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

By: Julie Day
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



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12 Comments on “How to Keep Mice, Rats, and Squirrels Away from Bird Feeders”

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  • Moira Webster Says:
    April 21st, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    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 😧

  • Cindy Says:
    February 11th, 2017 at 5:14 am

    Broad daylight. Rat has climbed pole and is sitting in seed tray on bird feeder station in middle of lawn. Any ideas?

  • Ray Says:
    January 1st, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    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.


  • Margaret Says:
    November 27th, 2016 at 11:40 am

    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.

  • Cathy Says:
    May 11th, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    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.

  • Georgianna Grant Says:
    February 10th, 2016 at 10:04 am

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

  • Hope Says:
    January 2nd, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    From what I´ve heard and read BREAD has too much salt and kills birds…not a good choice

  • Tahli Says:
    December 30th, 2015 at 3:44 am

    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.

  • jenny waterhouse Says:
    December 28th, 2015 at 5:59 am

    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?


  • Francesca Says:
    October 27th, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    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….

  • Sunny Turner Says:
    October 18th, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    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?

  • Gina Says:
    September 6th, 2015 at 7:01 pm

    I have a bird feeder with a tray and up to three mice sit on it happily eating the sunflower seeds.

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