Mouse Nest Identification

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Mice, like many other animals, build nests in which to live and rear their young. If you notice any signs of a mouse infestation (e.g., droppings, grease tracks, gnaw marks, scratching sounds in the wall, an ammonia smell), there’s a nest somewhere nearby. Mice rarely venture far from the nest: at most 50 feet but often less.

In addition to trapping mice, preventing them from reentering your home, and cleaning up their messes, you’ll need to remove their nests. Not only do mice contaminate food, chew wiring, destroy insulation, and spread disease through obvious droppings and urine, but they poop and shed in and around their nests. The viruses and bacteria that mice carry can be spread via fur as well as feces and urine, so the nests will have to be found and removed.

Here, we will help you identify, find, and get rid of mouse nests.

How to Recognize a Mouse Nest

What does a mouse nest look like? Mice make nests out of any soft, fluffy material they can find, like rags and other fabric, paper, stuffing, quilt backing, and grass. They will shred some of their nesting materials and leave some larger. A typical nest is a loose ball of this material with a diameter of about 4 to 6 inches. If you’re not sure if you’ve found a nest or just a ball of garbage, look for droppings in and around the nest. Mouse droppings are small, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch long, and tapered at both ends. Mice poop a lot, so their feces will be obvious.

Where to Find Mouse Nests

Next, you need to know how to find a mouse nest. Mice enter homes in search of food and warmth. Once they find it, they’ll choose a sheltered area near that food and warmth in which to build a nest. Look in hidden places within 50 feet of a food source (i.e., the kitchen), like behind furniture, boxes, or heat-producing appliances, and in cabinets, drawers, boxes, dressers, crawl spaces, air vents, pipes, and closets. They also nest inside walls, floors, and ceilings, where they can ruin your home’s insulation and even spark fires by chewing on electrical wires. Check the attic, garage, and basement as well as the main rooms of your house. Outside your house, check wood piles and trash heaps.

How Many Mice Use One Nest?

Once you’ve found a nest (or more), you may start to wonder how many mice you could be dealing with. In other words, how many mice in a nest? The answer depends on how long they’ve been there. A new infestation could be pretty small, perhaps only a couple mice. An older infestation, on the other hand, could be quite large. The average breeding age for mice is about 6 weeks and the gestation period lasts for around 3 weeks. Thus, a mouse generation is about 9 weeks or a little over 2 months. An average litter of mouse pups is 5 or 6 but can be up to 12. So, in the first couple months of a mouse infestation, you could have a minimum of 13 mice per nest. Mice can live for up to a year. In that time, a female can have up to 10 litters of pups. As those pups begin to mature, they’ll move out of the nest and establish their own. A mouse infestation can get out of control very quickly.

How to Remove a Mouse Nest

Once you’ve found a mouse nest in the house, the next step is to remove it. Although if you haven’t taken care of the mice (removing them and making sure they can’t come back), you’ll need to do that first. This ensures that you don’t have to clean up mouse nests multiple times. Leave your traps out for a week before you clean up so the infectious agents in mouse fur, urine, and feces have time to become less dangerous.

The first thing you should do is air out the room: open the doors and windows and wait about 30 minutes before you start cleaning. When you’re ready to begin, make sure to put on protective gloves, either latex, vinyl, or rubber.

Take care not to stir up any dust from the droppings, urine, or feces. This means don’t sweep or vacuum either droppings or nesting materials. Some of the infectious bacteria and viruses carried by mice can attach to dust particles and become airborne. You can contract a disease like a hantavirus simply by breathing infected dust.

Clean up any urine and droppings first by soaking them with disinfectant or a 10:1 water and bleach mixture for 5 minutes. Collect the urine and droppings using a paper towel and throw them in the trash. Next, coat the nest with the disinfectant or bleach solution and let it soak for 5 minutes. Again using a paper towel, pick up the nest, making sure to grab any small pieces of nesting material that fall off. Double-bag the nest in plastic and seal both bags, then discard it into a covered trash bin.

Disinfect anything that may have come into contact with the urine, droppings, or nesting material. Use the disinfectant or bleach mixture to mop the floor and wipe down counter- and tabletops. If there’s carpet or upholstered furniture in the room, use a steam cleaner and rug shampoo. Remove any clothes, sheets, or blankets and wash them in hot water.

Finally, remove and discard your gloves, wash your hands, and take out the trash.

Mice pose a very real danger to you, your family, and your pets. They spread disease, contaminate food, damage homes, and carry fleas and ticks that in turn spread additional diseases. If you have a mouse infestation (which can happen very quickly), you must address it thoroughly, which means finding and removing any nests the mice have built. Use this article as a guide for distinguishing a ball of scraps from a genuine mouse nest, finding the places mice have stashed their nests, and safely collecting and disposing of mouse nests.

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