How to Keep Rats and Mice Away from a Bird Feeder

Dave Campbell

There is nothing better than sitting in the window watching birds flit around a bird feeder. It is incredible how many different species of birds one feeders can attract. More than 52 million people feed birds around their home and bird feeding is a pastime that can bring much enjoyment. While bird feeders can bring an array of bird species to an individual’s home, it can also be an invitation to other backyard critters that are not so welcome.

How can you keep rats and mice away from bird feeders? Keeping rats and mice away from bird feeders can prove to be a challenge, but it is possible to do. Rats and mice are scavengers and require minimal things to survive, so the answer is to remove those possibilities. The needs of rats and mice are shelter and food. If you can eliminate sources of these items, you will likely curtail a rodent problem.

Keeping rats and mice away from bird feeders can seem like a never-ending task that will test your patience time and time again. The purpose of feeding the birds is to offer nutrition and a haven, not to set up a homestead for other wildlife like rats and mice. In this article, you will learn how to keep rats and mice away from backyard bird feeders.

What do Rats and Mice Want?

Like all animals, rats and mice have an innate sense of survival and are willing to go to any length to make it happen. When a rat or mouse detects the food from bird feeders, they are also going to look for a warm place to find shelter. When they find shelter, they will then proceed to build nests and reproduce. When this happens, you will have a considerable rodent control problem to deal with.

But They Are So Cute!

At first glance, a rat or mouse looks like a sweet, furry little creature that is harmless. However, these tiny critters can cause a myriad of problems if they are hanging around bird feeders. Some of the problems you may face if you have a rodent infestation are:

Disease: Rodents are notorious for carrying a host of germs and diseases. If you allow them to roam around the yard near the bird feeder, there is a good chance they will end up in your home. If you have pets, there is a potential they could get bitten by the rodents and become ill as well.

Eat the birdseed: One of the most obvious problems with having rodents in or around bird feeders is the amount of food they will eat. If you happen to attract a large group of mice or rats, they can clean out feeders very quickly, which leaves hungry birds.

Predatory birds may frequent your yard: Many predatory animals delight in feeding on small animals like rats and mice. If you allow the mice and rats to remain in your yard, you could potentially be causing problems for the other birds that come to feeders to eat. Not only will they run out of food, but they have the potential to become food.

Infestation: This word just spells trouble. If you have ever had a single mouse in your home, you know how much trouble they can cause. Now, imagine you have an entire family or multiple families taking up residence in your home. Not only is it unsanitary, but it can cause structural and electrical issues when the mice decide to begin chewing within your walls.

picture of a garden feeder

How to Keep Rats and Mice Away

You are probably curious about how you can keep the beauty of bird feeders but eliminate the danger of mice or rats. Lucky for you, it is quite simple to do this, but it does require diligence on your part. If you become lax in your protocol, it will be an open invitation for feasting rats and mice to visit.

1. Clean up any food source on the ground around feeders.

2. Use food that is not appealing to rodents.

3. Make sure they cannot access the food source in feeders

4. Use quality seed in feeders.

5. Use no mess seed options.

Clean Up Any Food on The Ground

When birds eat, they are not neat or careful. If the ledge of your feeder is narrow, it will allow excess food to fall to the ground. While this is not necessarily a huge issue, as there are birds that can get the food that has fallen, it is also an open invitation to rats and mice. To ensure there is not a buffet just waiting to be found, you must clean under bird feeders at ground level daily.

Use Food That Is Not Appealing to Rodents

If you provide food that is appealing to birds but not rodents, you should be safe using a bird feeder in your yard. According to the article, How to Stop Attracting Rats to Bird Feeders, rats and mice are repelled by spicy foods like cayenne pepper or hot pepper flakes. This will not detract the birds, but it will likely eliminate the rodents.

Make Sure the Rodents Cannot Access the Food

One thing you can do to help eliminate the risk of rodents is to use a bird feeder that the mice and rats cannot gain access to. Wild Birds Unlimited recommends several options to help protect the food, such as a caged cylinder feeder, a pole system with a baffle, a suet feeder with a hard plate underneath, or a bird feeder cage.


Each of these options will allow the birds to access the food easily, but they will not attract unwelcome guests because of their design features.

picture of some field mice

Use Quality Seed

When looking for food for your birds, you will likely see a large selection of birdseed in a range of prices. While it may be your instinct to go for the lowest-priced option, you could be inviting trouble to your backyard. Birds are not notoriously picky eaters; however, there are some lower-priced seed options that they will not eat. If the birds are not eating the seed, it will get left or dropped on the ground for the mice and rats to eat, creating an open door for an infestation to begin.

As you know, birdseed can be messy. While the birds are eating the seed, they can fly all over the place, causing a mess that mice and rats are happy to help clean up. To prevent a mess, you can investigate the option of suet cakes or caked birdseed that needs to be pecked off from a block or stick of sorts. There may be some falling seed, but it will likely be minimal in comparison to loose seed.

If you make all of these changes and still notice rats and mice hanging around the bird feeder, you may need to resort to other options such as trapping or enlisting the help of an exterminating company that may be able to help you eliminate the rodent problem.

What Not to Do

Rats and mice can be a frustrating problem when you have a bird feeder, and it can cause you to want to take drastic measures to remove them from your backyard. If you head to your local hardware or home improvement store, you will likely find several options to rid your property of the pesky rodents, but not all these options are wise.

No matter how frustrated you are, it is not recommended to use poison, traps, or feral cats. While these may seem like quick fixes, you could be causing more harm than good.

Poison: Poison will eliminate the pest problem, but you could be causing a host of problems that you cannot see right away. When a rodent ingests poison, it takes time to kill them. After ingesting the poison, the rodent will likely retreat to their home before they die. This can be a problem if they have made a home in your walls. Rodents are also common prey for larger animals. If a predator eats a mouse or rat that has ingested poison, they could become extremely ill and even die.

Traps: There are many types of traps that can be used to help control rodents around bird feeders, but not all traps are the same. You may not want to spend the money on quality traps and, therefore, look to the infamous glue trap to help control the rodents. Not only is this an inhumane method of trapping rodents, but you could also be putting other animals in danger.

Feral Cats: Yes, you are reading this solution correctly. On farms, it is common to have cats around to help control mice and rats in the barn. Your yard is not a barn, so relying on feral animals to control the mice and rats is not a wise choice. You may successfully control the mouse and rat population, but you will also endanger the backyard birds that you enjoy watching.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are many methods you can use to control the rats and mice around your garden bird feeder. By employing some of these strategies, you should diminish your rodent control problem around the bird feeder so that you can enjoy watching and feeding wild birds in your backyard.


How do you feed birds without attracting mice?

Bird feeding is an enjoyable hobby for many people, but how do you do it without giving yourself a rodent control problem? It’s a well known fact that many different types of pests such as mice, don’t like peppermint, so you could trying making up a mixture with water and put in a spray bottle and spray on the ground area around the bottom of the feeder pole to keep the mice away. Other things that may keep them away are things like a weak bleach solution sprayed around or on the feeder pole. Glue traps are another way to keep them mice away from feeders.

Are rats attracted to bird seed?

Unfortunately, yes rats will be intrigued by bird seeds, and with their sharp claws, they are pretty good climbers and can easily get to the top of feeder poles. As well as the rodent control advice already mentioned in this article, there are some other things you could try. Some feeders have a catch tray underneath the feeding platform. This can enable you to clear away any spilled seed mix that gets knocked off, sometimes by squirrels, not just the birds. The catch tray may also act as a deterrent to stop the rats from climbing any higher.

Do bird feeders attract mice?

Mice are very agile mammals and will find most feeders no problem at all. Follow the information already mentioned in this article, taking steps to safely treat the areas around your feeders. Remember not to use poisons as these could harm birds and other small animals. Always use safe and humane solutions to this problem. If the mice persist, you could call and exterminator who will be able to advise you further.


Dave Campbell

I'm Dave Campbell and the owner of You can read more about me and my background on my About Me page.

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