how to stop squirrels from eating bird food

Dealing with squirrels raiding bird feeders is a common challenge for bird enthusiasts. These clever creatures can often outwit basic protective measures, leading to frustration and depleted bird food supplies.

Let’s explore 12 effective methods for stopping squirrels from eating bird food. These techniques range from simple modifications to your bird feeders to employing natural deterrents, ensuring that your feathered friends can dine in peace. Whether you’re a seasoned bird watcher or a casual backyard observer, these tips will help you maintain a squirrel-free zone around your bird feeders.

Use Squirrel-Proof Feeders

Squirrel-proof bird feeders are specially designed to keep squirrels out while allowing birds to feed. These feeders often come equipped with weight-sensitive perches that collapse under the weight of a squirrel or close off access to the seed. Some models use a cage design that allows small birds in but keeps squirrels and larger birds out.

The effectiveness of these feeders lies in their ability to discriminate based on weight or size. It’s important to regularly maintain and check these feeders, as clever squirrels might eventually find a way to access the food if any part of the mechanism fails or wears out.

Baffle Them

Baffles are physical barriers, often shaped like a dome or cylinder, that can be attached to bird feeder poles or hung above hanging feeders. When squirrels attempt to climb the pole or descend from above, they encounter the baffle which blocks their path.

 The smooth and curved surfaces of baffles make it difficult for squirrels to grip or bypass them.

For maximum effectiveness, ensure that the baffle is positioned high enough on the pole so that squirrels can’t jump over it, and if hanging, it should be wide enough to prevent squirrels from reaching around it. Baffles not only deter squirrels but also protect bird feeders from various elements like rain or snow.

Choose the Right Food

Squirrels are less attracted to certain types of birdseed, such as safflower seeds and nyjer seeds. Safflower seeds have a bitter taste that squirrels dislike, but many birds, including cardinals, finches, and chickadees, enjoy them. 

Nyjer seeds, often used in thistle feeders, are not preferred by squirrels, and their small size makes them difficult for squirrels to eat even if they try.

Don’t forget to read: Do Squirrels Eat Bird Eggs?

By filling your feeders with these types of seeds, you can make them less appealing to squirrels while still providing a valuable food source for a variety of birds. This method is a simple and natural way to discourage squirrels without causing them harm.

Spicy Treats

Capsaicin, the compound that makes peppers hot, can be used to deter squirrels. Mixing cayenne pepper or hot pepper flakes into the birdseed creates a spicy coating that squirrels find unpalatable. Birds, on the other hand, lack the receptors to sense capsaicin, so it doesn’t affect them.

When using this method, it’s important to handle the spicy seeds with care. Wear gloves to avoid skin irritation and avoid inhaling any pepper dust.

 Over time, some persistent squirrels may become accustomed to the spice, so this method might need to be combined with others for long-term effectiveness.

Location of Feeders

The strategic placement of bird feeders can play a significant role in deterring squirrels. By placing feeders at least 10 feet away from trees, buildings, or structures, you reduce the ability of squirrels to leap onto them. Squirrels can jump long distances, so ensuring that feeders are out of their leaping range is crucial.

In addition to distancing feeders from potential launching points, consider placing them in open spaces. This not only makes it harder for squirrels to access the feeders but also provides birds with a clear view of any approaching predators, making it safer for them to feed.

Use a Slinky

Attaching a Slinky to the pole of a bird feeder is an innovative and somewhat amusing way to prevent squirrels from climbing up. 

When a squirrel tries to climb the pole, it will grab onto the Slinky, which then extends and drops the squirrel back to the ground, preventing it from reaching the feeder.

To effectively use a Slinky, it should be attached at the top of the feeder pole, ensuring that it covers a sufficient length of the pole. This method is humane and non-harmful to squirrels, and can also provide a bit of entertainment watching their repeated unsuccessful attempts to bypass this unexpected obstacle.

Create a Squirrel Feeding Area

Setting up a separate feeding area for squirrels can help divert their attention away from bird feeders. By providing an alternative food source, such as a mix of nuts, corn, and other squirrel favorites, you can satisfy their hunger and make them less likely to invade bird feeders. 

Place this feeding area at a distance from your bird feeders, so squirrels are drawn away from the birds.

In creating a dedicated feeding space for squirrels, it’s essential to regularly replenish the food and maintain the area. This approach fosters coexistence in your backyard, allowing both birds and squirrels to feed peacefully without competing for the same resources.

Motion-Activated Sprinklers

Motion-activated sprinklers can be an effective deterrent for squirrels. These devices use a sensor to detect movement and then spray a burst of water, startling the squirrels without causing them harm. 

Position these sprinklers near your bird feeders, so when a squirrel comes close, the sudden spray of water will scare it away.

Ensure the sprinkler is calibrated to detect the size and movement of a squirrel. This method not only keeps squirrels at bay but also can be amusing to watch. However, it’s important to check local water usage regulations and be mindful of the environment in areas where water conservation is a concern.

Squirrel Deterrent Plants

Certain plants can act as natural squirrel deterrents. Planting these around your bird feeders can create a barrier that squirrels prefer to avoid. 

Plants like marigolds, geraniums, and daffodils are known to be less appealing to squirrels. Additionally, planting mint, which squirrels find unattractive, can help keep them at bay.

While this method may not completely stop determined squirrels, it can reduce their activity around feeders. This approach also adds beauty to your garden and can attract beneficial insects and pollinators.

Feeder Placement Height

Adjusting the height of your bird feeders can make a significant difference. Squirrels can jump vertically up to about 4 feet, so placing feeders higher than this can help keep them out of reach. However, make sure the feeders are not too high, making them inaccessible or unsafe for the birds.

Also, the feeders should not be too low to the ground, as this could make them easily accessible to ground predators or even more reachable for squirrels. Finding the right balance is key for the safety and accessibility of the feeders for birds.

Electronic Deterrents

Electronic deterrents like ultrasonic repellents emit a high-frequency sound that is uncomfortable for squirrels but not harmful. These devices can be placed near bird feeders to create an area that squirrels will want to avoid.

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of ultrasonic repellents can vary, and some squirrels may become accustomed to the sound over time. Also, make sure that the frequency is not disturbing to the birds or any pets you may have.

Regular Cleaning

Regularly cleaning the area around bird feeders can help reduce the attraction for squirrels. Remove any spilled birdseed from the ground, as this can draw squirrels into the area.

 Keeping the feeding area tidy not only deters squirrels but also helps prevent the spread of diseases among birds.

A clean feeding environment is essential for the health of the birds and can also help in minimizing the scent trails that attract squirrels and other unwanted critters. Regular maintenance of the feeders and the surrounding area is a simple yet effective strategy in managing squirrel visits.

Conclusion

Keeping squirrels away from bird food requires a combination of creativity, persistence, and sometimes a bit of trial and error. By implementing the 15 methods discussed, ranging from squirrel-proof feeders to natural deterrents, you can effectively discourage these persistent creatures. Remember, the key is to stay one step ahead of the squirrels while maintaining a safe and inviting environment for the birds. With these strategies in place, your bird feeders can remain exclusive to the birds, ensuring they get the nourishment they need without interference from their furry counterparts.

FAQs

What can I use to keep squirrels away from my bird feeders?

Use squirrel-proof bird feeders, place baffles on feeder poles, choose less appealing seeds like safflower or nyjer, use spicy birdseed with cayenne pepper, and ensure feeders are placed away from jumping-off points like trees or buildings.

 Will Vaseline keep squirrels off bird feeder?

Vaseline or other greasy substances may deter squirrels temporarily by making the feeder pole slippery, but it’s not a recommended method. It can be messy, harmful to the squirrels’ fur and feathers of birds, and requires frequent reapplication.

How do you make a squirrel proof bird feeder?

To make a squirrel-proof bird feeder, use materials like smooth metal for poles or baffles to prevent squirrels from climbing. Incorporate a weight-sensitive mechanism that closes feeding ports under the squirrel’s weight, or design a cage around the feeder to allow only small birds access.

 How do I keep squirrels away from my bird buddy?

Keep squirrels away by using a combination of strategies: install squirrel-proof feeders, use motion-activated sprinklers, hang feeders on high, smooth poles with baffles, and clean up spilled seeds regularly.

What is the best thing to keep squirrels away?

The best method to keep squirrels away is to use a multi-faceted approach: employ squirrel-proof bird feeders, install baffles, maintain a clean feeding area, use spicy seed mixtures, and strategically place feeders away from squirrel access points.

What is the best squirrel repellent?

The best squirrel repellent is typically a physical barrier like a baffle or a squirrel-proof feeder. Natural deterrents like spicy seeds or planting squirrel-repelling plants can also be effective. For some, electronic repellents like ultrasonic devices may work, but their effectiveness can vary.

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