How to Keep Mice, Rats, and Squirrels Away from Bird Feeders


Bird seed
It can be hard to feed the birds without feeding other critters, too!


We love feeding the birds, but they drop seeds on our balcony and attract mice, rats, and squirrels. What can we do to keep rodents away while feeding birds? -Mary Lou

Birds and rodents both love to eat seeds; so where there’s one, there’s likely to be the other. Squirrels, mice, and rats can invade feeders; and they’re particularly fond of foraging on the ground for spilled seed and hulls. To keep rodents of all kinds away from your bird feeder, you need to manage the mess the birds leave behind.

Try these tips to discourage rodents while enjoying birds at your feeder:

Bird feeder with seed catcher tray
Seed catcher tray on bird feeder

Use a Seed Tray: Install a seed catcher tray on your feeder pole, to catch stray seeds and hulls that the birds drop as they eat. Some feeders come with detachable trays, or you can buy pole-mounted ones. Check out the Clever Clean Seed Tray from Droll Yankees, the Plastic Seed Saver Tray from Heath, and larger pole mounted trays from Birds Choice. An advantage of pole mounted trays is that the collected seed offers a second feeding platform for the birds.

Choose No Waste Bird Food: A number of bird feeding options are available that reduce the amount of waste that’s dropped (thereby reducing the temptation for rodents). Look for hulled seeds, including sunflower hearts, shelled peanuts, and hulled millet. You can also try suet, nectar, thistle, or cracked corn.

Shell free seed mix
Shell free seed mix

Clean Up: Use a broom to regularly sweep up seeds and hulls on the ground. You’ll miss out on ground feeding birds, but it’ll discourage rodents.

Store Smart: Store your bird seed in airtight, watertight, rodent-proof containers away from where rodents live. Carry the container out to the bird feeder, rather than shoveling bird food (and spilling waste) in your house or garage.

Locate Feeders Away from House: If you have a choice, place your feeders closer to natural areas, rather than near your house.

Rodent-Proof Your Feeders: Use baffles to prevent rodents from climbing the pole, and place feeders where rodents can’t get to them. Avoid ground feeders if you have a rodent problem.

Rodent-Proof Your House: Because it’s impossible to keep mice and rats completely away outdoors, protect your home by sealing any cracks and openings where they might get inside.

Further Information


  1. My neighbor and I both like to feed the birds, usually we give them bread left-overs. Somebody in our building said we should not do that because the bread will attract rats. We watch the birds eat until all the food is gone. But the guy who is against it got his way. Now we are sad because we are not allowed to feed the birds anymore. The “do-gooder” got his way, and we are unhappy. What can we tell the building’s bosses, so we can feed the birds again?

  2. I am in a similar situation to Sunny Turner as my neighbours 2 flats above me blame me for the occasional mouse in the house (part of a terrace) although there have been mice in our building long before I started to feed the birds using hanging bird-feeders. As I have 2 cats I am sure that any mice are not coming through my flat though reading this article I appreciate that mice can climb up walls. I love to watch Great Tits, Long-Tailed Tits, Blackbirds, sometimes a Great Spotted Woodpecker as well as the inevitable pigeons. I would be very sorry to stop feeding the birds altogether.

    I have slowly cut down on bird seed hoping that pigeons will find elsewhere, and for now I have left up the suet ‘fat balls’ mainly for the tits. If as suggested, I will probably lose the blackbirds but it would be very sad to have no birds at all. To try to find another point of view I have asked the local council pest-control people to come and look and give their view. It seems hard not to be able to choose to feed birds in one’s own garden….

  3. We always have fed the birds from a hanging feeder with sunflower hearts in since moving here 4 years ago and have loved watching their antics but for the last 2 summers we have seen rats in the garden on both occasions we were advised to remove the bird seed either just at night or all together last year we removed it just at night but this year we removed it completely and as it has been so mild have not put it back yet one reason for this is that since moving here we have been troubled by mice in the loft and have been unable to find where they are getting in so we have traps set up at various points all of which are difficult to reach and as my husband is now in his seventies and we both have back trouble we don’t know how much longer we will be able to get to the traps and deal with them the funny thing is that in spite if the bad weather we have had no mice since we removed the bird food either.We sought advice from council pest control and rspb on several occasions both of whom say that rodents don’t like coming out into the open and dont like mealworm but the rats we have had have happily crossed our garden in the open and one has been seen sat in the middle of the lawn munching mealworm they have regularly tried to dig under the summer house so the pest control put poison under there last year but they didn’t really touch it much we bought a feeding station and stand and Niger seed which rats are also not supposed to like but are thinking of taking it all back to the shop as reluctant to start feeding again now but do miss the birds what do we do?


  4. Most bird seed has capsaicin in it, it’s what makes food spicy. Birds don’t have the receptor to detect this spice but squirrels do.

  5. scrappy and feisty large black birds (?) crackles(?) control smaller birds from coming to the feeder – How to eliminate them

  6. We have had similar issues with rats! Nice clean neighborhood, but I guess rats invade if there’s any food source around. I saw a beautiful, sleek one last year creeping shamelessly at the bottom of the feeder.
    My neighbor has a feeder, too. This spring, my son saw a hawk swoop down and grab up a nice fatso for dinner! (I need more hawks living around here.)
    So. . . . Since I’ve got more than half a brain . . . I think I have a simple (hawkless) idea!
    If it works, I’m going to patent the idea and you guys can be my “testers.”
    I’ll know tomorrow.

  7. Sunny Turner, actually bread is very bad for birds and can make them very sick and kill them. So in a way, that’s a good thing you’re not feeding them any more.

  8. This is good info.

    Most people hand a bird feeder, it gets ransacked by squirrels and they give up and take it down. They miss out on the peaceful company and song of wonderful birds.


  9. I have had so much pleasure feeding the birds for several years especially over the winter…we had 4 blue jays regularly visit and I spent hours watching them. Unfortunately a few days ago spotted a rat in the garden in daylight..saw it go up to the back of the garden and a very big nest at the bottom of the compost heap.

    I hadn’t put seed out for a couple of days prior to seeing the rat so maybe extra hungry…My neighbour kindly put bait in the holes and has checked and is waiting till no longer taking any. Saw a dead rat in the hole bait doing its job…much as I hate poisoning them the idea of a rat infestation is not something I could bear if they got in the house I would crack up and have to leave my home.

    Thing is my family of blackbirds and other birds keep looking for their food…every time I go outside they come to see if their food is there.

    As it’s spring probably enough around to keep them going but I don’t know what to do now …maybe just put a little food out with a big tray below once the rats are dead…add chilli to seed if it definitely doesn’t hurt them and lose the compost heap.

    Gutted dealing with this ?

  10. I have 3 feeders, and my wife was always unhappy with squirrels attacking them, I bought a catch alive cage from b&q and caught lots, by law you have to despatch them but get a good AirRifle is my advice as if it is underpowered they are tough. They are thin on the ground now. I recycle them via the local fox. I get mice all the time. I have a lot of traps and always have set in the same spot under my shed. You have to be a bit vigilant to keep on top of the pests. My latest threat is magpies, I have bought a Larsen trap off eBay but hard to trap them but I never give up as I enjoy it as much as the birds we love. If anyone lives me in SW15 London I try to help you as I am retired now.

  11. I hope this helps with the rats and possums moving elsewhere. Get some apple cider vinegar put in a spray bottle and squirt generously along where you need it. It’s great for killing weeds. However make sure that it doesn’t blow on bird seed or on them. When mice holes pour directly down. For some reason the possums and rats mice hate the smell of it. Good luck and go mark your territory.?it works for me. Also if you have ants squirt them and where they are as they will move elsewhere. I say try it you’ll be surprised.

  12. iam a member of most wildlife trusts inc. RSPB. i did have two bird tables, six hanging feeders, until recently it upset me to take the feeders down and cut up the tables, on the tables were three rats which they were so big they looked like squirrels, in all the years i have fed birds i have never had rats squirrels yes, so on the advice of a well known pest control company they said while i have feeders to eradicate the rats take them down which i have done and put bait box,s to try for a few weeks, another thing i also cleaned up regular around my feeders, iam looking at feeders with trays to stop waste falling on the ground, i will be checking the bait box.s to see if the rats have visited them, only good thing there are plenty of food on the trees with it being mild at present

  13. I have been feeding birds on my porch and small front yard for 2 years. This is the 3rd winter that I have put out several feeders. I also throw out seed onto the snow.
    This is the first time I have seen RIVER RATS on my porch and in the yard. (I do live right up the hill from the river).
    How can I HUMANELY get rid of the rats without harming or driving away the birds? I looked at the ultrasonic repellers, but I live in an apartment building where neighbors have PET rodents and reptiles, etc.
    Any ideas? I tried pouring peppermint oil in and around the hole they chewed in the porch, but it only deterred them for one day.
    This morning, I swept up the seeds and took down the feeders. I also tried sprinkling cat fur around the hole and porch this morning. I brush the cat and dog and get a handful of fur. May be that will help?
    Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
    It is breaking my heart to have to stop feeding the birds. I am disabled and homebound, so my entertainment is watching the birds out the window, where I have my chair.

  14. I have had problems too years ago so am wondering if the electrical
    advices that give off a high pitch would work to keep mice and rats away.
    Squirrels are bad enough.
    Thank you

  15. Ive just seen rats come into my garden in broad daylight, I’ve taken all of my bird feeders down, how can i stop rats from climbing up pols walls to get to the feeders,

  16. I have been puzzling over this problem for a long time, but may have found a solution. I have a sunflower hearts holder hanging from my pergola. Underneath I have placed an upside down plastic dustbin and on top of that is a very large planter. This is catching all the seeds and blackbirds and robins are hopping down into the planter to feed on the bits and pieces.
    The rats have given up as they can’t reach it! Its not beautiful to look at but I’m still working on that. At least I can still enjoy watching my families of goldfinches.
    One last thought, clear out the planter regularly of any debris.

    • Hi Carolyn Ball. I know this message is super late but I just found your post so here it goes anyway!!!
      I’d love to see a picture of your pergola and planter! Please!!!
      (Hope you get this!)
      Thank you!!!

  17. Found a possum eating seeds on the ground by my feeder.what can I spray on ground so it doesn’t come back.i am afraid my dog goes down and sniffs will he catch anything.the possum looked sick walking slow and during the day.thank you

    • Hi, Christine,

      When dealing with creatures of all shapes and sizes, we recommend checking with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service office in your area.

      Good luck!

  18. I cant feed the birds ,as have rats in my garden and squirrels ,will the magpies get rid of the magpies ,

  19. We have been feeding the birds for 30 years and have never seen a rat until a few days ago. It runs under the deck floor when we go out to try a catch it. We have folks next door who have just recently installed a chickens in a coop right next to us and am wondering if this is why the rats are around. If so, how can we deal with the rats? If i put out rat poison will it harm the birds and squirrels as well? thank you

  20. Hi everyone,

    First of all BREAD is not good for birds.It provides zero nutrition & fills them up.The problem with this is that birds being full after eating the bread will not seek out & eat the proper nutritious food they require.Hence this will cause the birds to suffer from deformations & death.The nutrition they need to produce eggs, build strong feathers & bones,have good digestion to feed their young, etc., etc., is severely compromised when you feed the birds BREAD.
    Second -RATS & other little critters. I also fed the birds for many years without a problem UNTIL an apartment building was built beside me.The people in the building would put their garbage bags on their balconies or in their back yard until garbage day.Of course rats, cats, raccoons, birds, etc.,etc., would go & forage those garbage bags looking for food.Their garbage bags were always ripped like with holes.i tried to suggest to them to put their garbage in bins but they took offense instead.eventually what happened was is the rats being such good survivors as clever as they are started to hang around my back yard where bird seeds were a I was blamed, fined & verbally attacked.Also the city put traps on & under my property which I removed.I just stopped feeding the birds & the rats went away from my place & returned raiding the bags.The people in the building NOW put their garbage in a bin.Took a couple of thousand of my dollars, verbally attacking & harassing me for them to do what should have been done from the start!Not fun living near buttheads & btw this a low rent city apartment building.I was always for these kinds of buildings but now this stressful experience with these people has really jaded me.

  21. I stopped feeding birds with seeds but I do keep a water fountain on a 5 foot pole and the birds love it! I still enjoy watching birds drink and bathe but don’t see mice or rats anywhere! Bird seed will attract critters and in Arizona, the little critters attract rattle snakes.

  22. I had a plastic seed feeder…rats took the whole thing…not found it yet. I got an Aldi metal ball feeder…which they unscrewed from the top…tray from bottom gone too….they are so clever!!!

  23. Although I know they have been there much longer, the past few weeks a few large rats have been eating black oil sunflower seed from my feeders in daylight, about dusk, 6-7 PM. They are quite brazen about it and will run if I walk up to the feeders.
    I have fed birds for many years and enjoy viewing them out of my bay window. Squirrels use the feeders also but I have a problems with rats. I don’t want to poison the other animals by putting that out, but don’t know what to do and any ideas appreciated. Thanks.

  24. Buy two hanging baskets, put feeder inside, tie them together so as it becomes a ball, this will keep the crows away from stealing seeds and the little birds can fly in and out through holes.
    I hope this helps others

  25. This a reply to Mager, May 18, 2019-
    I have the same problem, just started this summer. The rats come from a dense weeded area outside of my fence. They are there all day long. I am having an exterminator coming tomorrow who will put bait inside of a cannister that rabbits or birds cannot get to. The rats eat the bait, go off & die. Happy ending for me. Because the weeds are not on my property, this will be an ongoing problem for me but hopefully it will work. I am not willing to remove my feeders. Hiring an exterminator is not cheap but I don’t see any other options. The positive side is they also treat for other nasty bugs which are abundant in NC.

    • The problem with that solution is the poison they use to kill the rats will also kill any animal or bird that finds and feeds off the dead rats.

    • Hi, Londa,
      We recommend placing bird feeders away from the house for this very reason.
      It’s much more difficult to keep mice, rats and squirrels away from window bird feeders.
      But we always appreciate fan suggestions and shared experiences.
      Let us know which tricks work for you!

  26. I had a window bird feeder on my deck and mice gnawed their way through to my basement. We had a terrible time getting rid of them. I miss feeding the birds!

  27. Rats and Mice definitely come for free food. Rats and mice need to make a living too after all. Rats will even eat your garden greens. Birds drop tons of tasty morsels on the ground. It works out just fine in the forest. I’m also sad that i can’t feed the birds but I don’t want the rats.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here