How do you keep raccoons away and off bird feeders?
Unfortunately, I recently had to ask myself this question.
For years, raccoons have comfortably eaten sunflower seeds and peanuts on the ground underneath my feeders.
I thought we had a good relationship. You see, every day, I put food on the ground for the birds. And almost every night, raccoons come to feast on the easy meal, and I don’t care at all! In return, these masked mammals stay off my feeders and don’t break anything.
Well, it only took one young individual to break my imaginary pact with the raccoons. This frisky bandit started climbing up the pole next to my feeding station that supports my live webcams. From there, the raccoon would make a leap of faith to my feeders!
You can actually watch this mischievous juvenile jumping from the camera pole below, breaking my tray feeder in the process!
Unfortunately, once a raccoon finds an easy meal, they don’t forget about it easily. Suddenly, the same raccoon almost nightly was climbing up and jumping over to my feeders.
Luckily, after some thinking and experimentation, I was able to utilize a few strategies to force the raccoon back on the ground. But after dealing with this naughty raccoon, I thought I would write today’s guide:
7 Ways to Keep Raccoons Off Bird Feeders!
I hope you enjoy the article. Please share anything else that has worked for you in the “Comments” section at the bottom!
#1. Install a baffle on your bird feeder pole.
Even though they are rather large mammals, raccoons are expert climbers. The easiest way for them to get to your food is by simply climbing up the pole that hangs your bird feeders.
To stop raccoons, the first thing you should try is attaching a baffle to the pole.
A baffle is a contraption that is used to stop animals from climbing. Not only will it help stop raccoons, but a baffle should also prevent squirrels from climbing. I think baffles (wrap-around style) look like the cones that are put around a dog’s neck after they have been neutered!
Which baffle you should buy depends on the size and shape of your feeder pole. I wrote a complete guide to baffles, which should help you decide which one you need!
Or, if you are in the market for a bird feeder pole and don’t want to build one, you should check out the Squirrel Stopper Pole. I used it for many years, and it has a built-in, spring-loaded baffle that neither raccoons nor squirrels can’t get past!
Unfortunately, I found out that wrap-around baffles don’t work 100% of the time against raccoons. I have the following baffle installed on the pole in my backyard. Somehow, the raccoon that you see at the beginning of this article was able to maneuver his way around it!
To solve my raccoon problem, I had to also use some of the other strategies listed below!
#2. Wrap metal around your feeder pole.
Raccoons are expert tree climbers but luckily haven’t evolved to climb up smooth metal (yet).
If there is a pole or tree that you can’t stop them from ascending, try wrapping it in some sort of sheet metal or aluminum flashing.
For example, I use a 4×4 wooden post as my homemade bird feeder pole. When it was installed, a metal stovepipe was placed around the pole (and spray painted black). There is no way for a raccoon to climb up the slippery metal!
Here is a video of my dad and me putting the stovepipe on my DIY bird feeder pole.
And for extra protection, I even placed a baffle at the top of the stove pipe.
Wrapping a piece of thin metal around your bird feeder pole, tree, or anything else you don’t want raccoons (or squirrels!) climbing works exceptionally well.
#3. Keep raccoons away with spicy food!
Have you ever eaten a hot pepper?
If so, you know that they can make your mouth a bit uncomfortable.
The “heat“ that you feel in your mouth after eating a hot pepper 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.
MAMMALS are affected by capsaicin! RACCOONS included.
Here is the exciting part:
Birds can eat capsaicin all day long and feel no ill effects.
So to take advantage, many bird foods add capsaicin as a powder coat, liquid coat, or as part of a suet mix to stop raccoons from eating.
Time and time again, it has been shown that having capsaicin-treated bird food is one of the best raccoon repellents you can utilize. Raccoons have SUPER sensitive noses, so all it takes is one smell, and they will start looking elsewhere. 🙂
Using hot pepper sunflower seed in my bird feeders worked well to force the raccoon back to the ground. For about a week, I used spicy food in my feeders until the raccoon learned its lesson.
Here is the hot pepper birdseed that I use: View Price - Amazon
Is it safe to feed birds capsaicin?
Products that contain capsaicin have been on the market for a long time now, and there are no reports of any birders or ornithologists who have spoken on the adverse health consequences for birds.
#4. Use bird feeders that raccoons can’t use!
One way to keep these mammals away is to use bird feeders that raccoons physically CAN’T use.
Here are two styles that should work great.
A. Weight-sensitive feeders
A raccoon’s weight varies dramatically among individuals, but most weigh somewhere between 10 – 30 pounds. The average size of the birds coming to your feeders is much smaller, typically only a few ounces.
Luckily, it’s easy to use a raccoon’s size against themselves!
Certain bird feeders have perches that close when enough weight is put on them. This feature allows small songbirds to feed in peace, but as soon as a raccoon puts its chubby leg on it, access to the food is denied!
My favorite weight-sensitive feeder is the Absolute II hopper. Below is a video of how it works.
Not only will it cause a problem for raccoons, but squirrels and heavier birds also won’t be able to eat.
B. Caged bird feeders
The idea behind these feeders is simple. Wrap a metal cage around a bird feeder that only small birds can fit through! Caged feeders also work great if you need to prevent starlings from feeding!
Seriously, take a look at this caged feeder that I own below.
Audubon Caged Tube Feeder View Cost - Amazon
A raccoon can try as hard as it wants, but there is no way it’s going to get access to the food unless it somehow knocks the feeder to the ground.
#5. Feed raccoons separately.
Many people, including myself, enjoy seeing raccoons in our yards and appreciate their role in the circle of life. We just get a bit annoyed when they start climbing on our feeders and break stuff!
In addition to the other strategies on this list, you can try feeding raccoons in a safe place on the ground. The hope is that if you offer enough delicious food where it’s easy to reach, these acrobatic mammals will have no reason to climb up to your feeders.
Check out my LIVE animal camera below!
The webcam watches the area underneath my feeding station. Almost every day, I fill the tray feeders full of sunflower seeds, peanuts, and corn. The food is primarily for the birds, but I know every night the raccoons, opossums, and rabbits are going to get their fill.
I hope that if the raccoons can find enough food on the ground, there is no reason even to try to find food above! This strategy also works extremely well for distracting House Sparrows.
#6. Neutralize any “launchpads.”
So most of the time, my bird feeders are extremely quiet at night, since birds aren’t active once the sun goes down.
But a few years ago, I had a raccoon problem different from the one I mentioned at the beginning of the article.
One night, out of nowhere, things got a little crazy. As you can see in the video, a raccoon appears mysteriously from above!
After some investigation, I found that a branch overhead had slowly been growing closer and closer to the top of my feeding station. This raccoon had climbed down the tree limb and accessed the food from above!
A quick trim of the tree branches solved the raccoon problem immediately!
The moral of the story?
Make sure to inspect areas around your feeding station. Specifically, look for places a raccoon could either jump off from or climb down. Like me, you may need to do some tree trimming or raccoon-proof a nearby structure or tree that they could jump from!
#7. Trap and release.
If all else fails, you can try to trap raccoons and let them go somewhere far away from your house.
Catching a raccoon is relatively easy.
First, buy a large trap, like the one seen below.
Havahart Raccoon Trap View Price - Amazon
Then put something delicious inside, such as peanut butter, dog food, shelled sunflower seeds, or any number of other human foods.
Soon enough, you should have a raccoon. Now you need to drive at least five miles away to let it go. Try to find a friend that has a large forest where the raccoon can hopefully stay away from people.
While trapping can work, I don’t think it’s a long-term solution. There will ALWAYS be more raccoons. To solve your raccoon problems, I think it’s a much better use of time to focus on how to stop them permanently.
PLEASE do not hurt the raccoon.
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.
I think I can safely say that the raccoon that was climbing onto my bird feeders has been defeated, and he is peacefully eating again on the ground.
As you do battle against raccoons, I think you will find you use a combination of tactics. For me, I needed the help of baffles, spicy food, and caged and weight-sensitive feeders to stop raccoons.
I’d love to hear what works for you.