Pest control



Common rats in the UK are the Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the Black Rat (Rattus rattus). However in most of the UK, the dominant species is the Brown Rat. You will see some differences between these species here:

The Brown Rat is generally brown with an off-white underbelly. They can grow to 270mm long and have a tail length of up to 200mm, which is why some people call them longtails!

Rats live in close association with other animals and humans and are usually believed to be nocturnal. However, day-time sightings are now the most common.

Rats have poor eyesight and are colour blind, but they compensate with acute senses of touch, taste, smell and hearing. They are good swimmers, climbers, jumpers and burrowers. In favourable conditions, populations can grow rapidly.

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Why must rats be controlled?

  • Rats can transmit many diseases to humans, including Salmonellosis (food poisoning) and Leptospirosis (Weils Disease).
  • They will eat or contaminate food intended for humans. A considerable amount of food produced worldwide is lost as a result of rodent activity.
  • They can damage buildings and other structures by gnawing or burrowing.

Signs of infestation

  • Sightings of live or dead rats.
  • Droppings can 12mm long and taper at both ends.
  • Rat runs can follow the same routes when travelling and can leave trails through grass and low vegetation. If their route takes them along walls and fences, it can smooth any bare soil.
  • Footprints and tail swipes can be left on muddy and dusty surfaces.
  • Smears can be left on surfaces by repeated contact with their fur.
  • Burrow entrance holes can be 70 to 120mm in diameter in grassy banks, under tree roots, at the ends of paving, drain cover surrounds, under timber decking, sheds, compost bins / boxes and compost heaps.
  • Nests can be found indoors, in lofts or under floorboards but more commonly outdoors.
  • Rats gnaw continually, even on non-food items, in order to keep their incisor teeth sharp.

How to treat and control measures

Many rat infestations are due to bird feeding. If you feed birds, only put out enough food the birds will eat in a short space of time. 

Bird feeders are an option, but make sure they are of a type that cuts out or minimises spillage. They should be high off the ground as well. Bird tables are another option but rats can be good climbers. Always site a bird table well away from walls and fences.

If you have any fruit trees, remove any fruit that has fallen to the ground as soon as possible.

As with squirrels, rats can carry small items of food back to their burrows for future consumption!

Do not leave food out overnight, and remember: if you have bird baths or water dishes then rats can drink this water as well.

Do you have any pets such as dogs, cats or rabbits? Make sure that food or water cannot be taken by rats or other forms of wildlife if you feed your pets outdoors. Again, remember other forms of wildlife, especially rats, do not understand that any foodstuffs are for birds or pets only!

If you wish to treat the rat problem yourself, you can buy break-back traps and lockable bait boxes.

Only use poisons as a last resort, where non-toxic methods have failed and a threat to human health remains.

If you choose rodenticide, then follow all instructions carefully. Keep the packaging. If you suspect your pets, especially dogs, have eaten any bait, take them with the packaging to a vet immediately.

How the Council will treat

We will put down lockable bait boxes (or trays if safe to do so, particularly indoors) in open areas such as gardens, outhouses and garages but no further.

All the products we use come under The Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986 as amended.

Before starting your treatment, we will give you a Safety Data Leaflet. It contains the essential information, such as our contact details and the product used. During your treatment, keep this leaflet in a safe place should you need it.

We will ideally place lockable bait boxes along any rat runs or other secure locations. The boxes are lockable, and need a specific key to open them.

An immediate non-take of bait is quite normal, as rats have a fear of new objects (neophobia) in their territories.

During your treatment, do not move the boxes unless we decide otherwise. If you move them this could delay the effects of your treatment, as it could confuse the rats. They will already have built up an idea of where everything should be.

These boxes and bait are for your property only, and should not be passed to neighbours or anyone else. We cannot be held responsible should you do this.

Additionally, try not to disturb your garden and if possible, stop feeding birds until we have dealt with the rats.

Although the boxes are designed for rats, they are also accessible for mice as they do not usually have a fear of new objects. Very occasionally they even build nests inside them!

At each of our follow-up visits we will advise you what has been eating the bait, rats and/or mice.

Our treatments normally last three to four weeks regardless if any bait has been taken. However, if you have been getting takes, after at least two follow-ups with no bait taken or any more sign of rats, we'll remove the boxes and trays and the bait in them.

Remember that all the boxes and bait are the property of the Council.

Preventive measures

You can help prevent infestation by some simple measures:

  • Encourage natural predators: install Barn Owl and Tawny Owl nestboxes. Tolerate foxes, who also eat rats. Keep areas that rats have used for burrows clear of vegetation.
  • Store materials at least 19” (408mm) off the ground to make access harder and identification easier. Store products away from walls.
  • Keep your home in good repair so rats cannot enter. Ensure any drain inspection covers are in place and in good repair.
  • Do not leave household waste where rats can get at it. Food and food waste should be stored in sealed containers, including compost bins.
  • Have a good housekeeping system for any outdoor pets, such as rabbits in hutches or pigeons in lofts. Poor housekeeping can result in a rat infestation.