Rats and Composting – avoiding the pesky vermin
Right at the top the top of the list of reasons people do not compost or have stopped composting is rats. Either you have seen one near your compost bin or you never want to see one near it.
A key question then: is your compost bin rat proof?
We have done a lot of research on making the HOTBIN rat proof. We know if you talk to experts such as pest control officers or Master Composters who see hundreds of compost bins in many different homes they will tell you – any compost bin can be attacked. The idea of a rat proof compost bin is a myth and what you should look for is a well designed bin that can demonstrate (via customer feedback) that it is does not attract or get attacked by rats.
HOTBIN has a tremendous record: 99.5% of all customers report no rat issue when composting with the HOTBIN. AND remember, most HOTBIN customers add all food waste including cooked food, meat, fish (ie the bits that tend to cause more problems) into their HOTBINs
Achieving ‘rat proof’ status is not about building a concrete bunker. It involves understanding rat behaviour and designing out the things that attract them to the compost pile as well as making it physically hard for them to break into the bin.
We present below a little more of the science and background on how and why the HOTBIN should allow rat free composting.
Is the HOTBIN rat proof? NO – rats can eat through almost anything – including plastics, metal wire and concrete. It is more accurate to say the HOTBIN is one of the most rat resistant home composting systems available.
Can rats chew through the HOTBIN walls? YES, but it is unlikely – see reasons below.
Will I get rats in my HOTBIN? It is very unlikely. 99.5% of HOTBIN users report no issue.
Can I compost food waste (including meat and fish) in the HOTBIN without rat problems? YES , 99.5% of users report no issue.
Why are rats attracted to composting bins?
We need to start by asking what the rats are looking for? They want a warm dry place to nest, food to eat, and shelter from predators. Rats will burrow under soil and through chicken wire to get to a warm, quite nest site. They have teeth that grow for a lifetime. They actively need to gnaw hard surfaces to keep them in trim. Rats find food via smell – the odour that comes from all decaying material attracts rats.
Do all compost heaps have the potential to attract rats? Yes, but adding meat and fish to a cold compost heap will increase the chances of attracting them as proteins give off more pungent odour and rats prefer meat and protein over a plant matter.
What do rats eat? rats are omnivores and will eat anything – even vegetable peelings and green plant material. The more desperate and hungry the more they will eat things they may not like! Like humans, rats like meat, food that is tasty and easy to take-away.
It is no coincidence that compost heaps are often associated with rats – a compost heap has the potential to be a ‘warm home’ with a ‘takeaway’ attached.
Do all compost bins have rats? NO. Millions of UK homes compost without rat problems.
What do rats not like?
a) Contact with humans – often the big difference between a compost heap with and without rats is the number of times the heap is attended by humans.
b) Open spaces – they prefer dark quiet places away from predators.
c) Flat smooth surfaces – they cannot get their jaws around or teeth into flat smooth surfaces to gnaw.
d) Exceptionally cold conditions – a cold winter is good news as more rats die from the cold and starvation. It is bad news for some unlucky households, as hungry rats get more desperate for food and shelter so they attack more compost bins and homes.
The HOTBIN claims composting food waste without rats – What does this mean and how does it work?
We do not want any potential customer to misunderstand our advertising. When the HOTBIN is operated correctly it will not attract rats. We do not mean that the HOTBIN is rat proof and capable of resisting a full on attack by a rat.
The HOTBIN minimises the risk of attracting rats using good design;
- The HOTBIN minimises composting odours via aerobic composting and filters odour out through the valve in the lid – Therefore there is less odour to attract rats.
- The HOTBIN disperses the small amount of odour coming out from the lid using a filter and an aeration valve which is 1m above the ground and hence above normal rat runs.
- The HOTBIN keeps the compost/waste moist which is not a desirable dry nest location site for rats.
- The active uppers layers in the HOTBIN can be retained at 40-60C. 60C is too hot for rats to survive.
- The HOTBIN wall surfaces have rounded edges to prevent gnawing – There are smooth rounded corners with no sharp edges or gaps.
- The HOTBIN has no holes for them to enter into the HOTBIN.
- The EPP plastic used in the HOTBIN has no food value to rats. They will not eat the plastic as food.
- Attending the HOTBIN to add food waste every 3-4 days will deter rats.
The HOTBIN has been designed to be located close to the house to encourage recycling. If you locate your HOTBIN in an open aspect, near human activity it will greatly decrease the risk of rats being attracted to your HOTBIN.
We continue to improve the design of the HOTBIN to ensure it becomes even less attractive to vermin. However customers and prospective customers need to be aware which situations and actions will increase or decrease the chances of a rat being interested in their HOTBIN.
When you already have an infestation of rats in your old compost heap or garden, immediately replacing the old compost bin with a HOTBIN in the same location is high risk. You are taking away the easy food source (old compost heap) and just replacing it with food behind a closed door. The rats are going to get desperate and seek a way through the door and they will be highly aggressive in finding food once starving.
If you already have rats, it is much better to:
- Remove the old heap and all food waste. Cease all composting for 2-3 months. Encourage the rats to leave first.
- For serious infestations (especially in urban areas) get the professionals in to trap and remove them first.
- Add extra protection when setting up your HOTBIN. For example, wrap 1 cm square wire mesh (commonly called squirrel wire mesh) around your HOTBIN to protect it. When the infestation has been cleared, then a correctly operated HOTBIN will not attract rats.
When setting up your HOTBIN:
Locate your HOTBIN on a hard surface – Place it on flagstones to avoid rats burying underneath and using it for a nesting site. Do not rest the HOTBIN on 4-small flagstones at the corners as this will just make it even easier for the rats to create a nesting site.
Keep the door hatch panel closed – Hot odours rise however some odour can escape around the door hatch panel while the HOTBIN is being filled. At all times ensure that the HOTBIN door panel is tightly closed. When replacing the door panel (eg after emptying waste); you must wipe around the edges of door and hatch to ensure no loose pieces of waste are left in the joints. Even small pieces of waste will create weak spot and the door will not correctly seal. This weak spot could be attacked.
Take care when filling the HOTBIN – waste in the base puts pressure on the door and can ‘pop it open’. It is very important you use both cam belts (supplied) to ensure the door is on tightly. You should not be able to see any waste through any gaps around the door panel.
Always clean up – ensure no food waste is left around the base of the HOTBIN, this is a free takeaway and will attract rats.
Look after your HOTBIN – Repair any damage to the HOTBIN.
In summary, the HOTBIN has been designed to reduce its attraction to unwanted visitors and in 99.5% of cases this works. The location and keeping the area tidy around your HOTBIN is also important in minimising its appeal. Unfortunately we cannot guarantee 100% that there will be no occurrences but we are continually working with our customers on how we can limit this together through education and development.