The chances are he's always had rats in his garden. He just hasn't spotted one before. He lives on a hillside in rural Ireland, surrounded by small dairy farms. The landscape will be full of rats, and it's OK. It's probably also full of field mice, foxes, squirrels, bats, rabbits, hares and all sorts of lovely things. If he saw any of those in his garden he'd be delighted, but he's not so keen on the rat. I don't blame him - if I saw a rat I'd wonder if it might come in the house, where it definitely would not be welcome. I wouldn't welcome squirrels or bats etc. in the house either. But still, I don't think spotting a rat in your garden is cause to panic.
There's no need to stop feeding the birds. But there are steps he can take to try to make sure the birds get the food and the rat does not:
- Feed on the bird table, not on the floor.
- Rat-proof the bird table - an inverted cone of metal or chickenwire, or one of those big round tins you get chocolates in at Christmas, inverted and attached round the post, might stop rats climbing up.
- Only feed enough for one day. Feed in the morning, and clear up any leftover food at night. Birds don't come to the birdtable at night so this doesn't deprive them of anything. But it deprives the rat of a midnight snack. I know dad saw his rat in the daytime, but it could have been visiting the table at night for weeks before he saw it.
- I wonder if those squirrel-proof bird feeders also keep rats out? I've seen a spinning bird-feeder - the weight of a squirrel or a rat causes it to spin faster and faster, flinging the unwanted mammal right off. The video is hysterical. I think if I had one I'd be praying for squirrels and rats to vsit it, just for the laugh.