Posted: 26/06/2012 at 18:24
I live in the NE England, near fields, but am surrounded by other houses, have a 'wild garden' and was feeding the birds continuously and plentifully over the winter, with seed mix, suet balls and meal worms. In the late winter I noticed a brown rat sneaking out from a woodpile that had accumulated, and helping itself to the bits of grain and suet ball that had dropped to the ground. I actually found it quite cute, we have a devise that discourages them from the house, so didn't worry about it. But then it multiplied, and also got quite brazen, and I worried about the neighbours getting wind and calling out the rat men to put poison down. So I gave my dogs free reign and also poured strong peppermint tea liberally around, but unfortunately had left it too late. The next door neighbours, who are absolutely terrified of them, called the council and there was rat poison and a terrible atmosphere down before I could stop it. The rest of the locals (and members of the local planning department) are quite relaxed about the rats presence, they say of course you've got rats, you're near farmland! But I've had to stop feeding the birds for the time being and we redesigned the garden to remove wood piles and compost heaps, and have more open space. And haven't seen any rats for about a month. We have retained a large wild element in the garden, with a huge hawthorn tree and rose tree and hedging, and I hope to be able to start putting feed out again in the autumn. The birds are still nesting in the eves of the house, and I think we have a pigeon nest in the hawthorn! The garden has a lot of opportunity for insect life, so I'm hoping that is enough to help the birds.
I'm going to try hanging the bird feeders over some sort of trays or something to make cleaning up easier. Because I'd be feeding them in the wild garden under the hawthorn, it'll be hard to clean up the leftovers if I let them fall to the ground. I'd love any other ideas anyone has. I actually like rats, but we have to live with other people, so I'm trying to be a good neighbour too!