Raccoons can turn your backyard into a crime scene.
They knock over trash cans. They steal pet food. They can drain your hummingbird feeder dry in a single night.
If you live anywhere near a wooded area in almost any part of North America (and even in some locations in Germany and Japan), the mysterious disappearance of hummingbird nectar can be caused by raccoons.
In this article, we will give you 12 ways to keep raccoons away from your hummingbird feeders. We will also tell you about some methods you should avoid.
So, without further ado, let’s get to the single best way to keep these masked bandits away from your hummingbird feeder at night.
1. Buy a baffle
Baffled by the ways raccoons shimmy up support poles or down chains and wires to drink out of hummingbird feeders? Buy a baffle!
Baffles are wobbly cones or cylinders made of slippery metal. They are attached to the chain or pole that supports your hummingbird feeder loosely, so they wobble.
If you have a hummingbird feeder hanging down from the branch of a tree or a support pole, you place the upward-pointing baffle above the feeder.
When a raccoon climbs down the support chain, it encounters the slippery surface of the ballast and slides off, falling to the ground.
A raccoon finds this to be an unpleasant experience, but it will not be seriously injured.
If you have your hummingbird feeder mounted on top of a pole, you mount the baffle so it points downward.
The raccoon reaches up but can’t get a grip on the baffle, so it has to go back down to the ground. The raccoon isn’t harmed. It just has to feed somewhere else.
There are three styles of baffles for protecting bird feeders of all kinds.
A wrap-around baffle looks like a conical hat, something like the hat worn by the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz.
They are hard for a raccoon to climb down. If the raccoon succeeds at climbing down to the edge of the baffle, it is too far away to reach the feeder.
A dome baffle looks something like an upside-down soup bowl.
They are curved, so a raccoon can’t get a grip on the metal surface. They force the raccoon to climb back up the support chain or wire that is holding your feeder.
Dome baffles also protect hummingbirds from predators that swoop down to catch them while they are feeding.
You can find a dome baffle that is big enough to give a hummingbird a place to feed even during light rain.
A torpedo baffle looks like a torpedo. It’s shaped like a big bullet.
Hollow inside, it fits around the support wire or pole that holds up your hummingbird feeder. It points downward.
When the raccoon climbs down the support chain, it encounters a tunnel. It cannot continue to the feeder, and has to go back to whence it came.
2. Hang Your Hummingbird Feeder on a Clothesline
There was a time when everyone dried their clothes on a clothesline.
You strung up a wire across your yard and hung up clothes to dry in the sun because nobody had a clothes dryer.
You can still use a clothesline to dry your clothes, but it can do double duty as a support for your hummingbird feeder.
It is not completely impossible that some particularly acrobatic raccoon won’t be able to stand on its two hind legs and walk out to your hummingbird feeder, as the New York Daily News reports, but once it gets to the feeder it won’t have anything to hold on to so it can feed.
3. Mount Your Hummingbird Feeder on a Tall Pole or Pedestal
Don’t want to string a clothesline across your backyard? Put your hummingbird on a sturdy pole or pedestal.
You don’t need to put your hummingbird feeder so high that you would need to refill it from a helicopter or with a drone.
Five feet (1.5 meters) is enough. A torpedo baffle beneath the feeder provides additional protection against raccoons and other hungry animals.
The one thing you must not do if you mount your hummingbird feeder on a pole is to coat it with grease.
A slick surface will keep raccoons away, but it can also injure hummingbirds that brush against them as they are flying to the feeder.
4. Attach Your Hummingbird Feeder to a Spinning Hook
Another humane way to keep raccoons out of your hummingbird feeder is to attach it to its overhead support with a spinning hook.
If a raccoon manages to climb up the tree to the supporting chain and then down the chain to the feeder, the feeder will spin and the raccoon will fall off it.
Hummingbird feeders suspended with a spinning hook will spin in the wind. The faster the wind blows, the faster the feeder will spin.
Hummingbirds will still be able to use their feeder even when it is spinning, but raccoons will learn to stay away.
5. Hang Your Hummingbird Feeder From a Copper Pole
Graceful, arching copper poles make a great addition to your landscape. They also form a protective barrier against intruding raccoons.
If you prefer the look of a green patina, you can use poles made of galvanized steel. PVC pipe will also work.
The advantage of these materials is that they do not rust. Untreated iron slowly rusts and develops a rough surface that the raccoon can grasp with its toes.
6. Upgrade to a Feeder with a Cage
Cages are designed to let hummingbirds in while keeping raccoons and squirrels out.
These cages also give hummingbirds protection from raptors and other flying predators that might attack them while they feed.
7. Buy a “Squirrel Stopper” Pole to Mount Your Hummingbird Feeder
Home improvement stores sell poles for hanging hummingbird feeders with squirrel baffles built in.
These poles are made for seed feeders, but they will also work for hummingbird feeders. Just place the pole in the ground, attach the feeder, and you are good to go.
8. Secure Your Trash Cans
Raccoons raid your backyard to dig into trash cans. They go to your hummingbird feeder for dessert.
Wildlife scientists have confirmed that raccoons can even use sticks and rocks as tools to open your trash cans!
To keep raccoons out of your waste receptacles, keep them sealed tight. Get a lock for metal trash cans. Secure the lid to plastic trash cans with a bungee cord.
Keep garbage cans inside a garage or shed, and make sure you close the door at night.
Raccoons are attracted to the scent of meat. More specifically, they are attracted to a chemical in meat, fish, and cheese called cadaverine.
Cadaverine, as you might imagine, becomes more concentrated as protein foods decay.
Wrap meat, fish, and cheese scraps that you are throwing away in plastic bags before you put them in the garbage so raccoons won’t smell them.
9. Treat Your Lawn for Grubs
Beetle larvae, also known as grubs, are a favorite food of raccoons. They forage for grubs in the ground at night.
A long drink from your hummingbird feeder is the perfect way to top off a feast on the grubs in your grass.
You can tell that you have grubs by a spongy feeling when you walk across your grass. You may notice yellow spots on your lawn where grubs have killed grassroots.
When you have an infestation of grubs, you can pull up the grass with little resistance. Digging into your lawn will reveal fat, white larvae.
Killing grubs discourage raccoons from visiting your property. You don’t have to use poison.
Organic methods of grub control include applications of neem oil, beneficial nematodes, and milky spore fungus.
You can walk across your lawn in lawn-aerating sandals that expose the grubs to dry air and sunshine.
Attracting other kinds of birds to your lawn can reduce the population of grubs and make your backyard less attractive to raccoons.
10. Put Out Scent Repellents Around the Edges of Your Yard
Raccoons have a well-developed sense of smell. Putting out odorants they do not like around the edges of your yard may make them turn around and feed elsewhere.
Raccoons are repelled by:
- Blood meal. The scent of blood triggers a fear reflex in raccoons. And because blood meal is high in nitrogen, it also fertilizes the flowers and grass you protect with it.
- Cucumber plants. Cucumbers are gourds. They release a gourd-like odor that raccoons don’t like. Plant cucumbers in the flower beds near the base of your hummingbird feeder to keep raccoons away.
- Irish Spring soap. Raccoons are turned off the perfumes in Irish Spring soap. Break up a few bars of Irish Spring and place them around the edges of your backyard to keep raccoons away.
- Predator urine. If you don’t have outdoor pets, dried bobcat, wolf, and coyote urine will keep raccoons away. It will also frighten dogs and cats, so it’s not a good option if you have outdoor pets. Place predator urine around the yard in places where you won’t have to smell it yourself.
There are some scents that raccoons don’t like that we can’t recommend. Open dishes of household ammonia, for instance, will repel raccoons, but they can be toxic to pets and other wildlife.
Mothballs are hit or miss. Some raccoons can’t stand the odor, while others don’t mind. You shouldn’t put them out where pets and small children might find them.
Raccoons don’t like the scent of Epsom salts, but they can be toxic to some plants. Peppermint oil repels raccoons, but it quickly evaporates and has to be applied every night.
11. Install Motion-Activated Lights and Sensors Near Trash Cans
Spraying raccoons with a blast of water surprises them and makes them wary of your property. So will the lights coming on at night.
You don’t have to place motion-activated lights and sensors near your hummingbird feeder.
A better place for them is under decks and near trash cans, where raccoons are more likely to visit. Don’t forget to disable them before you take out the trash.
12. Block Hiding Places
Don’t give raccoons a place to stay in your backyard during the day.
Block entrances to crawl spaces and attics. Make sure the underside of your deck is inaccessible from your yard.
Keep wood piles elevated off the ground (this keeps out snakes, too), and trim brush and tall weeds that can provide raccoons with cover.
A neat yard keeps raccoons away.
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