DIY Rat Control

DIY Rat Control Advice

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How To Get Rid Of Rats in Bristol

Part 1: DIY Rat Control – Dealing With Rats?

Bristol is home to thousands if not hundreds of thousands of rats. People make all sorts of estimates about how many of them reside in our cities and homes, but in truth, estimates are unreliable, and nature has a habit of surprising us. With this in mind approach any inspection with an open mind.

Rats have been residents in Bristol for hundreds of years but we need to go back and explore a little further to discover the rat’s origin.

Rats have been around for millions of years and only recently spread around the world thanks to the invention of the sail and the birth of international commerce by sea.

In the 1500s goods began arriving in the UK from the orient on ships full of precious cargo. This cargo included rats and with them the rat flea and its particular form of bacteria, responsible for the death of one-third of Europe’s human population to the Black Death.

Rats are hygienic animals. However, it is our relationship with them that is routinely responsible for their dirty image. You see they live in our detritus – in Bristol’s sewers, bins, rubbish piles, compost bins, and storm drains, not because they like dirty places, but because they provide shelter, food, water, and a place to breed.

Populations of rats exist in the wild so to speak away from the human companionship responsible for their spread, and success. Here they live quite happily and cleanly, a little like squirrels and with an image that you would hardly describe as dirty or foul.

A mature brown rat is large and often intimidating. The fact is that the brown rat, also commonly referred to as the Norwegian rat is the largest and most numerous of the rat family you are ever likely to see in Bristol.

The Black Rat is smaller than the Brown Rat and relatively rare in the UK due in part to the more aggressive nature of the Brown Rat. Some say – Brown Rats can grow to the size of a fat cat, and that you are only a few feet from one at any particular time!

Some also say this is a load of old rubbish, so to balance things out you should simply remember that in nature there is often an exception to the rule and huge rats are discovered every year that defies belief.

As for the myth that you are only a few feet from a rat at any one time – well that’s hard to prove without x-ray vision, yet we can all think of an instance where this is quite unlikely.

Don’t be seduced by estimates and myths, instead, make up your own mind. The brown rat carries many stories, and almost every adult you speak to has a rat story to tell – effective control requires the application of proven techniques and good local knowledge, together with actions balanced against the worst-case scenario.

Treat too little, and you are wasting your time – do too much and you risk environmental damage or lots of wasted cash.

What you will learn here is a starting place for you to develop your own effective system of control, unique to your circumstances.

Every environment is different, and each case raises new questions, but this is how we learn. The underlying principles of control, though, remain the same, and this is how you get rid of rats in Bristol!

Getting Rid Of Brown Rats

The Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) is also called the Norwegian Rat. These brownie/red rodents have a robust, thick body and a blunt nose. They nest in burrows or cavities where they are protected from the elements and rarely further than 50 meters from a reliable food/water source.

A Brown Rat in good conditions can live for up to two years with eighteen months considered the norm. The average weight of a Brown Rat ranges between 280 and 480 grams and the length of a Brown rat between 31 – 46 centimetres.

Daily Consumption of food varies on availability, but estimates suggest that 28ml of water and 28grams of food is about right for the average rat. The foodstuffs commonly chosen vary hugely, yet the most common foods taken include meats, fish, and grains. They are also cannibalistic.

The Brown Rat becomes sexually mature at just 2 – 3 months of age. Gestation lasts approximately 20 – 25 days with a typical litter containing between 6 and 12 young. A healthy female rat will have as many as 7 litters a year.

Brown Rat populations in Bristol are on the rise and no matter where you look people are pointing the finger at just a few key areas – poorly operated waste management, and poorly funded council pest control services. Brown rat numbers are estimated (estimates differ depending on the source) nationally to be between 10 – 15 million individuals and are responsible for an estimated £200 million of damage each year in the UK. In the USA (home to an estimated billion rats) the annual damage bill is close to $20 billion each year.

Another worrying trend is that Brown Rats are primarily nocturnal, yet the continuing rise in numbers, inadequate control measures, and increasing competition for survival resources such as food and breeding territory means that they are being seen far more routinely on Bristol’s streets during the day than ever before.

Brown rat populations are being monitored in many areas, and the inappropriate application of rat poisons by untrained amateurs is believed to be contributing to an increase in pesticide resistance.

If you bait too little resistance is a risk, you need to follow manufacturers’ instructions to the letter to get the best results and always budget for at least three times as much bait as you think it will take to knock down rat numbers effectively.

If the bait keeps going quickly, you have not achieved control. The Rat & Mouse Control Inspection Step

1 – Inspection: What you need to know: 16 Essential Rat Inspection Success Tips: Remember that rodents carry and transmit many significant diseases, so wear disposable gloves and always wash your hands – even once the gloves are removed. Finally, once you have dried your hands – use a sanitising hand gel for extra protection. These steps are standard infection control procedures.

Use a TORCH to see into every dark space. The new generation of LED torches offer the best vision but are expensive. Simply put – the brighter the flashlight – the quicker the inspection. Poor light means missed damage, droppings, and other essential signs.

Take Notes of what you find using paper and pen so that you can monitor your findings over time. Accurate records help you track how successful your control activities have been.

A SCRAPER and RUBBISH SACK will be needed to dispose of droppings and other waste. You must attempt to clean the area you are treating, or you will find it harder to monitor existing and new rodent activity.

If tracking the rodents is difficult then tracking bait and tracking dust can be used – this is fluorescent, so you can use a UV TORCH to see what they have been up to at night.

Heavy Duty Rubbish Bags are best for the disposal of dead rats and help prevent other pests and animals from eating into sacks to eat the dead rodents inside.

Once rats are dead they are not classified as hazardous waste – so can be placed in your domestic waste. Double bagging and zip ties ensure rodents get securely sealed into bags for disposal.

Digital Cameras/Mobile Phones/Tablets/Watches are a great way to record your findings and the damage done to the property.

Images also help you identify new damage or assess old damage against previous photos. Continually refer back to this guide to ensure you are benefiting from the best possible guidance.

Talk to your neighbours – have they seen anything or had any problems? Remember though – what you mention to a neighbour may be required on a home buyer report so if you are planning on selling soon – common knowledge of a problem may not be desirable to a prospective purchaser.

Remember to think in three dimensions when inspecting an area – look up, down, and all around. Check areas where poor sanitation may be a concern.

Identify any sources of food – this can be raw, cooked, or simply waste you will have few results with bait if food is plentiful.

Identify where rodent activity appears to be worst, so you have a place to begin. Proof your premises – seal them out and keep them out.

Look for areas such as the boiler or laundry rooms where it is consistently warm, especially at night – it could be a good nesting site.

Loft spaces are notorious hiding places for rats.

Rodents hide and live between the layers of insulation – out of sight, causing massive amounts of contamination and damage to electrical wiring and cold water services.

Urine stains on ceilings are also not uncommon in affected premises.

Properties with new cavity wall insulation can also become infested.

The rats burrow through the lovely fluffy and warm insulation until they find a suitable cavity – either those under your floor or your loft.

Sometimes flat roofs and sloping roofs above extensions will also become infested via this route.


Rat Control Tool List

Just a quick re-cap on the pest inspection tools and kit you need.

1 – Disposable Gloves – Powder Free are best

2 – Anti-bacterial Hand Wash & Alcohol Gel

3 – LED or Halogen Torch

4 – Pen & Paper

5 – Heavy Duty Rubbish Sacks, Zip Ties, and Scraper

6 – Digital Camera

7 – Tracking Dust

8 – Tracking Bait – simply bait containing tracking dust

9 – UV Torch

10 – Spare Batteries for your torches

How to Get Rid Of Rats – Carry Out an Inspection

One of the commonest mistakes people make is underestimating the size of a rat infestation.

It is far more economical in the long run to tackle a rodent problem with a heavy hand than a light one. Strike fast, and hard to knock down rodent numbers before they have the chance to cause further damage and contamination through flooding, fires, or disease.

What to look for next:

Droppings – what they tell you:

(Wear gloves for this) are the droppings of the rodents hard or soft like putty.

If the droppings are old, they will be hard or crumbly. New or fresh droppings tend to be shiny or have a slimy coating.

If the droppings are both large and small, you may have both mice and rats or simply a large population of one rodent type of varying ages and stages of maturity.

If you have a large number of droppings, then the rat infestation may be very large. The other option is that a small colony has resided in that place for a long period of time.

If the area you are inspecting is a roof void and has droppings that crumble into dust you could have bats – control in that area must be left to a professional to assess as the disturbance of roosting bats in the UK is illegal.

Rat Urine Pillars:

These look like the stalagmites in a cave rising up from a surface of a pipe or other surface like a small point. If these are present then the likely hood is that the infestation is large and well established.

They have a distinctive musty smell – you will know it when you smell it.

Rat Gnaw Marks:

Mice:1 to 2 mm in width

Holes are small, clear cut

Rats: 4 mm in width

Holes are big with rough torn edges

Rodent Pathways – how they get from A to B:


Sill ledges – remember rats and mice are good climbers, some more than others.

Fence Rails – even the narrow rails of a fence are no problem for your rats, mice, and squirrels.

Foundations – Rats and mice love to be out of sight, so will often be found where they are not disturbed. Check under floorboards, inspection covers, etc. Concrete paths are common nesting places. They provide a super sturdy shelter – keeping them safe from predators – including us.

Electrical wires are ideal pathways for your specialised climbers, especially to reach your property from the outside, like those to garages, workshops, and sheds.

Pipes are excellent avenues of entry for rodents, particularly those that are damaged, allowing rodents to burrow into your property.

Tree branches act like bridges from the world outside onto and into your roofs where rodents can easily penetrate the roof void of your home.

Conduits like pipes are just another avenue of vermin entry and exit.

Orchards are perfect for rodents like rats and mice as so much food is produced.

Rat Burrows

Rat burrows can be significant in a well-established population and cause property subsidence. Norway rats like to nest in burrows. They can have nests deep in the ground (1.2 – 1.5 meters) particularly when vegetation provides cover.

Ditches are ideal rat habitats that create both cover and a good supply of drinking water. Think about your premises and where your rat friendly locations are.


Under your feet! The cavities of your home and workplace are far more abundant than you may think. Remember a mouse can access a space through a gap no bigger than your little finger and a rat – a gap the size of your thumb.

Places to check for rats and other rodents:

1. Under floorboards

2. Chimneys

3. Behind bath panels

4. In the inspection spaces of loft conversions

5. Under food storage bins

6. Behind large appliances

7. In the loft

8. Under and inside kitchen units

Rub or Smear Marks: This is where the dirt and residues from the local environment mix with the natural oils of the rodent’s fur and are common with rats. The mixture of oil, dirt, and rodent fur is deposited on walls and skirting boards, where the rodents actively forage.

These marks may smear when touched. If they smear then your rodent population is current and of concern.

Q: What other Ways Can You Help Me?


The Bristol Rat Company has qualified electricians who can inspect and test your entire electrical system for faults and damage caused by rodent activity.

We can also update older style electrical systems, reducing fire risks and the dangers of electrical accidents caused by electrocution from wires stripped bare by rats, squirrels, and mice.


Damaged pipes like those leading into underfloor heating systems are a major hazard to both your property’s structural integrity and of course electrical injury. We have qualified Plumbers that will quickly inspect and if required, replace or repair damaged pipes and equipment.

Drain Repairs and Digital Camera Inspections

Very often the rodent problems we see are a result of rats getting into a property through damaged, faulty, or badly designed sewer systems.

diy rat control cavity walls

Non-return valves (NRVs) for rat control are made of stainless steel and provide most people with a solution that does not require drain repairs or might provide temporary control while you wait or save for repairs to be completed.

We also have the facilities and expertise to carry out a full inspection of the sewer system and drainage of the property. Where damage is found, we will carry out remediation work to protect the property.

Loft Insulation

Insulation is one of the most significant areas of contamination risk and is regularly overlooked.

Rodents nest and live between layers, depositing huge quantities of droppings, urine and nesting material infested with insect pests.

We are able to undertake a highly effective decontamination process in place to ensure insulation is quickly and effectively replaced and surrounding surfaces fully disinfected with a sophisticated product that kills, viruses, bacteria, and many other types of microorganisms.

We also use the of PestBristol Pest Control in Bristol, who are experts in insect control to handle the fumigation of properties affected by flea, bedbug, and lice infestations.


We have healthcare trained operatives, formally qualified in infection control to decontaminate an infested or contaminated environment.

Our team understands infection control and how to achieve an intensive clean more than many other organisations.

the owner is head of infection control operations and with fifteen years of experience in clinical healthcare services helps us stand apart from other providers as industry leaders.


Proofing is where we put in place effective barriers preventing rodents from accessing the property or sensitive areas.

We have experience in sealing cavity walls, cellars, attics, storerooms, kitchens, and the list goes on. If you have rodents and don’t want them getting in – then we have the expertise to help.