Even if you love feeding birds, keeping rodents, such as mice, rats, and squirrels away can be a challenge. Both birds and rodents love to eat seeds, so where there’s one, there’s likely to be the other.

Squirrels, mice, and rats can invade bird feeders, and they’re particularly fond of foraging on the ground for spilled birdseed and hulls. 

To keep rodents of all kinds away from your bird feeder, you need to manage the mess the birds leave behind, as well as use specific bird food and rodent-proofing your feeder and home.

Tips To Keep Rodents Away From Bird Feeders

I recommend giving these tips a try to discourage rodents from getting into your bird feeder.

Use a Seed Tray

Install a seed catcher tray on your bird feeder pole to catch stray seeds and hulls that the birds drop as they eat. Some bird feeders come with detachable trays, or you can buy pole-mounted ones.

For example, I recommend the Clever Clean Seed Tray from Droll Yankees or the larger pole-mounted trays from Birds Choice

Seed catcher tray on bird feeder

An advantage of pole-mounted trays is that they offer a second feeding platform for the birds. The seed tray catches the debris before it hits the ground, keeping your balcony clean and reducing the tempting food source for rodents.

Choose No-Waste Bird Food

Consider using bird food that reduces the amount of waste that birds drop (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. These birdseed options minimize the hulls and debris that attract mice and rats. Suet and nectar are particularly effective no-waste products.

Shell-free seed mix

Clean Up

This is one of the most effective pest-control techniques for keeping rodents away, though you’ll have to do it often. 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. Be diligent about cleaning up all the mess using a broom or vacuum. The less free food rodents find, the less likely they’ll be to stick around.

Store Food Smartly

Store your birdseed 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. Make sure storage containers have secure lids that mice and rats can’t chew through. Storing bird food properly prevents rodents from getting into the bulk bird food supply.

Put Feeders Away From Your House

If you have a choice, place your bird feeders closer to natural areas rather than near your house. Keeping feeders farther from your home’s entry points reduces the chance of rodents coming inside while foraging for bird food.

Rodent-Proof Your Feeders

Make baffles (DIY plastic devices) to prevent rodents from climbing the poles and place bird feeders where rodents can’t easily access them. Rodent-proof feeders prevent mice, rats, and squirrels from invading the bird food source.

Rodent-Proof Your House

Because there are no guarantees when attempting to keep rodents outdoors, you should protect your home by sealing any cracks and openings where they might get inside. Caulk and seal any holes in your home’s exterior and foundation. Then, install weatherstripping around doors and attic vents to block rodent entry points.

Try Rodent Repellents

Certain smells and substances can rat-proof and squirrel-proof your feeder without harming bird species. You can try mixing cayenne pepper powder into birdseed or coating bird feeder poles with capsaicin gel. Rodent-repellent sprays that contain mint, garlic, or oil of mustard also help deter rodents if you apply them around bird feeders and entry points. Always use repellents safely by following the directions.

Move Pet Food Bowls Indoors

Don’t put pet food bowls outdoors since these can also attract rodents. Rodents also love to eat cat and dog food in addition to birdseed.

Consider Bird Feeder Placement

Squirrels are agile climbers, so elevate bird feeders on poles at least six feet off the ground. To deter mice and rats, make sure feeders don’t have access ramps and aren’t positioned near shrubs, fences, or other structures. Proper placement makes it harder for rodents to reach feeders.

Try Weight-Sensitive Feeders

These specialty bird feeders close down when a heavy animal, like a squirrel, steps on the perch. The feeder temporarily shuts, denying access to rodents while remaining open for birds.

Know the Risks

Certain bird foods like millet and corn pose more risk of attracting rodents than other types of birdseed. Avoid foods preferred by squirrels, rats, and mice if these pests are problematic.

Stay Vigilant

Persistently practicing good habits, like cleaning up seed debris, using repellents, and rodent-proofing areas, is key to successful, long-term rodent control around bird feeders. Continue your efforts as preventative measures once the rodents are gone. 

Further Information

So, Is Feeding Birds Without Attracting Rodents Possible?

It’s definitely possible to feed birds without attracting problematic rodents. The most important step is cleaning up spilled seeds and hulls before they accumulate. This instantly reduces the food source tempting mice and rats.

Using rodent-proof bird feeders and barriers prevents squirrels, rats, and mice from invading feeders. Proper bird seed storage and strategic bird feeder placement also help minimize access, while repellents and rotational feeding with different bird seed types can outsmart rodents. Don’t let pests stop you from enjoying the beauty and fun of feeding your backyard birds. Just follow the above tips to keep rodents away.

FAQs About Keeping Rodents Away From Bird Feeders

How far should a bird feeder be from the house?

Position bird feeders at least 10 feet from the house or more — further is better. Keep them away from roof overhangs or balconies.

What scent repels rats and mice?

Peppermint and spearmint oils repel rodents. When applied around bird feeders, capsaicin, garlic, and citrus oils also deter mice and rats.

What can I put on my bird feeder pole to keep squirrels away?

Slippery surfaces like PVC pipes or metal baffles prevent climbing. Some people coat poles with capsaicin gel or oil. Others attach upside-down tomato cages or plastic bottles to make a baffle.

Should I take my bird feeder down at night?

Yes, remove bird feeders at dusk because mice and rats are nocturnal. Using an inexpensive timer, you can raise and lower feeders automatically.

How often should I clean under bird feeders?

Sweep or vacuum under bird feeders daily. Seeds on the ground entice rodents, but daily cleanups can deter these pests.

Editorial Contributors
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Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas is a globetrotting content writer hailing from the USA. With a passion for pest control, he brings a unique perspective to his writing from his early years working for one of the largest pest control companies in America. Throughout his early 20s, Jordan gained valuable experience and knowledge in the field, tackling pest infestations head-on and ensuring the well-being of countless homes.

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Lori Zaino

Lori Zaino is a freelance writer and editor based in Madrid, Spain. With nearly two decades of editorial experience, she’s written and edited for publications like Forbes, CNN, Insider, NBC, Newsweek, The Points Guy, The Infatuation, and many others. Having just completed her first home renovation, she’s more interested in home improvements than ever, dedicated to bringing you fresh and accurate content to help you update your living spaces.

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