Bird Feeders & Rats

••• Rats image by MoonKeeper from

While backyard bird feeders attract many interesting songbirds, they can also attract vermin, according to the Public Health Department of King County in Washington. The rats can be attracted to the same seeds used to feed the birds. However, there are some precautions that can keep your bird feeder a “birds only” food source.

Feeder Placement

Always place the bird feeder where access is difficult for small mammals such as squirrels and rats. This means the feeder should be placed at least 4 feet off the ground and 8 feet away from fences, tables, branches or any other object the rat could jump from to the feeder.

Bird Feed

Select feeds that the birds will consume at the feeder rather than scratching to the ground. Put seeds in the feeder in the morning and empty the feeder in the evening. This means the feeders would be empty overnight when rats are most active.

Keep it Clean

Rake the area around the bird feeder and clean up any spilled bird seed on a daily basis. A pan or tray under the feeder makes cleaning easier although it will accumulate bird droppings as well as spilled seed. Don’t leave seeds on the ground overnight when it will attract the nocturnal rats. Monitor the area after dark for signs of rats.


Keep bird seed, and any other things such as pet foods, that will attract rats in metal containers. The old-fashioned metal garbage can works well. Plastic tubs or garbage cans are easily chewed through by rats.

If Rats are Seen

According to Cornell University, if rats are detected, bird feeding should be stopped. Wait at least two weeks before restoring the seed to the feeder. The King County Health Department says all bird feeding activities should be stopped in the neighborhood if rat trapping or poisoning activities are going on. The lack of other food sources force the rats to the traps or poisons.


About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.

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