12 Tips for Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders
Let's be honest: There's no such thing as a squirrel-proof bird feeder. But you can at least take steps to cut down on their visits.
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Do squirrels at your bird feeders drive you nuts? You’re not alone. One of the most common questions we get here at Birds & Blooms is “How can I keep squirrels off my bird feeders?” So we’ve rounded up all the best tips we can find for squirrel-proof bird feeders, and found six feeders you should try. It’s unlikely you’ll ever get rid of these pesky critters entirely, but these suggestions should should help ensure that more of the seed in your feeders goes to the birds.
6 Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders to Try
We’re not making any promises, but these are some of the most popular squirrel-proof bird feeders out there. Combine them with the tips below for your best chance of foiling sneaky squirrels at last.
1. Yankee Flipper® Seed Feeder
The Yankee Flipper squirrel-proof bird feeder uses a small motor to send squirrels on their way. It’s weight-activated, so when birds land on the perch, nothing happens and they’re able to enjoy a snack. When something heavier like a squirrel tries it out, though, the fun begins!
2. Droll Yankees Domed Cage Bird Feeder
This classic caged bird feeder style is popular for a reason—it works. The tube feeder inside the cage will hold a wide variety of seeds, and only smaller songbirds can make their way in to dine.
3. Squirrel-Proof Double Suet Feeder
Caged feeders work well for suet cakes, too. Smaller songbirds and woodpeckers slip right through this suet feeder, leaving squirrels, raccoons, and big bully birds behind.
4. Squirrel Buster Plus Bird Feeder
Squirrels make seeds and peanuts vanish in a flash, and European starlings and grackles are attracted to these foods, too. Block eager eaters with this squirrel-proof feeder design. One of our editors tried this feeder—check out her review!
5. Woodlink Absolute II Squirrel Resistant Feeder
This squirrel resistant feeder also works on the weight principle. Lightweight birds can land on the spring-activated perches and feed, but a heavier squirrel will immediately cause the metal shield to close, cutting off access to the seed. It can be adjusted for weight to deter bully birds, too.
6. Sky Cafe Bird Feeder
The Sky Cafe feeder features a baffle that does double duty. Squirrels can’t reach around it to steal seeds, and birds are protected from rain and snow while they perch under the baffle.
12 Tips for Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders
1. Follow the Rule of 5-7-9
Generally, squirrels can’t jump more than 5 feet up from the ground, more than 7 feet across from a tree or building, and are reluctant to drop more than 9 feet onto a feeder from above. Place your bird feeder station with these numbers in mind to deter a large majority of squirrels.
So, if your feeder is 5 feet off the ground, 7 feet on each side from a launching place, and 9 feet below an overhang, 90% of squirrels will be unable to jump onto a baffled feeder. If you add 6 inches to those dimensions, you should prevent 100% of squirrels from reaching the feeder.
2. Baffle the Squirrels
Squirrels are amazing climbers, even on metal poles. Buy a squirrel baffle and attach it to the pole to prevent them from climbing up from below.
3. Put a Slinky on the Bird Feeder Pole to Stop Squirrels
If you’d like to have a little more fun with your squirrels, try a turning a toy Slinky into a baffle. Thread the post through the Slinky and attach one end under the feeder, allowing it to drape down the post. Shorten it if the Slinky touches the ground. Squirrels that try to climb it get a ride back to the ground every time!
A squirrel that tries to climb the post will get a ride on the Slinky back to the ground every time. Again, remember to use the Rule of 5-7-9 when placing the feeder to prevent squirrels from bypassing the Slinky baffle.
4. String Soda Bottles on a Wire
Squirrels are regular circus performers when it comes to walking on high wires. Their amazing agility makes bird feeders hanging from wires easy pickings for any squirrel.
Suspend your feeders on a wire strung from one pole to another, at least 5 feet from the ground. To prevent squirrels from doing a tight-rope walking trick, string plastic liter-size soda bottles onto the wire on both sides of the feeders. The plastic bottles roll the squirrels right off as they approach.
5. Try Caged Bird Feeders
Invest in a caged squirrel-proof bird feeder. The design works especially well for feeders meant for small birds, like finches or chickadees, and it does a good job of keeping out the bully birds, too. In areas where squirrels are especially small, like the Deep South, these types of squirrel-proof bird feeders may be less effective.
Generally speaking, by enclosing bird feeders in wire mesh that is large enough to allow birds to enter the cage, but small enough to exclude squirrels, you have effectively squirrel-proofed the feeder.
6. Switch Up Your Seed
Squirrels love most types of bird seed, but some folks notice that they tend to leave safflower seed alone. Birds like cardinals and titmice enjoy safflower seed, so replacing the seed in one or more of of your feeders with safflower may help.
7. Pick the Proper Pole
Wood and metal poles are very easy for squirrels to climb, but it’s been noted that PVC or copper piping are more of a challenge. Try building your own pole or feeder station using these materials. Avoid greasing feeder poles, because it is harmful to birds and other wildlife.
8. Keep the Ground Clean Under Feeders
Squirrels love to forage for seeds on the ground, and the debris from your feeders may be attracting them. Once they’re in the area, they’re sure to try to invade the feeders as well. Keep the areas underneath your feeders clean (this is also a good way to deter other unwanted pests like rats or raccoons). Attach a large tray on the pole beneath the feeders to catch the falling seed. Try the Brome Buster seed catcher. As a bonus, you may attract more ground feeding birds like mourning doves and juncos.
9. Add Chili Peppers to Bird Seed
Squirrels and birds taste things differently. For instance, birds don’t taste the heat of peppers, but squirrels sure do. Some people swear by thoroughly mixing a small amount of capsaicin, a component found in chili peppers, to your seed. It leaves a bad taste in a squirrel’s mouth, but birds don’t mind it. Try a tablespoon or so of cayenne pepper in a 10-pound bag of seed. You can also buy suet cakes with hot pepper mixed in. However, there are those who argue the pepper can be irritating to birds’ eyes, so use this method with caution.
10. Hang Irish Spring Soap Nearby
One often-shared tip for a squirrel-proof feeder involves hanging a bar of Irish Spring soap in a sock nearby. Supposedly, the scent repels squirrels and other unwanted rodents.
11. Spin Squirrels Around
Hang your bird feeders from a spinning hook, or seek out specialty squirrel-proof bird feeders like the Yankee Flipper that are designed to spin squirrels off.
12. Feed the Enemy
Sometimes giving squirrels their own feeders is enough to keep them away from bird feeders. Try a dried corn cob feeder, or build a DIY squirrel feeder to offer them peanuts.