Mouse Trap

bucket mouse trap with rampEver heard the phrase “build a better mouse trap?” Well that’s phrase is now obsolete because there is no better mouse trap than this!

The bucket mouse trap catches many mice in a single trap and does not need to be reset between mice. It’s also so simple to make that you probably already have all the parts needed lying around your garage.

Neve purchase commercial mouse traps or poison again!

bucket mouse trap

Build a Bucket Mousetrap

So you’ve decided to take care of your mouse problem the bucket way!

thread dowel through bucket

You’ll just need a few items to make this quick trap.

Assemble your Soldiers:

  1. 5 Gallon Bucket
  2. Dowel – metal is best but wood will work
  3. Tin can
  4. Peanut butter
  5. Scrap of wood for ramp

The Process:

  1. Drill holes at the top of the bucket, on 2 opposite sides
  2. Drill holes in the middle of each flat side of a soda can
  3. Insert a dowel through the bucket holes and the soda can holes, to end up with a unit that looks like the image.
  4. Bait with peanut butter and add a ramp for the mice to get up.
  5. Fill the bottom few inches with water if you plan to kill the mice, or leave it if you want to release them somewhere or feed them live to your snake!

The trap works when a mouse at the top of the ramp tries to jump onto the tin can to eat the bait. The mouse’s weight throws the can into motion, which bucks the mouse off into the bucket below.

Several readers have asked about the green liquid in the bottom of the pail. Some bucket mouse trappers use antifreeze in their pails. It helps “preserve” the mice, preventing them from rotting and creating a huge odor problem. This might be necessary if you’re trapping mice in a vacation cabin or bug out shelter which you won’t visit for months at a time. It will also make sure the liquid does not freeze in an unheated building.

Alternative Designs

The bucket mouse trap community has sort of split into different camps, each backing their own favorite design. At Five Gallon Ideas we stay out of conflicts like this, so we’ll give each design a fair shake!

Rope Method

A similar design uses bits of bungee cord and a yogurt lid to accomplish the same effect.

If Youtube comments can be believed, scaled up versions of this trap are being used for trapping rats. You’ll want to size it up to at least a 30 gallon trash barrel, or even go as large as 55 gallons. There are some really big rats out there.

Walk the Plank

This bucket mouse trap’s being used in a chicken house. Mice can be a big problem for chicken keepers since they love to fatten themselves on those expensive little chicken pellets.

plank bucket mouse trap

The biggest disadvantage of this trap is you need to reset it after every 2 mice it catches. It’s also likely that your chickens, clumsy as they are, will knock your delicate planks down.

But I’m showing you this so you can make a more useful bucket mouse trap. Observe that this bucket is square. That means it can actually be mounted on that 1×4 behind it. So you don’t have to have your bucket mouse trap on the ground, you can hang it up wherever you need it. Just don’t forget to empty it out regularly.

And did you know that chickens will eat mice? It’s scary to watch. I’ve seen a chicken swallow a mouse whole in under 2 seconds. I respect chickens a lot more now.

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61 thoughts on “Mouse Trap

  1. I would let the water out, drowning them seems quite a long and nasty death; simply shoot the mice through the head. Nice trap though I am certainly going to try it on the mice eating the pet food in my shed. [comment edited for spelling, punctuation]

    • I’ve used a different trap for squirrels and had to drown one. It was over very quickly, 30 seconds or less once she was under water.

    • Shoot mice? Are you nuts–or sarcastic in the extreme? I hope the latter. I really, really do. It paints a pretty juvenile picture: you, sitting there in your wife-beater, plinking away at 30 mice in the bottom of a bucket, as they twitch and squeal (the ones you don’t quite hit perfectly in the head because they, ummm, run around).

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  3. I’ve been using this mousetrap since 1976 when I learned of the technique from a ranger at the Low Divide campground in the Olympic National Park in Washington State, USA. I typically use a wire coat hanger to mount the can, rather than a dowel, but whatever works. Also, it is important that the can is mounted low enough that the mice can’t simply reach down and grab the peanut butter from the end of the ramp, but high enough that they can’t grab the can from the surface of the water once they’ve fallen in.

  4. I did this 30 years ago at summer camp in WA state. Drowned 21 mice in my first year as a counselor.
    We used empty frozen orange juice cans with the end put back on and wire coat hangars. Then we put tape around the wire a little ways away from the can ends. That way, the can could spin freely, but not be scooted to the edge of the bucket where the mouse might escape. Worked great.
    We didn’t use any ramps either.

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  6. You know, oddly enough something like this was mentioned in the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. Apparently you’re supposed to let them starve until two are left and they become mouse-eaters.

    Good movie – the reference makes much more sense in context…

  7. I did this in my apartment in NYC a few years ago and caught 10 mice in one night, it was so gross i moved next day. I hung a piece of cheese over the bucket and they just kept falling inside it.

    • I have a new york basement apartment. I want to try this trick as well, I just saw my first rodent after 1 and 1/2 years of residency.

      Can I turn the lights out once I place the trap ? — I’m not too familiar with mice

  8. Old school this is, We call it an Adirondack mouse trap.. yeah, I live in the Adirondacks :) These are usually seen in hunting camps..

  9. “I’ve gotten a lot of messages from upset animal lovers who protest that drowning mice is cruel. ”

    Here’s a message to upset animal lovers… mice are vermin that carry hantavirus among other things they’ve been known for wiping out entire human populations for the diseases they can spread.

    Enough with your nonsense… be happy you’re part of a group of top-level predators that know how to control vermin populations.

  10. “they’ve been known for wiping out entire human populations for the diseases they can spread.”

    really? name ONE verifiable example. just one. curious about which “entire human population” was wiped out… anywhere… ever…

    • Aaahhhh, he is nice and friendly to the mice. Feeding them some food. i like that. i have been feeding mice every time i winterize the cabin. I think i will try the bucket method and give them some thing to drink. the anti freeze is cool and will not let the water freeze solid.

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  12. How long does it take for one of these to work? I’m asking as I put one in my shed, where I know for a fact there is a “colony” of mice living (as evidenced by the noises and the mouse droppings all over the place and the stench!) and yet they seem to ignore my lovely baited trap. Is it because there’s easy pickings elsewhere close by?

      • Hi Trevor,

        I’m using peanut butter on a 200ml coke can. I smeared quite a liberal amount all around the can so there would always be something on top.

        • Peanut butter should work great. I wonder if your resident mice are already eating so well because of other “easy pickins.” You have an access ramp for them right?

          • I took a photo:
            Just excuse the mess, I’ve been avoiding diving into that for far too long :) I placed it next to the crate so they would be able to get to it in a more “natural” way.
            The shed is right next to a small chicken coop which has an automatic feeder based on your design so the grain is easily accessible. I wonder if that couldn’t be causing the lack of interest?

          • Wouldn’t surprise me. Chickens are messy and will scatter their food everywhere if the feeder tray is too low. If they’re doing that, try raising your feeder and/or shortening the height of the flow hole.

            I would also try different baits. If the fish ain’t biting on worms try grasshoppers, right? Maybe something smellier like tuna?

          • Thanks for the help Trevor, I’ll smear some Tuna on top of the peanut butter and see how it goes. I’ll post again to let you know if it worked. By the way I used an old wooden drawer which I stood the drum in for the feeder so the sides are about 10cm tall, with a gap of maybe 2cm between the side and the drum, and yet they still manage to scratch the food out!

          • Please do! I’d love to see your chicken feeder as well.

            Good luck man. I guess if all else fails you can get a cat :)


          • Haven’t managed to get the tuna yet, been a bone of contention with the wife lol. Thought about a cat but between the rabbit, chickens, birds and koi I didn’t think it would fit in too well. Anyway, here’s a picture of the very basic feeder: It almost exhausted my DIY skills :)

          • Ah ha! I see the seed everywhere. I bet a couple cinder blocks underneath your drawer would really help with that.

            Smoke those mice out! :)

  13. Your problem is the walls of the round black can and walls of the square drawer have way to much room between them and the corners! Your chickens just push their bodies/heads into the space and fling out all your food. I’d makeup a round high edged saucer maybe from a galvanized tin or so.
    Good Luck

  14. I use a five gallon plastic pail. Use a board to make a ramp that just sits on the top edge. Spread peanut butter on the inside of the pail just below the ramp. Put the peanut butter far enough to make the mice stretch to reach it. Put 6″ or so of water in the pail. In cold weather, use antifreeze to prevent water from freezing and to keep down the odor of dead mice when you can’t empty the pail for awhile.

  15. The water also keeps mice or young rats from simply jumping back out. A good healthy mouse can sometimes jump high enough to get out of a 5 gallon bucket. I used to raise them and would put them into a holding bucket while cleaning the bin. The occasional one would make it to the top rim.

    Water deep enough they have to swim means they can’t push off of the bottom to jump. I caught a half-sized rat in a water pitcher that was 1/3 full of water! It fell in trying to get a drink I guess and was still paddling around. Since it couldn’t push off the bottom, it just swam in circles.

  16. I have been using this trap for years. it works great but as with any of your mouse traps, the little darlings are usually smart enough to figure out after 2 days not to go near it so take it down after 2 days and try again in about a week. Also. I smear a thin layer of Peanut butter all the way around the center of the can about an inch wide and stick a few pieces of dry dog food in the peanut butter. Gets um every time!

  17. It doesn’t seem terribly humane to me to leave them to drown…I’ve got nothing against killing pests (if they’re actually being pests, anyway) but I’d rather they not suffer unnecessarily. That said, this could be a good alternative if you left out the water, and checked it often–then dispatched the critters with a pellet gun. I can’t use normal spring traps because I have curious dogs, so might consider this if I found myself with an infestation. Luckily, mice don’t really bother me in the yard and they don’t dare come in my house with two rat terriers on patrol.

    • I don’t get all these folks who think drowning a mouse or rat is inhumane. They don’t know any better, they just swim until they can’t, and then they drown. All instinct. Just like the instinct to squirm when a hawk picks them up and carries them away in it’s talons, to feed them to its young.

      And the picture of some idiot shooting mice in a barrel, thinking it’s the “humane” way to kill a bucket of mice, hilarious! As a child I once had a rat caught in a garbage can, half paralyzed from poison. I shot it with my bb gun as my sister watched. The bb bounced off it’s skull and hit my sister in the face (as the rat’s eye also was popped out of its socket, then popped back in, ewww!) A garden hose was used to dispatch the rat, drowning him by keeping his head under with the force of the water. Much more “humane” all the way around than another bb attack, and safer for any bystanders!

  18. I have seen mice jump from flat on the floor to the top of a countertop (3-4′) so it would seem to me a dry bucket would not do much good.

  19. love the bucket traps, i just put grain in the bottom. we let our rat terrier “play” with them. he loves mice friends. he will even check the bucket for more :)

  20. I love all the mouse banter and could not agree more with the vermin fact!, Our society has devoted so much time and effort (Hey Mickey!) “humanizing” the “cute/ poor / innocent little creatures” that the fact that there is a danger involved has a tendency to be swept aside. I doubt that those who feel they are harmless would think so If they were to witness the horrifying death(s) brought about from mice, rats and the like. Certainly there is a degree of sadness surrounding the demise of any creature, but if one had to choose between the pain and suffering of the wee mouse, or that of a fellow human being, I believe the latter would survive (although there are some human beings that be categorized as vermin!). Several comments had me giggling!, as I am in a constant battle with mice out here “on the farm”, I do appreciate the solutions recommended . Thank you

  21. I use the bucket method. I put birdseed on the bottom and make sure to check the traps daily. I release the mice far away from the house. If they die they stink. Another reason to never use poison traps in the house. Mice will die in the walls—and stink. Gotta watch my 2 chihuahuas, they know the mice are there and knock over the bucket to chase the mice. Oh yeah, adult mice can jump out of a 5 gal bucket. The babies stay on the bottom. I sometimes put the lid on the top with a 1″ space on the top so if they jump in they have a harder time jumping out to the rim.

    I have to switch to peanuts, peanut butter, seed. Our mice like a varied diet! But I catch them steadily in the bucket!

  22. These are all SO much more complicated than necessary.
    - Cover the bucket with a sheet of newspaper and affix it in some fashion: large rubber band, string, whatever. Mice weigh almost nothing, it doesn’t have to be a drum tight surface.
    - Cut a hole in the center of the paper, I made mine about 2″ x 2 1/2″, no measuring, no “trap door”. Mice go down holes all the time, inside a hole is a SAFE place to a mouse.
    - Toss a few sunflower seeds (for birds, not salted for people) in the bucket and a couple on the paper. If you don’t have sunflower or other bird seed, just use some cereal or bits of bread.
    - Put the bucket where you see evidence of mice with a cardboard box about half the height of the bucket next to it if you like so they don’t have to “work” too hard for their snacks.
    - Move the mouse somewhere else in the morning.

    I have put a mouse outside the far end of the barn 4 days running (as of today), about 200′ from the house. What I don’t know is if it is the same mouse or a different one every day. I tried spraying a little yellow paint as the mouse ran into the grass this morning though I have no idea if any got on it. But if I find a mouse in the bucket tomorrow morning with yellow on it’s back, well, I guess I’m just providing snacks and a daily “joy ride” to a single mouse.

  23. How about filling the bucket with carbon dioxide from a soda streamer?! That way they quickly die from suffocation and there is now mess with antifreeze or other liquids. =)

  24. worked nice but i didnt use any liquid in the bucket to drown them. i noticed a few small mice died and a larger mouse was still alive eating them. i ended up throwing in firecrackers to kill the mouse. over a few hours later more mice dropped for the party and i had to get even more firecrackers. :)

    • HA! I got a real good laugh out of that, thank you!

      Mice and rats are a GREAT source of protein for my chickens. Whenever I trap them, I tear them limb from limb (don’t worry, they’re dead already) and feed the various partses to my chickens. They go absolutely nuts! Running to and fro with their prize in their mouth, clucking eagerly, with everyone else giving chase!! It’s more entertaining than Monday Night Football! My rooster once swallowed a WHOLE mouse in one fell-swoop!! Now THAT was impressive! MMMmmmm, tastey!! Here mousie mousies!

  25. I use a 3lb folgers coffee can and three roofing nails. No bait. The nails rattle around in the metal can when you have a mouse in it, so then I go check it out and take the can out doors and throw the mouse out and stomp on it.Don’t ask what the mouse likes in the empty can, cause I don’t know. I live in and earth burmed home and we catch shrews in the same can. I think they like the smell of coffee and they can’t climb out and they don’t jump out?

  26. Listen last year my sisters mother in law died from the hanta virus. It was sad…kill the mice and spray areas with bleach that mice have been .be sure to cover your mouth and nose .do not inhale fecal matter.

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