Not-So-Nice Mice

Published on Tue, 10/14/2014 - 2:46pm

This is the season when uninvited houseguests arrive and stay through the winter: Mice. As days and nights grow colder, outdoor food supplies dwindle, so mice seek out other places to live, eat, and keep warm.For us, it’s always disconcerting to hear faint scratching in the walls at night, and downright frightening to have one or more mice scamper unexpectedly across a countertop—to say nothing of the unsightly and unsanitary rodent droppings left behind.

One of the main problems is that there is rarely a just single mouse involved. An average “house mouse” lives for a year, and the female will produce anywhere from five to ten litters annually. Each litter can have between five and ten young. These five to ten are able to reproduce at approximately 30 days of age. Can you do the math? If they had enough food, a single mouse pair and their offspring (and their offspring’s offspring, etc.) could theoretically produce thousands of mice over the course of winter. The key, then, is to keep them out of the house in the first place, and that is best accomplished by depriving them of what they need most—food and shelter. And the best way to do that is to start outside. AcreageLife.

Remove shelter sources

Where can mice live? Just about anywhere there is shelter, meaning a small, dry area to curl up in.

  • Dispose of brush – To you, that brush pile in the back yard is a pile of sticks and leaves, but to mice it’s a luxury condominium. This is a natural habitat for mice that offers plenty of concealment and safety.
  • Relocate firewood – Split logs stacked next to a back door are an ideal place for mice to hang out. They may even be able to scamper inside while your door is open.
  • Control compost – Invest in a sealed, elevated compost container.
  • Remove ivy – English Ivy’s habit of covering walls may look elegant, but to a mouse, it’s an express elevator to the top floors of your home.

The Humane Society also recommends keeping plants trimmed at least 18 inches away from the house’s foundation. This will also make it easier to identify possible entry points.

Find food sources

To an inquisitive mouse, all the world is a supermarket. Take a careful look at any possible food sources around the yard.

  • Pick up fallen fruit – Fruit trees that shed fruit, even decorative crab apples that we usually don’t eat, can draw rodents.
  • Clear out your garden – All leftover seeds, vegetables, and fruit should be removed at the end of the growing season.
  • Cover your trash – Anything fragrant and even remotely edible will draw mice, and possibly cats, dogs, and raccoons, too.
  • Store pet food – Avoid the temptation to keep pet food in its paper sack on the floor in the garage as it is easy to a mouse’s sharp teeth to gnaw through.
  • Keep garden items in the shed – To a hungry mouse, bone meal, lawn seed, and bulbs you intend to over-winter all are edible, so don’t warehouse them in the garage.
  • Clean up that barbecue grill – Now that grilling season is winding down, it’s the ideal time to scrape and wash the grate. Don’t forget to remove the grease trap below the burner, if the grill has one.
  • Don’t feed the birds – Birds and mice enjoy many of the same foods, so if you put out feed to draw birds, you are drawing mice.

Seal up holes

It doesn’t take much of an opening for adult mice to wriggle into your house’s foundation. Because they are so flexible, a gap of 1/4-inch is all they need to gain entry. Once inside, your entire home is fair game for living quarters. The key to barring entry is to look for any and all openings to your house and seal them.
The New York State Health Department reminds us to seal all cracks and spaces around vents, wires, and pipes with sheet metal, concrete or a product like “Stuf-fit,” a knitted copper wire mesh. Screen necessary openings, like fan vents and chimneys with 1/4-inch wire mesh. Seal foundation cracks with mortar, not just caulk that mice can chew through.

Check your doors and windows for proper fit and that screens are intact. Keep a tight--fitting door sweep on all exterior doors. Don’t limit your examination to ground level, since mice can jump as high as 12-inches! If your house design can accommodate it, install a metal strip 18-inches high all the way around to keep them from climbing up (and down) the siding to gain entry through the attic.


Look inside, too

Once mice set up residence inside, it may be necessary to call a professional exterminator to eliminate them. Until then, pay attention: If your cat or dog suddenly begins to show unusual interest in part of the house, you may have unwanted guests.
Keep as much food as possible inside metal, glass, or thick resin containers with right lids. Take out the garbage regularly, and eliminate food sources that mice soul seek out, such as bread crumbs—your toaster probably has plenty on the bottom—and crumbs that fall into drawers and cupboards.

Don’t leave uneaten pet food unattended ov ernight. Putting it on a counter is not enough: Cover and put it away, or dispose of it in covered trash outside.