How to keep your compost rodent free: A Q&A with an Expert from Compost Collective

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Composting has many benefits: it enriches soil, reduces waste and is great for the environment. The Compost Collective is a collaborative project aimed at helping New Zealand households engage in composting and organic waste reduction.

Thousands of New Zealanders are already composting, however, the bins may attract rats and mice to feast on your food scraps and make your compost bin smell. We’re here with a group of tutors from the Compost Collective to get some advice on how to get your compost bin thriving and rodent-free.

We’re talking to some compost experts and tutors from the Compost Collective today, thanks for chatting with us today.

A big bin of compost
Image credit: Compost Collective

To start, who are the Compost Collective and what do you do?

A composting workshop
A composting workshop Image credit: The Compost Collective

The Compost Collective is an initiative to teach and encourage as many people as we possibly can about the benefits of composting and help people reduce their kerbside waste.

We’re based in Auckland but we have online resources to support all New Zealanders learn more about how to reduce their food waste through composting.

If you’re an Aucklander, we also have tutors based all over Auckland, including on Great Barrier Island, who teach the basics of composting or build on what people already know through free workshops. It’s run by EcoMatters and Kaipatiki Project, and supported by Auckland Council.

What are the benefits of composting?

  • You reap the rewards of your labour with liquid (worm tea) or black gold (soil) that you create from your food scraps 
  • When your food scraps are composted, you’re saving both your money and the environment; otherwise they can end up in a landfill creating nasty gases!
  • Healthy soil keeps the life cycle, cycling. Healthy plants grow, producing oxygen, and we eat the produce, with insects and worms galore feeding our native wildlife. 

What are your tips to beginner composters or people interested in getting into composting?

  • It is much easier to compost then people think, and we all need to start somewhere
  • Look at the information on the different methods and the many resources we have available on our website – we even tell you how you can compost your dog poo!
  • If you’re an Aucklander, book yourself into a Compost Collective workshop nearby, and find out which composting method(s) work best for you.
  • If you’re elsewhere around the country, use our online resources to learn more and check with your council to see if they can advise on local initiatives happening in your area. 

What is it about compost bins that attracts rodents?

A young woman composting
Image credit: The Compost Collective
  • The smell – different composting methods need to be used for different food scraps. For example, don’t put your meat bones in a worm farm or a cold compost, but you can put them in a Bokashi where it would literally be pickled and have no bad smell. In an ordinary compost bin meat, fat, and dairy will create a horrid smell which may attract rats.
  • It’s warm and sheltered  – I don’t know many rats who wouldn’t want a cosy, warm, and dry spot to live in!  A regularly turned compost should disturb any rodents attempting to nest.

How do you know rodents are visiting your compost bin or garden?

You may hear the rustling or noises of rodents, or see droppings in or near the compost, or bite marks in non-decomposed foods. If you see any of these clues, keep turning your compost and give it a little knock each time you go past. Rats don’t like to be disturbed.

What are some things to avoid putting in your compost that attract rodents?

Raw meat, dairy, fats, and cooked food, especially meat and fish.

What’s an easy way to rodent-proof your compost bin?

Check out this blog on how to rodent-proof by putting a layer of chicken wire under the base and across the ventilation holes. You could also set up some rat traps in key places around the garden.

How can I trap rats in my garden?

Someone mixing compost
Worm Farm. Image credit: The Compost Collective

Position is key, think like a rat – they are secretive, they like passages, and to be hidden away. Peanut butter is a great bait to try, and to avoid catching non-target animals and hurting children or pets, put your trap in a tunnel. If you’re not catching anything after a week or two – move it!  

Aucklanders – did you know that every registered attendee at one of composting workshops gets a free rat trap? By actively trapping, you will be contributing to the protection of our native birdlife.