Talc ’em rats: using talcum powder to deter rats

Rats… Although I marvel at their ingenuity and sometimes even think they can look quite cute, I’m not a rat fan. There are always one or two rats around the garden. Usually I’ll only see them a few times a year. But this spring seemed to see an explosion in the rat population.

A brown rat
A brown rat

Rat holes were appearing everywhere. Sometimes the holes and spoil heaps were so big I began to wonder whether it was actually rabbits, not rats, that had invaded. I knew I had to take action, but I wasn’t sure what best to do.

I read extensively about the “best” methods for rat control, and I already knew quite a bit about it anyway. I wasn’t at all keen to use poisons, mainly because of the neighbourhood cats; nor to use traps, because of the risk of trapping other things.

I tried tactics like surrounding shed bases with a deep layer of pea gravel – the rats aren’t meant to be able to dig through the gravel, but these rats had no problem with it.

I tried flushing the burrows with water: the water just gurgled down the holes, no rats appeared (they may well have gone out a “back door” as rat burrows always have at least two entrances).

I filled in the holes as they appeared, jamming stones in and ramming the earth back firmly. Most often, a new hole would appear the next day just alongside the old hole.

I tried spraying perfume all around the sheds and the obvious rat runs under the hedges. I pruned up the bottom of the fruit canes, shrubs and hedges so there weren’t nice private places for the rats to run through.

And then one day, for no particular reason I can remember, I decided to squirt talcum powder into the holes and along the most obvious rat run routes. I chose a very perfumed (but very cheap) powder from the local shop and began dusting the garden. I hoped that the smell would act as a deterrent and that the sneezey dustiness of the powder would put the rats off. That was about 10 weeks ago now, and (fingers crossed) so far it actually seems to be working.

Talcum powder is mainly magnesium and silica, so I think it won’t do any harm to the soil or plants. In fact, talc is often used as a bulking agent in various dusting chemicals – fungicides, ant killers, etc. – that are sold for garden use, so it should be fine. It can obviously smother plant leaves, blocking their stomata and drying them out – so if you are going to use it, you need to be a bit careful about where and how you apply it. And also, you need to make sure that your talc is actually made from talc, not corn starch or any other vegetable alternative which the rats might decide is a rather tasty snack.


4 thoughts on “Talc ’em rats: using talcum powder to deter rats”

  1. I wonder if scented talc spread along deer trails by my garden fences might make them go somewhere else.

    1. It’s hard to know. Rats are so low to the ground I can imagine the scent and dust being really irksome to them. With deer, I can just imagine them lifting their heads and trotting merrily by:)

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