Making a Better Mousetrap from a Bucket

Between the swamp and the hayfield and the woods, I’m fully equipped to gather a wonderful crop of mice all year long. If I cared to eat mice I’d have no need of meat from the grocery, but I honestly don’t like the musty smell of mice. Those hard times haven’t yet happened, that would get me to eat a mouse. I do encourage the neighbor’s cat to eat them but that cat is fat and lazy and would rather spend time under the bird feeder. Which reminds me I need to put up the anti-cat fence there.

The rolling log bucket trap became the most popular amusement in Mouse Disneyland.

I’ve tried lots of things to keep the mice from taking over. I don’t like using poison bait and keep that where other things can’t get at it, but you do have to dispose of the dead mouse. If something else eats it, the poison gets passed down the line. Warfarin might not kill a raccoon if it’s only a mouse-sized packet, but it won’t do one any good. Plus, you can’t always find the dead mouse, and I had a very unpleasant experience of that sort here this past spring. A dead mouse lasts quite awhile. Don’t believe what you read about the warfarin-killed mice being so dehydrated they don’t stink. They stink and even inside walls the carcass will breed a goodly number of big fat carrion flies.

The standard solution has always been a snap trap and lots of people hate those because they catch your fingers quite a lot. Most of those don’t work right out of the package and some careful bending of the trigger catch is almost always needed so the mice can’t just eat all the peanut butter off the bait bar and go home to chew on the electrical wiring. A snap trap has to be hair-trigger sensitive or it won’t catch anything. If you have to very gently set it down or it will go off in your hand, that’s about right.

The instructions says they are disposable and you can do that, but a good trap is hard to abandon and I reuse them in spite of the nastiness of emptying and resetting. If you are up to checking the trap line once a day every day, you can do well with snap traps. It’s easy to forget them and then again you have that issue of persistent stench until you find that special spot again. I missed one in my car, where mice often decide that the air conditioner housing is the most wonderful nesting spot in the world, and had a day of surprise car cleaning and fumigation to counter the aroma. Part of the wonder of living in the country! I’ve gotten pretty good at cleaning out the A/C fan in my Hyundai but I still keep the traps going.

If you decide to go with the standard snap trap, peanut is a good sticky bait, but so is cheddar cheese. Either one will attract mice for a week or two before needing replacement. If you’re not catching mice and the bait isn’t touched, placement could be the problem. It seldom means there are no mice around. Set the trap with the baited end and inch from a wall, in an area that has some cover. Traps set out in the open don’t catch much of anything. Mice travel along the bottoms of walls and won’t divert very far to investigate a trap.



This year was an exceptionally good year for mice and I have needed something a little more efficient than a line of snap traps. Those only have one chance per day to catch a mouse and I had more mice to deal with than that. I saw some interesting ideas on YouTube and decided to try a roller bar bucket trap. You can buy the bar online and install it in a regular plastic bucket, but I rigged up something that works fine with nothing more than a piece of welding rod and an empty rubbing alcohol bottle. I set the bucket trap in a cluttered part of the garage (not hard to find a cluttered spot here) where I had seen signs of mice digging around the houseplants I repotted. I leaned a couple of pieces of sassafras sapling against the rim of the bucket, near the ends of the welding rod, so the mice could climb up. I smeared peanut butter all around the middle of the empty bottle for bait. The idea is very simple. The mouse smells the bait, climbs up and onto the bottle, and as soon as it leaves the centerline there is a brief show of Mouse Upon Rolling Log and then the mouse lands in the bucket. A five gallon bucket is tall enough to keep most mice from jumping out again, so if you have a soft heart for mice you can carry them a mile or two away, dump them out, and catch them again that next night. For a more permanent solution, put two or three inches of water in the bucket.

I’ve been using the rolling log bucket trap I built for about three weeks and I’ve caught 15 mice so far. In that same span of time I’ve caught none in my car, so the bucket trap is doing a good job of keeping them away from the car, too.

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About JTHats

Avid backpacker and outdoorsman with old skills and interests in old ways of doing things; equally fascinated by electronics, from the days of Sputnik, to the Zilog Z80A, to the present day of black box circuitry. Sixty years of experience with growing my own food and living simply. Certified electronics technician, professional woodturner, woodcarver, and graduate of two military survival courses -- Arctic and Jungle.

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