Rats and mice

There's 18 different species of rodents found in Britain, from the tiny harvest mouse to the bulky beaver. This includes two species of rats, four species of mice and two species of dormouse.

Which rodent have I seen?

  • Brown rats are found throughout Britain, often around homes, gardens and urban areas. They grow to about 15-27cm, with a tail that's nearly as long again. 
  • Black rats aren't often spotted, as they're mainly found in warehouses and other large buildings, rather than outdoors. In many cities, they haven't been seen for several decades. 
  • House mice are most often found in homes or gardens, and they can come into houses at any time of year. They're smaller than other species of mice, and their tails have hardly any fur unlike other mice.
  • Wood mice (or field mice) are one of the most common wild rodents in the UK. They're usually only seen in buildings during the winter, and they have lighter brown fur and larger ears and tails than house mice.
  • Yellow-necked mice only live in rural areas in central and southern England and Wales - from Staffordshire to Dorset, across to Kent and up to Suffolk. They're much larger than other mice and have a distinctive bib of yellow fur around their neck and chest. 
  • Harvest mice are our smallest rodents, growing to just 7cm. They aren't found in gardens or homes as they live in areas with tall grasses and plants, like hedgerows and the edges of fields, where they can build their nests.
  • Hazel dormice live in woodlands, mainly in the south of England and Wales and they don't often come into gardens or homes. They have orange or yellow fur, and a thick furry tail.
  • Edible dormice aren't native to Britain, and they're only found around the Chiltern Hills so it's unlikely they'd be seen anywhere else. They live in woodlands and buildings, and they have grey fur with a bushy tail.

When are rats and mice active?

Rodents are naturally active at night, although when they live near humans they're more likely to come out during the day too. They're great climbers and swimmers, so they can live in a variety of habitats. 

Rats and mice will breed in large numbers, and they can produce anywhere from 15 to around 100 young each year. Brown rats and mouse mice can have litters all year round, but the other species usually breed between March and October, and longer if they have a good food supply. 
  House mouse

What do rats and mice eat?

Mice and rats aren't fussy, and they'll eat almost anything! Their favourite foods are seeds and cereals, which is why they're often attracted to bird food that spills onto the grass. But they will also eat insects, meat, fish, fruits, nuts, berries, plants, vegetables, fungi, and eggs.
  Small mouse eating a leaf

Keeping rats and mice out of homes or gardens

We recommend using humane methods to deter rats and mice from your home and garden. 

For more information about deterring rodents see our factsheet on Living with rats and mice.
  Brown rat in the garden

Animal advice