Think Like a Rat

What to Look for! Do I have Rats?!

Rats are creatures that are very secretive until they know that there is no harm of where they are living. They are curious creatures and are always doing something.  Building tunnels so they can easily get to food source without being above ground anymore than they have to be. With this being said you may not even know you have rats until there is an infestation. So BE AWARE! 
1. Look for holes in the ground near buildings, patios, trash cans, stone walls etc,
  • A rat hole goes into the ground at a 45 degree angle usually a mound of dirt at the entrance ~
  • A chipmunk hole is about 2" and perfectly round and goes straight down 
  • One rat will make several tunnels so he or she has plenty of options
  • Going thru a lot of Grain
  • Knawing on a corner of a door
  • Poo that looks like rice but black and glossy
2. Look under buildings ~ Rats love to build a burm ~ if you look under a building and see a mound of dirt up to the joists that is most likely a rat burm. They build these to keep them dry and comfy from the wind, snow, and rain. 

Facts about Rats 

Rats are indigenous Opportunists creatures and do not need much to survive.

  • Live about a year to a year and ½ in the picture perfect world
  • Can Breed every 21 days
  • Female rat can get pregnant an hour after she delivers her pups
  • Babies are ready to breed when they are 21 days old ~ this is Teenager age in Rat Life (only 4’ in body length)
  • Males and Females live in different colonies about 20’ or so apart.
  • Females live closest to food source
  • Males live in a bachelor colony
  • Rats can travel about 150’ to find food
  • Like to stay about 50’ within food source
  • Rats do not hibernate.
  • Rats need Water more than food and drink about 10% of their body weight in liquid
  • Very Suspicious and like consistency
  • Cannot see well so follow building walls or tree roots

Much like humans, they are creatures of habit and follow us as we are predictable creatures ourselves. This makes it easy for rats to be elusive and have a secret society- so we think!  Out of nowhere you have rats! All of a sudden! But in truth they probably have been around for several months without you even realizing it! Rats love consistency, to know what they can count on to fulfill their needs for existence- They are routine just as we are. Being creatures of habit we fit right into their way of life.

While we are busy going about our days, getting up at 6:00am, we get a cup of coffee, go let the chickens out of the coop, check their feed left from the night before and fill up the hopper, empty the water left over and give some freshwater for the day. Throw some scraps of food on the ground for the chickens to scratch thru for the day. Go back into the house and get on with our day.

          Sound Familiar? 

The rats know that they have the whole day to themselves to keeping your chickens company and share their food with them. Heck you won’t be back out to close up the chickens until 7:00 pm! Then they will have the whole night too!

Rats are very intelligent creatures and why they are used for study in various scientific fields. They have had to adapt to many situations that we have thrown at them in order for their survival.  We have been trying to outsmart them for many thousands of years.


Rats cannot see very well so why they come out mostly at dawn and dusk when the light spectrum is not as varied. To aid in knowing where they are and going they follow straight edges, using pheromones to mark their routes. In a heavy pathway you can see the “grease” from their fur in their frequent paths.

Food vs water~ Water is needed more than food, and typically they drink about 10% of their body weight in water. They are not picky as far as food. They do have a sweet tooth and love fatty sweet foods. This is why chickens are such an attractant as the corn that this in their food is high in fats and sugars.

Anything can be used to eat, to make bedding or shelter. Bedding is not too particular on that either! Plastic, string, hay, leaves, paper, bark you name it! If it can be chewed and made into smaller bits to carry to their den they are set!

Rats are also very aware of what hasn’t moved in a long time to set up their shelter that will be a semi if not a permanent domain for them. The Stone wall, Concrete Pad, Wood Pile, and what if Piles is what I like to call them! You know those piles that we keep on the ground or on pallets of items that we will use SOMEDAY! Those Pallets offer a wonderful house for the rats! Ground for them to build their tunnels under, build a nest between the ground and pallet. So close to the ground to protect them from the winter winds and spring rains and other predators!

Seclusion is what it is all about to avoid predators!

What are you doing to help the rats existence and being a free loader at your home or property?!!!!!

It’s Life Cycle~

They are Very social creatures and often spending their days grooming, sharing information thru high pitch squeaks, storing food when times get tough, gathering bedding to have their young and co mothering.

Their tunneling system is like a labyrinth with different chambers for grooming (living room), Nursery, Food Storage, and a bathroom area. Can have 3 levels with the lowest level being where the largest rats dwell. Nests are made in the upper level about 6 inches below ground holding 6-10 babies in each nest. I have seen rats dig down to 36” but typical is 24”. The tunnels twist and turn popping up under food sources so as to not be exposed for a long duration of time. Rats are sprinters not endurance runners. This aids in avoiding being caught by predators.


What do rats need you ask?

Needs and Habitat~

They are pretty simplistic creatures!

All they need is ~

Food- animal feed, compost piles, garbage, animal poop provides a food source from the grain and seeds that were not digested, basically any protein source. I make drums out of rawhide and the little buggers ate the rawhide in my shed where I stored them! I was some mad! 

Water- Rats need water more than food. Just like us they cannot live without water and drink about 10% of their body weight in water. 

Shelter- 75 degrees ish is the perfect temperature for rats to be comfortable. It seems when it is too warm in the summer they go to areas that will keep them cool such as edge of the woods, under concrete floors where it draws in coolness. Also when temperatures start to rise Rats have a tendency to be on the north side of buildings where it is shaded sooner.

During the winter rats will go to the south side of buildings where the sun comes up sooner to keep them warmer and toasty in the dead of winter. Many times they will be in the wall space where insulation is or up in the attics of buildings. Also compost piles or manure piles are very popular as it produces heat and food source is right there.

Proliferation- rats need to do the thing to keep their population steady. They are designed to have many offspring as there are many ways they loose their offspring. From wildlife, weather, humans and their attempts to destroy them.  They have had to adapt themselves quickly to survive these challenges. We have aided them to adapt to superior survival skills! 

Rats breed every 21 days having 10-12 offspring called pups. At the age of 21 days these pups are teenagers and are ready to have their own offspring and so it continues on. A Female can get pregnant an hour after she has had her litter of pups so co mothering is very handy to help rear the offsprings.

They grow very quickly about an inch a week until they are a month old then they start to slow down and are about an inch a month. For example, a 4 week old is 4”, compared to a 5 month old is 5”, 6 month old 6” and so on.

It’s life expectancy is about a year and 1/2 but can be shorter due to predators, human intervention, etc.

These are just general rules of thumb as there are evolving creatures adapting to their surroundings and challenges they have to face.


Learn How to Design your Rodent Fertility Program

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