Mice are typically nocturnal creatures who become most active during dusk before the world becomes pitch black outside. You won’t see them scurrying around during the morning or out in the open during daylight hours very often, though there could be hundreds living in a relatively small area. Have you ever wondered where mice really go and live during the day?
In daylight hours, mice typically sleep in their nests unless they have to come out for food. These could be located inside or near your house in your attic, crawl space, shed, garage, or woodpile. Mice generally travel between your walls, under or in cabinets or appliances, and inside furniture.
Once the problem has been taken care of (and you are mouse-free) understanding where they hang out during the day can help prevent more mice! In this article, we will go over where mice hang out during the day, and what you can do to keep these pests from returning like a bad sequel.
Mice Are Naturally Nocturnal
In the wild, away from civilization and the plethora of inviting human-built homes, mice are naturally nocturnal. Most predators who want to make a meal out of mice are more active during the daytime hours, so mice have adapted to be active when there are fewer threats around.
Mice have to keep away from snakes, hawks, foxes, large bullfrogs, owls, and many other, larger animals prowling in search of tiny rodents.
Another reason mice prefer the dusky hours of evening is because their vision is not very keen, and they are sensitive to bright light. Naturally, the best time for mice to come out to find food while avoiding becoming a meal themselves is during the darkening hours of the evening.
During the day, in the wild, mice sleep or take care of their young in their hiding places. The only reason they will go out during the day in the wild is if their nests have been disturbed—typically by predators or if larger animals evict them—or they have to search for food.
Mice have to eat many times throughout the day, so if they do not have stores of food in their nests, they will have to brave the perils to survive. Mice also drink little water, as they consume most of their water needs in the foods they eat. For this reason, mice cannot survive without food as long as most animals and people.
Mice Can Adapt to Daytime Living
Mice and rats are very intelligent creatures as well as highly adaptable. Even though they are naturally nocturnal animals and sleep during the day, if daytime is quieter than nighttime in their surrounding area, they can adapt to the situation.
Inside a typical house, mornings are busy times as we get ready for work, tend to pets, and get everyone ready for school. Then the house might be quiet for several hours while everyone is at school and work. If mice are living inside your house, this would be prime time for them to scamper about collecting food and getting into everything.
As the afternoon wanes into evening, everyone congregates back at the house, and the area is busy again. Mice will adapt to these situations and make themselves scarce once again.
According to The Indiana Department of Health, mice are very adaptive. These rodents are great at swimming, climbing, and can jump up to a foot high. They have keen senses of smell, taste, and touch, but are lacking in the eyesight department.
Places Mice Can Hide During the Day
Mice do not need a lot of space, and they don’t care what kind of material they use for nesting and burrowing. If they can squeeze into the space, they can probably use that area for a nest.
They are looking for dark, warm, secluded places preferably within a few dozen feet of a solid food source. The following places are areas mice routinely seek to occupy, but these examples are not the only areas mice can reside!
Walls, Cabinets, Appliances, And Furniture
Mice are opportunistic and will search out any tiny holes, cracks, or crevices they can squeeze themselves into. If the area is not big enough to squeeze into, they can easily chew through most types of building materials to make a large enough entrance.
These areas include spaces between walls, the space under cabinets, in appliances like the dishwasher, under the oven/range, inside the refrigerator, in air vents like dryer vents or HVAC ducting, and inside furniture like couches, or dressers.
Mice also love cluttered areas that receive little attention. I’ve been guilty of having a “junk room” where I’ve kept boxes of important paperwork, little random junk items I could not part with yet, old clothes I was going to donate when “I get around to it,” and other odd assortments I did not have a good place for.
These areas are havens for mice. There are plenty of materials they can chew up to make into nests; papers, boxes, fabric are all materials mice will regularly use for nesting. The rooms or areas get very little foot traffic, and there are tons of hiding places.
An attic is another place that does not get disturbed by us much. We have decorations, handed down items without a home, and other random boxes of “stuff” stored in places like the attic. This is another place mice will regularly be drawn toward.
Even without boxes of grandma’s old clothing from a bygone era, there is plenty of insulation mice love to burrow through and gather up to nest in. It’s warm in the winter, and gives shelter in the sweltering heat, plus how many times do people go walking around in the attic? I’m feeling sweaty and uncomfortable just thinking about it!
If there is easy outdoor access, or tree limbs touching the roof, mice can easily run out for food and come back in to rest in their insulation tunnels.
Crawlspace, Cellar or Basements
Underneath your house is like the attic, as far as shelter, nesting materials, relative safety, and minimal disturbances by human occupants. These areas are usually cool, yet warm enough to survive through the winter chill, dark, and often have plenty of food sources.
Cellars are not as commonplace as they once were. Many people used to store foods like potatoes and other root vegetables, possibly flower bulbs, or maybe livestock feed in these cool areas. These are all plentiful food sources for a horde of hungry mice.
Garages, Workshops, Or Storage Buildings
Or garage, or workshop, or storage building… You get the idea. Outdoor buildings are other ideal places for mice to hide out and make themselves comfortable. Again, these areas are often filled with tiny hiding places fit for mice and usually have easier access.
Garages, sheds, and other buildings still provide plenty of shelter and safety from most predators for mice. Even outdoors, there are plenty of food sources for mice. Bird feeders, squirrel feeders, compost heaps, garbage bins, even flowers all provide food for mice, and they are not picky eaters.
If you need to keep mice out your small out-spaces, check out our guide on keeping mice out of your shed here!
Wood And Mulch Piles
I’m sure you get the picture now. Mice will find nearly any small, dark place with shelter and protection to spare. This includes the woodpile you use for your fire pit or fireplace.
Most likely you do not disturb the woodpile every day as we do not use fireplaces as our primary source of heat as much as we used to. So, with minimal disturbances, woodpiles offer mice a great place to live.
If the pile is disturbed, the mice can make quick exits from several areas, and then simply return once the coast is clear.
Reasons Mice Will Come Out During the Day
Mice are naturally nocturnal, but they are extremely adaptable and intelligent. If the place they have made home is active at night, but quiet during the day, mice will adapt and become more active when the threat of danger is low.
Inside a house, mice will become most active when the other residents are asleep, away at work or school, or winding down for the evening. They can figure out patterns and adapt to the situation.
If you have mice in your house during the day, you will most likely see signs of unwanted visitors before you see the animals themselves. Signs of mice include, but are not limited to:
- Droppings: You may find them along walls, on counters, or in cabinets and pantries.
- Gnaw marks: These can appear in the wall, around pipes entering your house, or other entryways.
- Scratching sounds: You will hear them in walls, ceilings, or cellars.
- Foul ammonia odors: Mouse urine can pile up as they constantly enter and exit their hiding places.
- Signs of chewed-up materials: For example, papers, cardboard, insulation, or fabrics.
- Nest piles: A collection of the chewed-up materials for their nests.
- Holes in food containers: Things such as cereal boxes or bread wrappers are the first to be affected.
Searching for Food
Mice have to eat throughout the day. If they do not have food stored up in their nests, they will search and forage during the day if hunger urges them out. This journey for sustenance becomes more important if the mother is raising young.
Using their keen sense of smell, mice can easily detect plenty of food sources and will go out to eat several times during a 24-hour period. They cannot consume much in a single sitting but will fill up often, return to the nest and run back again, especially if they have found a dark and safe route like behind cabinets or between wall cavities.
If the route back and forth from the nest to a food source is safe, with little human disturbance, they will go back and forth dozens of times a day. If you have several mice in the house, they will join in on the feast as well.
Much like ants, mice will leave urine trails to mark territories and provide pathways to food and shelter. Their vision is very poor, but their sense of smell and hearing is quite keen, so using trails of urine will lead them and others to important places.
You can use this sense of smell to deter them as well. For more information on what scents mice dislike, check out our popular article on the scents mice hate and how to use them!
If Their Nest is Disturbed
Mice like to make nests in out of the way, hidden areas such as between walls, under appliances, in the spaces under cabinets, attics, or crawl spaces just to name a few. Most times, these nests go completely undisturbed because they are so out of the way, but if the nest is exposed, the mice hiding inside will rush out to escape.
Maybe a predator found the nest and was searching for the little morsels inside, or you were doing some deep cleaning in the garage and came across the nest. These reasons will have the mice inside scurrying away to find another area for shelter and running around in daylight hours.
Mice could also hunt for new shelter if their nest has become too crowded, or if the food source has been depleted. Mice will not travel far once they have found a good food source because more exposure means more possible encounters with predators. If something has forced them to move on, they will quickly search out a new hiding place that is a better fit.
If It’s Safer And More Quiet
If the place a mouse family has taken up residence in is hopping at all hours of the night, while the morning and afternoon hours are quiet—let’s say like a nightclub—the mice will be active during the day. Mice are intelligent and will adapt to their surroundings. They will avoid active, noisy areas and come out when it is safer and quieter.
How to Prevent Mice from Moving In During The Day
Preventing mice from entering your dwelling can be a time-consuming project and takes a sharp eye. You need to go around the entire exterior of your house to identify any entrances. Look for any wires, pipes, drilled holes, loose siding, or any other dime-sized point of entry to your house and seal them with steel wool, wire mesh, or sheet metal.
However, be careful with your choice of mesh. Some of it can still be chewed through by mice and rats. If you are interested in what meshes are safe, you can read are article that discusses if mice can chew through stainless steel mesh here.
The EPA suggests removing food and water sources, as well as anything rodents, could use for shelter. Plug and seal holes with steel wool, and patch holes in interior and exterior walls.
Remove potential nesting sites and keep garbage in tight-fitting containers. Turn your compost piles after adding fresh waste. If you are feeding birds, stop while you are dealing with the removal of rodents!
Block Entrances to Your House
Use steel wool for smaller holes, then seal it with caulk to prevent it from falling out. For larger holes, you should use cement, metal lath, or a fine mesh of hardware cloth. These materials will prevent a mouse from chewing through and entering where it’s not welcome.
Remove any vines or branches a mouse can climb up to enter your house during the daytime. Also, check for gaps in window or door frames, then seal these up with a good exterior caulk and check any vents around your house such as dryer vents, exhaust fans, attic fans, and so on. These areas need to be covered with hardware cloth or approved pest deterrents that still allow plenty of airflow.
Clean Up Any Food In Your House Or Yard
By making food scarce and difficult to get into, mice seeking refuge and a nice meal will think twice about getting into your abode. You might think mice love to eat cheese, or they only eat corn and grains. Well, you would be partly right.
Mice are omnivores and will eat almost anything. In the wild, mice eat grass, seeds, acorns, roots, and vegetables if they are available. However, they will also consume small invertebrates and even meat and carrion.
This is backed up by the Indiana Department of Health. They tell us mice in the wild eat seeds, roots, leaves, and stems. They will also feast on caterpillars, cockroaches, and carrion. As for human food, they prefer foods high in fat and protein, like bacon, chocolate, peanut butter, and nuts.
If you look around your house, you may be inadvertently ringing the dinner bell for mice without even knowing it. If you have bird feeders out, mice can get into them and will greedily devour the seeds and suet if they can access them.
The same goes for the bag of birdseed. It is very easy for a mouse to chew through the bag, or simply climb in and get its fill.
To a mouse, even your compost heap is a feast waiting to be pillaged. They will eat potato peels, fruit cores, or whatever else they can find in the compost heap, as well as the insects who help break down the kitchen waste into compost.
Inside your house, if your pets do not finish their dinner, mice will see it as an invitation to dig in. Mice can also get into the bags of pet food stored in your pantry. To prevent mice from ruining your pet’s food, put away any uneaten portions and store remaining pet food in thick plastic or metal containers.
I’ve seen mice chew into cereal boxes, bread bags, and other containers such as oats, rice, and beans. If you have seen evidence of mice, dispose of anything they have gotten into, disinfect any areas they have contaminated, and store new food items in airtight, gnaw-proof containers to prevent mice from getting into them.
If you are looking for some fantastic airtight containers, these 24 Pack Airtight Food Storage Containers are a great place to start! They come in a variety of sizes from small to tall and are perfect for storing solids, liquids, and even powders.
See a Mouse? Act Quick
If you see a mouse or notice evidence you have scurrying visitors, you need to act quickly. One mouse can become several mice in a brief period. So, if you see one, you can bet there are many more you do not see.
Getting rid of a mouse invasion can be difficult and time-consuming because they can adapt and learn to avoid traps. It might be worth it to contact a local pest control agency to help rid you of your rodent misery. You can contact our nationwide pest control partner network if you don’t want to deal with the issue yourself.
If you prefer not to go the professional route, one other method is to use black pepper to repel mice.
That’s A Wrap!
Thank you for coming along on this journey of discovery with us. As you have probably learned, mice are quite adaptable little rodents. While they are inclined to be nocturnal creatures, given the right circumstances, they can be daylight dwellers as well.
They will come out during the day to search for food, find new shelter if theirs has been disturbed, or given the perfect circumstances, they will do like most teenagers during summer break and sleep the day away.
So if you see a mouse during the day, you will know either it has become accustomed to earlier hours, has been disturbed somehow, or is on the search for food. Say a mouse has been spotted in your house or elsewhere on your property. You know to act fast to have it and its entire family evicted before you get outnumbered.
If you’d like to watch out for rats along with mice, read our guide on where rats go and live during the day here!
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Beatriz Bano-Otalora, Franck Martial, Court Harding, David A. Bechtold, Annette E. Allen, Timothy M. Brown, Mino D. C. Belle, Robert J. Lucas. Bright daytime light enhances circadian amplitude in a diurnal mammal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jun 2021, 118 (22) e2100094118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2100094118
Wecker, Stanley C. “The Role of Early Experience in Habitat Selection by the Prairie Deer Mouse, Peromyscus Maniculatus Bairdi.” Ecological Monographs, vol. 33, no. 4, Ecological Society of America, 1963, pp. 307–25, https://doi.org/10.2307/1950749.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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