7 Items in Your Yard That Could Be Bringing in Mouse Problems

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated April 22, 2022
A house with a backyard
Photo: Westend61 / Adobe Stock

Highlights

  • Mice carry disease and cause damage to your home.

  • Your yard could be attracting mice, thanks to a few items.

  • Mice can squeeze into holes as small as a quarter-inch, so seal up any exterior gaps.

  • Watch for any odd behavior from your cats and dogs.

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Mice may look adorable with their long whiskers and beady eyes, but they are big-time harbingers of chaos for your home (and your health). Not only can they carry diseases like hantavirus and salmonella, but they will also tunnel into insulation and chew through just about anything. 

Learn about everything in your yard that might be drawing mice in and how to fix the problem to keep up a rodent-free home.

1. Holes on Your Home’s Exterior

Mice can squeeze through impossibly small holes; the largest part of their body is their skull, which is roughly the width of a pencil or one-quarter of an inch. Mice will look for holes around your home to get inside where it’s warm.

To prevent this, check for and seal up any gaps around your pipes or conduits where electric or cable wires enter the structure. You should also look for any holes that may have appeared in your window or door screens. Your house could be wide open to mice without you even knowing, but regular visual inspections can help.

2. Pet Food and Birdseed

The nuts and seeds in your bird feeder are probably attracting more than blue jays. Mice are always looking for food sources, so your bird feeder is basically an open buffet. If you have mouse problems, it may be worth cutting off this food supply, at least for a while.

The same goes for pet food: If you feed Spot outside, make sure to remove and clean the bowls when not in use and cover any containers with stored food. Better yet, keep pet food stored in the garage or other enclosed space.

3. Compost and Food Scraps

If you think mice are interested in your dog’s food, it should be no surprise that they’ll be drooling over whatever is left from your lunchtime tuna melt. Choose trash bins with locking lids, and make sure you’re using a super durable plastic compost tumbler to elevate your at-home compost pile.

4. Leaves and Branches

A teenage girl composting autumn leaves
Photo: Imgorthand / E+ / Getty Images

Mice are climbers. Overgrown tree branches allow them to ladder their way to your home's roof and look for openings where they can come inside and build a warm nest in your attic. In addition, mice see piles of leaves and overgrown shrubs as excellent places to hide and build a shelter. 

Make sure to cut branches back to create a perimeter of at least 2 feet around your home, cut your grass short, trim shrubs regularly, and clean up piles of leaves right away.

5. An Idle Car 

If you’ve got a car you barely use parked in your driveway, mice might just take up residence inside. They enter under the hood in search of food, water, or shelter and chew on your wiring. If they get inside the cab, they also cause damage to the insulation and upholstery, and if they die inside, you’ll have a very unpleasant smell to get out. 

Keep your cars parked in the garage, and if that’s not possible, try peppermint. Mice hate the smell of mint, so you can soak cotton balls in peppermint oil and place them in your car’s cabin or under the hood.

6. Clutter

Debris and piles of stuff, like old newspapers, linens, or holiday decorations, are seen as nesting materials by mice. Clean your yard regularly, especially after holidays, parties, or other events when you’ve placed more stuff outside than usual. 

7. Signs of Other Mice

Mice look for signals that other mice have taken up residence around or in your home, which reassures them that this is a good spot to camp out. If you (or the previous resident) had a mouse problem and didn’t properly clean and sanitize after, you’re basically holding up a neon sign that only these furry creatures can see. 

Make sure to remove all mouse droppings, clean the baseboards in and around your home, and have a local exterminator safely dispose of any nesting areas and materials.

Signs You Have a Mouse Problem

If you’re guilty of more than a few of these mice-friendly behaviors, you may be wondering if mice have already come to your home. Here are a few tell-tale signs that you already have a mouse infestation:

  • Scratching sounds in the walls, especially at night

  • Stale or musty odors (usually rodent urine)

  • Droppings

  • Gnawed holes in food, papers, wood, or insulation

  • Unusual pet behavior (i.e., your car starts to stare at walls for no apparent reason or paw at the area below the refrigerator)

If you have an infestation, call in a pest control company. Mice can reproduce five to 10 times per year and have a short gestation period of approximately 20 days. If you see one mouse, there could be as many as 15 more already in your home, as most litters have at least 12 pups.

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