs have also been known to work, but not as well. Dogs tend to be friendly to anything that is not a threat, and rats are far too small and docile for a dog to bother chasing them away.
If you make your shed a home for a cat, then rats will stay away. Your shed could be rat heaven, but a cat will still scare them off. Their fear of cats goes deeper than their fear of poisons, or their love of food and shelter. Cats are moody and have all kinds of costs associated with them. But if you absolutely, positively cannot get rid of the rats any other way, then a cat will do it.
Rats are living creatures, and they want to stay alive if they can. That is why they seek out shelter in places like your shed. But they carry with them disease and bacteria. It is little wonder that the CDC has articles on how to keep rats out of your home.
However you decide to do it, keep your shed clean and secure. Lure rats away when you can. But above all, stay safe.