In the UK rats prefer to nest in places that are warm, secure and with easy access to food and water. Rats need regular access to a water supply, unlike mice who can, if necessary survive on just the moisture in their food.
All rats looking to build a nest will search for a location that gives them these vital elements:
Warmth & security – rats are looking for somewhere dry and warm to build their nests and a sheltered secure location to raise their young. Rats in the house are more likely during the cold, wet winter months, particularly if groundwater levels or flooding have forced them to move.
Easy access to food & water – rats like to make their nests close to a food source, eating on average 30 g of food a day. They will keep quite a tight area (from their nest) in which to search for food as they are very cautious, avoiding anything new in their territory until they have had time to get used to it. This is known as ‘neophobic’ behaviour. A rat’s need for water is just as vital as food, as they require up to 60 ml of water every single day.
Nest-building materials – rodents will shred just about anything available with their sharp incisor teeth to create soft, warm, dry nests to rest in and rear their young. They will happily fill their nests with shredded newspaper, loft insulation, cardboard, grass, leaves, plastic and scavenged pieces of cloth, wool and clothing.
Rats nest in the house…
- Attics & lofts – are perfect for roof rats! These quiet, sheltered places under the roof offer rodents plenty of cosy corners to hide as well as potential nesting materials in loft insulation, cardboard boxes and their contents.
- Rats in walls – wall cavities give rodents the freedom to scurry around the structure of a property from top to bottom foraging for food. Once inside they will chew to expand gaps around pipes and cabling to access other areas. There is also the potential for them to chew on wires and cables feeding through the cavity walls, which can cause electrical fires after being damaged by gnawing.
- Basements & cellars – with entry points such as pipework through walls, air bricks and drains rats can find a safe haven in these often lesser used areas. If they are dimly lit and full of stored items in boxes, crates or bags, rats will make use of whatever they find to build a nest.
Rats nest in the garden…
- Garages – in particular internal garages offer rat’s easy access, especially if there are gaps around doors. If food is stored in the garage when the kitchen cupboards are full, it will only give rodents another reason to enter your property.
- Sheds & out buildings – can provide shelter and security to rats, they are also less likely to be noticed nesting among the lawn mower and general garden junk. Also the half used bag of fertiliser, old wellies and garden twine can be gnawed into nesting material.
- Rats nest in the garden – often they will build nests under the foundations of sheds, green houses or garages. Brown rats in particular will dig rat holes in overgrown areas of a garden to create rat burrows where they will nest, store food and raise young rats. If you have a composting area in the garden this can be a source of food for rodents. Along with any rubbish in bins rodents might be able to access. Berries, seeds and plants from the garden or surrounding areas will also sustain them.
Rats are nocturnal and most active at dusk and dawn as they set out to forage and return. Norway (Brown) rats who are more likely to create burrows in your garden, will use drain pipes, damaged air bricks or gnaw to enlarge gaps in doors to enter buildings in search of food. Black rats that may have nested in lofts or cavity walls will use their climbing abilities to scurry between the walls to get around your home whilst foraging.
If you think you have rats, it’s important to act quickly to control a rat infestation and reduce the health risks posed by these rodents. You can also take practical steps to rodent proof your home and help prevent rats returning.