Tuesday, June 20, 2023

How do you feed birds without attracting rats and mice?

You likely arrived at this article because you are worried about attracting rats and mice to your feeder. Or, worse, you have already attracted these rodents and want to know if there is anything you can do before you give up on feeding birds.

You can feed birds without attracting rats and mice!

To keep mice and rats from your bird feeders: choose a tube style bird feeder; offer birds Niger, safflower and millet seeds; clean up spilled food under the bird feeder; allow bird feeders to go empty each day; don't over-feed birds; store bird seed properly in sealed containers; use rodent deterrents such as hot pepper bird seeds and sonic repellents.

One of the best ways to enjoy bird watching is to feed the birds in your backyard or balcony. Feeding birds can help them survive in harsh conditions, especially in winter when food is scarce. It can also help you attract more birds and observe them closely. However, feeding birds can also have some drawbacks, such as attracting rodents that can damage your property or spread diseases.

So how do you feed birds without attracting rats and mice? Here are some tips that can help you:

Photo of Evening Grosbeaks at feeder
Evening Grosbeak. Greg Gillson.

Choose the right type of bird feeder to avoid attracting rats and mice

There are many types of bird feeders available in the market, but some are more rodent-proof than others. 

Tube feeders with metal ports and perches can prevent rodents from accessing the seeds.

I really enjoy my iBorn tube feeder (Amazon affiliate link) with 6 feeding ports and its brushed copper parts.

Platform feeders or trays that are placed on the ground or low surfaces can be easily accessed by rodents and should be avoided. 

Hanging feeders that are suspended from a pole or a branch can also deter rodents, as long as they are not too close to the ground or other structures that rodents can climb on.

Choose the right type of bird food to avoid attracting rodents

Some types of bird food are more attractive to rodents than others. For example, sunflower seeds, peanuts and corn are high in fat and protein and can lure rodents from far away. 

On the other hand, nyjer seeds, safflower seeds and millet are less appealing to rodents and more preferred by certain birds, such as finches, cardinals and sparrows. 

Avoid suet, as mice and rats will be attracted to this animal fat.

Clean up the spilled food under your bird feeder

One of the main reasons why rodents are attracted to bird feeders is because of the spilled food that falls on the ground or accumulates under the feeder. This can provide an easy and abundant source of food for rodents, especially at night when they are most active. 

To prevent this, you should clean up the spilled food regularly and dispose of it properly. You can use a broom or a vacuum cleaner to sweep up the seeds or use a tray or a mat under the feeder to catch the fallen seeds. You can also use a seed catcher that attaches to the feeder and prevents the seeds from spilling out.

Allow bird feeders to go empty each day

Many people buy very large bird feeders so they don't have to constantly refill them. If you are worried about attracting rats and mice, then stop this practice!

Each morning fill only what the birds will eat by mid-afternoon. as dusk falls, birds will be cleaning up any spilled seed on the ground.

It's a bit more work. But it assures that there won't be any food on the ground to attract rodents at night.

Birds often throw out seeds from the feeder that they don't like. So buy bird seed without any corn, milo, or cheap grain filler that many birds won't eat. I recommend Wagner's Songbird Supreme (Amazon affiliate link). It is 50% sunflower seed, plus peanuts, safflower, and white proso millet. Birds love it and eat it all.

Store bird foods properly

Another way to avoid attracting rodents is to store your bird food properly when not in use. You should keep your bird food in a sealed container that is made of metal or plastic and has a tight-fitting lid. 

You should also store your bird food in a cool and dry place that is away from direct sunlight and moisture. 

Avoid storing your bird food in cardboard boxes or paper bags that can be easily chewed by rodents or in places that are accessible to rodents, such as garages, basements or attics.

Use rodent deterrents or repellents to keep rats and mice away from your bird feeders

If none of the above tips work, you can also try using some deterrents or repellents that can discourage rodents from visiting your bird feeder. 

You can use hot pepper products that are mixed with bird seeds or sprayed on the feeder. Hot pepper products contain capsaicin, which is the substance that makes peppers spicy and irritating to mammals, but not to birds. 

Rodents (rats, mice, squirrels) will avoid eating or touching anything that has hot pepper on it, while birds will not be affected by it. 

Here is a page of bird food products from Amazon (affiliate link) that are supposed to deter squirrels, mice, rats, and chipmunks. Like people, though, some animals get used to the spicy foods!

You can also use ultrasonic devices that emit high-frequency sounds that are annoying to rodents but not audible to humans or birds. These devices can be placed near your bird feeder or around your property to create a rodent-free zone.

Stop feeding birds for two weeks

As a final try before giving up completely, stop feeding temporarily.

Clean up the area where your bird feeders were. Don't let any bird seed remain to attract pests. 

Then, after a few weeks, try again. 

Go slow. Add single tube feeder. Put only a small amount of bird seed in it. If seed remains toward evening, remove the feeder and store it sealed where no rodents can get to it. Put it back out the next morning.

Keep the ground under the feeder clean of any spilled seed.

I hope these tips will help you feed your birds without attracting rats and mice. Remember that feeding birds is not only beneficial for them but also for you. Feeding birds can bring you happiness, peace and wonder as you watch them flock to your feeder and fill your backyard with color and song.

Don't worry too much about rodents ruining your bird watching experience. As long as you follow these simple steps, you can enjoy feeding your birds and keep rodents away.


Why aren't birds coming to my feeder?

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January 2023: Thank you so much for visiting! I am working on a YouTube channel on birds and bird watching. Check it out here:



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