How to Identify a Rat Nest? | Identification and Control Guide

Rats are nocturnal, so they’re most active after sunset and before sunrise. Hence, it’s not convenient to track them down in these ungodly hours. You’ll likely see them during the day if they’re done with reproducing.

A rat nest is a very first thing that can prove rat infestation. If ever it’s your first time dealing with this issue, this article will guide you all the way.

How to identify a rat nest? This rodent loves to nest in a warm and hidden location. The rat nest is usually made of shredded newspaper, cardboard, or fabric for insulation. When there are babies, it’s built near the food source to feed them. 

You have to be attentive to the potential areas where a rat can build its nest. So, the search won’t be difficult. Details shown in this article are also a great help to identify a rat nest.

What Does a Rat’s Nest Look Like?

What Does a Rat’s Nest Look Like

A rat’s nest has several chambers and food caches. It’s filled with a pile of debris composed of paper, plastic, and leaves. These things are chewed up into tiny pieces.

The extensive part of the nest is usually made of twigs, plant materials, cactus joints, and other related objects.

Common Locations for Rat Nesting

Common Locations for Rat Nesting

Rats prefer to dwell in high places for isolation. So, they can be found on the top floors of the building. Some of these rodents choose to live in the forest.

Where Do Rats Nest in Your House?

The rats can nest in cavity walls, attics, lofts, roofs, and under eaves. They can be in the kitchen and laundry area too. Since some appliances like dryers, washing machines, stoves, and dishwashers produce heat, they tend to hide behind these things.

Where Do Rats Nest Outside?

Rats nest within an area that is close to the food source. They also ensure that their small territories are defended. The size of their nest is not more than 100 square meters.

They can be found in a forest, rainforest, coastal areas, scrub forest, chaparral, grassland, or savanna. These creatures thrive well in terrestrial, temperate, and tropical regions. You’ll likely find them in drains, garbage cans, garages, decks, and sheds.

Do Rats Nest in Grass Cuttings?

Rats nest in grass cuttings, especially if they choose to live in a garden.

How to Find a Rat’s Nest in a Garden?

There are many signs that can lead you to find a rat’s nest in your garden. You can find burrows with a diameter of 6 to 9 inches. They’re undisturbed and can be found near a food source.

Also, you have to learn how to identify the rat droppings. They’re flat, cylindrical with pointed ends, and measure around 15 to 20 mm long. When these droppings are fresh, they’re moist but dry up in a few hours.

You will also see marks around your garden when inhabited by rats. These rodents can smear on fences and gate posts. The markings will be visible on stone, metal, and wooden surfaces.

Impressively, rats memorize the paths that they take when going in and out of their nests. Thus, track marks appear on hedges, banks, walls, and vegetation.

How Do Rats Construct Their Nests?

How Do Rats Construct Their Nests

The rats do extensive digging and excavating. They create deep burrows for shelter, nesting, and food storage. Therefore, you can see holes that they made in some parts of your house and even in garden sheds, garages, or under the decking.

What Do Rats Use to Build Their Nest?

Rats choose soft materials such as paper, cardboard, and plant materials. They’re shredded to build a nest with insulation. In a study where rats were provided with building materials, it was discovered that building a nest is an acquired behavior of these rodents.

Both pet rats and wild ones tend to build a complex structure when there are provided materials.

Signs of Nesting Rats

Signs of Nesting Rats


Holes appear after rats work on burrows to secure their nest.


The rats that live in the same nest can release 40 droppings in a single night. These droppings that look like rice grains are piled up in one spot.


It’s easy to recognize their footprints or tracks when they dwell in a deserted building. A super bright flashlight can help you detect them in the dark. If you suspect an infestation in a certain area, you can sprinkle it with flour and check if there are any tracks the next day.

Scratching Noise

Black rats are known to be agile as they move quickly when entering hidden areas. Since they’re active at night, you’ll hear scratching noises. Somehow, black rats will be heard scurrying under the sheds, decks, and floorboards. In general, these rodents make cracking and grinding noises or bruxing, which is done by using their teeth.

Rub Marks

Due to the rats’ poor vision, they will use the same routes that go all the way through the skirting boards and walls. Their bodies are inevitably covered with grease and dirt. Thus, they will leave some marks as they pass through the familiar route. However, some smears are confusing because they become permanent marks that last for a long period.


The growth of rats’ teeth doesn’t stop. So, they would maintain and trim it by gnawing on wood and plastic surfaces. With the alarming occurrence of fire, they also bite on electric wires. When rats hunt for food, they tear the packaging by using their teeth, and marks are noticeable.


It’s the easiest to determine the rat’s smell in poorly ventilated places.

What Time of Year Do Rats Nest?

Rats nest any time of the year. However, they’ll move indoors during the cold season and outdoors when summer comes for an ample amount of food supply. When your garden is filled with edible plants, they will likely nest in it.

How Far Do Rats Travel From Their Nest?

How Far Do Rats Travel From Their Nest

It depends on the nest’s locations, but generally, rats travel for 300 to 500 feet. They can go further if there’s a shortage of food supply. It also happens when control measures on rodents have begun.

How Big Are Baby Rats When They Leave Their Nest?

Baby rats become independent in 3 to 4 weeks and leave their nest.

What Happens When You Disturb a Rat’s Nest?

Rats are aggressive once provoked. They can spread the pathogens that they carry even though you haven’t touched their nest. Hence, it’s crucial to not disturb a rat’s nest.

How Many Rats Live in a Nest?

The number of rats that live in a nest ranges from 8 to 12, but the average is 8.

Do Rats Return to the Same Nest?

Given that the nest is not disturbed, rats will return to it. Still, some rats return to the same nest even if it’s disturbed. They do it because they’re stubborn and territorial. Moreover, they won’t easily leave a nest that has easy access to food and water. On the other hand, these critters are more careful when they live in a household.

How to Get Rid of a Rat’s Nest?

You must be cautious when getting rid of a rat’s nest. To start the process, put on safety gear like goggles and gloves. A respirator is a great addition to avoid breathing in nest dust that has some specks of rat droppings.

Don’t forget that rat droppings contain organisms that can cause bio-hazardous diseases. Getting rid of the rat’s nest is the primary step to eliminating rats. Furthermore, blocking possible entry to your house is a wise move.


The main step to get rid of rats in a certain area is to identify their nest. Once you’re sure that there’s a rat’s nest, you can start with the essential measures.

Your effort won’t be wasted when the detection of the nest is not a false alarm. With the knowledge of potential areas for nesting, you can also prevent the entry of the rats into your house.

List of Sources


Roof Rats: Identification, Ecology, and Signs

Rats and Mice