I've read this thread with interest. Over the past few months the rat population has increased dramatically, we have the same problem as Tim, the rats have had our entire crop of carrots, sweet corn, beetroot, many peas, many dwarf beans, kohl rabbi, brussel sprouts and many of our tomatoes, two beds of potatoes and the list goes on (I'm sure there are more that we've lost to the rats that I haven't listed).
I have noticed that the population has increased since I built the Hugelbeds and started to hot compost. We have 5 very large hot compost heaps and every time I turn them I count 8 to 10 rats coming out of each one (on the plus side at least they are aerating the compost heaps
), there are 5 rat nest in the base of the Hugelbeds and 3 or 4 nest under the chicken house, and this is just in the garden, they are even moving into the new beds as we make them! Yes we've made 30 new beds this week and 5 or 6 already have rats holes in them, I pretty sure that there hundreds around the cow barns. We have 11 cats on the farm most are good at catching mice and voles but rats... nope! The presence of the cats in the polytunnel has kept the rats out of there for now, but the weather is starting to turn cold and I fear that the rats will become braver as the temperature drops.
I'm at my wits end as what to do, we put so much effort into growing these veggies to lose so much in a couple of nights.
I appreciate that being on a farm we are unlikely to eradicate the problem completely and it could be that we need an on going method of control. I really didn't have a problem with them being around, and when they started eating the tomatoes we moved a couple of cats into the polytunnel (they live there permanently now) and that solved the issue and all was good for a while then as the carrots started to mature; bang! The rats ravaged the garden, eating pretty much everything, they have even 'tasted' the cabbages and cauliflowers but seem quite happy to eat everything else for now.
Reading this thread I am now thing about move the compost heaps out of the garden, to eliminate one popular residence and a source of food (as all our kitchen waste is composted) but due to the combined volume of the heaps it's going to be a couple of weeks work even with everyone chipping in and then where do I move them too? It seems totally impractical to move them too far from the garden as lugging garden waste across the farm and compost back is just... well a lot more work. Then there are nests in the Hugelbeds and other raised beds, these are not really moveable! The chicken house issue can be solved with several rolls of chicken wire and lining the floor of the chicken pen.
It looks like we're going to have try a multi-pronged approach to the problem before it starts getting really cold. I'll keep you updated with how things go.