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How to rat-proof your compost bin


Don’t let the threat of pests stop you from having a compost bin in the backyard, tells The Hungry Gardener. Using everyday items from the shed, it’s easy to protect your compost from rats and other vermin.

A well-managed compost bin is a thing of beauty. Compost bins provide a simple, at-home way to deal with food scraps and other organic matter. They help to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfill.

Once established, they need only basic attention. And the quality of the compost produced is assured because we know what’s gone into it – and therefore what comes out for use in the garden.

Even so, people new to composting can be reluctant to start because they imagine compost bins as stinky, fly-infested and rodent-attracting.

Despite all the fears, a healthy compost heap will not cause foul odours or bring pests into the garden.

Rats, mice and pests like them tend to be attracted to certain contents of the compost bin only if they already live in, or close to, your garden. With bins, it all comes down to good management.

To prevent or deter pests from meddling with your compost, try these simple approaches, which I use in my own backyard.

A healthy, well-cared for compost will not cause smells or bring pests into the garden. Picture: Erinna Giblin

1. Be careful what you compost

Avoid putting cooked food, meat, fats, fish or bones in the compost bin. These foods produce strong odours while decomposing and attract pests to feed.

They can also interfere with the normal composting processes, so I suggest keeping them out of the compost bin altogether.

Stick to vegetable and fruit scraps in your compost. Picture: Erinna Giblin

2. Layer your compost to retain moisture

Rats like dry places, so keep the contents of the compost bin damp. You can do this by covering food scraps with materials such as pea straw, hessian or grass clippings and always replacing the lid after you’ve added scraps.

Keep the contents of the compost bin damp with a cover such as pea straw. Picture: Erinna Giblin

3. Talk to your neighbours

Even if you don’t have rodents living in your own backyard, they can travel in across fences from nearby parks and gardens to rummage and feed. If this happens, your local council may be able to provide advice and assistance with pest control. Some councils also provide safe traps for residents to use.

It’s also worthwhile checking with your neighbours to see if they’re facing similar problems. You might be able to work together to deter pests.

If possible, work with your neighbours to deter pests. Picture: Getty

4. Rodent-proof your bin

The ultimate precaution is to rodent-proof your bin. I have done this in the past by covering the base of the bin with chicken wire. The method is particularly suited to new bins or freshly emptied bins.

Here is what you’ll need:

  • Compost bin
  • Chicken wire (or other mesh that will allow worms to pass through but not rodents)
  • Wire cutters
  • Drill and drill bit
  • Wire or cable ties
  • Shovel

These are some of the tools you need to rodent-proof your bin. Picture: Erinna Giblin

Get started

  1. Turn the bin upside down and place the chicken wire (I’ll call it the ‘mesh’) over the base of the bin.
  2. Using wire cutters, cut the mesh to fit the size of the bin.
  3. Drill holes around the base of the bin to anchor the mesh.
  4. Fix the mesh in place using wire or cable ties, and trim any excess wire as required.
  5. Dig a hole about 15cm deep and wide enough to put the compost bin inside it.
  6. Place the bin in the hole you have just dug.
  7. Backfill the hole to the edges of the bin and compact the soil with your foot.

Fix the mesh in place using wire or cable ties. Picture: Erinna Giblin

With these simple changes to the way you manage your compost, you should be able to keep your bins and keep pesky rodents away. Your garden and veggies will thank you for it!

This article was originally published as How to rat-proof your compost bin by written by Fabian Capomolla

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