Providing a tray with seeds can help birds in your area survive tough winters. It also provides quick access to food in summer, not to mention that it attracts colorful avifauna into your yard.
But birds aren’t the only type of wildlife that bird feeders attract. Especially in winter months, they also become a target for rats and other rodents.
A few ways to keep rats off your bird feeders include:
- Using rodent-proof feeders
- Installing squirrel baffles onto feeder poles
- Using a weather guard
- Hanging feeders away from trees
- Deterring rats naturally
Other options include unappealing food options and keeping the area under the feeder clean. Here’s how to prevent rats from eating suet.
14 Ways To Keep Rats Off Bird Feeders
1. Use Rodent-Proof Feeders
It goes without saying that the easiest way to keep rats off bird feeders is by using rodent-proof feeders. There are numerous types, but one of the most effective is the cage style.
These are regular bird feeders placed in a cage-like structure. The cage is wide enough to allow small birds to pass through. Some birds with longer beaks, such as woodpeckers, can also reach the seeds.
However, rats are usually too big to pass through the cage, and they don’t have long beaks that can get to the suet. Hence, this bird feeder type discourages rodents.
2. Hang Feeders on Rodent-Proof Poles
Rodent-proof poles are metal poles with a baffle attached to them. They are often used to keep squirrels away from bird feeders, and work equally well to deter rats, mice, and other rodents.
The principle is simple: the baffle acts as a barrier with a slippery and smooth surface, preventing rats that manage to climb it from reaching the seeds.
If you’re not too worried about squirrels, a metal pole with no baffle might do, too. Remember, though, that rats can easily climb wood or PVC poles.
3. Rat-Proof Existent Poles
If you already have a pole and don’t want to change it, consider rat-proofing it with a squirrel baffle.
Baffles come in various sizes and are readily available on the market. The only thing to pay attention to is matching the size with the diameter of your pole.
4. Use a Covered Bird Feeder
If you’ve ever scoured the market in search of the perfect bird feeder, you might have noticed there are various styles out there.
Some consist of a cage-like structure only. Others are open trays, while others are closed structures with a cover and access holes on the sides.
A cover above the bird feeder can act as an above-feeder baffle, preventing rats from accessing the seeds from the top.
Covered feeders also come with the added advantage that they keep seeds dry in rain or adverse weather.
5. Use a Weather Guard
Covered bird feeders are nice and all, but what to do if you already have an open feeder and don’t want to change it?
You can use a weather guard instead. Bird feeder weather guards are dome-like structures designed to keep birds out of the rain while eating.
They also keep the seeds dry and, like the cover, they prevent rats from getting to the seeds from above.
6. Avoid Using Platform Trays
As mentioned, there are various types of bird feeders out there, including platform trays.
In a yard, platform trays can add visual appeal. These feeders are often shaped like small houses that you can hang on trees or an exterior wall.
However, rats, mice, and other rodents can climb walls and trees alike. Due to the open structure of platform trays, they would have ultra-easy access to the bird feed. This is why you should steer clear of platform tray feeders.
7. Keep Area Under Feeder Clean
Rats – and most rodents – are ground-dwelling mammals. Sure, they can climb trees and often nest in tree hollows, but they forage on the ground.
The reason why they might be attracted to bird feeders in the first place is because of the seeds that fall off. Hence, keeping the area under the feeder clean is crucial.
If you don’t want to sweep under the feeder daily, consider installing a tray under the feeder and emptying it daily.
8. Use a Weight-Sensitive Feeder
Another method to prevent rats from eating bird feed is by using a weight-sensitive feeder – this method works against other rodents, too, but they could also prevent some birds from feeding.
That’s because weight-sensitive feeders feature a self-closing door that shuts when the feeder detects a weight above a certain threshold.
This makes weight-sensitive feeders ideal if you want to attract finches, cardinals, and other small birds. Yet, heavier birds like certain woodpecker species might trigger the self-closing mechanism.
9. Offer Unappealing Food
Rats are notorious for eating pretty much everything, but that doesn’t mean that they eat actually everything.
For instance, they don’t like spiciness, but birds can’t taste it. This is why some bird feeds are enriched with pepper oils.
Bird feeds without peanuts, sunflower seeds, sorghum, and millet are also less likely to attract rats.
10. Reduce Ground Cover
Rats, like mice, take advantage of thick ground covers to create nests. Reducing ground covers under the feeder can help keep them away – from both the feeder and your property.
Open grounds with little to no cover also deter rats. These creatures usually feel unsafe in places where they can’t hide.
11. Use Natural Rat Deterrents
Another way to keep rats away from bird feeders is by using natural deterrents. These rodents dislike strong scents, including peppermint, eucalyptus, citronella, sagebrush, and balsam fir.
You can keep pots of these plants near the feeder, or place a few potpourri bags enhanced with essential oils under the feeder.
Other scents rats dislike include chili, cayenne pepper, and cloves.
12. Don’t Overfill Feeders
No matter what type of bird feeder you have, an overflowing tray can attract a variety of pests. Rats are very opportunistic, and they can be hard to get rid of once they’ve found an easy food source.
Overfilled feeders are exactly that, so it is better to let them partly empty and refill them more often.
13. Place Feeders Out of Reach
The feeder location can also make or break the deal when it comes to keeping rats away. While these rodents are very creative when it comes to reaching a food source, they can’t fly.
They can jump, however, and are also agile climbers. Placing the feeder near a tree or wall is an open invitation for rats to visit it.
If you want to keep them away, place the feeder in an open area away from trees, fences, walls, and other structures that rats might climb. Use a metal pole and baffles or other guards to impede access.
14. Protect Your Seed Supply
If you’re dealing with a rat infestation but are sure that they can’t reach the feeder, consider protecting your seed supply.
Keep the bags in airtight containers that rats can’t access – glass is the best material, as rats can usually chew through wood and plastic alike.
Rats are opportunistic rodents that can take advantage of bird feeders. Due to their aggressive nature, they could even scare birds away from your yard.
To prevent this, you can keep rats off your bird feeders by using rat-proof feeders or guards, a weight-sensitive feeder, or a covered feeder. Placing the feeder in an open area with little ground cover and using natural deterrents could also keep them away.