Enda is an avid gardener and also a builder who loves creative landscaping. He loves to share his tips with those who enjoy gardening.
Rats Under Decking: A Nightmare Scenario
Thanks for taking the time to read my article about getting rid of rats that have somehow gotten under your decking. I had exactly the same problem about a year ago, and it was a nightmare when I found out.
My grandchildren play down on the deck, and my wife likes to spend time down there as well. We also like to have our BBQ in the open air and then relax there some evenings.
All of a sudden, it was a no-go area for them and a huge problem for me.
I did call some professionals on the phone, but to be honest, the prices they were quoting were a bit expensive for me. The only solution I could come up with was to take care of the problem myself. Don’t get me wrong—I am no hero, and I hate even looking at rats, so it was not a job I was looking forward to at all.
That’s when I started looking for solutions to the problem, and I will share those with you down below. I really hope that you find them helpful.
Is It a Rat, Skunk, Raccoon, Possum, Rabbit, or Even a Woodchuck?
I know when I heard the first signs of activity around my decking area, there was a lot of shuffling. As we barbecue quite a lot, the natural assumption was that it had to be rats. Now, you may have already seen them entering or leaving, and if that is the case, then you know what you are dealing with. It is actually very rare to see a rat as they like to stay under cover.
However, don't always assume it is a rat doing the damage under there. Brown rats, often called sewer rats, will tend to live on the ground in areas like building sites. They tend to make nests, usually from paper or cloth. It is this breed that is most likely living under your deck.
Some ways of checking are to look for droppings, or look for burrows around the side of your deck, and look for signs of any nesting material. They are active at night and will start to come out after dusk, so this is your best chance of spotting them.
Rats will dig down into the soil to get entry to something. If, like me, you barbecue, then inevitably, food will get down between the boards. Most likely, this is what they are after. If you see signs of digging or gnawing around the lower boards, then most likely it is rats.
Often you can spot small or baby rats in the garden. They are less knowledgeable and will risk being seen out and about in the garden, especially if there are vegetables around. The bottom line is that if there are baby ones, then Mummy and Daddy ones will also be around.
There is only one real way to find out, which is to set a basic single trap and see what you actually catch. If it is mice then they need to be killed off using slightly different methods. The bigger animals, such as raccoons or skunks, can be trapped and dealt with as well. For now, though, let's assume that it is rats we are dealing with.
Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Use the Classic Rat Zapper
How to Get Rid of Rats Without Poison
The trap above is certainly one method of getting rid of rats without using poison. Rat poison has been used for years, and it is a nice, cheap method of getting rid of rats under a deck, under a house, or even up in the attic.
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It can, however, be harmful to other creatures and dangerous if there are kids around. The bottom line though is that it does work, and it does it really quickly. If you suspect a sudden infestation, then poison will deal with this problem quickly.
Always wear gloves and place the poison into containers, and set around the border of your decking area. They will eat it, and the bad news is they will always try to return to their nests afterward. Make sure that any holes or entrances to your deck are blocked up to prevent this from happening.
Never scatter this on the ground and always in containers. The ideal spots for this are away from other animals in places like an old pipe, behind old boards, or anywhere that it is difficult for other animals to get to. Keep children well away from this area.
Some bait and poison come with a sealed box or trap, and this is ideal.
If you want to avoid the use of this, then there are a number of traps, such as the Zapper, that will also do the job. If you are brave enough, you can use a live trap, which will capture them but not kill them, and you can then take them away to somewhere else.
Personally, I zap them as the job is done, and I have stopped them from annoying anyone else. Poison does, however, always remain a viable option.
- A pair of rats can produce 2,000 babies in one year.
- Rats eat their own poop.
- Rat's teeth grow between 4–5" every single year.
- There are as many rats in New York as there are people.
- You are never more than six feet away from a rat.
3 Tips for Preventing & Deterring Rats Getting Under Your Decking
In the ideal world, you will want to prevent the rats or other animals such as mice and squirrels from getting under your decking in the first place. Likewise, if you have gone to the bother of clearing them away from under your deck, you will not want them getting back in there.
When building your deck, add strong chicken wire all the way around the bottom of the deck. You need to bury this at least a foot deep, as rats will not burrow that deeply. I used boards with chicken wire on the back of them to give a nice outward appearance, but the wire makes it hard for them to get through.
You can see from the picture above that I did that during the construction phase of my decking, and this really is the ideal time to do this, simply because you have full access.
Some people also use a nice wooden trellis with wire on the back.
This is easier to do when first building the deck, but if you have good access, then it is still possible to do it afterward. This is the best method by far.
Rats will live under your decking if the conditions are right. The first thing that they look for is food. So avoid having any food left outside in rubbish bags or in pet food dishes. Now if like me you barbecue a lot, then a great idea is to put down an outdoor mat to catch any fat that may drop off the barbecue. Rats love fatty materials.
If food falls, get it picked up right away. Because of the nature of the boards on decking, it is almost impossible to stop crumbs falling down between them, but always clean up after eating, and that will help.
If you see any signs of gnawing or activity, get your traps down early. These disgusting, disease-ridden creatures breed like no other. Get rid of them quickly is my advice, and give them no chance to multiply. The choice of trap is up to you, of course, but act quickly.
Catching Rats Alive—Warning, You Will See Rats
How Do You Get Rid of Rats Without Poison or Traps?
I mentioned earlier about trapping these rats. For whatever reason, some people just do not want to kill these rodents. The only alternative that I know of then is to trap them and release them somewhere else.
You can buy rat traps that will do just that. These are usually in the form of a very strong, galvanized-steel cage with a wire mesh cover. You place bait inside the trap, and then a trigger mechanism will respond when the bait is touched.
These will work for rats, weasels, chipmunks, voles, and squirrels.
For rats, peanut butter seems to work as the best bait.
They can then be released near a river or into a forest. I guess that is one way of getting rid of rats outside, but I still think you need to be pretty brave to be able to deal with a live rat.
How to Trap Rats
Natural Fear of Rats and Catching Them
I do not know many people who like rats, though some people do have them as pets. The majority of people have a very distinct fear of these horrid animals. They are dangerous, and yes, they do bite. They can also jump, and they can certainly climb.
I do know a couple of people who work for a rat-catching company. When they are called in they do wear safety gear that includes gloves and boiler suits as well as safety glasses. I would honestly recommend that you do the same. If it is good enough for the professionals, then it is certainly good enough for me.
Summary of Deterring Rats and Getting Rid of Them
I hope that you have found this article really useful. These are dirty pests, and if they can get under your decking, they will if the conditions are ideal for them. if you are going to be building a deck, especially one that is raised above ground level, then please add chicken wire. It really does work and will keep them away.
Avoid leaving any type of food outside, and always clean up well after barbecues.
If you do get them under your deck, then you can either use a poison carefully, any type of trap, or use a trap if you prefer to capture them and return them to a river or wooded area.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Patricia on August 13, 2020:
what about not having decking?
I dont kill animals i find the whole thing barbaric
Jess on April 17, 2020:
Thank you. This was very helpful.
James W. on September 26, 2018:
Alex Raia is a RAT!
Stuart from Santa Barbara, CA on June 10, 2015:
Great article, I've never heard of electric rat traps but they sound like a great idea because I have 4 dogs and the last thing I want is for my dogs to get their nose or paw stuck on a rat trap or even worse those snapping rat traps that end up in a bloody mess.
Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on October 19, 2014:
Sound advice. I am pretty sure we don't have rats under our deck, but then we don't grill on there but on the grass close to the deck, so no food items usually get between the boards to attract them.
We do have rats in the area, but I haven't seen any around our house or garden. Maybe the annoying neighbor's cats help keep them away. Our garage is plagued with mice in the winter, but I usually put traps out inside the garage and get about 10-20 of those a year.
Got to be careful with poison because of the foxes, badgers and hedgehogs that come visiting us, also because of the birds.