Contrary to your favorite childhood cartoons, mice don’t survive on a diet of cheese. Mice are nocturnal creatures that forage at night, so it’s difficult to know what foods they’re attracted to. So what do mice eat in the wild?
Wild mice are omnivores and will eat both plants and animals. Main foods in their diet include seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, insects, and carrion. Mice are opportunistic eaters so will eat anything they get the chance to. Wild mice have adapted well to urban areas and will eat food they find in yards such as bird seed, pet food, and trash.
Mice are extremely adaptable animals so they can’t be too fussy about what they eat. Mice will adjust their diet to whatever is naturally available each season or depending on the environment they are living in.
This guide will take you through the main things mice will eat in the wild.
Let’s get started.
What do Mice eat in the wild?
1. Seeds & Grains
Mice have a varied diet but they have a preference for seeds and grains, as they are an easy food source for them. Seeds can be found in large numbers in fields and yards with any type of plant. They’ll fall off plants or are distributed by farmers and gardeners to grow crops.
Seeds from trees are another good food source for mice. Common tree seeds mice eat are:
Fields of grains are like an infinite supply of food for a small mouse. The types of grain mice will eat are:
Seeds and grains are full of energy, nutrients, and vitamins that keep a mouse healthy. They will eat them at the source, or they will also gather them up and stash them away for eating during the winter.
In the autumn months, mice like to start creating little hidden stores of seeds and nuts. Mice don’t hibernate in winter so the idea is that the mice can come back to eat these stores when food supplies are low.
Nuts are ideal for stashing away as they store well for long periods and keep their freshness.
Nuts that mice like to eat include:
- Hickory Nuts
These nuts will provide mice with energy, protein, and healthy fats. These are essential nutrients that the mice need, especially in wintertime when food is scarce.
3. Fruit and vegetables
Another healthy source of energy, vitamins, and nutrients is fruit and vegetables. Mice can easily find naturally occurring fruit and vegetables or they will locate them in fields or gardens. The mice will eat these directly from trees and crops.
When fruit and vegetables are harder to find in the winter, berries are often good alternatives.
Fruits Mice like to eat are:
Vegetables are also a good source of nutrients for mice and they will often raid crops. Vine and root vegetables are a particular favorite.
Other vegetables that mice eat are:
Mice will often take just a few nibbles from each vegetable. They are too small to eat large quantities. The problem is that several mice taking several bites can quickly ruin any small vegetable crop.
4. Plants and Fungi
Mice are well known to eat plant foliage they find in gardens. The leaves, stems, and shoots can provide mice with nutrients and a source of water in their diet. Young plants are attractive to mice in the spring and summer months as they emerge from the soil.
As well as plants mice are well known to eat fungi in the summer and autumn months. Fungi provide mice with nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Fungi grow quickly and can be found in abundance in fields and forest areas.
Mice don’t go out go their way to find insets to eat. Yet, if the opportunity presents then they will eat them.
Insects provide mice with a good source of protein and nutrients. It’s a food source found in large volumes in the spring and summer months. Insects are also found on lots of foods that mice eat including plants, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Insects Mice will eat are:
Small insects are easy for mice to catch as they won’t put up much of a fight. Larger insects may try to bite, sting, or give off offensive smells when the mouse approached them. This may put mice off trying to eat them in the future.
In times of desperation, mice will often eat meat sources that they come across. They are too small to hunt for meat sources. Yet they will often eat animal meats usually in the form of carrion.
Another usual meat source that mice can turn to in desperate times is baby mice. Parent mice can eat their young, or neighboring mice may eat nearby young. This provides the mice with a source of food but it also reduces the competition for food in the future.
Mice can also take the opportunity to eat small bird eggs if they are left unattended.
Again they won’t actively seek out bird eggs to eat, but they may take up this behavior when food availability is low.
Mice are what are known as coprophagic animals. This means that they eat their own poo as a source of nutrition.
This behavior is a way for mice to use digestive bacteria to help them to absorb nutrients. Vitamin B12 and folic acid can be extracted from the food they have already digested and pooped out.
The poop that mice eat is called a cecotrope, which is just another name for partially digested food. By eating this again it provides the mice with another source of food but also extracts more nutrients such as protein.
Baby mice (pups) will drink mouse breastmilk from their mothers for the first 3 weeks of life. After this time they are weaned onto solid foods.
Once they reach 3 weeks old the mice are able to start foraging for themselves with the help of other mice. Up until this time baby mice are completely deaf and blind and reliant on the mother to provide food for them.
Often a mother mouse will be nursing a litter of young whilst pregnant with another. This often leads to early weaning when the next litter is born.
What do Mice eat in urban areas?
In urban areas trash is a main food source for a lot of animals, and mice are no different. Mice have a very good sense of smell and will be able to locate a trash bag full of scraps easily.
Because mice are good at clawing and gnawing they can easily make their way through an open trash bag. If you’ve ever been to a city you’ll have seen mice and rats happily raid the trash bags left for collection on the sidewalks.
Trash contains lots of scraps of food that the mice will happily feast on. They are particularly attracted to sweet and salty foods. Despite these foods not being naturally occurring, the mice will happily eat them. They aren’t aware that a lot of processed food they eat is junk and extremely unhealthy for them.
It’s best to discourage mice from getting onto your trash in the first place. Otherwise, they’ll continue to come back regularly. Only next time they’ll bring their family and friends along too!
To prevent that check out my advice on how to keep mice away from your house.
10. Pet food & Birdseed
Pet food that’s left outdoors is an easy food source for mice. They will easily climb into the bowl and help themselves.
The problem is they can pass on diseases to your pets this way. Most likely though their feces as they poo in the bowl as they eat.
Another food source for mice in your yard is bird seed. Remember that seeds and grains are the main part of a mouse’s diet. When you offer these to birds, mice will happily enjoy any leftovers they can get. Usually, this will be from seeds the birds discard onto the ground.
To discourage mice from visiting for the bird seed ty to keep the area under your feeders as clean as possible to deter them from coming back.
Some mice may even try to climb up to get to the feeder itself. A simple baffle will stop them from being able to reach the feeder no matter how hard they try.
Do mice eat cheese?
Mice will eat cheese if they are given the opportunity but it’s not a staple part of their diet. Cheese is a manmade product and it’s not something they’ll come across in the wild.
A mouse would normally get a cheese source from an urban area. Usually, this will be from food left out in a yard or scraps in the trash. They’ll eat it if they come across it, but they won’t actively seek it out.
Cheese can provide mice with a good source of calcium, protein, and fats, so it’s not the unhealthiest food they can find in your trash bags.
To wrap it up, wild mice are opportunistic omnivores who will eat most plant and meat sources they get the chance to. They have a varied diet but have a preference for seeds and grains which they have easy access to in the wild.
Although a mouse’s diet will usually change depending on the season and what is available to them in the environment they live in. Urban mice have much more access to processed human food than mice that live in rural areas.
It’s best for mice to stick to eating foods that they find naturally in the wild. Otherwise, they may suffer from nutritional deficiencies. This can make them vulnerable to disease and predators.