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  • Feb 21st, 2020 3:35 pm
[OP]
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Aug 2, 2010
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Here 'n There

Composter Issues

We eat a lot of fresh produce and rarely any processed food. We have had a composter for many years for these kitchen scraps and garden trimmings/grass cuttings. It's one of those large plastic ones with 4 sides and a top that just sit on the ground. We had no problem with vermin until this year. We could tell that mice were burrowing in (and perhaps something else - small rats?) because of the holes that went through the compost. Has anyone else had this issue? Mice can squeeze through an opening the size of a quarter and the plastic composter of the type we have has small slits all around and up the sides. I was wondering if putting really fine (1/4") metal chickenwire around the inside might help prevent the vermin from getting in. Has anyone done this?

We also bought a tumbling composter with 2 chambers so one chamber can work away while the other one is filled up but it does not seem to work as fast as the one that sits on the ground and doesn't have as much capacity.
7 replies
Deal Addict
Aug 30, 2011
3457 posts
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Ottawa
I have 3 compost bins and I haven't noticed rats, but am aware that squirrels and probably mice and rabbits find a way to eat the leftover greens we put in. I think chicken wire would help.

Sometimes to save time, I just toss the compost in the flower bed on top of the snow. It gets eaten for the most part, and what doesn't will decompose in spring. Have never tried the tumblers, but know they'd work in hot weather, not cold.
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Jul 7, 2017
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SW corner of the cou…
eonibm wrote: We eat a lot of fresh produce and rarely any processed food. We have had a composter for many years for these kitchen scraps and garden trimmings/grass cuttings. It's one of those large plastic ones with 4 sides and a top that just sit on the ground. We had no problem with vermin until this year. We could tell that mice were burrowing in (and perhaps something else - small rats?) because of the holes that went through the compost. Has anyone else had this issue? Mice can squeeze through an opening the size of a quarter and the plastic composter of the type we have has small slits all around and up the sides.
Try a dime. A rat could probably squeeze through the space of a nickel let alone a quarter. All it takes is for the head to get through.

I doubt it's the airing slits. Probably coming in from underneath.
Cream rises to the top. So does scum.
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Mar 14, 2005
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City of Vancouver
Vermin can be an issue.
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Oct 23, 2017
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GTA West
Trying to keep them out will be very difficult. I suspect your compost is too rodent-friendly because your composter is not decomposing the contents fast enough, especially during the winter.

I found out that the things that are compostable in our house do not comprise a good mix for proper composting and needed to be watered, turned and supplemented etc. Especially in a small composter. Now we just use the green bin and let the city break it down in big smoking piles that can retain heat.
[OP]
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Aug 2, 2010
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Here 'n There
I didn't have any problem for many years. It's only last year I started noticing burrowing holes in my compost. I am going to keep composting but using the tumbling one then transferring it to the Soilsaver which sits on the ground when it is substantially composted, but only if I need the room in the tumbling one.
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Jul 7, 2017
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Some composters, in particular the brand that the City of Vancouver sells, have a thick mat that one lays on the ground with holes to let water/nutrients out while keeping pests out. That works only f you're placing the composter on a flat surface so there's no gaps between the wall and mat.

You might want to examine around the perimeter of the bin and see if there's any tunnelling underneath. Rats were getting into mine so I just used pebbles and stones to fill in the tunnels. Seems to have worked.
Cream rises to the top. So does scum.
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Oct 9, 2010
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Windsor
The better your composter functions, the more likely you will have critters. Functioning composter = heat. Heat = happy place for rodents. And a well functioning composter will constantly have new edible food being added, which is obviously attractive to them as well.

Solutions?
- Drive an impenetrable membrane around your composter. Corrugated metal works, but unless it's deep, and very tightly fitting to the composter, it will not be very useful. Outside of metal, rodents will chew through basically anything else pretty quickly.
- Traps. Pick your favourite trap, but obviously don't bait it with poison. Mice/rats are dumb as hell; people claim they're clever (especially rats), but they're not, they're just VERY persistent. If you literally put a trap in the path of the burrows, even without any bait, you'll catch them. Or you can live-trap them and re-release them somewhere else.
- Turn-over your compost often. This makes the composter work better, but also breaks up their tunnels (and maybe homes). If they can happily run through their pre-built tunnels to the top surface of your composter, which is full of newly-added food, you'll be encouraging them to keep coming back. Mice and rats dig pretty slow (rather, they dig fast, but don't make a lot of progress in a day), so disrupting their tunnels will discourage them coming back.
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