How to Build a “Stairway to Heaven” Rat Trap in 15 Minutes

by Todd Walker


Rats… I hate rats!

We dropped our bushcraft kits in my shop when we got home. I’d just taught my grandson to cook his first simple meal over our campfire – Raman noodles! The next morning I was greeted with this…


Good thing we don’t live in bear country

In our excitement over his latest bushcraft lesson, we forgot to remove his food items from his pack.


Rat noodles!

Apparently, rats love Raman noodles.

Actually, these rodents will eat just about anything. We were fortunate that we only lost a pack of cheap noodles and was left with only one extra opening in his pack. If left to their own survival instincts – they gotta eat – rats can destroy non-hardened food storage items and spread disease.

I’m always trying to build a better mouse trap. I saw a couple of bucket rat traps on YouTube that seemed clever. This would be the perfect time to test the theory.

Here’s how to make a bucket rat trap in 15 minutes from everyday stuff.

How to Make a Bucket Rat Mouse Trap 

Gather Your Stuff


Here’s what you’ll need…

  • One 5 gallon bucket
  • One unopened can of liquid
  • Ice pick, awl, or drill bit for making holes
  • Pliers
  • Wire
  • Bait – peanut butter

First Step

Drill two holes on opposite sides of the bucket about a half-inch below the rim. The hole diameter should be a little larger than the wire you’ve chosen to use.

Second Step

Remove the paper label. Use you’re ice pick or drill to bore a hole in the center of the can lid. If you plan to reuse the liquid, turn the can over and bore another hole in the bottom of the can over a container. This will vent the can and empty in a few minutes.

Third Step

Skewer the can with the wire. This took time and patience trying to thread the wire through the second hole blindly. You could use a clear water bottle with the cap on to make this easier.

Once the wire is through both ends, make sure the wire extends a few inches past the bucket on both edges. With the threaded can centered over the bucket, crimp the wire at both ends of the can. This will keep the can sliding to the edge of the bucket which would defeat the trap.


Once crimped, insert the wire into both holes. You will need to bend the second side of the wire to get it in the hole. Just straighten the wire after it’s through the hole. Center the can over the bucket opening and bend the spare wire on the outside of the bucket around the bucket rim to keep the can centered over the bucket.

Fourth Step

If you think you’ve got a rat to deal with, pour about 6 to 8 inches of water in the bucket.Big rats can jump. The water prevents the vermin from leaping to freedom. For mice, use less water. At least that’s the theory…



Warning: You’re about to see dead stuff! If easily offended by the sight of dead rats, turn back now!

Just walked out to my shop to check the bait and Ratzilla just ran up the wall onto some storage shelves. This sucker stands on the edge of the bucket eating my peanut butter!

Change of plans. This bucket trap may work for mice but not for this nemesis! As Roy Scheider, star of Jaws, said when he laid eyes on the shark, “Your going to need a bigger boat.” When dealing with Ratzilla and his kin, you’re going to need a bigger bucket!

I stand there in shock as he hides on top of the shelf mocking me with his shrieks. It’s on! No more cute little YouTube contraptions. You know, there are times when a better mouse trap has already been built. Use it!

I pulled a rat trap from my bushcraft kit. Large rat traps are part of my survival trapping kit. They’re useful for trapping tree rats (squirrels) and other small game in a survival scenario.

I’ll finish the MOUSE trap tutorial in a moment. But for now, I’ll share my progression of trap sets for this monster…


Epic fail! The Victor rat trap trigger had been stripped of peanut butter and was dangling from the bucket. Now what? DRG suggested that the “Stairway to Heaven” was not wide enough and the Victor trap needed to be placed, as designed, flat on the floor. I reset the trap and anchored it. I’ve had rats drag traps out of reach before. Rotting rat inside a wall is not pleasant!


I ditched the bucket and used the Victor rat trap alone. Think he’ll drag 10 pounds?

Update: He didn’t have to. He cleaned the peanut butter off the trigger… AGAIN!! I’m ready to load the .38 with snake shot! On second thought, he may take a hollow point. This is war!

DRG suggested using a different bait, one he wouldn’t easily remove. I modified the trigger to make the V-shaped metal tab stick up at a 45º angle. I then formed a ball of cheese around the trigger and reset the trap.

Thirty minutes later I flip the light switch on with my neck hair bristled. It looked like a murder scene minus the white chalk outline. Finally, Ratzilla was dead. I’ll spare you the bloody shots. No, this is not the bloody shot below. He measured over 15 inches from nose to tip of the tail.


R.I.P Ratzilla

If you see one, there is usually more. And they don’t leave on their own accord. I reset the trap after 11 o’clock that night – way past my bed time. Checked the next morning and one of his girlfriends couldn’t resist the cheese. Disposed of her and reset. You guessed it, caught another one! Three dead rats.

Note about sanitation: Avoid handling dead rats and mice with your bare hands. Wash your hands throughly after handling rat traps.



“Stairway to Heaven” How-to Continued…

Not sure if the continuation of the tutorial is even necessary at this point. I didn’t have a mouse problem, I had rats! This is why I continue to stress the importance of trading theory for ACTION before you actually need critical gear and equipment.

Here’s how to finish the bucket mouse trap.

Fifth Step

Spread peanut butter over the surface of the can. When a mouse scurries up the ramp to eat, in theory, he will leap to the can for the bait, spin off the wheel and drown. I can’t see why this bucket mouse trap wouldn’t work on mice.

Trading Theory for Action Lessons

This set up is genius on paper. It would allow me to catch multiple varmints without having to re-bait or reset the trap. Set it and forget. But in real life, you’re going to need a bigger bucket – or smaller rats.

The thought of using a wide-mouth bucket to increase the distance to the bait wheel occurred to me early on in this epic battle. But due to my obsession with destroying Ratzilla’s posse in a timely manner, I had no time to waste. I wanted them dead. Now!

What I discovered is that my bucket trap was nothing more than a rolling rotisserie for large rats. Stick with proven traps for Ratzilla and company or build a better mouse trap.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


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Categories: DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Food Storage, Preparedness | Tags: , , | 45 Comments

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45 thoughts on “How to Build a “Stairway to Heaven” Rat Trap in 15 Minutes

  1. Chewylouie

    A similar trap I have seen and read about, that said that it was for the big ones was a barrel trap. It was basically the same thing, except a barrel (like a 55 gallon drum) with a tarp or plastic tied tightly over it, with an x cut in the middle. The bait was then put in the middle (they used corn I believe). When the rat walked out over it, it would collapse. The guy I learned this from used it to catch big field rats for bait for his trapline. Don’t know if it would work, but it sounds like it would catch big ones better than that one. I guess it would be akin to trying to trap a coyote in a rabbit trap. Even if the trap works, if the animal is too big, it won’t work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hank

    I have (so far) not had to deal with rats, but in my yard, grounds and garden I had an infestation of chipmunks or ground squirrels as some call them. They were the most persistent vermin I ever encountered and were NOT nocturnal. They liked to dig and run through burrows, and would strip a tomato plant in one day by taking a bite from every fruit. AND, it was illegal to shoot, trap or poison them (“wildlife protection!”) So I had to take a stealthier route as the wife’s stupid dog would probably have eaten any poison baits.

    The chipmunk trap is just like yours, in that you have an access (board or thick stick) and a bucket. In this case it should be half full of water, and you use birdseed-grade sunflower seeds. I would take about a half cup, sprinkle it on top of the water, bait a few on the stick, and go to work. In the evening, check the bucket and usually there was a drowned (or drowning – not for the squeamish spouses) chipmunk in the bucket. My record was 6 in one day. Whether they were jumping in to eat the seeds, or thirsty and going after the water, I don’t care as long as it worked.

    Gotta watch for squirrels as those guys would hang upside-down on their back claws and munch away at the seeds on top of the water. But that’s what a pellet gun is good for, right?!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Maybe if you just put a thin line of pb around the can, they would have to reach further and spin off the can. That was one big rat. The ones that got into my house were about 10 inches, nose to tail.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. 15″?! That rat really deserves to be called Ratzilla. We had issues with mice a few months ago and used the same Victor Traps with cheese, worked out well for us, not so much for them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, he was a big boy, Thomas. I’ve seen bigger ones at landfills before and at a warehouse I lived in years ago. Thanks for stopping by, brother. Hope you and Elise are doing well and rat-free. 🙂

      BTW, I own an older Buck 110 folder you reviewed and have dressed several deer with this knife over the years. Love it!

      Liked by 1 person

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  10. Carole

    We use a tall kitchen garbage can and a piece of news paper with an x cut into it. Tiny piece of tape in center keeps together. Fill with enough water so they can’t touch bottom. Sprinkle with some bait and wait. I live near a crick that is connected to a major river. It brings rats right to my house. Great big river rats. Works great and don’t have to worry about my pets. When rats get tired from swimming they drown. Just fish out with a rake and reset.

    Liked by 1 person

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  13. Norm

    I did not read all the comments but if someone has already said this then excuse me, if not I recommend using anti-freeze in the bucket to help prevent odors..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bec

      Please be careful with antifreeze as it is deadly to most other animals.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bacchus58

      I find a splash of Pine Sol to be helpful with dead critter stink. Don’t know if it will deter the buggers from coming to the bait, but it probably won’t, in itself, kill anything else that comes along. Bec is right, ethylene glycol is highly toxic . . . but attracts animals due to its sweet taste. Don’t wan’t to kill the birds and bees and dogs and deer . . . just the rats.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Victor Fox

    Heck I hate rats and mice altogheter. I shoot them on site every time that’s possible with airgun. Good thing you got this sob. I’m having some at biz it’s no good… Will start spread traps around soon. And keep the air rifle loaded and uncocked for an oportunistic shot…

    Liked by 1 person

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  16. I am the best mouser in our house (and we have three cats!) Like you, I found that rodents can eat peanut butter or cheese right off a trap without springing it. So I took to cooking a piece of turkey bacon until it was just shy of crispy, then I threaded a needle and “sewed” it onto the trap. Then I put the trap between the cabinet and stove so that the mice could only approach it from the striking side (and if the cats stuck their paws in there, the trap would spring away from them).

    Worked every single time. Sometimes the smell of cooked bacon was so irresistible I got them within 15 minutes of setting the trap.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Kellie Jackson

    I know this is an old post, but you actually want the stairway to heaven in line with the wire. The vermin will attempt to high wire in an effort to get to the bait. If it doesn’t make it to the can, it loses its balance and will try to gain foot on the can. Then it’s bye bye Ratzilla!

    Liked by 2 people

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  19. Frank

    I’ve had great success with Tootsie Rolls as bait for my mouse traps. Chew the candy till soft and form it on the trigger. When it re-hardens, it sticks like Bondo and is reusable.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. uk joe

    use about a half gallon of old (smelly) cooking oil in a large open glass container ( a vase or cookie jar ). The oil should be about two – three inches from the top. Secure a timber ramp from the ground to the top of the glass container. The rats will fall in but will not get out due to the slippery oil and glass sides. GUARANTEED to work and to go on working…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good idea, Joe! Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jim

        i have heard that they cannot resist peanut or sesame oil. a


      • C Clark

        An old fashion wine decanter like Chianti used to come in with wicker on the outside and glass insides will work as well put the bait in the bottom they can climb up the wicker but cant get back out the inside glass , And of course you have to empty it to use it! Cheers!


  21. Bacchus58

    Many of us have dogs and cats that roam the yard — a rat trap won’t kill them, but it will hurt them pretty badly. What I do is put down a rat trap – baited with bacon (unlike previous poster, I’m not much for sewing, so I use a twist-tie) – and put it under a plastic milk crate with a couple cinder blocks sitting on top. The pets can’t get to the trap, but the rats can . . . pop goes the rodent! P.S. since I’m lazy, I put the trap set next to the trash can, so I don’t have to walk too far with a dead, stinkin’, flea infested rat.

    Liked by 2 people

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  23. Graham

    I think I will try the bucket rat trap with stairway to heaven, but made the spindle withe the can on an inch or so lower. My reasoning is that if it’s too high they could just eat away, but lower down they would need to lean in more and hopefully fall in more easily

    I will experiment.
    Hope this comment is new as I did not read all the feedback.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Neal

    Thought about using a garbage can instead of a bucket. Can catch many at once! Also love the idea of putting sunflower seeds over the water. Also, can possibly lower the wire and roller so the rat has to bend down more and may fall in?

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I saw one in my kitchen and I hit it with an hammer 😂🤣🤣🔨🔨🔨🔨⚒

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Shelly Webb

    HAHAHAHA this cracked me up!! I had a rat that made me speak the same way!!! Awesome feeling catching that many quickly huh?!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Rich Holm

    THis works, even with a big norway rat. On another note, my ex shot one thru the eye with a bb gun. THe bb exited out the other eye and rolled about 2 feet. What a shot!


    • olmon1

      I’ve used a pellet air rifle. A 1000FPS pellet kills them quickly & the air rifles tend to be more accurate than BB guns.


  28. Thank you so much for sharing the homemade DIY rat trap ideas. It will help me a lot to save money & kill all the rats at my home.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Thanks for the tips

    Liked by 1 person

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