It’s incredibly challenging to keep squirrels away from bird feeders!
I know this statement is obvious, but whether you love ’em or hate ’em, at some point, almost every backyard birder has to deal with squirrels trying to stage a hostile takeover of their bird food.
I like squirrels and want them in my backyard. I enjoy watching them, and they are as much a part of nature as birds.
I only want to see ONE squirrel at a time (maybe two), and they need to be ON THE GROUND. Unfortunately, these ravenous rodents can quickly become a nuisance for many reasons, including their voracious appetite, feeder dominance, amazing athletic ability, and ability to chew through almost anything!
Do you see any squirrels on my feeders?
Below is a LIVE look at my bird feeding station. We have at least eight squirrels that commonly visit our backyard and periodically one of them can be observed on my bird feeders. Unfortunately, I violate Tip #2 below, and it’s relatively common to see a squirrel leap from the trees!
Seriously, how do you keep squirrels off your bird feeders?
After doing lots of research and experimenting at home, I have put together eight strategies that can help prevent and stop the carnage that squirrels can wreak on your bird food supply.
And the best news?
None of the tips below hurt squirrels. I do not agree with or recommend any strategy that puts these small mammals in danger. As I said before, I want to feed the squirrels, just not from my bird feeders. 🙂
8 Tips To Keep Squirrels Off Your Bird Feeders
Tip #1: Invest in a Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder Pole
By installing a quality squirrel-proof bird feeder pole, you can eliminate most squirrel problems.
It’s pretty simple. If squirrels can’t climb up to the bird feeders, then they are stuck eating the food that falls to the ground.
When it comes to squirrel-proof bird feeder poles, you have two options:
A. Buy a pole that is manufactured specially to prevent squirrels.
For example, I used to own the Squirrel Stopper Pole, and not one single critter EVER got past the attached spring-loaded baffle. (This year I built a more heavy-duty bird feeder pole due to the high number of bird feeders I was using. 🙂 )
A squirrel baffle is merely a contraption that prevents squirrels (and other small mammals) from climbing up your bird feeder pole. Check out the spring-loaded baffle on the Squirrel Stopper pole below:
Squirrel Stopper Pole Check Today's Price
Not only is this pole great at preventing squirrels from climbing up, but it holds up to 8 bird feeders and looks “classy” in my backyard.
B. Squirrel-proof your existing pole by attaching baffles.
If you like your current bird feeder pole and want to keep it, but it wasn’t designed to stop squirrels, I have great news!
Squirrel 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 Squirrel Baffle
Wrap Around Baffle Pictured Above: Woodlink Squirrel Baffle
Both of these baffles are designed to attach below the bird feeder. As squirrels climb, they are not able to get around the baffle and therefore can’t eat your bird food!
*Squirrels can jump vertically up to four feet high! Make sure to attach a squirrel baffle high enough on the pole that they can’t just jump over and on top of it.*
For everything you need to know about squirrel baffles, check out this article:
Tip #2: Place Your Bird Feeders Wisely
Did you know that squirrels can jump as far as 10 feet horizontally?
Don’t believe me?
Here is a video I created of the squirrels jumping onto my bird feeding station!
Unfortunately, my bird feeding station will never be 100% squirrel proof, and it’s because my feeders are too close to the trees you see in the above video. Because of this fact, I have to rely on the other strategies discussed in this post!
As you are deciding where to place bird feeders in your backyard, remember that they will be subject to an aerial assault from squirrels!
To prevent squirrels from making the jump, find a suitable area that is at least 10 feet away from any trees, tree branches, houses, decks, power lines, or anything else that they can climb to use as a launchpad. My feeding station is only about 5 feet away from the nearest trees, and the squirrels make that leap easily!
It will probably be the most fun to place the feeders just a bit out of the squirrels reach, this way you get to observe them TRY to make the jump but miss, which can provide some entertainment. 🙂
Tip #3: Invest in a Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder
If you are not able to stop squirrels from reaching your bird feeders, it may be time to turn your feeders into Fort Knox.
Luckily, many different bird feeders allow birds to eat but cut off the food supply for squirrels. Some work great; some fail miserably.
Here are the THREE most popular strategies used by different styles of squirrel-proof bird feeders:
A. Weight Sensitive:
Access to the bird food is denied if there is too much weight on the perches of the feeder. Most birds are MUCH lighter than squirrels, and they can eat comfortably. But when a squirrel jumps on, typically a door closes, and they are not able to eat the food!
Some feeders will be surrounded by a metal cage to stop squirrels. The openings in the enclosure are large enough for small birds to fly through but too tiny for squirrels to fit inside. Cages also work great to keep blackbirds off your feeders.
C. Battery Powered Feeders That Spin:
These may be the most fun! When a squirrel climbs on the feeder, the motor kicks in to start spinning, which tosses them off!
For a list of my favorite squirrel-proof bird feeders, check out the following article:
Tip #4: Offer foods that squirrels don’t like
There may be locations you want to place your feeders that are almost impossible to keep squirrels away from, such as on a deck, window, or near a tree.
In this case, it may be necessary to be very selective about the foods you are going to offer.
And here’s the good news:
Squirrels don’t eat everything!
Squirrels go crazy over nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, corn, and fruit. They love these foods! You can’t blame them for trying to get to your feeders.
But can you believe there are a handful of foods that will attract lots of birds AND prevent squirrels at the same time?
Here are three foods you can use that squirrels don’t like:
Cardinals, chickadees, titmice, and many finches love this small, white seed while squirrels don’t. Blackbirds (starlings and grackles) also don’t eat safflower seeds, which makes me think this may be a miracle food!
Goldfinches can’t get enough, but squirrels don’t bother with nyjer seed.
C. White Proso Millet:
I think it’s too small for squirrels to mess with, but doves, juncos, and sparrows will undoubtedly be happy it’s available.
Tip #5: Keep Squirrels Away With Hot Peppers!
When I first learned about the strategy of stopping squirrels with hot peppers, it sounded strange to me but made a lot of sense once I learned more.
Have you ever eaten a hot pepper? If so, you know that it 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.
Here is the exciting part: Only mammals are affected by capsaicin! Squirrels included.
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 squirrels from eating.
Time and time again, it has been shown that having capsaicin-treated bird food is one of the best squirrel repellants you can utilize. All it takes is one smell or taste, and they will start looking elsewhere. 🙂
But 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 that have spoken to the adverse health consequences for birds.
Here are a few capsaicin bird food products to try:
Tip #6: Feed them at a separate feeder
This tip runs counter to almost everything else on this list.
To prevent and deter squirrels 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 just for the squirrels!
By providing an unlimited supply of food for squirrels in a separate feeder, you are hoping they won’t even bother going through all the extra work to reach your bird feeders.
This tip works well as a squirrel deterrent. I use this same strategy to help control House Sparrows too!
Make sure the feeder is in an easy spot for the squirrels to find and fill it with an inexpensive food they love, like corn and sunflower.
Tip #7: Have Fun With Your Squirrels
We have already established that squirrels will do about anything to reach bird food, and they are incredibly determined and acrobatic.
Knowing this, try having some fun and make them work hard for their meal!
There are numerous squirrel feeders designed with human entertainment in mind. One of my favorites is a large wheel that features cobs of corn on the ends. If the squirrels don’t balance themselves right, it the wheel starts to spin around. The squirrels eventually get to eat, but it’s not easy!
Here is a spinning squirrel feeder in action:
Tip #8: Don’t Hurt Squirrels!
Unfortunately, out of frustration, many people have come up with ways to keep squirrels off their bird feeders that hurt or even kill them.
I don’t agree with these methods. There are too many effective strategies that work as squirrel deterrent and repellant AND keep squirrels safe.
So my final recommendation is to avoid anything that will injure squirrels. I know these pesky rodents can be overwhelming, but please resist any temptations to eliminate them permanently.
Try to appreciate squirrels as part of nature and remember they are just trying to survive like the birds that visit your feeders!
Here are some things to avoid:
Not only will you be sentencing the squirrels to a painful death, but what if your dog accidentally ingests some?
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 squirrels 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 squirrels 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 squirrel that will not hurt it, except a camera.
Letting your cat outside to kill the squirrels:
Cats LOVE to prey on and kill birds. If you want to see more birds at your feeder and fewer squirrels, do you think letting your cat outside is a great idea?
Killing the squirrels in your backyard is a classic example of treating the symptom and not the problem. Squirrels breed quickly, so you can always expect more to arrive. Using a combination of Tips 1-7 above will work much better as long-term solutions to your squirrel problems than murder.
By utilizing some of the tips listed above, it is entirely possible to repel, deter, and keep squirrels off your feeders and stop them from eating all of your bird food!
I have had the best luck by combing tips #1, #2, and #4 together.
Most importantly, try to learn to appreciate squirrels and enjoy the challenges they provide.
Who knows, once you get the squirrels under control and off your bird feeders, you may end up enjoying their crazy antics. And just so you know, The Squirrel Lover’s Club is always looking for new members!
How do you stop squirrels from eating your bird food and away from your bird feeders?
What are the best ways you have found to deter and repel squirrels?
Thanks for reading, and good luck!