Dec 04 , 2019
Are you struggling with keeping those pesky squirrels out of your bird feeders? We have some advice to share!
There are two main ways to tackle the backyard birder's squirrel problem: Aversion or Diversion!
We'll start with diversion first. This is the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" method. Usually this method is the last one tried, but here on the CB blog we are listing it first, because in so many situations it is the one that works best!
Set up designated squirrel feeders in a separate area, and fill them with inexpensive foods that they like, such as whole peanuts, corn cobs, and sunflower seeds. They also like fruits like apples and grapes!
To slow them down, you can get creative! If they're going to get to your feeders regardless, at least make it entertaining for you! Some people set up squirrel obstacle courses by putting roadblocks in the way of the feeders. It can be fun to watch how they navigate them. They are remarkably intelligent creatures!
The Aversion method focuses on tactics to keep the squirrels out of your existing feeders. Let's explore some that have been successful!
Location of the feeder is perhaps the biggest offender for a squirrel invasion. Squirrels can leap and bound long distances! The feeder should be at least 10 feet away from trees, branches, and the ground.
Most birders use these with great success, but the placement of the feeder has to be right. Baffles are dome shaped pieces of plastic or metal that squirrels can't grip onto. They can be placed under the feeder if it is on a stand, or above the feeder if it is hanging. You may have to make some adjustments to the placement, but this is a very effective way of preventing squirrels from gorging themselves on your birdseed.
Hang it Up
Hang your feeder by using a thin wire, or even better, monofilament fishing line. The 50 lb test line can hold most feeders. Squirrels have a difficult time climbing very thin wires!
Spice it Up
Add some hot pepper to your seed blend! The birds don't notice it, but the squirrels won't eat it. This is especially true if there is a better food source nearby.
A Minty Deterrent
Try hanging candy canes from your feeders. Squirrels don't like the peppermint smell, but birds don't care. Just make sure you use whole candy canes instead of crushed pieces so the birds won't eat them.
Type of Food
Squirrels are said to not care much for Safflower and Nyjer (thistle). Nyjer will attract colorful finches, chickadees, sparrows, and titmice. Safflower will attract those as well as cardinals, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and jays.
Make it Slippery... Safely
If you hang your feeder from a shepherd's hook, copper pipe, or other thin metal or plastic stand, you can spray it with something safe and non-toxic like cooking spray or olive oil. Don't use grease or anything else toxic! More on that below.
Make it Tricky
What do slinkies and stovepipe have in common? They make up two popular tactics for adding impassable obstacles to your feeders. Attach a slinky to the top of the stand where your feeder hangs, and the squirrels will try their best but can't get around it. You can also add a wide piece of stovepipe to the top. It can function either as a baffle, or simply as an obstacle that they can't grip to climb higher.
Squirrel Proof Feeders
There are many types of feeders that claim to be squirrel proof. Some work better than others! Some of these feeders have built in baffles, others are wrapped in wire mesh that birds can fit through but squirrels cannot. Some feeders have a perch that functions as a lever to close the feeder off with the weight of a squirrel.
Clean the Area
Make sure you clean up any seed that falls under your feeder. This attracts squirrels! You can take this fallen seed and put it in another spot, far away from the feeder, to encourage the squirrels to go to a different spot.
Get a Dog
We don't recommend leaving your dog outside all day (at all - please don't do that!). But dogs will chase squirrels off, and most of them won't bother the birds much.
A "Shocking" Option
We aren't a big fan of this method, but it is used often, and effectively. Hooking up electricity to your bird feeder will surely keep squirrels away. It won't bother the birds, but the squirrels will feel it.
Before we wrap up, here are a few DON'TS that are very important to keep in mind, especially if you are thinking of resorting to desperate measures in order to rid your yard of these pesky critters.
DON'T use grease or Vaseline! It will stick to their feet and fur, and when they go to clean themselves, they will ingest it, and can die from doing so. If it covers too much of their fur, it can take away the insulating properties of the squirrel's coat. They can chill and die from this. It is even more dangerous to the birds if they happen to get into it. Please use something non-toxic if you opt for making the surface slippery.
DON'T use any poison! You run the risk of poisoning the birds, other wildlife, and possibly your own pets. Don't do it!
DON'T try to combat squirrels with cats. Cats can do a great job keeping squirrels away, but they will also successfully target your birds.
DON'T hunt the squirrels! It's too risky. You may never know exactly what's in the background if you miss. Every state has regulations regarding squirrel season timing and location. Hunting without a license can get you in a lot of trouble with the DNR. Not a good idea!
DON'T live trap. It's too hard to catch only squirrels. What will you do if you trap a skunk? There are too many squirrels around to successfully relocate a colony. Even when you do relocate some of your resident squirrels, all it does is put up a "vacancy" sign in your yard. More will come.