8 PROVEN Ways To Keep Squirrels Off Bird Feeders (2024)

It’s incredibly challenging to keep squirrels away from bird feeders!

how to keep squirrels off and away from bird feeders

I like squirrels and want them in my backyard. I enjoy watching them, and they are as much a part of nature as birds. But, I want to see my squirrels ON THE GROUND. Unfortunately, these ravenous rodents can quickly become a nuisance on bird feeders 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!

YouTube video

Below, you will learn EIGHT ways to keep squirrels off bird feeders!

And the best news is that 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. 🙂


#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:

Option #1: Buy a pole that is manufactured 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. (Because of the high number of feeders I was using, I have since built a more heavy-duty bird feeder pole. 🙂 )

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:

Compare Prices of the Squirrel Stopper Pole!

Not only is this pole great at preventing squirrels from climbing up, but it holds up to eight bird feeders and looks “classy” in any backyard.

Option #2: 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:

stop squirrels with baffles

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:


#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 squirrels jumping onto my bird feeding station!

YouTube video

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 five 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. By doing this, you get to observe them TRY to make the jump but miss, which provides some entertainment. 🙂


#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, there are bird feeders that allow birds to eat but cut off the food supply for squirrels. Some work great; some fail miserably.

Here are the THREE most popular styles used by squirrel-proof bird feeders:

Style #1: Weight Sensitive

Access to 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!

For example, here is a short video of the weight-sensitive perches in action on my Absolute II hopper feeder:

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Style #2: Cages

Audubon Squirrel-Proof Caged Tube Bird Feeder

Metal cages surround some feeders 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.

Style #3: Battery-Powered Feeders That Spin

These may be the most entertaining! When a squirrel climbs on the feeder, the motor kicks in to start spinning, which tosses them off. The biggest negative to this style is that you will have to charge and change the battery periodically.

For a list of my favorite squirrel-proof bird feeders with honest reviews, check out the following article:


#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:

Food #1: Safflower Seed

safflower seed - best bird food

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View $ - Amazon | View $ - Chewy

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!

Food #2: Nyjer Seed

different types of bird seed guide

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Amazon | Chewy

Goldfinches can’t get enough, but squirrels don’t bother with this tiny seed.

Food #3: 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.


#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.

hot pepper birdseed

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 mouths.

Here is the exciting part:

Only mammals, like squirrels, are affected by capsaicin!

YouTube video

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 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. There are no reports of any birders or ornithologists that have spoken about the adverse health consequences for birds.

Here is the capsaicin bird food that I have used before with great success:

Coles Hot Pepper Sunflower Seeds:

COMPARE PRICES!


#6: Feed squirrels 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 seeds just for the squirrels!

YouTube video

  Woodlink Tray Feeder: View Cost - Amazon

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 inexpensive food they love, like corn and sunflower seeds.


#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, 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:

YouTube video

Woodlink Squirrel-Go-Round Feeder    View $ on Amazon        


#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 deterrents AND keep squirrels safe. Remember that squirrels are just trying to survive themselves and doing what comes naturally to them!

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:

Poison:

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. They may also 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.

Shooting:

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 the tips above will work much better as long-term solutions to your squirrel problems than murder.


Conclusion:

ways to keep squirrels off bird feeders

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 combing tips #3, #4, and #5 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!

Before you go, I want your help to make this article even better. Can you help answer some of these questions in the comments below?

How do you stop squirrels from getting onto your bird feeders?

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

Scott

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102 Comments

  1. Scott I was wondering what kind of camera you use to watch the birds? I bought a trail cam but it doesn’t let me watch them live.

  2. In my experience with safflower seed over a few decades now, I have found that has long they have another food source (peanuts, sunflower seeds, cracked corn, etc.) the vast majority of squirrels will shun the safflower seed. But if there is no other ‘easy’ food supply, some will eat – and a few even eventually develop a genuine taste for – safflower seed. That’s when the hot sauce and cayenne get mixed in with my safflower seed…

    Squirrel proof feeders – the kind with cages – are also very helpful.

    Chipmunks, on the other hand, will take all the safflower seed they can. And they don’t eat it, they cache it – they stuff their cheeks, scamper home, and come back for more. They will do this all day long, until the safflower seed is gone.
    Fortunately, adding some garlic powder helps deter them. (I sometimes literally rub cloves of garlic on my deck railing to discourage the chipmunks.

    (Oh – and jsyk, squirrel proof (caged) feeders are NOT raccoon proof lol! the adorable varmints have longer arms (front legs) and can actually reach in and take the seeds. So if there is any seed left in those feeders at the end of the day, I have to bring them in. )

  3. I stocked up on 20 lbs of safflower seed expressly to deter the squirrels ( as well as purchasing the AbsoluteII squirrel proof feeder). Well, now it seems i run a squirrel farm! I’ve never seen so many squirrels. They are loving the safflower and have figured out how to hang from the roof of the feeder by one hind foot and scoop out the seed with their front paw without touching the perch. They also seem to spill the seed on the ground intentionally so they can eat it there too.

  4. After numerous attempts at squirrel proofing my bird feeder, I ran a copper wire from my house to my garage. I ran the wire a little over 6 foot high. The weight of the feeder dropped it to 5 foot high. I made sure there was nothing the squirrels could jump from to get to the feeder. Seems to be working just fine

  5. i don’t fully trust this article. my squirrels love safflower seeds. i haven’t tried everything yet but the more i try the more it costs with no success.

  6. Get 4 ft of 3 inch drain pipe, half way along drill a hole the size of a bath plug, put the pipe against a wall or a run where they may be, use a brick to stop it rolling. Down thru the hole put strong poison, then put the plug in the hole. Check after 2 days to see if the bait has gone.keep baiting until they stop taking it

  7. Squirrels will eat almost anything including nyjer and white millet. However they prefer sunflower seeds and peanuts. I’ve found it relatively easy to scare them into leaving a feeder with nyjer and white millet, but with sunflower seeds and peanuts they return after a few minutes.

  8. Well, so much for the suggestions given here. My TN squirrels must be part Mexican, as they seem to love any kind of pepper I add to the seeds and suet. They have also chewed through three different “squirrel proof” feeders, bending up the metal hole covers of the weighted type then chewing on the edge of the opening to make it bigger and hanging from the barn-style weighted ones. I had one of the cage tube feeders and the young and red squirrels were able to get into it. Later they figured out how to lift the top and chew the top edge of the feeder down to where the hanger was so it fell out. My house is on a hill so the front windows, where I watch the birds, sit too high for a pole to be practical so my feeders are hung from the porch roof. Baffles above and below the feeders do not deter them from jumping onto them. They also like the suet. I guess I’ll have to try the safflower seed, though they’ll probably like that too.

  9. My feeders are hung from my clothes poles (clothesline poles) and I’ve put metal toy slinkies around the poles and it seems to work pretty good and gives me a good laugh watching them try to climb with the slinky there. In the past I’ve also used PVC pipe as a feeder pole and the darned squirrels just can’t seem to get a toe-hold enough to climb them.

  10. I feed squirrels in the gingko tree with a jar squirrel feeder and even offer water, just like I do birds. I have always loved squirrels, but recently saw that they depleted the bird feeder. In fact, my bird feeders all added together don’t even add to the amount of seed in your absolute II. So, I used tip #6. I set up a jar squirrel feeder and a squirrel waterer in the gingko tree far from my maple tree. Also, I made all my bird feeders, bird waterers, birdbaths, squirrel feeders, and squirrel waterers myself.

  11. Any suggestions for getting rid of rats? Had to remove my urban feeders due to the appearance of rats under our deck. Never had them in all the years we’ve lived here and feeding birds.

  12. We had the same problem you describe.
    The lilac bush wouldn’t support the feeder and a squirrel. So hubby strung a wire he had (similar to clothesline but smoother) from our house eves to a fencepost at the back of our yard and hung the feeder from the wire. You cannot see the wire, but the squirrels cannot navigate it and we can see the feeder from our window(s). The feeder tended to slide on the wire so he put stoppers on both sides of the feeder and it is very successful in holding it where we want it. Works very well for us and keeps the squirrels on the ground beneath the feeder, cleaning up any seed that drops.

  13. It’s worth noting to check laws in your area prior to trying to trap & relocate wildlife, as it’s illegal and punishable by law to trap & relocate any type of wildlife in many states.

  14. I bought one just like that! It definitely helps with the squirrels. Only drawback is it discourages the larger woodpeckers like red bellied and pileated. 😕

  15. I mainly feed suet cakes for the woodpeckers and nuthatches. Many things have failed, but one is working somewhat. I built a hardware cloth cage for one of the feeders hanging on a shepherd’s hook.. Had to cut off all parts that would hurt anything, and lots of folding. It doesn’t completely keep squirrels away, but they definitely get less suet.

  16. I see that you mentioned squirrels do not like hot sauce. Well, I live in East TN and this does not phase them at all. I mixed cayenne pepper in some peanut butter and even covered the peanut butter with some Texas Pete sauce to no avail. What’s the answer here…I give up

  17. i got a squirle prooof bird feeder, but this carzy smart squirle hangs upside down from the roof and eats the food from there!

  18. I have Pileated, Northern Flicker and Downy Woodpeckers eating suet I have nailed on the pine trees. They will only eat suet that way, not on a pole or similar birdfeeder… Now I have 4 squirrels that manage to eat through the metal around the suet and dominate it. They don’t destroy the metal cage. What can I do here as I really like my woodpeckers. I’m trying to get some flight shots but can’t because of the squirrels.

    https://moskovita-photography.com/NW_Woodpeckers.htm

  19. The only thing I have found that works is to relocate them. I bought a cheap trap and bait with peanut butter and walnuts. I’ve relocated 10 in about 5 months. BUT, there is one extremely smart and has seen his comrades in the trap and will not go in. He has acquired the taste for safflower seed as well. I’m going to move the trap around to see if that helps.🐿🤷🏼‍♀️

  20. As I read this, I am watching the squirrels finish off the last of the hot pepper suet. Maybe they are from Arizona where everything is hot? they also have figured out how to get around the feeders that close with weight limitations by poking their paw in and then hanging from the structure and feeding themselves. Guess their paws and manage the acrobatics that allow them to scoop the seed out. Finally I have tried the cone baffles. It appears that they are able to jump above them. I have not tried the torpedo baffle. Maybe next year!

  21. The problem is that during winter it gets cold and hardens. It worked great during summer they slid right down but not now in cold

  22. Hello. After reading the myriad reports – pro and con – about birds, feeders, squirrels, and the success or failure of the various methods tried, I would like to report here that – just on a whim one day while perusing the Christmas Tree Shoppe, I bought a little feeder that had just two suction cups to attach to a window. Well, my cat, Beauregard, has his own cupboard next to the sink where he sits, lies in wait, and pounces on all of the birds who come to it. I am now in year 3, I think, and not only have the suction cups not dropped my little feeder, I found it basically impossible – at least with my fingers – to GET them to come off for cleaning purposes. But my point in this diatribe is that I guess by its mere size (about 2″ deep – front to back, 6″ across and maybe 9″ high) and the position of its placement (entirely unplanned) on a kitchen window is the perfect solution because, although the squirrels can indeed climb up the post on the front of the porchlet next to the window, they just cannot get ON the feeder, IN the feeder, nor On TOP of it , nor so far not on the sill because, well, it’s so small and they’re so fat! I’m sure it’s only a matter of time, but at this rate, I may not live to see them succeed! I am so happy with it, and one of these days, equipped with a razor blade scraper or some such, maybe a small pry bar, I’ll get the stinker down and clean it thoroughly, but so far I seem not to have poisoned them with my poor “house-cleaning” habits. And, I just feed everybody black oiled sunflowers and a cage with hot suet for the ‘Peckers. Yum… And the squirrels, well, they seem happy with the black walnut tree in the front and the unused Recycle Bin in the loft in the garden shed in which they live – as well as store their nuts.

    Shari