Getting Rid of the Rats at my Bird Feeder!

I have a couple of bird feeders in my yard and we get a diverse amount of bird species with them. Now, we recently saw a brown rat at the feeder eating the food. Keep in mind that I live with a farm behind my house, and that I’ve had mice problems in the past inside my home, so I would prefer not to have rats at my feeder. Does anyone know any ways of which I can get rid of the rats while still keeping the birds coming? Thank you in advance for your help.

rats would generally feed at night. birds would generally feed during the day. so don’t leave food out at night? or let a predator (ex. cat) out at night?

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Install feeders that won’t let rats to come to food physically, clean the place around and maybe even move the feeders so rats won’t come to them with knowledge food is there.
Many good tips here:

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I don’t actually know what the current guidance is on cats being outside at night, but I would worry about the damage a cat would do to other species, many of whom need all the help they can get right now. About a month ago, my (entirely indoor) cat escaped outside, at night. It was only a few minutes before I realized–but in that time, he killed a small native animal, a northern short-tailed shrew. It’s not just rats that forage at night/near dawn, and sadly, outdoor cats are already killing wildlife in unsustainable numbers…


Definitely don’t get a cat to control the rats, cats are very good bird predators too. I’d recommend against poison too, because that will end up poisoning any rat predators in the area too, like hawks, owls, bobcats or even pet cats.

I use a havahart-style trap, so that I can dispatch the (non-native) rats that I catch, but if I accidently catch something else I can just let it go. When I used snap traps I accidently caught a bird the first time, even though I set it well away from the feeder and used peanut butter as bait.


To add, cats won’t kill rats, rat can seriously damage a cat and it won’t just work that way with most of cats, cat will kill tons of birds and small rodents, but rats won’t suffer any damage.


Do not let out a cat to deal with the rats. At best it’s just ineffective, if you live in an area to which cats are indigenous; at worst, it’s a death sentence for a bunch of native animals by an introduced predator. And in either case, it’s a good way for your cat to get injured or get diseases.


Yah, that is a tough one. Perhaps consider switching to nectar feeding? Humming bird feeders rarely attract mammals (except, maybe bears).

I think it is hard to maintain rat-free bird feeders. You could try putting up a squirrel-resistant feeder (the baffles should help with rats). Placement is important. Also, sure to clean up the kicked out seed and shells from around the feeder daily. Here is advice about squirrel-proof feeders:

Cover holes and stuff where a rat may live or use as walkways, and clear brush that may allow small mammals to burrow, hide and nest under (but leave some for the birds, just not dense litter right on the ground. Rats can climb and get around most obstacles we put up, but it helps a bit and may make your feeders less attractive to them. Also live trap with smaller havahart traps and physically remove rats, letting other animals go. Check the trap often in case you get a weasel or something else. Other traps and poisons will kill other animals, so not good. Call around to animal control or shelters to take the captured rat, not sure what the local policies are, but live rats will be hard to get rid of. I live on a farm, and euthanize ones I catch. Perhaps your farmer neighbor could ‘do the deed’ for you if you take them the filled trap. Another strategy is to lessen the amount of food on the ground, especially after dark. Feeding the birds less will help, like just putting out 1/4 of what you would normally put out so the birds eat everything. Maybe feed them small amounts several times a day instead of one big serving. Seed trays under the feeders, or squirrel baffles, may also help limit spilled seed or keep rats from climbing to feeders. Some dogs are good at helping with rat problems too. Other people I know have also used powerful bb/pellet guns, which not everyone is comfortable with. Every method has it’s limits and problems, so it is worth trying a few things.

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oh yeah, I found sonic deterrents to not be effective. I had some anti-mouse sound things plugged in the wall and mice just walk or stand right by them. Not sure if they are supposed to repel rats too.

Seeing just one brown rat isn’t really a reason to do anything imo, just let him be.


Many birds are sloppy feeders and can leave the ground covered in seed, some seemingly weighing each seed before eating and throwing the scraps to the ground. As others have said you can put the feeder securely away at night - keep in mind I found out we had mice in our house about 20 years ago when I found seed scattered on the floor beside the bag inside a closet in the middle of the house - no problem since because I keep the seed in its own sealed garbage can outside and sealed the breaches in the walls. You could also choose to be very vigorous at dusk clean up, also choosing the least messy seed - I use sunflower seed chips which leaves no shells. The other thing is to limit how often and how much seed I put out - my feeders are empty right now and have been since last early April - the birds still come by to check and are not starving because at least here there us lots else to forage - I’m pretty sure the rats and mice are keeping busy elsewhere.

The ultimate safe solution is no feeder.

Also realize that the rats are part of the natural clean up crew.


But brown rats also are invasive on bigger part of the globe, so supporting them isn’t the best idea.


On suggestion I’ve read (probably here) is to plant native flowers and shrubs to feed the birds instead of using feeders. I would suspect, the seeds and other edible bits are less inviting to rats if only because it is not a concentrated food source, like a bird feeder.

Coatis love hummingbird feeders, so if they are present in the area they would be a problem.

Are Coatis problematic like rats? I am not familiar with them.

Tangentially, I am aware in the Sierra Foothills (California), humming bird feeders, like all bird feeders, may attract bears. Also, my relatives say that in the Sonora Desert, hummingbird feeders are enjoyed by nectar-sipping bats at night.

did the rat visit the feeder itself or did was the rat on the ground eating seed spillage?

First step is to reduce spillage.

it seems like cheap bird seed contains a good bit that many birds don’t like. don’t buy cheap seed that contains a big, random mix of stuff (with lots of undesirable filler). buy quality seed with high value items for the species that actually visit your feeders.

physical barriers that catch spillage before it reaches the ground will also help. Then keep them clean.

Don’t overfeed the birds, either. If the birds don’t finish off what you put out within a fairly short amount of time, you’re overfeeding. put less in the feeder or use smaller feeders. you actually WANT your feeders to go empty. you want the birds (and other wildlife) to know that you provide food, but that they don’t come to rely exclusively on your feeders for that food. this is extra important when you have undesirable species that raid your feeders. If I have bird seed out too much, then I attract bears, squirrels, crows, and starlings. If there’s not always food out, then they might come take a look, but there’s a greater chance that the feeder will be empty, and they’ll just move on.

If the rat is actually getting up to the feeder to pull seed straight from it, then you need to figure out how to keep the rat from getting up there. Shouldn’t be as difficult as keeping squirrels out.


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