How do you keep chipmunks away and off your bird feeders?
With their cheeks stuffed full of food, many people find chipmunks incredibly cute and welcome them to their backyard. But while squirrels get most of the attention, these striped rodents can become a bit annoying near your bird feeding station, especially in large enough numbers.
The most likely place where you will see chipmunks will be underneath your feeders, eating the bird food that has fallen to the ground. But without a bit of prevention, these critters are known to climb into your bird feeders, which prevents the songbirds you actually want to see!
7 ways to prevent chipmunks at bird feeders!
And make sure to check out all of the things you should NOT do to stop chipmunks, which are located at the end.
#1. Keep the area underneath your feeders clean.
The most likely place that you are going to see chipmunks at is eating the bird food that falls to the ground. These mammals are known for filling their cheeks with as much food that will fit, which they take back to their underground dens to eat later or store for winter.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that to keep chipmunks away, you need to try and stop birdseed falling from above!
To prevent food on the ground, pay close attention to your feeders.
Most birds are messy eaters and will poke through and throw birdseed around, looking for the food they want to eat. You are going to need bird feeders that don’t allow birds to do this!
Most hopper feeders and trays are probably bad options since birds can sit on a platform and have plenty of room to throw food around, leading to some ending up on the ground.
Look for feeders where birds must reach inside to grab a piece of food.
One feeder that I own that would be a good choice is the Absolute II.
The seed is enclosed in the food reservoir and has a metal lip that prevents (much) food from spilling out.
Another way to prevent foods from ending up on the ground is to install a tray underneath the feeders.
Many tube feeders have trays that you can secure to the bottom. You can also attach a dish or bin that catches fallen seeds.
You can also try only using shelled sunflower seeds.
As far as bird food goes, sunflower kernels are the most popular. Almost every bird that comes to feeders loves the stuff. In fact, when birds are looking through a birdseed mix, it’s typically the sunflower they are searching for.
If you only use shelled sunflowers, there will be nothing for the birds to search through, which means they are less likely to throw seeds to the ground. As another benefit, you are going to avoid a mess of shells that you need to clean up later since you are buying the sunflower seed already shelled.
If any sunflower kernels do fall to the ground, they should be quickly gobbled up by ground-feeding birds, which shouldn’t leave any for the chipmunks to eat.
#2. Prevent access to your bird feeders!
Believe it or not, if you don’t take any precautions, chipmunks may climb into your bird feeders. Once there, they will stuff their cheeks full of food, keeping birds away while they are eating.
But luckily, chipmunks don’t have the same athletic ability that squirrels possess. Chipmunks can’t jump vertically or horizontally from a tree very far, or climb around baffles well, so it’s relatively easy to make sure these rodents can’t climb into your feeders. Trust me; it’s WAY more challenging to keep squirrels off your bird feeders than chipmunks!
Regardless, here are some easy things you can do to keep chipmunks on the ground!
A. Baffle your bird feeder pole!
A baffle is merely a contraption that is designed to prevent mammals from climbing up your bird feeder pole. While they are mostly intended to stop squirrels, they are exceptional for stopping chipmunks too.
Baffles can be purchased separately (or made) and attached to your existing pole. In general, there are two different styles/shapes of baffle you will encounter:
Torpedo Baffle Pictured Above (Also referred to as Stovepipe or Cone): Audubon Steel Baffle
Wrap Around Baffle Pictured Above: Woodlink Baffle
Both of these baffles are designed to attach below the bird feeder. As chipmunks climb, they are not able to get around the baffle and, therefore, can’t eat your bird food!
For everything you need to know about baffles, check out this article:
B. Buy a pole that specializes in stopping rodents from climbing up!
If you don’t own a bird feeder pole yet or are looking for a new one, then I recommended buying one that has a baffle already built into the design.
For example, I used to own the Squirrel Stopper Pole, and not one critter EVER got past the attached spring-loaded baffle. (Last year, I built a more heavy-duty bird feeder pole due to the high number of bird feeders I was using. 🙂 )
Check out the spring-loaded baffle on the Squirrel Stopper pole below:
Compare Prices of the Squirrel Stopper Pole!
Not only is this pole great at preventing chipmunks from climbing up, but it holds up to 8 bird feeders and looks “classy” in backyards.
C. Hang your feeders from a strong fishing line!
A lot of people that feed birds don’t use a bird feeder pole to hang their feeders, but instead, they suspend them from a tree or other structure. The problem these enthusiasts face is that chipmunks can climb the tree and come down onto the feeders from above.
An easy way to stop this is to hang the bird feeders from a strong fishing line!
The fishing line is too small and thin for chipmunks to navigate down, and they will either need to make a leap of faith from the tree or head back to the ground.
#3. Use spicy food to stop chipmunks.
Do you enjoy having habanero peppers all over your food? Or does your face grimace just thinking about the heat you would experience?
The reason that we (people) feel the heat of spicy foods is because of something called capsaicin, which is the active ingredient found in chili peppers that makes them hot and irritating to eat.
But here is the crazy thing:
Only mammals feel the effects of capsaicin! Birds are not affected.
And in case you forgot, chipmunks are mammals. In addition, a chipmunk’s sense of smell and taste is better than humans. I’ve never been able to ask a chipmunk what eating hot chili peppers tastes like, but my guess is that the effects are compounded even more than what people feel.
Coles Hot Pepper Sunflower Seeds:
Using bird food that has been coated in hot pepper is worth trying. Chipmunks should take one whiff and not like what they smell. Birds, who don’t have much of a sense of smell or taste, won’t be bothered one bit by the spicy food.
Using spicy seeds should work at preventing all sorts of mammals at your feeding station, including squirrels, raccoons, and bears! Check out the experiment I did below, where I tested to see if hot pepper seed actually works.
#4. Trap and release your chipmunks!
If all else fails, you can try to trap chipmunks and let them go somewhere far away from your house.
Catching a chipmunk is relatively easy.
First, buy a small trap, like the one seen below.
Havahart Small Mammal Trap View Price - Amazon
Then put something delicious inside that chipmunks can’t resist, like sunflower seeds.
Soon enough, you should have a chipmunk. Now you need to drive a few miles away to let it go. Try to find a park or a friend’s house that has a wooded area for the chipmunk to live.
While trapping can work, I don’t think it’s a long-term solution. There will ALWAYS be more chipmunks. To solve your chipmunk problems, I think it’s a much better use of time to focus on how to stop them permanently.
Typically, I only resort to trapping a chipmunk when one has started making a mess inside my garage or shed consistently!
Also, I try to avoid trapping and relocating chipmunks during spring and summer, since they may have an underground burrow full of babies waiting for “mamma” to come home. I don’t have the heart to know that I am ensuring these young chipmunks a slow and painful death.
Lastly, PLEASE do not hurt the chipmunk after it’s trapped!
These adaptable mammals are just trying to stay alive. Be kind and find a suitable place far away from your house to let them go.
#5. Feed chipmunks separately from your birds.
This tip runs counter to almost everything else on this list.
To prevent and deter chipmunks from accessing and eating all of your food and scaring away birds, try feeding them at a separate feeder just for them!
For example, underneath my bird feeders, I have a tray that is always filled with sunflower seeds just for the chipmunks and other ground-feeding animals!
Look for chipmunks below on the LIVE camera in my backyard!
By providing an unlimited supply of food for chipmunks on the ground, you are hoping they won’t even bother going through all the extra work to reach your bird feeders. I use this same strategy to help control House Sparrows too!
And if you don’t want chipmunks hanging around your bird feeders, then put this separate tray of food in a different area of the yard to get them to relocate. 🙂
#6. Make sure you have proper seed storage!
You didn’t ask, but I’m going to give you my personal opinion regarding chipmunks. 🙂
Overall, I don’t mind them, and I’m happy they are around. Chipmunks provide a lot of entertainment for our family, and they stay off my bird feeders (thanks to my baffles) and help clean up the seed that falls to the ground. Also, I like the fact they provide food for owls and hawks, which I love getting the chance to see in our backyard too. (Don’t hate me for that comment, hate the circle of life! 🙂 )
- RELATED: 7 Proven Ways To Attract Owls!
The only times that I get annoyed with chipmunks are when they come into my garage and shed and wreak havoc on my stored bird food.
Chipmunk or squirrel damage on a 5-gallon bucket lid.
If I accidentally leave a bag of seed on the ground after purchasing it from the store, I can count on them to tear a hole in the side to get their fair share. I have also found damage from them as they try to chew their way through hard plastic in my shed.
Now, I realize that I can’t blame the chipmunks for causing this damage and mess, as they just want a chance to get some easy food. But they do keep me on my toes and ensure that I am storing all of my bird seed properly.
My recommendation is to purchase metal bins with a lid or find storage containers made of incredibly hard plastic.
Also, try to clean up whenever you spill any food on the floor, as this discourages chipmunks, as well as mice and rats, from coming back.
Tip #7: PLEASE Don’t Hurt Chipmunks!
Unfortunately, out of frustration, many people have come up with ways to keep chipmunks away from bird feeders that hurt or even kill them.
I don’t agree with these methods. There are too many effective strategies that work at deterring and repelling chipmunks AND keep these animals safe.
So my final recommendation is to avoid anything that will injure chipmunks. Try to appreciate chipmunks as part of nature and remember they are just trying to survive like the birds that visit your feeders!
Don’t Use THESE Strategies To Keep Chipmunks Off Bird Feeders!
DON’T USE THIS STUFF!!!
Not only will you be sentencing chipmunks to a painful death, but what if your dog accidentally ingests some?
Also, it’s common for predatory animals, like foxes, owls, and hawks, to eat a rodent that has just been poisoned, since, to them, it makes an easy meal. As soon as this poisoned chipmunk has been consumed, there is no hope for that predator either, and it will soon die.
Glue or anything else sticky on your bird feeder pole:
It not only has to be incredibly painful to have their fur ripped out, but it’s almost impossible for chipmunks to remove the glue, and they may ingest some as they try to groom themselves.
Petroleum jelly or grease on your bird feeder pole:
Similar to glue, this is incredibly difficult for chipmunks to get off their coat. They might ingest some and get sick, or their fur will clump together, leaving them susceptible to cold weather.
There is nothing you can shoot at a chipmunk that will not hurt it, except a camera.
Letting your cat outside to kill the chipmunks:
Cats LOVE to prey on and kill birds. If you want to see more birds at your feeder and fewer chipmunks, do you think letting your cat outside is a great idea?
In general, don’t do anything that will kill or harm the chipmunks in your backyard!
Killing the chipmunks in your backyard is a classic example of treating the symptom and not the problem. Chipmunks breed quickly, so you can always expect more to arrive. Using a combination of the tips in this article will work much better as long-term solutions than murder.
By utilizing some of the tips listed above, it is entirely possible to repel, deter, and keep chipmunks off your feeders and stop them from eating your bird food!
But most importantly, try to learn to appreciate chipmunks as part of the extraordinary nature you get to observe in your backyard! I have even heard of people that have trained chipmunks to eat out of their hands! 🙂
Thanks for reading, and good luck!