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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Tips for Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders
Do squirrels at your bird feeders drive you nuts? You’re not alone. One of the most common questions we get is, “How can I keep squirrels off my feeders?” So we’ve rounded up the best tips we can find for squirrel-proof bird feeders. It’s unlikely you’ll ever get rid of these pesky critters entirely, but these ideas should should help ensure more of the seed in your feeders goes to your feathered friends.
Plus, here are 13 foolproof tips to attract birds to your yard.
1. Rule of 5-7-9
Generally, squirrels can’t jump more than five feet up from the ground or more than seven feet across from a tree or building, and they’re reluctant to drop more than nine feet onto a feeder from above. Place your feeder station with these numbers in mind to deter most squirrels.
2. Baffle Them
3. Toy with Them
Feel like having a little 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 trying to climb it get a ride back to the ground every time! Check out these 25 crazy attempts at preventing squirrels from reaching bird feeders.
4. Bird (Feeder) on a Wire
Suspend your feeders on a wire strung from one pole to another, at least five 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. The Caged Bird Eats
Invest in squirrel-proof bird feeders featuring a cage design. They work especially well for feeders meant for small birds, like finches or chickadees, and do a good job of keeping out the bully birds too. (In areas where squirrels are especially small, like the Deep South, these feeders may be less effective.)
6. Switch Up Your Seed
Squirrels love most types of bird seed, but some folks notice they tend to leave safflower seed alone. Birds like cardinals and titmice enjoy safflower, so replacing the seed in one or more of your feeders with safflower may help.
7. Pick the Proper Pole
Wood and metal poles are easy for squirrels to climb, but it’s been noted that PVC or copper piping is more of a challenge. Try building your own pole or feeder station using these materials.
8. Keep it Clean
Squirrels love to forage for seeds on the ground, and the detritus from your feeders may be attracting them. Once they’re in the area, they’re sure to try to invade the feeders themselves. 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.
9. Spice It Up
Squirrels and birds taste things differently. For instance, birds dislike the taste the heat of peppers, but squirrels sure do. Some people swear by thoroughly mixing a small amount of dried cayenne pepper into their seeds (a tablespoon or so to a 10-pound bag of seed). However, others argue the pepper can be irritating to birds’ eyes, so use this method with caution.
10. Get Fresh
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 mammals. Check out this sure-fire method to prevent squirrels from digging in your potted plants.
11. Spin Me Right Round
Hang your bird feeders from a spinning hook, or seek out specialty feeders designed to spin squirrels off.
12. Feeding 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 your own easy DIY squirrel feeder to offer them peanuts.
- Betsy Chamberlain (B&B reader)