Today, we are going to be talking about hot pepper birdseed.
More specifically, how hot pepper birdseed can help keep squirrels from eating all of the bird food at your feeding station! Seriously, this strategy really works. When I use this spicy food, squirrels (and other mammals) take one whiff and decide to look for food elsewhere.
In case you didn’t know, hot pepper birdseed is food that has been infused or coated with something incredibly spicy. For example, hot habanero chili peppers or cayenne pepper is often used.
So, why on earth would you put out birdseed that would make our mouths burn?
The reason might surprise you, and it’s not because birds have suddenly acquired a taste for spicy food. 🙂
Think of the last time you ate a hot pepper. The “heat“ that you feel in your mouth after eating one is caused by a compound called capsaicin. The reason we feel pain, discomfort, and burning after eating hot peppers is that capsaicin messes with specific nerve endings in our mouth.
So here is the crazy thing:
Only MAMMALS are affected by capsaicin.
Birds don’t have much of a 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 list of mammals that can cause problems at your feeding station includes not only squirrels but also raccoons, chipmunks, rats, mice, and even bears! All of these creatures have SUPER sensitive noses, so all it takes is one smell, and they should start looking for food elsewhere.
But birds won’t hesitate to eat hot pepper birdseed!
And please don’t worry about the birds eating spicy food as it’s completely safe. Products that contain capsaicin have been on the market for a long time now. There are no reports of any birders or ornithologists who have spoken on the adverse health consequences for birds.
Does this sound too good to be true?
So while using hot pepper birdseed is an effective strategy for stopping squirrels, it’s not perfect.
First, buying food that has been treated with capsaicin is EXPENSIVE when compared with regular birdseed that is not spicy. But on the flip side, you won’t be feeding squirrels anymore, so the supply of food will last longer.
Second, you have to be CAREFUL when handling hot pepper birdseed. The worst thing you can do is touch the stuff, then rub your eyes or nose. You can probably imagine how your face would feel. I have made this mistake exactly ONCE and now won’t handle it without gloves.
Ok, now that we know why hot pepper bird seed works, let’s talk about how you can get some!
In general, there are TWO ways to acquire hot pepper birdseed:
#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.
Here is the hot pepper birdseed that I use:
Coles Hot Pepper Sunflower Seeds:
#2. Make your own hot pepper birdseed!
Preparing your own spicy food is more time-consuming, but it’s going to save you money. Personally, I use the concentrated hot sauce pictured below and mix it with shelled sunflower seed.
You need to 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 which help keep the sauce on the seeds and OFF me. 🙂
- I have a 5-gallon bucket with a lid that is 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 that I use for mixing the hot sauce into the seeds. The stake is kept in a special location so I don’t accidentally touch it without gloves on.
There are also many DIY recipes available on the internet that talk about mixing cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes into your bird food. Unfortunately, at this point, I have not tried any of the recipes out myself and can’t comment on how any of them work.
Have you tried using hot pepper food to keep squirrels away?
If so, please comment below to let us know your experience!
Also, please share any proven recipes for making your own hot pepper birdseed at home.