Solved! How to Keep Squirrels Away from Bird Feeders
If you like to keep the local birds fed, chances are you'll also see other uninvited guests stealing seed meant for your feathered friends. Thwart any squirrels in bird feeders with these 10 tips.
Q: We love to watch the birds in our backyard, and have installed several feeders that have successfully attracted them. Unfortunately, the seed we put out also attracts a lot of squirrels, who gobble it up and make a huge mess in the process. How can we keep squirrels away from our bird feeders?
A: Squirrels in your bird feeders? Your dilemma is not uncommon. Bird feeders are a wonderful way to attract feathered friends, but most backyard wildlife is indiscriminate, and all manner of other animals will also be drawn to the bird seen you provide. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to thwart squirrels and other uninvited guests. Read on for some tips on keeping those rascals away from your backyard bird feeders.
Offer foods squirrels don’t like.
Squirrels love birdseed (as well as nuts, sunflower seeds, fruit, and corn), but they don’t favor everything that birds eat. So stock your bird feeder with such fare as safflower seed, nyjer seed, and white proso millet, which squirrels don’t care for and they’ll likely head elsewhere for their next meal.
RELATED: The 10 Best Bird Feeders for Your Wintertime Yard
Place bird feeders away from trees.
Squirrels can easily jump up to seven feet horizontally. Even if you have a squirrel-proof bird feeder pole (see the next tip), if your feeder is placed near a tree, squirrels can simply leap from a nearby limb onto the food source from the side or above.
Get a squirrel-proof feeder pole.
While squirrels are incredible climbers, you can outsmart them with a pest-proof bird feeder pole (such as the Squirrel Stopper, available on Amazon). Most squirrel-proof bird feeder poles employ a baffle—generally a semi-circular or cone-shaped deflector attachment—designed to keep critters from reaching the food source. Note that squirrels can jump up to five feet vertically, so be sure the baffle is installed high enough so that the critters can’t just jump over it and seize the seed.
Buy a baffle.
If you already have your bird feeder on a pole, you can simply install a squirrel baffle (like this one on Amazon) onto it. Just be sure to place it at least five feet high so squirrels can’t just jump over it to the food.
Attach a slinky to your feeder pole.
An inexpensive DIY alternative to a squirrel foil may already be sitting in a child’s toy box—if not, you can purchase the original metal Slinky spring for about $4 (available on Amazon). To deter squirrels, simply fasten the spring to the top of your feeder pole. Watching squirrels try to scale it may provide as much entertainment for you as watching the birds eat!
Get a squirrel-proof feeder.
If you cannot place your feeder in a location squirrels can’t get to, consider investing in a squirrel-proof feeder. They come in a variety of styles, some employing cages, others using spring-loaded doors to help keep squirrels at bay. The Roamwild PestOff Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder (available on Amazon) comes with a satisfaction guarantee.
Use seed laced with hot peppers.
Capsaicin, the compound in hot peppers that makes your tongue burn, only affects mammals—not birds. You can purchase capsaicin-coated bird feed products, suets, and sauces on the market (such as Cole’s Hot Meats, available on Amazon) or just mix some cayenne pepper into seed you already have. One whiff or taste is enough to drive out any squirrels in bird feeders.
Keep the feeder area tidy.
Squirrels are often attracted to the seed that falls from feeders to the ground. Once they’ve found scattered food, they’re likely to go straight for the source. So keep the area under and around your feeders clean of debris to reduce the chance of luring squirrels in the first place.
Create some obstacles.
Try to outfox squirrels by putting obstacles between them and your bird feeders. For instance, if you hang feeders on a wire between two trees or poles, string empty thread spools or plastic bottles onto the wire to create an obstacle course squirrels will find difficult to get through.
Feed squirrels separately.
If you consider squirrels cute but you just don’t want them snatching birdseed, consider feeding them something they love, like corn, peanuts, or sunflower seeds, in a location away from your feeders. Use a tray squirrel feeder that is so easy to access, the challenging bird feeders are bound to become less appealing. But keep in mind you may well be inviting raccoons, deer, and other animals to the party!