The Dirty Business of Killing Mice


Disclaimer: this article is not for the faint of heart. It's for the people who are ready to do anything to take out the mice in their home. This could be a house, apartment, acreage or farm - they've had enough and are ready for extreme measures.

By the way, getting rid of mice is "not a man's job." This is a complete, equal opportunity situation. Ready to kill some mice? Let's go!

What are bait stations?

Bait stations are boxes to put poison bait in. The rodent has to enter the station to access the poison. This prevents humans and other animals from accidentally getting into the poison.

There are a few things to know about handling rodent poison and bait stations.

According to Orkin, a pest control company, "rodents often avoid a mouse bait station if they dislike the taste, scent, or placement of the bait and bait station.

Not all poison blocks attract mice. A "bait block" describes a poison block that has food embedded to attract mice and rats.

It's still necessary and helpful to lure the mice or rat to the bait. Common lure bait includes peanut butter, soft cheese, cat or dog food, or corn or grains.

From a forum, an professional exterminator responded, "mice love cocoa products better, so Snickers is my proffered bait of choice."

I show pictures of bait block below that have grain mixed in with it. If you want to be the most successful at killing mice and rats, then sprinkle out other food lure to direct the rodent to the bait.

Where do mice die after eating poison?

Most mice die out in the open after ingesting poison, because they are dehydrated and searching for water. If the poison is put inside of a wall, the mice will likely die inside of the wall.

If you can't see the dead mice, you can smell them. It's not the poison that smells, it's the decomposing dead body of the mouse.

Mice take poison back to their nest. Mice, especially country, "church mice" deer mice, or field mice, tend to hoard. I am not sure about a regular house mouse - the field mouse type has the big eyes, refer to the picture on this page. Because field mice hoard, instead of putting food on a regular mouse trap, go with a little batting, fluff, or quilt stuffing. They will grab it in a heartbeat for their nest - and lose their life in the process.

My first experience with putting out mice poison was that it came in a little paper pouch. I had no idea what the poison looked like. In the spring I was cleaning up the basement, and I was completely puzzled why a snow boot had little blue pellets inside. Silly me, that was poison. Over the years, I have seen a few of those pellets scattered inside of attic boxes, but no major stashes like that boot.

The mice seem to eat, stop, drop a pellet, nibble, drop, and leave the scene. I have some old rickety stairs that lead up to the attic - there will be traces of poison here and there. About twice a year I completely vacuum the stairs down to keep tabs of any trace of unwanted guests.

Does poison expire?

I never really thought of mouse and rat bait expiring or how long it lasts. I happened to have two containers of rodent poisoning here on the farm: TomCat and Hawk. Neither one mentions an expiration date or loss of potency in the poison formula.

Mouse and rat bait do not expire. External factors can make them break down and become less effective. If the bait is properly stored and sealed in a container, it can be ready for deployment at any time.

According to Pest Insider, "Mouse poison doesn’t expire. As long as bait stays dry and the smell of the bait can still attract the rodent to it."

Pest Insider also mentions that moisture can break down the grains, as well as exposure to high humidity and heat. Where I live, in the state of Iowa, it is known for great humidity during summer months (and some pretty hot days, too). Any bait in outside bait stations will be adversely affected.

In the next photo, I show a bait chunk I threw into a damp basement cellar. The yellow texture you are seeing in the bottom photo is actual grain mixed into the chunk, used to bait the rodents. The combination of dampness and bugs is causing the poison bait chunk to break down.

Disintegrating mouse bait poison.

Mouse bait eaten by insects and exposed to moist conditions - the bait is breaking down. First picture: looking down on top of bait, second photo: side view.

The compiled photos are of a top and side view showing a "tunneling" into the poison chunk bait. These are bugs, not signs of mice. Note the fine specs of grains of poison scattered on top of the paper where the bait was placed. If it were mice, there would be teeth gnaw marks in the bait.

I recently found out that this type of activity could be grain beetles hatching from the grain inside of the poison bait chunk - it looks like I may have unknowingly introduced another pest problem in my house (that single chunk in the back cellar has now been removed!).

In the photo below, it reads on the bait bucket, "replace contaminated or spoiled bait immediately." Remember, if the bait is inside of a container sealed in a cool and dry place, it will last a long time, maybe even years.

The bait chunk above shows grain impregnated into the chunk poison, if that is exposed then the grain can start spoiling. Conditions such as exposure to rain, humidity, freezing, thawing, etc. will speed up decomposition and spoiling.

signs of mouse chewing bait

Subtle signs of mouse chewing bait poison (teeth marks); presence of mouse feces is a clear indication of signs of mice.

One tip I picked up from Pest Insider is to not store the poison next to household chemicals, pesticides, gas, or herbs like mint. The poison can take on the smell of those items, and instead of attracting mice, the poison will deter them when put into use.

If you happened to have read my article How to Store Flour, it's the same concept. Flour will absorb the smells of items around it. If the flour is stored next to laundry soap, it will taste like laundry soap (that means your baked cookies will, too). It pretty much deters humans from eating the cookies.

Well-known rodent poison such as TomCat and Hawk do not have expiration dates for bait.

How long do rodent bait stations last?

Rodent bait stations' life depends on climate conditions affecting integrity of poison and the frequency of visits to the station by rats or mice. Bait stations need to be routinely checked for refilling. 

Another thing that affects the length of time before refilling a bait station is the location. If the bait station is located near an abundant food source, such as a grain bin or open shed of hay storage, rodent activity will surely be abundant.

Signs of rat or mouse activity in a garage or shop (in the absence of a food source) may show less frequent visits to a rodent bait trap.

Out here on the farm, it's common knowledge that rat bait must be alternated by brand. Go to any farm store and there will always be more than one option. Rats can detect the taste and smell and will eventually come to avoid a regularly used product.

I don't quite get how this factors in for the dead rat, but the living ones must make some type of connection to stay away from the bait.

How often should you replace mouse poison?

Mouse poison should be replaced at least twice a year, in the fall and the spring.

It really depends on your climate and severity of rodent infestation. In the midwest United States where we experience a winter, mice start looking for a warm place to stay when it starts to get cold.

Can you kill mice with a broom?

I don't know where this classic image of a housewife chasing a mouse with a broom came from. Maybe it was a tool always at the ready in the hands of a "housewife". I can tell you, you're not going to find a broom in my hands too often, lol!

But let's entertain that thought - can you kill mice with a broom? If you hit a mouse just right with a wooden handle, wood parts of the broom, or the base of the broom where the bristles are more firmly condensed to form a hard pack, the mouse can be killed.

Woman holding a broom trying to kill a mouse.

With the right opportunity, angle, and force, you can kill a mouse with a broom - probably not a rat.

The flailed out broom bristles definitely will not offer the firm impact to kill a mouse. Even if you did get a good hit, chances are the mouse will only be stunned. You should take the opportunity to finish him off. 

Best ways to kill a mouse

First, if you really want to kill mice, you need to put out traps. Check out Ways to Mouse-Proof Your Pantry.

Sometimes, you have to do the dirty deed and kill a rodent yourself. This could be due to the mouse (or rat) is still alive in a trap, it's stunned, or you need to put it out of its pain.

I apologize in advance if any methods here offend you. If you've gotten this far, I assume you're ready for anything.

Having an animal kill the mouse

The easiest thing to do is to give it to a cat, if you have one. Rat terriers are a breed of dog which are excellent rat killers (see video below). Another option is to drown the mouse - fill a tank with water and drop it in. For example, if it is in a sticky trap or partially in a traditional snap trap and still alive, this can work.

Use poison gas to kill the mouse

You can gas a mouse with ammonia. I've never tried this, but it is possible. Soak a towel, or some newspaper and pop it into whatever nook you need to. I've read some mouse stories of catching a live mouse in an awkward spot and having no good way of killing it.

A similar solution comes to mind from an old family friend. He was a farm boy living in the suburbs and discovered skunks in his garden shed. He somehow rigged up his push lawn mower to exhaust fumes into the building, killing the skunks by carbon monoxide poisoning. He was resourceful, I'll give him that!

Use blunt force to kill the mouse

Consider other equipment in your near area that is heavy enough to properly kill a mouse. An iron frying pan, small cooking pan, iron (from ironing clothes), heavy cutting board, pipe, board, stick, side of a hammer, etc. will do.

Personally, I don't like to get too close to a live mouse. They bite! Picking up the trap and wacking the mouse against a cement or hard floor or wall will kill it instantly.

What will really kill a mouse is stomping it with your foot. Believe me, when it's you or them, you will learn not to let any opportunity go. I would recommend wearing tied shoes and closing off your pant's legs, if you have time to do that. Or wear muck boots, tall boots that reach under your knee.

It's really hard to kill a mouse by hitting it. You have to use strategy because they are so fast. The best thing is to aim where they're going - your swing should land a bit ahead of their exit path.

Years ago, my brother slipped his feet into the muck boots and it wasn't fitting right. He turned it upside down and a mouse fell out! Ever since then, I always shake my shoes and boots out.

Urban myths - foods in your home that kill mice

Urban legends or tips that really work to kill mice? Has someone told you that should try mashed potatoes? Ammonia?

There are many homemade concoctions to kill mice. I would fill you in here, but Tips Bulletin did such an outstanding job that I will direct you to the Tips website.

Animals that kill mice

Cats

Usually the go-to of mice and rat hunters are cats. Cats are amazing and natural hunters. If you can borrow one from a friend, and even better if the cat is not declawed, you have a good weapon on your team.

Dogs

No one talks about rat terrier dogs. They also are natural hunters, of rats. I'm not sure how well they fair in a house after tiny mice.

The country of Australia has periodic plagues of mice. If this video does not convince you to take aggressive actions against rodents, I don't know what will.

Birds

Birds are surprisingly effective at killing mice. But don't rule out fake birds. What I mean by this are decoy plastic owls that scare off pests.

Owls, Hawks

Predator birds like owls and hawks clear out mice and rats efficiently. Unfortunately, they can go for other things on your farm, like free-roaming chickens, cats, and small dogs.

Here is a rare, close-up picture of a Great Horned Owl on our farm in northeast Iowa. The poor guy (or gal) was slightly injured and sought refuge next to one of our cattle buildings.

Fayette County Conservation came out to gently remove the animal, but the owl flew off (with difficulty) when the guy approached him.

The conservation employee thought that in a break in the past evening rain storms, the owl ventured out briefly. The owl could have became confused, and perhaps hit a guy wire. The owl's wing was likely bruised.

Great horned owl in northeast Iowa

Great horned owl in the rain on a farm in northeast Iowa.

My husband had noticed the presence of the owl living in an old barn we have throughout the summer. He said that he no longer noticed the usual scampering of squirrels in the valley, probably due to owl activity.

Chickens

Do you know that chickens kill mice? I'm not recommending to put a chicken in your house or apartment, but chickens are pretty aggressive at getting mice. They sometimes get our chicken coop, which is not mouse-proof. Those mice don't have a chance.

I was surprised to learn that chickens will eat mice. The Morning Chores blog verified this fact. They don't encourage their chickens eating mice because the mice could be diseased and get the chickens sick. I have seen our own free range chickens run off with a toad in the mouth - that also could make them sick!

I will agree with Morning Chores that rats can steal eggs and may be potentially dangerous to chickens. They could attack smaller chickens, for example. We mouse-proof our chicken coop at least once a year, nailing tin down over holes.

We also have a solar-powered automatic chicken door that always makes sure the door is closed on the coop at night (seems some of the human caretakers at times forget to close the door!).

Guineas birds

Guinea birds make a god-awful noise which is suppose to ward off rats, coyotes, and any other threat. If you can live with the awful noise yourself, consider that an option. When I was growing up, my dad had some given to him for his dairy farm. I think those people lived too near a town and had noise complaints! 

Poultry Extension confirms that Guinea fowl will kill mice and rats. In addition they eat all types of bugs, some people even purchase them to eat ticks.

Snakes

Snakes are doing their fair share in killing and eating the mice on your property. Try to live in harmony with these reptiles - they're on your side!

When mouse infestations are serious

Worldwide, city or farm, humans have to deal with shocking mice and rat problems. The video below shows mouse outbreaks in Australia. This is not completely uncommon for that country, but surely unwelcome.

Someone has to tend with the dirty business of killing mice. If it's not you, it's an exterminator. Many people, both city and country dwellers, have learned to harden up and do their own rodent control. Sometimes there is no budget for an exterminator or time to wait for them to come.

I'm sorry if you're dealing with mice, but you must be brave and take action! For every one mouse that you see, there can be dozens more. According to Victor Pest, "mice reproduce fast and furiously—they can produce six to seven babies in a litter as quickly as every 21 days or so."

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of staying ahead of rodent problems!

In Conclusion

Stay tough! I don't recommend "releasing mice back into nature" but some people do. To me, that just means I have to deal with the mouse again.

Just a side note, WY Pest Control reports that if you release mice, release them at least 2 miles away from your house.

Mice will come back after release if you let them go immediately outside of your house. They have proven to come back from a distance of 1300 feet released within 24 hours.

The further the better, if your peace of mind is a stake.

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is a former kitchen designer, home remodeling enthusiast (having lived through several DIY projects), and an Iowa farmwife. Renee is passionate about preparedness, garden skills, and knowing where her food comes from. Years of being a stay-at-home mom and supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life.

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