Sooner or later anyone who keeps a few chickens is likely to spot a mouse scurrying across the coop floor. Most sightings are after dark when hens are snoozing on their roosts. That’s when nocturnal mice seek a chicken feed dinner.
Commercial chicken feed is nutritious to more than chickens. Small rodents also thrive on it. They eat expensive feed and also foul it with their urine and droppings. Mice should be eliminated from the coop.
Two general types of mice can be found in places where both people and chickens live. European house mice are common all over the world. They usually spend their entire lives in a home or chicken house and rarely venture outdoors. These tiny rodents are dark gray all over. White-footed, or deer, mice are native rodents that commonly visit coops and the homes of the flock owner. They are easy to distinguish from house mice since, as their name implies, they have white feet and bellies.
While house mice live in a coop year round white-footed mice are more likely in cooler months. House mice usually eat food in place, while white footeds often carry seeds a distance and cache them in a hidden place to nibble on later. Find a pile of corn in an old boot or any other hidden place and the culprit is likely a white-footed mouse.
It’s not good to have either type of mouse mixing with chickens. Although it’s probably not possible to totally eliminate them, several actions greatly reduce their abundance.
The best strategy for reducing mouse infestations in either a house or chicken coop is to keep them out. Mice are tiny and athletic. They can squeeze through small holes and cracks, the same openings that let cold drafts enter. Keep both mice and cold air outside by filling in holes and cracks with caulking. The best time to do this is in early fall before cold weather settles in. Filling cracks also keeps box elder bugs, Asian beetles, and other insect pests outdoors. Cracks can be anywhere but are especially likely around window and door frames and where wires and pipes enter a structure.
Mice enter a chicken coop to find shelter from bad weather, safety from predators, and dinner. They love eating grain and chicken mash or pellets. Anything edible in the coop should be stored in metal containers with tight-fitting lids. Mice easily chew through plastic ones so avoid them. Use metal trash cans instead. Mice will help themselves to feed in a feeder, and most people leave feeders exposed at night. Since chickens don’t eat during dark hours put feeders in a tightly lidded metal garbage can overnight. This will keep mice away from them. The feeders can simply be put back where the chickens can access them the following morning.
A neighborhood owl family can be a chicken’s best friend. Owls love dining on mice. Great horned, barred, and screech owls are relatively common in suburban areas and patrol nighttime neighborhoods seeking small mammals to catch and eat. Owls are active when chickens are securely sleeping in the coop. This reduces the odds that a hen will end up an owl meal. According to Karla Bloem, Executive Director of the International Owl Center, owls can be a chicken keeper’s best friend.
Avoid Poison and Glue Boards
Although it’s tempting to use poison to rid a home or chicken coop of mice it should be avoided for these reasons:
Poisoned mice might be eaten by chickens, non-targeted wildlife, and pets. They can be sickened or killed by residual poison in the mouse’s body.
Poisoned mice sometimes die between walls or in inaccessible places. Soon their bodies smell terrible.
Poison is slow acting and cruel. A quick death by a snapping trap is more humane.
Chickens, children, pets, and nontarget wildlife might find and eat the poison.
Glue boards are pieces of cardboard or heavy paper covered with an extremely sticky substance. A mouse walking over a glue board will be held tightly. They can’t escape. While glue boards catch mice they also catch non-targeted animals. Any human who touches the sticky stuff will struggle to get free of it. Mice caught in glue boards usually starve to death or are found alive and struggling. It’s cruel.
Mice are relatively easy to trap using any of the many devices on the market. Most common are snap-type traps that have been effectively catching small rodents for over a century. For people who prefer not to touch a dead mouse, newer type traps enclose the entire body. Some traps are even electronic and electrocute the poor animal. There’s even a trap that will alert a cell phone when a mouse has been caught.
Place several traps side-by-side along a wall where you have seen evidence of mice.
Despite the fancy new type traps the old-fashioned kind, baited with peanut butter or soft cheese, is most common and least expensive. Traps should be set in places where chickens, pets, and children can’t access them. It’s best to set traps in the evening and either spring or retrieve them the next morning. Following are tips for increasing trapping success:
Mice tend to run parallel to walls. Set traps next to walls with the trigger end closest to the wall. Traps with yellow plastic triggers that look like cheese may be slightly more effective than the older traps with metal triggers.
Set traps in pairs or triplets. Put two or more traps side by side along the wall for the best odds of catching a fast-running mouse.
Set out many traps. The best way to reduce mouse numbers is to catch all, or most, of the mice in the same evening.
Don’t assume they’ve all been caught. Usually, there are many mice in a coop or home. Once most have been caught, keep setting them. Likely a few mice remain or new ones may enter.
Dispose of dead mice by flushing them down the toilet, putting them in the trash, burying them, or placing them in a woodsy or tall grassy area for scavengers to eat. Chickens will eat mice, also. Wash your hands well after touching the traps or mice.
Reducing mouse numbers in a coop is an important part of chicken husbandry. It takes some effort but preventing an infestation and trapping any that lurk in the coop is important.
*Reprinted with permission from Hoover’s Hatchery.
Mice got into the hybrid system of my Prius and destroyed it. They also got into our greenhouse and ate some important seeds my husband Bob was growing. These critters are a common problem, but we have always used live traps; after all, they were here first and are just doing what they need to do to survive. That is until they crossed the line and, reluctantly, we declared war and the snap traps and peanut butter came out.
Once a nature lover, always a nature lover, though, and hoping that some good can result, Bob puts the dead mice out in places where they will be found by “someone” looking for an easy meal.
Yesterday he had an amazing experience. He had caught a couple of mice and put them out but yesterday afternoon no one had taken them, so he moved them to a more open place. As he was crouching down, he felt something soft. An owl swooped down and took the mouse while Bob still had the tail in his hand. The owl remained still in a nearby tree, for the rest of the afternoon while the second mouse stayed on the ground and we waited to see what would happen next, but nothing happened before dark. This morning both are gone.
We have hosted at least one pair of Barred Owls for many years. We rarely see them, so yesterday was a real treat, but we regularly hear them (“Who cooks for you?”) Since mice are the secondary host for deer ticks (those are the ticks that carry Lyme disease) these owls and the yearly expanding family of hawks which also lives here are very welcome.
Be sure to take in the International Owl Center in Houston, MN, this winter. Their Owl Festival is scheduled for March 1-3, 2019. Whooo’s up for it?
After a balmy fall, the television weather report promised near record cold and snow in three or four days. Mice don’t have televisions but somehow, they knew this because several of the tiny mammals successfully entered our house just before cold arrived. One scurried across the floor as we were reading the morning newspaper.
Years ago we read our then young children a delightful book about a mouse in the house. The story goes: “There is a mouse in the house. It is a very nice mouse. It has a long, long tail and shiny eyes. My mother likes the mouse. But, she says, ‘A mouse does not belong in a house.’”
We agree and have developed a strategy to keep them out – at least most of them.
One tactic we do not do is poison. Karla Bloem of the International Owl Center in Houston, MN, reminds us that poison spreads. When a predator eats a poisoned mouse, it absorbs the poison. Over time, the poison builds up and kills the predator. People end up with more mice that can cause problems.
Here’s what we do at Winding Pathways:
Encourage predators. We love to hear the barred owls call on dark evenings, and occasionally we spot a red-tailed hawk in a tree out the window. Both are outstanding mouse catchers. Owls work the night shift and hawks the day.
Keep food secure. If mice smell dinner they’ll come right in uninvited and help themselves. It’s important to never leave food out unprotected. We store grain, flour, pasta, cookies and other foods in metal or stout plastic containers with tight-fitting lids. We don’t leave fruits and vegetables on countertops.
Tighten up the house. Before it gets cold, we check our house over carefully. Any narrow cracks get filled with caulk. If we find a wider crack, we fill it with expanding foam. Often entry points for mice and insects are around pipes and wires leading into the home. Caulk and expanding foam help seal off the entry. Drain pipes sometimes are entry points. “Chore Girl” type metal cleaning pads work great for filling pipes where liquids or air needs to come and go. Wad up the metal pads and jam them into the pipe. Spaces in the cleaning pads let air and moisture enter or leave but keep mice out.
Bring out the traps. Despite our best efforts, some mice make it into the house. Usually, we don’t see them but do see their calling cards – their tiny black droppings.
Effectively setting traps
Old fashioned mouse traps still catch mice efficiently, but a few tricks make success more likely. (With the exception of the poison information in this website, we have found this information to be appropriate.)
Bait. Probably the best bait is peanut butter. It just takes a tiny dab on the trigger to work.
Placement. Where you set traps is important. Mice naturally run along walls and dart under counters if they can. Traps set in the middle of a room are less likely to catch mice than those set along a wall with the trigger on the wall side.
Place several mouse traps where mice tend to enter.
Double up. It’s usually most effective to set several traps in the same spot. So, set two or three touching each other. The first trap or two might not catch the mouse. Usually one will
Keep setting the traps until you catch no more mice. Often people assume they have one mouse, but likely, there are more. Keep trapping until they’re all gone. We dispose of dead mice by simply tossing them outside for our local opossum to eat. They can be flushed down the toilet. Always be sure to wash your hands after handling mice or traps.
A long-ago children’s story began something like this, “There is a mouse in my house. It is a very nice mouse. It has a long, long tail and shiny eyes. It pops out of its hole and runs. My mother likes the mouse, but she says, ‘A mouse does not belong in a house.’”
Well, guess what, a sure sign that fall is approaching is “a mouse in the house.” These tiny mammals realize that shorter days and cooler temperatures beckon winter. Finding a safe warm place to live with an abundance of food helps them survive the tough season.
At Winding Pathways we expect mice to appear with the first cool weather in late August or September. Once in a while we have seen one scurrying across the floor, but more often we have found their tiny black droppings on counters. Sometimes we have heard them scurrying about an upstairs closet.
Two types of mice inhabit houses. Both gobble birdseed and will eat nearly anything people do. They capable of doing damage and possibly spreading disease.
The common house mouse is a gray mammal native to the Old World that is now found everywhere people live. They like houses, barns, garages, and sheds but are rarely found far from buildings and live indoors all year round.
Several species of native mice live outdoors most of the year but move inside each fall. These are normally called deer or field mice and are beautiful tiny mammals with shiny eyes and white feet.
They store food, while house mice don’t. Find a pile of sunflower seeds in a shoe and the culprit is a native mouse.
Here’s how we reduce mouse problems at Winding Pathways:
Tighten up cracks and holes. Every fall we arm ourselves with a caulking gun and can of expanding foam and inspect the house from the outside and inside. We fill in any likely entryway for mice, which can squeeze through tiny spaces. Caulking also helps keep insects and cold air out of the house.
Set up a trap line. Old fashioned mouse traps efficiently catch and instantly kill mice if set properly. Here are some effective trapping tips:
Buy many traps and set them all at once. Try to catch all or most mice in one night, rather than just setting a few traps.
Bait traps with peanut butter and set them with the trigger side against the wall where mouse evidence is noticed. Mice tend to run along walls, rather than across the interior of a room, so trapping success is usually best near a wall.
Set traps in tandem. Instead of just setting one trap here and there along a wall double or triple them up side by side, again with the trigger side facing the wall.
We don’t use poison. It seems cruel and inhumane and poisoned mice tend to die in inaccessible places and stink to high heavens.
Encourage predators. We don’t have a cat but encourage raptors to visit our yard. They work year round reducing rodent numbers.
Mice are encouraged by food. We keep all food in sealed metal containers or in the refrigerator and wipe up any spilled food. Wild bird and pet foods are loved by mice. Keep them in a metal can with a tight lid and dump out the dog or cat’s food dish in the evening so there’s nothing for nocturnal mice to eat.
Mice are fascinating animals that play an important role in nature, but they belong outside. It’s probably not possible to entirely eliminate them from a house but simple techniques will encourage them to stay outdoors.
You have to give mice credit. They’re survivors. As days shorten the tiny mammals seem to know that spending the winter in a warm home with bountiful food left out beats eking out a grim existence in the cold and snow.
Each fall mice move into houses to enjoy free meals and warmth. Human residents often aren’t aware that they’re sharing their home with these tiny residents until droppings appear on the kitchen counter.
There are two general types of mice that enjoy indoor winter life.
The common house mouse is a gray animal native to the Old World. It was brought to North America soon after European settlers arrived centuries ago. Now found all over the world, this mouse almost always lives near people and is rare out in the woods. It often spends its entire life in a home, dining on easily accessible food, and even having babies – lots of babies – inside. Catching sight of a mouse scurrying across the floor is rare, but the shy animals leave their calling cards as droppings that look a little like grains of pepper.
Several species of native mice, often called white footed or deer mice, also enjoy wintering indoors. These beautiful native rodents usually spend the warm months outside, have their babies there, then enter a home in the fall. As the name implies, the animal’s feet and belly are white.
White footed mice cache food. Find a pile of sunflower seeds in an old shoe, and you’ve found evidence of this animal. House mice don’t cache food but eat it where it’s discovered.
Hardly anyone wants to share their home with mice of any species. Here are tips for keeping mice outdoors where they belong:
• Fill exterior cracks and holes with caulking and weather-stripping to make entry challenging. Tightening up the house reduces the unwelcome entry of both tiny rodents and cold air.
• Eliminate food sources inside the house. Never leave pet food in open dishes overnight. Clean up spilled human food, even tiny crumbs. Store sunflower seed and pet food in metal containers with tight lids. Keep all human food inaccessible.
• Encourage and appreciate mouse predators. If owls wake you in the middle of the night with their raucous calls, just thank them. They are the midnight patrol eagerly converting mice to dinner. Many hawk species work the day shift seeking rodents. Snakes are also effective mouse predators but are only active during warm moths. Some cats catch and dine on mice but a pampered declawed tabby isn’t going to dent their numbers.
Despite the best efforts to discourage mice, some are bound to get into the house. Here are tips for getting rid of them:
The old fashioned mouse trap can be amazingly effective in catching and immediately killing mice. Buy a bunch of traps. We have about a dozen at Winding Pathways. Bait each with a dab of peanut butter or margarine, making sure that the bait gets pushed into the tiny circular piece of metal attached to the trigger. Mice almost always run along a wall or partition. Set traps against the wall with the trigger side nearest the wall. Set a bank of three or four traps side-by-side and against each other, all with triggers facing the wall.
We set the most traps close to where we see mice or their droppings, but also set some in rooms where we haven’t seen mice. Sometimes we catch them there. Even after we’ve caught a few mice we keep traps set until none have been caught for a couple of weeks.
Some traps claim to either catch mice alive or in a way that a human doesn’t have to touch the dead animal. We shun both. Supposedly the live traps are humane, but what do you do with that scrappy animal? Let it go outside? If so it may beat you back into the house, freeze to death, or be quickly caught by a predator. We consider a quick death by conventional mouse trap more humane.
Poisons and glue traps work but we also avoid them. Poison seems cruel and often a mouse dies a slow death behind the refrigerator or hidden in a wall. Soon the stench wafts through the house. Glue boards are pieces of cardboard or paper coated with amazingly sticky stuff. Any mouse that steps on it sticks. Trouble is glue boards don’t instantly kill the animal. Often in its effort to free itself the unfortunate animal gets completely stuck and a human needs to decide how to humanely dispose of a living but very stuck mouse. If you don’t want to live with mice as house guests, traps are better.