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How to Keep Rats and Mice Out of Your Compost

When you think of the literal meaning of the word “compost,” decayed material used for fertilizer, it is only natural to think that furry little rodents are apt to find their way into that smorgasbord of food and warm habitat.

To keep rats and mice out of a compost bin you’ll wet the compost more regularly, make it harder for rodents to access the compost bin, keep the compost near a higher traffic area, and keep any added food hidden in the compost.

There are a couple of different schools of thought regarding whether or not it is safe to use compost that has had a rat or mouse infestation. However, if you are very anti-rat/mouse, there are ways to ensure that Mickey and his friends stay out of your compost.

How to Keep Mice Out of Your Compost Bin

If you want to ensure that your compost bin is 100% rodent-free, it will be a difficult job, but it CAN be done if you follow a few guidelines and are diligent in the fight. The main thing to keep in mind in the battle against rats in your compost is the reasons they will be drawn to it in the first place.

They want a place to nest, and they are attracted to food, so by being mindful of those things and following some other steps, keeping rats and mice in your compost bins to a minimum should be a doable task.

Keep the Addition of Food to a Minimum, and Hide What You Do Add

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but that is precisely what mice and rats are in search of when they smell those delicious rotting things in your compost bin.

If possible, do not put food in the bin at all. If you must add food, make sure that you bury it deep inside of the bin. If the alluring smell is not calling to the rodents, the chances of them stopping by your compost for a bite will be significantly reduced.

Don’t Make Entry into Your Compost Bin an Easy Task.

Let’s face it, who doesn’t like to take the easy way out when they are looking for a bit of R&R? Rodents are no different. If it is difficult for them to infiltrate your compost bin, they will likely move on to easier targets.

Ensure that you have a secure lid in place on your bin, and there are no holes or gaps on the side for them to sneak into. Adding things like chicken wire around the sides and bottom of the bin will also deter rats and mice. 

Make a Ruckus Around Your Compost Bin

Rats enjoy living a solitary life. They are not huge fans of socialization, especially with humans and other sorts of animals. If you keep cats and or dogs around the area your compost is housed, rodents will be less likely to homestead in your compost.

Another way to keep them out of your compost is to visit a time or two a day, ensuring to make your presence known. Kick the sides of the bin. Make some noise. Much like those dreaded neighbors who hate the fun of a good cookout, rats are sure to beat feet away from your compost bin if it’s where the party is at.

Rainy Days and Wet Compost Bins Always Get Them Down

In addition to being drawn to food, rodents are attracted to compost bins often because they are warm, dry places for them to nest. Wet your compost regularly, and rats and mice will be less likely to try to make your compost a home. 

By keeping the compost on the wetter side, the rodents will not find the bin as appealing, and they will be more likely to opt for dryer digs.

Here’s a good video with more tips for keeping rodents out of compost, with more info below:

Can You Use Compost if Rats Have Been in It?

So, you opened your bin and had the fright of your life as you looked in the oily black eyes of Ben, who seems to have taken up residence in your compost. What do you do at this point? Is it safe to use compost that has become the home of some unwanted furry friends?

There seem to be two different schools of thought surrounding this issue.

Rat Urine and Feces in Your Compose?

Some people believe that rodent waste in your compost will benefit the soil and contribute to its richness. They think that it is simply natural to have animal waste in compost, so let them be. 

Also, in most cases, the food grown from the compost will either be washed or heated when cooking sufficiently enough to kill any diseases that could be present.

They do not feel that a rat infestation will be a detriment to your compost, so don’t get so uptight about finding a few furry friends chilling in the bin.

For Some, Rats and Compost Do Not Mix

The other school of thought concerning rats in the compost bin are vehemently against using compost that the little nose-twitchers have become too comfortable in. The main reason for this is that rat urine is known to cause disease, specifically Weil’s Disease.

Though contracting Weil’s Disease via rat-infested compost is not likely, it CAN occur, and it is not pleasant. Because Weil’s Disease can live in water for many months, if you have an open cut or wound that comes in contact with infected compost, it can enter the skin, causing the contraction of the illness.

Again, while this is a long shot, many believe if rats have invaded the compost bin, the bin needs to bite the dust, and you should begin again on your compost.

The Rodent/Compost Dilemma

While keeping rats and mice COMPLETELY out of your compost is not likely to happen, there are several ways to lower their visits if you take several simple precautions.

If you find that your bin is overwrought with rodents, you then need to decide if you can live, knowing that you will be serving up food that has been fertilized by rat and mice droppings. If you are one to live on the wild side, that might be a viable option.

However, if Weil’s disease, though the chance of contraction is slight, is not for you, then scrapping the compost bin and starting over might be the right decision.

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