Rats avoiding poison and traps; what now?
October 1, 2014 10:05 AM   Subscribe

I've got rats in my walls. They are avoiding both the poison bait (two types) and the traps that I set in the crawlspace. What do I do now? Getting a cat is not an option. I have a terrier, but the rats don't seem to come out during the day, so he never catches them.

We appear to have a rat's nest in the walls of my outbuilding (which has crawlspace, but does not have an attic.) There is only one human entry point to the crawlspace, which is quite narrow and difficult for me to traverse, so I started out fighting the rats by simply putting poison and traps in the entry area which is easily reachable to me. They never touched the traps, but did eat a bunch of poison. Unfortunately, while the poison appears to have killed some rats, it did not kill all of them, and the rats that remain are now avoiding both the traps and the poison. Not sure what to do next. Perhaps cut a small entry hole into the wall where they are living and spray something in there? Remove the electrical outlet wall covers and drop some poison chunks directly into the walls? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

PS. I know that the best thing would be to seal all the entry points that rats are using to enter the outbuilding. Unfortunately, there's not really any way to do this, because the foundation of the outbuilding does not go deeply enough into the ground, and the rats just tunnel underneath it. I plug a tunnel every morning.
posted by djedery to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
once upon a time, i had an outdoor skateboard ramp (halfpipe)... & there were a bunch of rats making noise underneath... we put tons of traps down with peanut butter to no avail... Then we PAINTED them green... and they all got caught in like 1 day. Not sure if this will work for you or not, but it worked for me under those circumstances. Good luck!
posted by foodybat at 10:09 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some species of rats are very, very smart and hard to kill because they quickly learn to avoid things that can harm them. Do you have a specialist exterminator in your area? They'd be my next move.
posted by quince at 10:22 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can't swear this works, but I have a friend who told me it did for him so I'm just putting it out there: he said that he mixed dry concrete with flour and put it in a paint pan. He then put water in a paint pan right next to it. The idea was that the rats would eat the flour/concrete mixture and then drink the water, with the predictable unfortunate result (unfortunate for the rat, I mean) when the water hit the concrete in the rat's gut. He said his rat problem was solved soon thereafter.

Rank hearsay, but as I said, putting it out there!
posted by holborne at 10:54 AM on October 1, 2014

Time to call in the pros. If your homemade solutions are not working, an exterminator is the next step. Professionals deal with hard-to-control pests all the time. I live in the US, and my county has an official "vector control" department that you can contact to deal with, among other things, rats and mice. If you live in a place that has this service, give them a call. Otherwise, get recommendations for an exterminator and give them a call.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:05 AM on October 1, 2014

PS. I know that the best thing would be to seal all the entry points that rats are using to enter the outbuilding

Nope! I agree with the others that the best thing to do is to call in an exterminator. (But if you try the flour/cement mix thing, report back, I'm totally intrigued!)
posted by vitabellosi at 11:11 AM on October 1, 2014

Wow, the flour/concrete idea sounds horrifically and needlessly cruel, especially for such an intelligent animal. I would recommend searching for a humane exterminator that will at the very least ensure a quick painless death -- they are surprisingly easy to find.
posted by Librarypt at 11:34 AM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

More humane would be an ultrasonic rat repellent machine. Amazon.com has several battery-operated ones for use outdoors. Some are motion activated, some emit the noise continuously. Customers' reviews vary though.
posted by TristanPK at 12:01 PM on October 1, 2014

There's really no need to torture animals.

Talk to an exterminator or invest in an electrocution device.

The RatZapper totally works. Put dog food in the end of the machine, turn it on, it'll get one of them overnight. Quick and instant. Seal up the holes.

Don't torture animals.
posted by barnone at 1:39 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @barnone - I have a RatZapper, in fact! It worked great a year ago when I put it in my home's attic. But for whatever the reason, the rats in the outbuilding have been avoiding it. :(
posted by djedery at 1:47 PM on October 1, 2014

Go to an Asian grocery store and buy a 3-pound bag of hot pepper, then dump loads of it all around entry points and in the walls and everywhere else you can get it.

If that doesn't work, then, yeah, call an exterminator. I had a similar problem last winter, and everything I tried worked a little, but never enough. The exterminator made two 30 minute visits and solved the problem.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:11 PM on October 1, 2014

Please consider the fact that common rodenticides kill many birds of prey. There is information here about alternatives.
posted by jkent at 2:15 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hmmm. Have you tried cleaning it really super well? Apparently scents will throw them off. Rubbing alcohol would work to do a nice thorough clean of the interior/exterior (remember to remove batteries first!!)
posted by barnone at 8:31 PM on October 1, 2014

I heard chilli powder works well to keep rats away but it has to be used in very dry spaces and does not keep its potency very long.

Another method I heard is successful: Buy a bag of sawdust and make a three or four little heaps over unset traps. The rats love this and will roll around in it once they are used to it. Keep putting out the little piles of sawdust every day for a week or more, and then one day set the traps with the sawdust too. You should trap a few rats that day. Repeat. This is better than poison as you can see what you're getting and they don't die and rot under floorboards.

A quick gruesome rat trap use tip the guy at the store told me - tie your traps with wire to something heavy. Sometimes the rat might not die straight off and can pull the trap with it...
posted by guy72277 at 1:15 AM on October 2, 2014

Brush your traps with bacon grease.

You don't want to get a cat, that's understandable, but can you maybe borrow a cat?
posted by atchafalaya at 5:59 AM on October 2, 2014

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