Bird Feeder And Rats: How To Prevent Rats From Getting To Your Bird Feeders

December 30, 2021 // 16 minute read

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Most bird watchers focus a lot on preventing squirrels from getting to their bird feeders that they almost forget another nuisance – the rats. Yes, as much as you may think that it’s odd, but rats will also grab the opportunity to eat bird food if you let them. Keep reading to learn more about your bird feeder and rats… 

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prevent rats from getting to your bird feeders. And if you’re familiar with preventing squirrels on your bird feeders, you’ll be glad to know that it’s pretty similar: 

  • Keeping the ground clean
  • Storing seed properly
  • Placing bird feeders in the right location
  • Rat-proofing bird feeders
  • Offering food rats don’t like

And several others, which I will detail in this article. 

I will share 12 tips that you should do to keep rats away from your bird feeder. But, at the same time, I’m also going to share three ways that you should never do. 

So, if these are things that you’re interested to learn, let’s dive quickly into the article… 

But first, let’s quickly discuss why you need to prevent rats from getting to your bird feeders. 

Why You Need to Prevent Rats From Getting to Your Bird Feeders

There are several reasons why you should stop rats from getting to your bird feeders. 

  • Rats Carry Diseases

Rats carry diseases that include hantavirus, leptospirosis, plague, and tularemia. Although there’s a very low probability that birds can catch diseases directly from rats, the rat droppings and urine can harbor harmful bacteria that can make the birds very sick. 

However, you shouldn’t just be concerned about the birds’ health when rats start crawling around your yard. You should be concerned about your health and your family’s health too. 

  1. Rats Can Eat All Your Birdseed – Once rats get access to your birdseed, they may not leave any seeds in your bird feeder. They will surely eat their hearts out. And by the time your birds get there, there’s nothing left for them to feast upon. 
  2. Rats Can Target Your Home Next – If you let rats crawl around your yard and eat bird seeds for so long, pretty soon, they’ll target your home next. They’ll find their way into your home, find shelter there, and target your food next. 
  3. Rats Can Get To Your Bird Houses – Apart from your homes, rats can also get to your birdhouses. If this happens, birds may lose their nesting sites, or worse, they might lose their eggs because the rats have eaten them. 
  4. Rats Can Attract Feral Cats and Hawks – Lastly, rats can attract feral cats and hawks. And though you might think that it’s going to be helpful since they’ll take care of the rats, it’s really not. This is because cats and hawks target birds, too, and will get them when given the opportunity. 

The Do’s in Preventing Rats to Your Bird Feeders

Now that we know it’s crucial to stop rats from getting to your bird feeders, how do you actually do this? Well, good news for you because there are 12 things that you can do.

Let’s get to it! 

Tip #1: Keep The Ground Clean

The first thing you need to do is make sure that the ground is clean, especially the ground underneath your bird feeders. We all know that birds can be messy eaters. 

If you put in a birdseed mix in your bird feeders, they’ll only pick the bird seeds they want and throw other seeds on the ground. However, if you put in hulled seeds, they’ll simply remove the seed from the shell and throw the shell on the ground. 

All these seeds and waste immediately become a target of mice or rats, so you must make sure that nothing gets on the ground. Here are some things you can do: 

Prevention MethodDescription
Use a Seed TrayThe first thing you can do is use a seed tray. This is like a platform tray that you can place directly on the bird feeder pole or even just on the ground underneath your bird feeders. 

This tray aims to catch all the seeds and seed shells that fall from the bird feeder. This way, cleaning the ground would be easier because you just have to pick up the seed tray and throw away the seeds and seed hulls into the bin. 
Use a No-Mess Bird SeedTo prevent having any mess on the ground, you can buy no-mess bird seeds or no waste birdseed mixes. These bird seeds have already been hulled so that birds can just eat and eat.

It helps minimize waste, and if few seeds fall off, they will surely be consumed immediately by ground-feeding birds. So, there’s really no chance for rats or mice to come forward. 
Clean the GroundUsing seed trays or buying no-mess bird seeds will require you to spend money. If you don’t want to do that, you can just simply opt to clean the ground area under the bird feeders frequently.

If you sweep off any waste at least once a day, rats won’t have an opportunity to crawl toward the bird feeders.
Fill Feeders at the Food BinAnother thing you can do is to fill feeders at the food bin. This way, if there is any spillage, the food bin will catch everything directly.

Tip #2: Store Seeds Properly

Next, you need to make sure that you are storing your bird seeds properly. They should be in a place where rats won’t have easy access to them. 

If possible, go for metal or glass containers because rats can also get through hard plastics if they want to. On top of that, make sure that lids are tight so that mice won’t be able to get through any little holes. 

Tip #3: Consider Placement of Your Bird Feeders

Prevent a bird feeder and rats problem by first moving your bird feeders away from your home. This way, even if rats do find your bird feeders, they won’t immediately have an opportunity to get to your house. 

Next, you need to make sure that you move the bird feeders away from branches or trees because rats can use those as easy access to your bird feeders. 

When it comes to bird feeder placement, just apply the same rule as to when you want to keep squirrels away. Bird feeders should always be at least 4 feet off the ground and 8 feet away from any platforms like trees, branches, fences, etc. 

Tip #4: Rat-proof Your Bird Feeders

Next, you need to rat-proof your bird feeders by ensuring that they’re protected from below and above. 

Protect from Below Using Baffles

Stop rats from successfully reaching your bird feeders straight from the ground by installing some baffles. There are two types of baffles that you can install on your bird feeder poles – the tubular baffle and the dome baffle. 

  • Tubular Baffles

Tubular baffles, as the name implies, are baffles that look like a tube, wherein one end is open and the other is closed. When you place this under your bird feeders, it allows the rats to enter the one end, only to be stopped by the other end of the tube. 

  • Dome Baffles

Dome baffles, on the other hand, are shaped like a dome. They are wider than the tubular baffles, and are perfect if you have wide feeders like caged feeders that you want to be protected. 

Protect From Above Using Weather Guard

Aside from protecting the bird feeders from below, you also need to protect them from above using a weather guard. 

Remember how I said that rats could also jump from branches? Well, weather guards will serve as excellent protection in case rats do make that jump. This will ensure that rats will just directly slide down and fall to the ground when they make this attempt.

Tip #5: Rat-proof Your Home

Another thing you can do to keep rats away from your bird feeders is to rat-proof your home. This means sealing up any holes or openings where rats can enter and live in. 

This will be a lot harder than rat-proofing bird feeders, but your efforts will surely be worth it. After all, once you’re sure that your house is protected, you can just focus the rest of your efforts on protecting your bird feeders.

So, how do you rat-proof your home? Here are some things I recommend: 

1. Seal up holes, cracks, and gaps

This is probably the hardest and most time-consuming part. You would really need to check all corners of your house, including walls and basements, to find any holes that needed to be closed. 

You can use: 

And other things that can help seal these gaps. 

2. Make sure that mice don’t have access to any food source

Yes, and this includes food thrown on the ground or your garbage. You need to make sure that rats won’t find any food that they have easy access to around your property, as this will only make them keep coming back. 

So, cover up your garbage can, clean up fruits that fell to the ground, and store pet food in airtight containers. 

3. Remove any potential habitat

Apart from access to food, you should also remove any potential habitat for rats. This includes sealing up your storage items so as not to encourage nesting. 

If possible, don’t use any cardboard boxes for storage, and don’t keep lots of paper stash at your home. Added to that, make sure that you store these items above ground. 

4. Clean and sanitize your home

It’s also very important to make sure that your home stays clean and sanitized. 

  • Wipe or sweep away food crumbs as much as possible
  • Cover water sources, even if that’s water in a glass
  • Clean up areas prone to moisture
  • Keep garbage cans covered
  • Sanitize countertops

And a lot more things that you can do to keep your home clean. 

That’s it! 

If you follow these four, your home would surely be free of rats in no time. 

Tip #6: Prevent A Bird Feeder And Rats Issue By Offering Food They Don’t Like

You can also prevent rats from eating your bird seeds if you only put in food they don’t like. 

The first thing you can do is to replace your seeds with thistle seeds. Thistle seeds are very tiny black seeds that goldfinches love, but somehow rats don’t. So, if you hang some thistle bird feeders in your yard, rats won’t have any reason to come. 

The problem with this, however, is that only a few birds seem to love these seeds, too. So, unless you’re aiming to attract goldfinches, sparrows, towhees, or buntings, you might not want to serve thistle seeds only to your birds. 

Good thing, though, that there’s another food that you can place on your bird seeds that will surely keep mice away. And these are hot seeds. 

Thankfully, mammals are the only ones affected by heat from peppers and other hot stuff. Birds, on the other hand, can eat with ease no matter how hot the seeds are. 

If you don’t want to buy hot seeds, you can prepare this yourself by mixing three tablespoons of cayenne pepper into your bird seeds. 

Tip #7: Use The Right Kind of Bird Feeders

Apart from changing the food, you should also make sure that you’re using the right kind of bird feeder. 

1. Choose a tube or hopper feeder

Instead of the ordinary platform feeder that will give birds easy access to bird seeds, choose a tube or hopper feeder instead. This way, even rats would have a hard time accessing the bird seeds. 

2. Choose the right material

Don’t choose a bird feeder made of hard plastic. Instead, go for the metal ones as they are of stronger material and are harder to chew. 

3. Use weight-sensitive feeders

Using a weight-sensitive feeder is also highly recommended. This is usually used to get rid of squirrels, but it’s perfect for rats, too. 

These feeders allow you to adjust the weight based on what bird species you would allow to access the bird feeders. If an animal of heavier weight attempts to access the bird feeder, the perch automatically activates, causing that animal to fall to the ground. 

Tip #8: Eliminate Ground Cover

Next, you can also eliminate any ground cover where rats can hide. Rats hate this because it makes them an easy target to several predators. 

The first thing you can do is to keep the grass under your bird feeders very short. Or a great alternative to this is by digging that grass out and replace it with cement, stone, or mulch. 

Aside from that, make sure that your lawn is clean and tidy always. Don’t allow it to overgrow, as this creates a perfect hiding spot for rats. 

If you have shrubs around, trim their lowest branches, so there’s a significant space between that and the ground. This will also prevent rats from getting some cover there. 

In other words, just remove any means where rats can hide, whether that’s on the grass, under the trees, or shrubs. 

Tip #9: Use Peppermint To Prevent A Bird Feeder And Rats Problem

You can also take advantage of the fact that rats hate strong smells, especially peppermint. Try to locate where rats are frequent in your yard and spray some peppermint in that area. 

To make the job easier, you can mix 1 part peppermint oil to 20 parts water and spray that mixture in your whole yard, on the ground below the feeders, around your house, and other problem areas. 

Reapply as much as you need to until rats don’t bother you anymore. 

Tip #10: Remove As Much Rat Shelter Around Your Yard

You should also remove any rat shelter that you see around your yard. Check every corner and remove any possible nesting sites. 

This might include: 

  • Stack of woods
  • Piles of debris
  • Groundcovers
  • Seldom-used areas

You should even check your garden to see any possible hideouts and try to find a way to make things more open. 

If you have some birdhouses set up, you should check those, too. After all, you’ll never know when the rats might have already found that spot and took over it. 

Tip #11: Trap Them

If nothing’s working, the next thing I would recommend is to trap them. 

I’m always for humane ways to remove rats, so live trapping is highly recommended. You can use some food to bait rats and trap them in a cage. The problem with this, however, is you would have to move them to another place which might cause them to be another person’s problem. 

You can also go for an electric trap that would electrocute the rat that gets in it, offering a quick and humane death where the rat wouldn’t have to suffer for longer. 

Tip #12: Hire Professionals

Lastly, if you don’t want to do all this work, you can hire professionals to get rid of the rats. They would know the best ways to handle rats in your home and yard without causing any damage to your property or lawn. 

But of course, once the professionals have handled the rat situation, you need to follow through. That means seal your house and protect your bird feeders to ensure that no new rats can get to your yard and cause problems. 

The Don’ts In Preventing Rats From Getting To Your Bird Feeders

Don’t Use Poison

You should never use poison to get rid of rats or any other animal, for that matter. It’s inhumane and causes nothing but suffering to the poor animal. 

Just remember, these creatures are doing what they can to survive. We may consider them as pests, but it’s an instinct to them, and they can’t do anything about that. 

As you can see, there are so many ways you can get rid of rats from your homes and bird feeders. Therefore, there’s no reason to use something that would cause suffering, such as poisons. 

Don’t Use Glue Traps

You should also not use glue traps for the same reason. Imagine being caught in one that doesn’t allow you to move. You starve yourself for days, causing terrible suffering before dying. 

Some rats may try their best to get out or even chew some of their body parts to break free, bringing nothing but pain. On top of that, if it so happens that their nose becomes stuck, they suffocate and die. 

Don’t Use Cats

Lastly, if you have pet cats, don’t use them to catch rats. 

Yes, they are natural predators. However, as mentioned earlier, rats carry diseases. Do you want your cat to get that disease or the parasites inside rats? I’m sure you don’t. 

Plus, this will only make you spend more money in getting your rat all well. 

Final Thoughts About How To Prevent A Bird Feeder And Rats Problem

Rats are easily attracted to anything that screams food. So, when you have bird feeders, rats are already something that you need to expect, especially if you’re in a neighborhood known to have a big rodent population. 

Fortunately, it’s easy to prevent a bird feeder and rats issue from manifesting in your yard make sure that: 

  • Your home is sealed
  • Your bird feeders are protected
  • Your food storage is secured
  • Rat shelter is remove

If you have successfully kept squirrels away, then there’s a good chance you can keep rats away, too. It might require a lot of effort from you, but trust me, it’s worth it.

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