Naomi asks: Our compost had rats so we had to get rid of it — how do I avoid this if we want to try composting again?
Rats you say? I'm assuming you're in an urban centre then. Most municipalities have city-issued compost bins to avoid smart critters like crows, rats, raccoons and skunks from getting in and making a mess. Check your municipal waste website and see how you can get one. They're often about the size of a large garbage can, with small air holes, a locking lid (raccoon proof), bottom screen, and holes to stake it down.
To trouble shoot for rats, make sure no cooked, greasy or meaty foods get into the compost. These are really fragrant and tempting for critters like rats.
Also, I've read a few resources that recommend adding pet hair- from your cat or dog. So after grooming Fluffy, clean the brush and add the hair right into the compost or pack it in around the edge. It's supposed to give your bin that "predator" smell that keeps vermin at bay. I add my cat and dog hair from their brushes as well as dryer lint (because it's mostly pet hair). I haven't had a problem with rats for over three years and I know for a fact that they use my fence as a highway.