Garden squirrels and other local wildlife can be a lovely view. However, they can be a menace that can scare off your songbirds. They can even clear out your whole bird feeder in one swoop!
If this is already happening to you, then it’s time to act!
Any food you put out for wildlife is fair game for squirrels. While songbirds will visit your feeder in a more or less harmonious manner, squirrels can chase away these birds you are trying to attract.
You may not necessarily want to rid your garden completely of squirrels. However, if you don’t figure out how to keep squirrels off your bird table, the birds aren’t even going to get a look at the food you gave them. To make sure that at least some of your bird food gets to your local birds, you are going to have to try to squirrel-proof your bird feeders.
Tips to Keep Squirrels off Bird Feeders
Squirrels are highly agile and very determined. Don’t be surprised if they persist and figure out a way around your bird feeder defences. To make sure you deter them from raiding your bird food, read on and find some of the best ways to keep squirrels from eating your bird seeds.
1. Change Your Bird Feeder Location
One of the most manageable and most essential steps to squirrel-proofing your bird feeder is to change its location. Before moving on to other tips to stop squirrels from eating your bird seeds, you must try first to move your bird table to a harder-to-reach location.
— Joe (@joearcieri) July 22, 2018
The fact is, even if you go ahead and add unique features to stop squirrels from jumping over onto your feeder or table from the ground or a tree, they are not going to have that much difficulty in helping themselves to your bird seeds.
Extremely agile, a hungry squirrel can quickly jump over two metres horizontally and around a metre vertically. If your feeder or bird table is near a tree, for example, a squirrel will more than likely be able to jump over, rendering any anti-squirrel measures simply useless.
Of course, this all depends on your garden size and layout. However, wherever possible, try to relocate your bird feeders and table three metres from trees or buildings and a metre and a half to two metres high. If your garden is too small, you can still make a huge difference by moving your feeder the furthest away possible from all potential launching points before moving on to squirrel-proofing your feeder.
2. Use a Squirrel-Proof Feeder
To be in with a fighting chance of stopping squirrels from stealing your birdseed, you’re going to need to either invest in a unique squirrel-proof bird feeder or adapt your own.
Here are some of the most practical features that you should look out for when choosing a bird feeder to help keep squirrels at bay. You can also try adding some of these features to your current bird table.
An excellent way to keep squirrels from snaffling your birdseed is to invest in a feeder with a weight-sensitive mechanism. These types of bird feeders feature feeding holes or ports, often with a perch ring.
When not in use or with birds on the ring, the feeding ports remain open, and your local songbirds can tuck in. A heavier weight, such as a pigeon or squirrel, pushes down the ports’ ring to close, making the seeds inaccessible.
Weight-sensitive feeders are an excellent choice. However, you may need to combine one with other squirrel-proof features if you have some very determined or ravenous squirrels. Baffles can help, as you may find that squirrels can lower themselves down, supporting their body weight from above with their back paws and tails.
You could also find that some frustrated squirrels gnaw through your weight-sensitive feeder. So, make sure that it’s robust and, if necessary, customise it with additional features.
Bird feeders or tables with an external metal cage allow small birds to feed while keeping squirrels out. You can purchase a ready-made model or adapt your current feeders with appropriately sized wired mesh.
You’ll need to look out for reasonably wide models. If you are customising your own, leave a good amount of space. Otherwise, you may find that squirrels are still able to reach through to grab pawfuls of seed. Your cage will also need to be rigid.
While external cage bird feeders are a good option, you may also need to secure your feeder from swinging. Some more determined grey squirrels may learn that shaking up your feeder gets them a large and effortless dinner.
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Spinning Bird Feeders
You may want to try out a motorised spinning bird feeder to help prevent squirrels from eating all of your seeds. When these types of feeders detect extra weight, the motor is activated, causing the feeder to spin.
With the feeding spinning around, the squirrel is likely to fall off or become unbalanced and retreat. Most will be discouraged from coming back, although some of the more persistent offenders may try several times before giving up.
You can also purchase non-motorised feeders that spin, so you won’t have to worry about malfunctioning or replacing batteries. They also cost less as you could adapt a feeder that you already own.
A baffle works just like a deflector, preventing squirrels from gaining access to your bird table or feeder. You can get feeders with baffles pre-attached, or you can attach one yourself.
Baffles are not only a good option for your pole-mounted feeder or bird table, but they are also essential for hanging feeders. If you don’t install a baffle above your hanging feeding station, squirrels will be able to turn upside down and empty all of your seeds. With a baffle, they cannot reach around, and any attempt to get passed will result in the baffle tipping and the squirrel falling.
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3. Squirrel-Proof Your Bird Table Pole
There are several ways to squirrel-proof your bird table pole. The following are among the most widely used methods:
Option 1: Purchase Special Feeder Poles
The first option is to purchase special feeder poles designed to prevent squirrels from climbing up. Alternatively, you can use plastic tubing that should make climbing up much more difficult. Wooden or metal feeder poles are easier for squirrels to climb up compared to PVC ones.
As the area above your feeder, it can support placing a baffle underneath to prevent access from below. Make sure that a squirrel won’t be able to cling on to the edge of your baffle to pull themselves up to your bird feeder pole and over. Choose a cone-shaped model and ensure that you place it high enough to prevent squirrels from simply leaping over it.
Option 2: Use a Slinky Spring
A popular way to prevent squirrels from climbing up to your bird feeding table is to use a slinky spring. Using a couple of nails, attach the spring at the top of your bird feeder pole. When a squirrel grabs hold of the spring to finish its ascent, the slinky will drop under its body weight, carrying it right back down.
Many people have had success with a slinky spring to deter squirrels. But if you have bold garden squirrels, they can get used to the slinky, losing its shock value. If a very determined squirrel is still clinging on once it reaches the spring’s full length, it then becomes almost like a ladder that they can use to climb up.
For this reason, if you are thinking of using a slinky spring to protect your bird table, we recommend installing a baffle on your pole too. That way, even if the squirrels try to make it up to the top of the feeder poles, they won’t be able to make it up onto the bird feeding table itself.
4. Observe Closely and Add Obstacles
Watching squirrels try to steal your bird seeds will either entertain you or make you angry. Please take a few moments to observe how they act objectively. For example, you may observe that they are managing to reach around a baffle or have figured out a way to suspend themselves to access your weight-sensitive bird feeder. In that case, you can easily add a few homemade obstacles to perfect your squirrel-proofing.
If your feeder is hanging off a rope or clothesline, try adding some plastic tubing sections or bottles, plus baffles. Sometimes simply changing location can make your defences much more effective. You see what the squirrels’ main plan of attack can help you make improvements and prevent squirrels from climbing up feeder poles.
— Mark Edwin Burge (@markburge) April 8, 2017
5. Clean up Dropped Seeds
Birds are going to drop some seeds when they eat at your table or feeders. Chances are, you won’t mind squirrels eating these leftovers. However, one squirrel picking up dropped seeds can soon lead to a full-on invasion of your bird table. Cleaning up dropped seeds removes a potential attraction source, helping prevent squirrels from becoming a future problem in your garden.
6. Change Birdseed Type
If your local squirrels seem impossible to stop, you may want to think about feeding a different bird food type that they are less enthusiastic about eating. While they may be determined enough to make it past all of your squirrel-proofing measures for tasty foods, they may be less inclined to make such an effort for the seeds that they don’t especially like.
It can work pretty well if you live in an area with many gardens with bird feeders nearby. If you stop serving their favourite food, they are more likely to make more of an effort next door or down the road if there is more to their taste.
Some bird watchers have had more success feeding safflower, thistle, or millet seed, while some, possibly most, squirrels seem to devour all bird food types. Birds still enjoy these seeds, but squirrels rarely eat them. In any case, it’s worth trying out, especially if you are having a challenging time stopping squirrels from eating all of your current seed and scaring away the birds.
7. Feed Squirrels Separately
It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes you can’t win against nature. If you like watching the squirrels get up to antics in your garden but are just fed up with them scaring away your songbirds, you could try leaving out food specifically for them.
If you have a major squirrel problem, this may not help. However, if you find squirrels cute and don’t mind leaving them some tasty treats out, you may well find this is one of the best methods in conjunction with squirrel-proofing your bird table.
The idea is that ravenous squirrels will be less tempted to perform and perfect repeated acrobatic manoeuvres to grab some birdseed if you leave them their accessible food in another part of your garden. This way, you can watch all of the local birds return to feed, as well as catch a glimpse of your cheeky bushy-tailed visitors.
Bird Feeder Squirrel-Proofing FAQ
Find all the answers to the most common squirrel-proofing questions below –
Will Vaseline Keep Squirrels off Bird Feeder?
Lubricating your bird feeder pole to make it slippery can stop squirrels from getting to your seeds. Vaseline can help reduce your garden squirrels’ success rate at gaining access to your bird feeder and is even suggested by the RSPB in their Grey Squirrel Deterrent Hints.
However, using lubricants such as vaseline and grease, or even butter or oil, can be problematic for local wildlife. Squirrels rely on their fur for insulation and protection, just like birds rely on their plumage.
If either creature gets coated with the lubricant, it could cause suffering or even something worse. It is especially true during the winter months when food is also going to be more scarce and cold temperatures will pose much more danger.
To make sure you don’t inadvertently cause any of your local wildlife to suffer, we recommend focusing upon the other bird feeder squirrel-proofing methods outlined above rather than using vaseline. You could also try some smooth plastic tubing that could help make your bird table pole more challenging to climb and help to deter squirrels.
Does Cayenne Pepper Keep Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders?
You may have read that adding cayenne pepper or chilli peppers to your birdseed can help to deter squirrels from gobbling it all up. While you can change your birdseed to types less favoured by squirrels, you’re still going to want to use up what you have in stock first.
If your current birdseed attracts a good number of birds, you may be understandably reluctant to change it just because of unwanted guests.
Luckily, adding cayenne pepper to your bird seeds will not alter its taste for your feathered visitors. On the other hand, squirrels will undoubtedly be able to smell and taste the heat of the cayenne. It is usually enough to put off all but the most determined of squirrels.
However, keep in mind that you will need to reapply cayenne pepper frequently, as the spices will be easily blown away or washed off your feeding station.
What Is the Best Type of Squirrel Baffle?
Squirrel baffles are an effective and inexpensive addition that you can add to almost any bird feeder. They are one of the best ways to keep squirrels away from gobbling up all the seeds on your bird table. Available in a variety of forms, the best types to go for are dome- or cone-shaped squirrel baffles.
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Choose a flatter platform style, and the squirrels may be able to hang on without too much difficulty. Place a cone or dome squirrel baffle over your feeder, and when a squirrel climbs down onto it, it will tip to one side, causing them to slide off, preventing access to your feeder. This type of squirrel baffle also helps to stop squirrels from gnawing into the top of your feeder to access the seeds.
An additional benefit of having a baffle on top of your feeder is that it protects the bird seeds from snow, wind, and rain. It is beneficial in making sure that the bird seeds stay in excellent quality.
You can use strong plastic material in making baffles. Aside from the material’s resiliency, a clear baffle is also aesthetically pleasing.
Find out how to make yourself a homemade baffle to prevent determined squirrels from stealing your bird food here using empty large plastic bottles.
Keep Squirrels from Squirreling
While it may not always be possible to keep squirrels away from bird feeders, you can help make it easier for the birds to get their fair share, at least. When confronted with a determined squirrel, you should expect to lose. However, by following all of our suggestions above, you will find it much easier to keep squirrels from reaching your bird feeder, allowing your local birds to thrive.
Do you have other tips you’d like to add to keep squirrels off your bird table or feeder? We love to hear from you! Feel free to add them in the comment box below!