Few things are more frustrating than being continually outwitted by a squirrel on a mission to steal food from the bird feeder in your yard.
While there are no foolproof guarantees, following the tips below will help stop squirrels from raiding your bird feeder. Then, you can enjoy bird watching from the comfort of your home.
Or, if you prefer, look at our top five picks for the best squirrel-proof bird feeders instead.
Place Bird Feeder Out of Reach
Squirrels can jump impressive distances in their quest for food. They can jump up to 8 feet horizontally and down over 11 feet vertically. Although you may love having your bird feeder next to your favorite tree for optimal viewing, it is best to position it at least 12 feet away from anything a squirrel could use as a launching point. This position makes it much harder for them to make a flying leap onto the feeder.
Instead, situate your bird feeder in the middle of the yard. Use a freestanding metal pole designed specifically for bird feeders. Make sure to sink it at least 2 feet into the ground. This placement and stability will help protect your feeder from squirrels.
Bird Feeder Baffle
If relocating your bird feeder is not an option, install a squirrel baffle. Baffles are shaped like an upside-down bowl and attach to the pole below your hanging bird feeder. It acts as a shield to prevent access by hungry squirrels. When a squirrel jumps onto the baffle, it slides down the smooth surface back to the ground.
For pole-mounted feeders, position the baffle above the feeder itself. The determined squirrel will still jump onto the baffle but harmlessly slide down its slick surface without reaching the seed. Squirrel baffles are an effective mechanical deterrent for feeders staying in prime squirrel territory.
Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders
Specialized squirrel-proof bird feeders provide another line of defense against thieving squirrels. These feeders employ a closing mechanism that slams shut when anything heavier than a bird lands on the perch. At the same time, the feeder forcibly shakes or spins the intruder off to the ground.
It then automatically resets itself to allow feathered friends back in for a snack.
Look for bird feeders advertised as “squirrel-proof” or “squirrel-resistant.” Customer reviews on sites like Amazon can help determine which anti-squirrel feeders work as intended. Be aware that crafty squirrels eventually outwit even these tricky feeders. But they provide a much-needed obstacle that will discourage most squirrels.
Switch Up the Bird Seed
You can also deter squirrels by changing the food inside your bird feeder. Certain seeds appeal to birds but not squirrels. For example, try offering millet to attract house finches. Woodpeckers and nuthatches love suet. Nyjer seeds lure in hungry goldfinches, and safflower seeds entice cardinals, chickadees, and other backyard songbirds.
Squirrels do not particularly care for any of these birdseed varieties. Taking away their favorite snacks like sunflower seeds and corn will send squirrels looking elsewhere for their next meal. Just be sure to transition gradually to the new seed mix so you do not also scare away your feathered visitors.
Try Using Hot Peppers
Adding hot chili peppers like jalapeños or habaneras to your existing birdseed mix creates an unpleasant surprise for nibbling squirrels. Birds do not mind the spicy seeds. But squirrels will get an unwelcome burn from the capsicum oils and avoid your feeder in the future.
Look for birdseed blends advertised as “squirrel-free” or “hot.” You can also buy pure pepper seed to mix into your existing feed. Start with a small amount until you find the right pepper level to deter squirrels without overwhelming the birds. The irritating heat from peppers offers a natural squirrel repellent.
Add a Squirrel-Only Feeder
Consider placing a second feeder strictly for the squirrels’ use as a final strategy. Pick one that is easy for them to access, like a corn cob feeder or open platform feeder filled with nuts. Satisfy the squirrels’ hunger away from your bird feeding area.
By giving squirrels their feeder, you can enjoy both worlds. Squirrels get fed, while birds can eat in peace. In my yard, this compromise has worked beautifully. The birds now stick to their feeder and the squirrels to theirs. In the end, we’re all happier.
Other Deterrent Options
If the above tactics are not keeping squirrels at bay, there are a couple of other options:
- Try spraying smelly repellents like predator urine around your yard and on the bird feeder pole. The strong scent warns squirrels away. Reapply frequently for best results.
- Install a thistle tube feeder with small openings specifically for finches. Squirrels cannot squeeze inside to reach the seeds.
- Consider a feeder with an electric shock feature that gives squirrels a harmless but startling zap. They learn to avoid the unpleasant jolt.
- Place dried hot peppers inside your birdhouses. Squirrels dislike chewing on spicy materials when building nests.
So, Is Investing in Squirrel Deterrents Worth It?
The first step is accepting that completely squirrel-proofing a bird feeder is nearly impossible. Squirrels are smart and agile. But fortunately, there are many tools and techniques to deter these pesky criminals. Experiment to find the right deterrents for your unique situation. With persistence, you can reclaim your yard for peaceful bird watching again!
For dedicated bird lovers, keeping squirrels away from feeders is absolutely worth some extra effort. Squirrels have their place, but they should not be allowed to monopolize bird food. Luckily, there are many effective options to deter these brazen feeder thieves.
Using multiple deterrents together provides the best chance for success. For instance, pairing a baffle with squirrel-proof seed means squirrels cannot access the food. View squirrel deterrents as an investment in your bird-feeding hobby. The up-front costs pay off through countless hours of enjoyable bird-watching!
FAQs About Deterring Squirrels
How do I stop squirrels from chewing on my bird feeder?
Pole-mounted metal feeders are harder for squirrels to chew through. Also, apply hot pepper gel repellent onto surfaces.
What scent repels squirrels from bird feeders?
Squirrels dislike the scent of predator urine, especially coyote or fox urine. Apply these repellents around your feeding area.
What is the best squirrel-proof bird feeder?
Look for feeders with weight-sensitive closing mechanisms. Perky-Pet and Droll Yankees make reliable squirrel-proof models.
How do you keep squirrels from climbing pole feeders?
Install a squirrel baffle at least 5 feet off the ground. Or apply a slippery grease like Vaseline to the pole.
Will squirrels eventually defeat squirrel-proof feeders?
In rare cases, particularly clever squirrels learn to outmaneuver deterrents over time. Using multiple obstacles makes this less likely.
Can I just use hot sauce on bird feed to deter squirrels?
Using actual hot pepper seed for the highest capsaicin content is best. Mix this with other seeds gradually to find the right ratio that deters squirrels, not birds.