Natural Ways to Get Rid of Mice

How to Keep Mice Out of Your House and Barn Without Using Poisons

natural-ways-to-get-rid-of-mice

Photo by Josie Beaudoin

For the safest, most natural ways to get rid of mice, start with the most minimum impact and work up from there.

I have a friend who insists on using only the level of protection necessary in a situation. She refers to gardening with this admonition but it applies to rodent control as well. If she can eliminate mice simply by wiping counters at night, she doesn’t bring out the poison at the first sign of a scurrying critter. If you want natural ways to get rid of mice, start with the bottom level of protection and only move up if that level just isn’t enough.

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Avoiding Mice

If mice never come to visit, you don’t have to ask them to leave. Make your house less inviting for rodents. Don’t leave open food where the little critters can access it. That means human food, dog food, chicken food, etc. If they can smell it, they’ll try to get it and will bring other mice.

Keep your food in closed containers. If the mice can get into the cupboards, place anything that’s in plastic or cardboard packaging into rigid containers. If you purchase rice in bulk, first vacuum-seal it in small portions to keep bugs out then place those packages within a tub with a fitting lid. Before you go to bed each night, wipe down counters and sweep floors. Within your garage or greenhouse, clean up any spilled seeds.

Don’t leave open bags of pet food. Purchase latching containers and empty bags into these bins soon after you get home. If you have large or many dogs, buy a 50-gallon trash can. Both aluminum and plastic work, as long as they have tight-fitting lids. Store livestock feed in garbage cans as well. Keep a can beside your chicken coop so food is dry, safe, and easily available. When you lock your chickens up at night, either hang the feeder on a hook high and away from walls or place the feeder within a closed tub or can.

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Where do mice hide? Wherever they can, especially in warm and comfortable locations of your home. Keep houses clean enough that mice don’t find places to nest. Insist that children pick up piles of clothing. Mice chew up many different materials to make nests: stuffed animals, cardboard egg cartons, natural insulation, or boxes of fabric.

Try to locate where mice are entering your house. Often it is within the dryer vent, around pipes, pet doors, air conditioner connections, or beneath the skirting of mobile homes. Mice can flatten their bodies to squeeze through amazingly small spaces. Close entry points if you can. Use wood filler or plaster of Paris. If you cannot permanently fill the area, stuff it with steel wool.

Natural Pest-Control Repellents

Peppermint essential oil is often used as a natural way to get rid of mice. It’s one of many peppermint plant uses, and is too intense for the rodents. Either dab cotton balls with 20-30 drops peppermint oil and stuff them in entry points or dry the plant and make herbal sachets. Replace oil or herbs weekly because the fragrance fades.

Clove oil can have the same effect as peppermint. Many rodents despise it. Though it might not work for all of them, this natural solution smells amazing either way. Dab clove oil on cotton balls, or place whole cloves in cracks where mice tend to invade.

Purchase a hot pepper repellent spray or make your own. Add a half-cup chopped habanero (or hotter!) peppers and a few tablespoons hot pepper flakes to a gallon of boiling water. Remove from heat and let sit at least 24 hours. Strain through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. Fill a cheap spray bottle and spritz at openings and entry points. Avoid carpet or white areas because the liquid may discolor. Reapply every few days. Wearing gloves and safety glasses during chopping or spraying helps avoid uncomfortable splashes.

Even if they’re not “natural,” ultrasonic devices are safe for the rodents and members of your household. Available online, at feed stores, or hardware stores, they range from $4 to over $90. The most expensive products carry the best reviews. Small devices attach directly to an outlet and work for rodents and cockroaches. Larger weatherproof units protect gardens from squirrels and groundhogs. And the more pricey units come with guarantees.

Trap and Release

Humane traps are a debated topic. Some people claim they are better because the mouse doesn’t die but others argue that it’s less humane to relocate it away from its environment. Either way, several live traps are available as natural ways to get rid of mice. Prices range from two dollars to over fifty, and the more expensive traps tend to be more effective.

Set an inexpensive trap by setting a five-gallon bucket under a shelf near the infested site. For a no-kill option, rub sides of the bucket with petroleum jelly; for a permanent option, add about six inches of water into the bottom. Smear a little peanut butter on the end of a ruler then lay it across the shelf and the lip of the bucket, leaving almost half of the ruler sitting over the water. When the mice run for the peanut butter, they’ll tip the ruler and fall into the bucket. The mice will be unable to escape the bucket until you empty it.

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Photo by Shelley DeDauw

Quick Elimination

Cats are an ageless, natural way to get rid of mice. House cats can eliminate mice better than traps do; cats kill mice or simply scare them away, depending on the feline. In many cities, the Humane Society adopts feral cats for free to homes they know will use them for hunting mice. The cat is allowed to live as it has been raised and the owner loses a few vermin. If you adopt feral cats, provide somewhere that they can escape the heat or cold and offer plenty of water.

To quickly eliminate vermin, consider cheap and effective snap traps. Six sell for as little as two dollars and you can get several uses out of each before they break. Snap traps are designed to strike the mouse at the neck for a quick death. Though the huge rat traps are dangerous for human fingers, smaller mouse traps only cause pain if your children accidentally trigger one. But the snapping action can be harmful to small livestock like chickens. If you want natural ways to get rid of mice in your barn or coop, don’t use snap traps unless you can ensure your chickens won’t encounter them.

Rat zappers don’t miss. If the mouse crawls inside, it gets an electric zap which kills it immediately. Though rat zappers cost more at first, many farmers swear by them because their chickens and other small livestock cannot crawl into the device’s tunnel. Mouse-size and rat-size units are both sold in hardware and feed stores, but the rat-sized zappers have tunnels large enough for small children’s hands. Load the unit with high-protein bait such as peanut butter. $40 units, which have moderate reviews, indicate a catch with a red light and kill about 20 mice per set of four AA batteries. For about $500, you can purchase a system of four traps, a USB device, tablet, and range extender, all of which kill about 100 mice per set of batteries and notify you when a mouse has been killed so you don’t have to check traps daily.

Safety for Humans

Mice may be cute but they can be very dangerous. Diseases such as hantavirus and rabies plague these little animals. If you think mice have chewed on your food, don’t try to save it. Discard the damaged container. Do not handle wild mice with bare hands. Use gloves and always wash hands with soap and water after handling traps.

Many natural ways to get rid of mice exist, methods which you can use without ever pulling out the poisons. Start at the bottom and escalate as necessary.

What are the natural ways you use to get rid of mice?

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Comments
  • Another version of the 5-gallon bucket trap.
    Materials:
    5-gal. bucket
    2-liter soda bottle
    dowel or metal rod a bit longer than the diameter of the bucket
    piece of board
    peanut butter

    1. Drill a hole through the bottom of the soda bottle.
    2. Run the dowel/rod through the mouth of the soda bottle and the hole in the bottom–be sure it can turn freely.
    3. Drill a hole in each side of the 5-gal. bucket, near the top, and slide the ends of the rod (with bottle on it) through those holes.
    4. Put 6″ or so of water in the bottom of the bucket. Smear a good dab of peanut butter on the soda bottle. Finally, lean a piece of board against the edge of the bucket so rodents have a clear way up. The mice will climb out onto the rod and bottle after the peanut butter–the bottle will spin on its rod and drop the mouse into the water. “Resets” automatically for the next mouse!

    Reply
  • Ted F.

    my chickens free range they catch the mice and small rats watch the fun as the chickens play keep away while trying to eat the critter

    Reply
  • I’ve never heard of mice carrying rabies. When and where has this happened? Concerning and disturbing!

    Reply
  • I beg to differ on using plants and/or dried herbal plants to repel mice. I repeatedly tested those plant materials and it did not deter mice in my coops at all. I have a video on youtube showing the mice in my coop used fresh peppermint and spearmint leaves and incorporated into their nests. Perhaps essential oils might work as they are extremely concentrated in aroma, but if anything that strong that is going to repel a rodent might also be irritating to your chicken. Using mechanical mouse traps or cats are the best natural rodent control I have found.

    Reply
  • We just purchased 6 Ohio Buckeye hens and 1 roo. We were told along with good eggers and meat birds they make great mousers! They were hatched on Feb 29 (leap year babies!) so we have a little ways to go before we find out!

    Reply
  • As far as mice carrying rabies it is extremely rare and unusual for it to happen. It “can” happen, but it is just so out of the ordinary and rare that we can more or less say that is something you don’t really ever need to worry about with mice. If some of my more playful and hyper active chickens see a mouse in daylight they will attack and sometimes eat it. I found one of my chickens running around with a mouse tail hanging from its mouth before. Sadly mice are more active when the chickens are asleep at night. I was hoping this article would have more to it then common sense methods and ways that I have heard a dozen times before.

    Reply
  • Rabies? NO. Check the CDC – prey animals like mice are usually killed by the rabid animal that bites them so they do not live to develop the disease. If you’re bitten by a mouse, the CDC does not recommend treatment because the incidence of rabies in rodents is virtually non-existent. Check sources before publishing inaccurate info please.

    Reply
  • You do not want to use plastic to contain feed in the barn. Vermin will eventually chew it and make a hole to gain access.

    Reply
  • So… any ideas on keeping mice from building nests just under the grate of my gas grill??

    Reply
  • my biggest problem are sparrows coming into the chicken run. We have netted it all over but they still find little gaps & come in. How can I discourage them please, they are a huge problem… I live in southern Spain..

    Reply
    • David S.

      Your sparrow problem may be curable by hanging reflectors like old CDs or disposable metal pie plates. I have seen several comments on the surprising effectiveness of that method.

      Reply
  • Rat holed up under my dog pen which was by a large tree. They had burrows all over. Id fill them up with a water hose. It would take a while but those things were huge when they drug themselves out. I killed several that way and the dog helped. They ended up killing the tree, i assume they dug the dirt away from the roots:(
    I started taking all the free cats i could get. Big, young as long as they were weaned and could run i wanted them. I fed the kittens/cats also especially since they didnt know what they were doing. Most ran off:( im not really lucky i think:)

    Reply
  • Peanut butter didn’t work for our mice, nor any variety of cheese – they still went after the dog food, gnawing through the container. Honey garlic chicken wings got their attention (we found three in one snap trap), and ginger beef finally did in Mouse-zilla (which was probably a Norwegian Rat; he pulled the wings off the traps without getting caught).

    Reply
  • Plastic bins are not a good alternative for storage in my experience. I have been using them to store birdseed, and not only do the mice chew holes to get into the seed, but often they can’t get out again so I find them in there later, not always alive… switching to metal trash cans. This is what I’ve been using all along for chicken feed, although I do have to put heavy stones on top to keep squirrels and raccoons from opening them!

    Reply
  • I agree about the plastic containers. I use galvanized steel pails with locking bails. No mice, no rats. I even watched a possum trying to get in. The pail was rolled about the porch, turned over, pushed, and pulled. I believe in locking bails.

    Reply
  • Before using live traps, check local regulations. It is not legal in many places to release rodents.

    Reply

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