Compost heaps are great for being a little more self-sustainable. You’ll have your own source of fully-fertilized soil, perfect for growing vegetables that will keep you and your family going. Nothing tastes better than food you’ve grown right in your own backyard, and when you’re avoiding chemical-based fertilizers, using the compost-stuff, you’re going one step further to being eco-friendly and ‘green’.

There are times when compost heaps aren’t a good thing, though. If you’re the owner of a compost heap, you’ll already know that. Rats, mice, opossums, raccoons, foxes, and even cockroaches ... The list of scavengers and pests that are attracted to these food-disposal units is long and changeable, dependent on the area in which you live. Thankfully, there are minor modifications you can do to keep the area safe and free from mice and other rodents.

Firstly, you need to take a look at your actual compost heap. How easy it is for mice and other rodents to get to it? If it’s touching the ground, it’s very easy for animals to access it from underneath, burrowing and digging tunnels to get there. This also poses a very big problem, too; you can have pest animals living underground, feeding from your compost heap without your knowledge, for a long time. This not only potentially contaminates your compost heap with diseases that are spread by rodents and other pests, but also potentially makes the land dangerous and unstable, too. Decomposing bodies underground, something that is likely to happen when you have large populations of an animal, such as mice, will attract bigger animals that then dig them up to feast on them, and that can lead to collapsed-in tunnel systems underground. Mice aren’t the only animal known for living underground and digging, although rodents are usually one of the worst culprits.

Tip 1: Raise your compost heap from the ground.

When you’ve raised your compost heap, you can put measures in place to protect it from below. Gravel pits right underneath it will make it difficult for digging animals to get access, and you could also consider using a cage-barrier, made from mesh wire wool or wire netting, to physically prevent the rodents from being able to get any closer. Use multiple layers for particularly hard hit areas and you’ll make it very difficult for the rats and mice to chew through it.

Tip 2: Have a metal container with a lid.

If you can change your compost heap so that it sits inside something that physically prevents access, you’ll have a lot more success at keeping those critters at bay. Metal containers aren’t always practical, but you could line wooden structures with mesh wire netting or hardware cloth. Plastic containers are not a good idea. Mice and rats can chew through the material with ease, in no time at all.

Tip 3: Clean up the area around the compost heap.

Mice need ground cover to make their way from place to place or area to area, so by taking away the garden mess and debris, you’ll be taking away one of the things that the animal uses to protect itself. When there is no ground covering, mice are unprotected from predators in the air (birds — eagles, hawks, and owls), and could also be attacked by pets, such as cats and dogs.

Tip 4: Don’t rely on repellents or deterrents.

There are a lot of these on the market now, ranging from fluids and granules that don’t cost that much at all, to water and ultrasonic sound devices, some of which are actually really expensive. We don’t recommend putting too much of your faith in any of them. The majority of them do not work. We have been called to homes that have ultrasonic sound repellents plugged in every room, yet still they had a very fast-growing mouse infestation in the building. We have also been called to homes where homeowners had used granule and liquid formulas all over the shed or other outbuilding, but still hadn’t eliminated the critters. In our experience, repellents and deterrents are expensive and do not work.