If you love having birds in your backyard, chances are that you enjoy the sight of squirrels scampering around, too.
The problem comes when squirrels discover your bird feeder and decide to treat it as an all-you-can-eat buffet, driving your birds away.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can keep squirrels off your bird feeder without driving the squirrels completely away or being cruel to them.
Here are 12 methods that have worked for us in keeping squirrels away from bird feeders.
At the end of this article, we will also list several methods you should not use to keep squirrels off bird feeders.
Ways to Keep Squirrels Away from Bird Feeders
Let’s have a look at some effective ways to keep squirrels away from your bird feeders
Hang Your Bird Feeder On A Clothesline
In the old days, there were no washer-dryer units. People hung their clothes outside to dry in the sun on a clothesline.
You probably don’t dry your clothes in the sun very often, but you can use a clothesline wire as a place to hang your bird feeder where squirrels can’t reach it.
Birds can fly, but squirrels are too large to run along a clothesline.
The secret to success with this method is hanging your bird feeder at least 5 feet (1.5 m) above the ground and about 10 feet (3 meters) away from the ends of the wire.
Any closer than that, and squirrels will try jumping up from the ground or leaping from the point of attachment to get bird food.
A flying squirrel may not come in for a soft landing on your bird feeder, but it can knock it down or spill the seed on the ground.
A plastic-coated wire is your best choice for suspending a feeder in midair.
It is harder for squirrels to get a grip on. You can hang any kind of feeder you like from the wire, but heavier is better, so it won’t turn in the wind.
Hang Your Bird Feeder On A (Really) Tall Pole
Don’t want to string a clothesline across your yard? Another way to squirrel-proof your bird feeder is to hang it from a really tall pole.
You will need some kind of squirrel baffle (more about that in the next section) mounted to the pole to keep them from climbing up it.
The advantage of a pole and a crossbar or hanging hook over a wire is that your feeder will be more stable in the wind.
Buy a Squirrel Baffle
Baffled by the clever ways squirrels figure out to steal bird food? Buy a squirrel baffle to keep their food theft at bay!
A squirrel baffle is a wobbly piece of metal that is attached to the tops of bird feeders (to keep squirrels from taking food) and bird houses (to keep animals from stealing eggs or eating baby birds).
Baffles have slippery surfaces. They baffle any squirrel, rat, or mouse trying to get to the bird feeder or bird house they protect by making sure they can’t get a grip with their paws.
Baffles don’t harm squirrels. They just redirect them to do their feeding elsewhere.
There are many different kinds of bird feeder baffles.
Dome baffles look like upside-down soup bowls. Their rounded edges and steep curves are almost impossible for squirrels to climb down.
Squirrels either turn around, shinnying back up the wire or rope they followed down to the baffle, or take a tumble, usually harmlessly, to the ground.
Dome baffles also provide protection against predator birds that would attack songbirds at their feeder, and help keep bird food dry in rainy and snowy weather.
You can find dome baffles in home improvement stores and online.
Torpedo baffles are shaped, as you may have already guessed, like downward-pointing torpedos, or downward-pointing bullets. They fit around the wire or rope that holds the feeder in place. They are hollow inside.
When a squirrel goes down the rope to get to the bird feeding station, it encounters a one-way tunnel. It has no choice but to turn around.
Torpedo baffles are a little less common in home improvement stores than dome baffles, but they are easy to find online.
A wrap-around baffle looks like a conical hat. Wrap-around baffles are unstable, so they are hard for a squirrel to climb down.
If a squirrel manages to hold on long enough to reach the bottom of the baffle, it is too far away from the feeder to steal food.
Wrap-around baffles are easy to find wherever bird feeders are sold.
You may find that one kind of squirrel baffles works better than others. They are inexpensive, so why not try several different kinds to see which one works best?
Put Out Seeds That Squirrels Don’t Like
There are three kinds of seeds that most songbirds enjoy but most squirrels don’t care for at all: safflower, nyjer, and white proso millet.
When a squirrel finds its way around all of your protective measures and finally reaches the feeding tray with these seeds in it, it will be disappointed.
You don’t need to throw out any black sunflower seeds or other high-energy bird foods you may already have.
Just mix the three kinds of seeds that squirrels don’t like into the food you already have in your feeder.
Put a Spin on Your Bird Feeder
An effective and very humane way to keep squirrels out of your bird feeder is to mount your feeder on a spinning hook.
You can also find bird feeders that are mounted on a fixed hook, but designed to spin.
Bird feeders on spin hooks, and bird feeders that spin, don’t spin at a steady rate.
They spin faster in the wind, and may barely spin at all when the only force moving them is the weight of the squirrel.
Squirrels can’t compensate for the spinning motion, and have to back up or jump off the top of the feeder.
Spice Up Your Bird Food
Birds aren’t fussy about the heat of chili peppers. They don’t have the nerves in their faces that respond to the capsaicin they contain the way mammals do.
If you have ever grown chinquapin peppers or even ghost peppers, you may have noticed that there are some birds that like to share your harvest.
Squirrels, on the other hand, have a strong reaction to capsaicin. It activates the nerves around their eyes, the same way it does in people. They cry and sneeze.
The seeds in chili peppers have most of the heat. So, when you are preparing chili peppers for cooking, save the seeds, and add a few to the seed blend in your bird feeder.
You will have fewer problems with squirrels, and you should continue to see the same birds.
Wrap a Slinky Around the Post You Use to Hang Your Bird Feeder
Kids love to play with Slinky toys. Squirrels, not so much.
Wrap a Slinky around the post from which you hang your bird feeder. (A Slinky won’t fit around the wire or rope you use to suspend your bird feeder.)
Don’t attach the Slinky so tightly that it doesn’t move when the squirrel steps on it.
Squirrels will not be able to get a grip on the pole to climb up to the bird feeder, and move on to other feeding opportunities.
Hang Your Bird Feeder From Copper or PVC Poles
Squirrels are experts at climbing trees. Their skills also apply to climbing wooden poles.
They easily get a grip on any kind of metal that rusts, because of the tiny indentations left by corrosion.
But squirrel paws are not designed for climbing up copper or PVC.
Copper poles can be highly decorative in your landscape, while PVC is inexpensive, strong, and weather-proof.
Hang a Bar of Deodorant Soap Near Your Bird Feeder
Squirrels hate the scent of Irish Spring. They don’t like the smell of any of the chemicals used in deodorants.
They are not fond of the scent of tea tree oil, either. Birds, on the other hand, don’t mind.
Hang a bar of deodorant soap a few feet away from your bird feeder. The edge of the squirrel baffle will work.
You don’t want birds pecking the soap to see if it may be edible, so wrap it in an old sock before you hang it near your bird feeder.
Clean Up After Your Birds
Most birds are messy eaters. They spill seed and suet on the ground.
It can accumulate into an all-you-can-eat buffet for squirrels, signaling that there is even more in the bird feeder above them.
Keeping your lawn tidy keeps spilled bird food from getting the squirrels’ attention. Or, if there is no one at home available for lawn duty, add a seed tray to your bird feeder to catch the food that your birds spill.
You need to clean the feeder tray about once a week.
You also need to pick up any fallen fruit or nuts that may accumulate on your lawn, attracting the attention of squirrels to the places where you hang your bird feeder.
Upgrade to a Feeder With a Cage
Bird feeder cages have openings big enough to let birds in but small enough to keep squirrels out.
There is no such thing as a bird feeder cage that is absolutely, positively squirrel-proof, but you can’t get any closer to squirrel-proof than this.
There are bird feeder cages in vintage designs that can add to your landscape design.
Buy a Squirrel-stopper Pole
One easy way to keep squirrels out of your bird feeder is to buy a squirrel-stopper pole, ready to install.
Just add your bird seed feeders to the pole, and you are ready to go.
There is no need to buy any special kind of bird seed feeder, because the squirrel deterrents are already built into the pole.
Squirrel-stopper poles are available at home improvement centers and online.
Feed the Squirrels Too!
It may seem counterintuitive to attract squirrels to your backyard, but if you keep them fed with their favorite foods, they will probably leave your bird seed feeder alone.
Squirrels like peanuts and corn on the cob. Most birds prefer smaller seeds.
Putting out these two favorite foods of squirrels in a feeder for them at ground level will give them every reason to leave your bird feeders alone.
Methods Not to Use to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Bird Feeders
Squirrels are not the enemy. They are just trying to survive the same way that wild birds are. They also constantly search for food.
You don’t want squirrels to starve. You just want them to let visiting birds feed, too.
There are a number of methods of controlling squirrels that are sure to backfire. Here are some methods to avoid.
No Poisons, Ever
Rodenticides, rat poisons, and squirrel poisons can also kill pets. They can make children sick in case they come in contact with the poisoned squirrel.
The problem with any poison is always dosing. A small animal like a squirrel can consume just enough poisons to become slow and unable to escape a predatory pet, like your cat or dog.
The result of putting out squirrel poisons can be lots of sick squirrels and one dead pet.
No Grease or Petroleum Jelly
Grease and petroleum jelly can make poles too slick for squirrels to climb.
The problem is that squirrels and other small animals, including pets, can get grease or Vaseline on their fur, and try to lick it off.
This gives them diarrhea, and can become fatal.
Or, in the case of a pet, lead to a huge vet bill. Slippery substances also make it hard for squirrels and other animals to stay warm in cold weather.
Focus on redirecting squirrels away from your bird seed feeders.
Squirrels are not the enemy. Your yard can accommodate both birds and squirrels. They just need their own sources of food.
Other articles you may also like: