Ensuring that a certain species of wildlife remains fed and well-cared for in your backyard doesn’t sound exactly easy, does it? If you’re leaving out food in your yard, you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s drawing more than just birds onto your property. But for birders, it can be very frustrating when they are putting out birdseed almost daily, only to find that their local squirrel population is constantly pilfering their bird feeders. If you’re tired of squirrels taking over the bird feeders in your yard, leaving no seed behind, then it’s time to learn how to squirrel-proof a bird feeder. While it may seem complicated to keep squirrels off your bird feeders, it is possible, by following some of the tips and tricks I’ve included here. While you may not be able to get rid of squirrels for good, these tips can ensure that most of the seed in your feeders go to your favorite wildlife.
Out Of Reach
Did you know that most squirrels are unable to jump more than five feet up from the ground and are unable to jump more than eight feet across from a structure or tree? They also tend to be pretty reluctant to drop more than six to seven feet onto a feeder from up above. So, what’s the best place to hang a hummingbird feeder? Try placing your feeder with this information in mind and you’ll find that you can deter many squirrels from attempting some serious acrobatics in order to access your feeders.
Get a Baffle
For the most part, the squirrel is an impressive climber, even when it comes to a slick metal pole. If you have your bird feeders on poles and have had no luck with keeping the squirrels away, try attaching a baffle to the pole in order to prevent them from climbing.
You can even get creative and turn a Slinky toy into a unique baffle. To do, you’ll thread the post through the Slinky, attaching one end under the feeder and allowing it to drape down the post. If the Slinky reaches the ground then shorten it. Now, when a squirrel tries to climb the pole then get a fun ride back to the ground each time.
The baffle will be installed in a different location, depending on the style of feeder you have. If you have a basic pole feeder, then the baffle can be installed halfway up to the feeder or at the base of the pole. You can use tubular and dome baffles.
If you don’t have a pole and you hang a bird feeder from a structure or tree branch, then the baffle should be attached above it. For this type of location, you’ll want to use a dome baffle. The dome baffle can be placed below or above the feeder based on the hanging method used for the feeder. These domes are big enough to make it very difficult for a squirrel to leap from the ground and reach the feeder. These baffles are also designed to prevent squirrels from gripping onto any joint or edge in order to regain their balance. If you want to make it a real challenge for a squirrel to access birdseed, this is a great type of baffle to try. If you don’t want to buy one, you can also easily make it yourself. All you have to do is find something that has a similar shape, with a slippery, smooth surface. Some birders recommend trying a large metal mixing bowl for this purpose. To do, simply cut a hole in the bottom of the bowl and attach it using wire.
Baffles that are tube-shaped are designed to slide right over the bird station’s feeding pole. This can be done at the base in order to prevent a squirrel from attempting to climb the pole, or you can place it somewhere between the feeder and the ground.
By placing the baffle halfway up the pole it can make it even more difficult for squirrels to climb since it has to get from the pole to the outside surface of the tubular baffle, which happens to have a very smooth surface. If somehow, the squirrel is able to continue climbing and manages to get inside the baffle, they’ll be unable to go any further, since the top of the baffle is closed off. While tubular-shaped baffles are not quite as common as dome-shaped models, they’re possible to find. Most models will come equipped with a clamp, which will make it easy to secure.
You can also easily make this type of baffle yourself, as long as it’s around six inches in diameter and it has an outer surface that’s smooth and slippery. I recommend using a piece of stainless steel or plastic pipe and hanging the pipe with a loose spring or elastic. If a squirrel tries to climb the slippery surface, it will fall onto the pipe and will fall downward.
Squirrel on a Wire
Squirrels are pretty smart, so you’ll have to be really creative in order to prevent them from reaching a bird feeder. If possible, steer clear of traditional hangers and try the following alternative instead:
Have you tried a new way of suspending your feeders? Use wire that’s strung from one pole to the next, approximately five feet from the ground. In order to deter the squirrels from doing a tight-rope trick, use a plastic one to two-liter size soda bottle thread through the wire on each side of the feeder. The bottles will end up rolling the squirrels right off as they approach your feeder.
Special Bird Feeders
Buy the best squirrel-proof bird feeder, one that features a cage design, such as the Perky-Pet 336 Squirrel-Be-Gone Wild Bird Feeder. This type of bird feeder is specifically designed for smaller species of birds such as chickadees and finches, and they work well to prevent bully birds from hogging all of the seeds as well.
Try a New Seed Mix
For the most part, a squirrel will eat any type of seed, however, some birders have noticed that squirrels tend to leave safflower seeds alone. Birds such as titmice and cardinals love this type of seed, so switching to it can really help to deter squirrels while encouraging more birds to visit your feeder.
A Better Pole
Metal and wood poles are super easy for squirrels to climb, but many birders have reported that copper or PVC poles can be very challenging. If you’re feeling creative and you’re handy in the garage, try making your own feeding station or pole using these types of materials.
Most squirrels love to forage on the ground for seeds. Because of this, the detritus from your bird feeders may actually be attracting more squirrels to your yard. Once a squirrel realizes the mecca that is your backyard, it’s going to be hard to get rid of them and in no time, they’ll begin to invade your bird feeders. So, make your yard more unappealing to squirrels by keeping the ground beneath your feeders nice and clean. Doing so can also be an excellent way to deter any type of unwanted pests such as racoons, rats, and other types of rodents. You can also attach a big tray on the pole directly under the feeder in order to catch any seeds that fall when a bird is feeding.
Add a New Flavor
Birds and squirrels taste things differently. As an example, a bird cannot taste the heat of a pepper, but a squirrel definitely can. Some birders swear by adding cayenne pepper into a seed mix. However, there are some birders who argue that doing so can cause irritation to a bird’s eyes, so be careful not to add too much if you decide to give it a shot.
A Natural Repellant
Birders who are determined to deter squirrels and draw more birds to their yard can get really creative and will experiment with different products and techniques in the hope of scaring off a squirrel or making their yard as unappealing to a squirrel as possible, while still making their bird feeders very attractive to birds. One tip that many birders recommend is placing a bar of Irish Spring bar soap in a sock and hanging it nearby. According to these seasoned birders, the scent of the soap will naturally repel squirrels and other unwanted wildlife.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Try hanging your feeders from a spinning hook or a type of bird feeder that’s specifically designed to spin a squirrel off. The squirrel will not get hurt, but they will definitely think twice before attempting to eat from one of your feeders.
If you’re tired of fighting a losing battle and you’re ready to hold up that white flag, maybe it’s time to give your backyard squirrels a feeder of their own. In some cases, this can be enough to keep them away from your bird feeders, if you do a good job of staying on top of providing them with a steady food source. You can buy a corn cob feeder, or get a little creative and make your own squirrel feeder that’s filled with peanuts.
What Not to Do
Unfortunately, some birders will come up with fatal ways to keep squirrels away from their bird feeders, out of frustration, but these methods should never be attempted. Never intentionally harm wildlife, regardless of how frustrating this type of situation can be. There are many strategies that you can try to deter squirrels, and while they may not all be effective, they’re definitely worth a shot. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the things you should avoid trying since this can seriously injure a squirrel or even kill them.
- Do not use poison. Using poison will not only sentence a squirrel to a horrific, painful death, but you will also risk accidentally poisoning the family dog, the neighbor’s cat, and other wildlife, even birds.
- Never use glue or any other type of sticky substance on the bird’s feeding pole. It can be very painful for the squirrel to have their fur ripped out, or they may accidentally ingest the glue when they’re grooming themselves, which can be fatal.
- Do not use grease or petroleum jelly on the bird feeder pole. Like glue, this can be very difficult for a squirrel to get off their coat. They can also ingest the grease or petroleum jelly, which can make them sick. These substances can also cause their fur to clump together, which can leave them vulnerable in cold weather.
- Never allow your dog or cat to kill a squirrel. Cats and dogs love to prey on squirrels, rodents, and birds. If you’re allowing the family cat or dog to prey on these animals at your bird feeders, you’re also basically giving them the green light to prey on any visiting birds as well.
Harming and possibly even killing any squirrels that visit your yard is basically a classic example of treating the symptom, not the problem. A squirrel can breed very quickly, so killing a squirrel that visits your yard will do nothing to solve your problem.
By learning how to squirrel-proof a bird feeder, it’s possible to deter, repel, and keep visiting squirrels off your feeders and prevent them from gobbling up all the available birdseed. But remember, it’s important that you don’t resort to using poison or other techniques that can possibly injure or kill a squirrel. This can potentially harm any other visiting wildlife, including birds. Use the methods I’ve included here to make your bird feeders unappealing to visiting squirrels, or, if you can’t beat em, join em, and buy or make your own squirrel feeders to keep the peace in your yard and ensure that your visiting birds are well-fed and happy.