Is there anything that squirrels won’t eat?
Many people, including myself, have asked themselves this question! I know I’ve watched helplessly as squirrels have overtaken my bird feeders. Due to their large size, they keep the birds away, and my avian friends watch from a nearby perch as their food disappears into the belly of a squirrel.
Not to mention that squirrels have diverse and incredibly LARGE appetites. I’m sure you have noticed that bird food has gotten more expensive. It can be hard to justify the high price of bird seed when half of it goes to fattening up squirrels who leave very little for the birds to eat.
So to help control the amount of food squirrels consume, I made a list of four types that squirrels don’t normally eat at bird feeders. Please note that these rodents may try some of the foods below or eat them in small quantities. But for the most part, they shouldn’t spend hours and hours on your bird feeders if you use these foods.
#1. Safflower Seeds
Safflower seed has gotten the nickname the “miracle seed” because most songbirds will readily eat it, but the majority of squirrels will ignore it! Birds like cardinals, jays, chickadees, and many others have no problem eating safflower, but squirrels mostly don’t touch it.
Since I can’t ask them directly, I’m not exactly sure why squirrels don’t like safflower, but supposedly it has a bitter taste. Mammals tend to have a better-developed sense of taste than birds. I know that using safflower seeds sounds too good to be true, but it’s a great option to use in your feeders that are not squirrel-proof.
Give it a try and see if it works! It’s estimated that 90% of squirrels won’t eat safflower. My apologies if you have one of the super squirrels that eat safflower all day long with a smile on their face. 🙂
#2. Nyjer Seeds (thistle)
Nyjer seed, also called “thistle,” is a tiny, black seed. Luckily, it’s not actually related to thistle, so you don’t have to worry about uneaten seeds growing into an annoying weed. In fact, before it’s sold, Nyjer seeds are sterilized by heat so they can’t germinate and grow.
These small seeds are great for attracting goldfinches, finches, chickadees, and doves. But due to their tiny size, I have never seen a squirrel even attempt to eat one!
To use Nyjer seed, you will want to purchase a feeder that specializes in distributing it. Check out the article below for more information on these bird feeders.
#3. White Proso Millet
Millet is a favorite food among ground-feeding birds. It is generally not sold individually but is included in MANY types of birdseed mixes.
And while white millet attracts lots of birds that enjoy dining on the ground, like juncos, sparrows, blackbirds, and doves, it will not appeal to squirrels. Interestingly, millet is considered a grain, not a seed, and squirrels don’t bother eating this small, hard food.
A word of warning: Many birdseed mixes contain red proso millet, which is red and a bit smaller than white millet. Ground-feeding birds will eat red millet, but it’s not their favorite. So, if possible, I would avoid buying a mix that includes red millet.
#4. Any food coated with HOT PEPPER!
I have saved the best option for last! 🙂
Believe it or not, using birdseed coated with hot pepper is a great way to prevent squirrels from eating at your feeders! Seriously, this strategy works. When I use spicy food, squirrels (and other mammals) take one whiff and decide to look for food elsewhere.
And the best part is that birds have no problem eating hot pepper food!
The “heat” you feel in your mouth after eating a hot pepper is caused by a compound called capsaicin. We feel pain, discomfort, and burning after eating hot peppers because capsaicin messes with specific nerve endings in our mouth.
And here is the crazy thing:
Only MAMMALS are affected by capsaicin.
Birds don’t have much sense of taste or smell, so they are immune. As a result, they can eat hot pepper birdseed all day long and have no ill effects.
Just think about this fact for a second. The mammals that can cause problems at your feeding station include not only squirrels but also raccoons, chipmunks, rats, mice, and even bears! All these creatures have SUPER sensitive noses, so all it takes is one smell, and they should start looking for food elsewhere.
I tested whether hot pepper seeds worked at my feeders. You can watch below to see if it worked or not. 🙂
And please don’t worry about the birds eating spicy food, as it’s safe. Products that contain capsaicin have been on the market for a long time. There are no reports of birders or ornithologists who have spoken about the adverse health consequences for birds.
So where can you buy hot pepper bird food?
In general, there are TWO ways to acquire hot pepper birdseed:
Option #1. Buy birdseed already coated or infused with capsaicin.
The easiest thing you can do is buy pre-made hot pepper birdseed. Just open the bag and fill your feeders!
While this is easy, it’s also relatively expensive. You are paying for convenience. Below is the hot pepper birdseed that I have used:
Coles Hot Pepper Sunflower Seeds:
Option #2. Make your own hot pepper birdseed!
Preparing your own spicy food is more time-consuming, but it will save you money. I use the concentrated hot sauce pictured below and mix it with shelled sunflower seed.
You must be careful using this stuff because it is hot and incredibly painful to get the concentrated solution on your face (speaking from experience). Here are three things I do that help keep the sauce on the seeds and OFF me. 🙂
- I have a 5-gallon bucket with a lid dedicated to mixing and storing my homemade hot pepper seed. It’s also individually marked, so nothing else ever goes into this bucket.
- Always use gloves!
- I have a dedicated thick wooden stake to mix the hot sauce into the seeds. The stake is kept in a special location, so I don’t accidentally touch it without gloves.
Before we end today, I want you to know that I actually do like squirrels, and they are welcome to eat at my bird feeding station.
But I want these acrobatic rodents to eat on the ground. I don’t want them sitting on my bird feeders, scaring away the birds. 🙂
You may even be able to watch squirrels eating right now BELOW my bird feeders. Check out the LIVE cameras that are streaming in my backyard HERE.
What foods do squirrels avoid in your yard?
If you have any other recommendations or comments, please leave one below!