I don't mind rats and mice as much as spiders and cockroaches.
As far as I can tell from Google they are wood rats or tree rats. The largest ones are 8-10 inches long, not counting their tails -- which are longer than their bodies. They live in the palm trees and among the thatch from the fortnight lilies. At night they come down the tree trunks and if you scare them they will go up the trunks into the palm leaves. They were getting into the seed tray underneath the bell cap and just twined themselves around the pole and the cover to get at the seed. So we moved the tray to a place a little further away from the palm trees but close to some bushes whose branches barely carry the weight of the birds. That worked, because I haven't seen any more droppings in the tray.
However they now come out in the middle of the day and mooch around the ground around the feeding poles. The squirrels do the same (These are ground squirrels and live in holes in the ground and under the deck), but they have bushy tails and are grey in color.
During the winter and our wet spring I put a lot of the seed on the plastic picnic table because it didn't get pools of water for the seed to become sodden and the table is on the patio and under the patio cover. However, we stopped doing that once the rain finally gave up.
Here you can see a squirrel debating whether to jump on to the tiny feeder. He decided against it.
The baby squirrels in late spring tried scrambling up the legs of the table. We even had to move it away from any bushes because the squirrels would jump from the nearest bush. Climbing up the table legs didn't work either -- for a couple of weeks. They would fall down with a bump.
But they didn't give up.
A few weeks passed, the squirrels got bigger and stronger, until one day...
He made it!
( Sorry the light is not so good on this, but I had to take it when he did it).
So back to the feeding tray and the bell cover and cone for the summer.
Someone told me that PEPPER would keep the rats away, so today I bought a small jar of pepper and sprinkled it around where the rats come out of the bushes. Neither the rats nor the squirrels liked it but they just scratched it away. I had put out a whole jarful about four feet long and a couple of inches wide. Obviously you would have to lay the pepper down inches thick for it to work.
Then I looked at the receipt for my groceries and saw to my horror
I had paid $7.00 for the jar of pepper I had just scattered on the ground.
In the mean time the rats and squirrels, doves and rabbits have the run of my back yard.
Just to prove it, the rabbit came right up to the patio door and peered in
at us while we were eating dinner tonight.