How Do I Stop Rats and Mice?
Rats and mice are not a visitor many people want in or around their bird feeders or their homes. As tempting as it may be to blame their presence on your bird feeder, feeders are rarely to blame for attracting these rodents to an area. Rats and mice are more likely to be attract by garbage, outdoor pet bowls, compost bins, pet waste, barbecue grills or unharvested fruits and vegetables from the garden.
The best practices to avoid attracting rats and mice are similar to the advice for stopping chipmunks. In addition to these, make sure to keep all household and kitchen trash in closed metal containers, keep all dog droppings cleaned up, feed you pets indoors, clean barbecue grills after each use, and collect all unharvested bounty from your fruit trees or vegetable garden.
Here are our 4 Rules for Keeping out Rats and Mice:
1. Use Properly Sized Metal Baffles on Tall Poles: The top of a pole baffle should be 5' above the ground to prevent jump-overs, and the pole itself must be 11' from anything sturdy enough (tree, fence, house, etc.) from which a squirrel or chipmunk could leap and gain access. Rats are particularly smart and good at climbing; but a good baffle can go a long way in stopping these smart critters. If you want to prevent rats from accessing squirrel proof bird feeders, you can get away with a pole and baffle that is 7’ from any surrounding objects. The pole must also be tall enough so that all feeders stay above the top of the baffle. Most standard shepherd's crooks are not tall enough to achieve both of these rules. WBU's Advanced Pole System is, and is an effective way to keep them away from feeders.
Our patented Advanced Pole System® (APS) is a revolutionary concept and the foundation for successfully attracting birds to your backyard. Comprised of interchangeable hardware pieces, the APS lets you select the setup that best suits the habitat in your own backyard and the birds you want to attract.
2. If a Feeder is Going to Hang in a Tree, a Large Overhead Baffle or Sky Café Feeder can do the trick; but only if it is broad enough to allow the feeder to tuck up under the edges, and is hung far enough out from the tree trunk or low limbs so as to prevent sideways jumps (at least 10 feet is recommended). Many times these baffles fail because too large of a feeder is placed under the baffle and squirrels learn to catch some part of the feeder as the fall/leap through the air. Feel free to bring your feeder to WBU McKinney so we can set you up with the proper baffle for your feeder.
3. Tidy Feeding: Keep as much food off the ground as possible by feeding a high quality seed blend without fillers. Filler-filled “wild bird mixes” contain items that backyard birds don’t eat, such as milo, wheat, oats, red millet and other grains. Our backyard birds are not interested in these ingredients and they scratch them out of a feeder and onto the ground in search of the seeds and nuts they truly enjoy - sunflower seeds, peanuts and safflower. Once on the ground, the grains attract a variety of unwanted visitors including rats and mice. Make sure any seed blend you are offering has no fillers and only the good stuff. WBU McKinney has lots of great options, a few are listed below.
In addition to no fillers, consider offering foods without shells. When a bird drops the shell to the ground there is always a little meat left behind. These little bits of food may attract rats and mice. Seed blends such as our WBU No-Mess CD or DP blends contain no shells, reducing the debris that falls to the ground. Foods like suet, no-melt dough, peanuts without shells, cylinders, Stackable™ and mealworms also contain no shells or food waste and are less likely to end up on the ground. One of the big benefits of offering foods without shells is they are generally more cost effective as you are not paying for the shells which generally make up 50% of a bag of bird food and thus 50% of the cost goes to something the bird isn’t even eating!
WBU No-Mess Blend NM CD: No shells. No mess. 100% edible. This new blend contains more peanuts and has added calcium to help bone development and egg production. Being millet free ensures it flows easily through your feeders and discourages unwanted ground birds as very little makes it to the ground from the feeder. WBU No-Mess Blends are great near flower beds, patios and decks. Our unique No-Mess Blend bird seed features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds makes for tidier feeding, since there's no debris on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend bird seed offers the best value because you do not pay for uneaten seed waste. The birds eat everything. Buying one bag of our No-Mess Blend is roughly the equivalent of buying almost two bags of a seed blend with shells.
WBU Choice Blend: Our WBU Choice Blend is a fantastic combination of high-oil content seeds. The black oil sunflower, sunflower chips, shelled peanuts, safflower and striped sunflower do a great job of attracting a variety of birds, including chickadees, woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches and jays. Try offering Choice Blend in a hopper feeder, seed tube feeder or our Dinner Bell™ feeder, and add loads of fun to your backyard bird watching experience.
WBU Supreme Blend: WBU Supreme Blend features black oil sunflower, sunflower chips, safflower and striped sunflower in a combination that helps attract a wide variety of birds, such as chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and wrens.
4. Hot Pepper Products: There is strong anecdotal evidence that our WBU Hot Pepper Products are not favored by rats and mice. The evidence suggest that most rodents strongly dislike the taste and avoid the food. Approximately 90% of Eastern Gray Squirrels and Red Squirrels do not eat WBU Hot Pepper Products. It can most likely be assumed that the same would be true for other rodents including rats and mice.
Helpful Tips for Feeding WBU Hot Pepper Products
For all the information on Feeding WBU Hot Pepper Products please visit our Problem Solving with Hot Pepper page. Our Problem Solving with Hot Pepper page details everything you need to know about WBU Hot Pepper Products, including frequently asked questions (FAQ) such as, does it work to discourage squirrels, is it safe for birds to eat hot pepper, and is it safe for hobbyists to offer hot pepper foods. Here are a few helpful tips:
How to Feed WBU Hot Pepper Products?
When offering WBU Hot Pepper Products they must be the only thing in a feeder. In other words, you can’t mix WBU Hot Pepper Products with other non-hot pepper options. For example, you wouldn’t want to mix regular Bark Butter with Hot Pepper Bark Butter as animals will just eat around the spicy option. WBU Hot Pepper Products must be fed on their own to be effective.
Hot Pepper Safety
As pointed out by Jim Carpenter in The Joy of Bird Feeding, capsaicin coated seeds can bother people when it comes into contact with our eyes, nose, mouth and lips. It’s important to take care when using our WBU Hot Pepper Products. Rubber dish gloves would be a good accessory to have on hand when using these foods or washing feeders.
Can’t I just Make My Own Hot Pepper Products?
Items with hot pepper (capsaicin) cause a reaction in humans. If eyes, noses or lips are rubbed, then a reaction to hot pepper could range from mild to severe. Choosing products where the hot pepper is bound to the products (such as our WBU Hot Pepper Products), and taking caution when filling or washing feeders, is an important part of using these products safely. Do not attempt to make hot pepper products at home. Our WBU Hot Pepper Products have been specially formulated and tested to ensure they are safe for the birds. They are made in a facility where staff wear the proper safety equipment to ensure they don’t experience a reaction to the capsaicin. If you try making hot pepper deterrents at home it may not be safe for the birds or you!