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. I have been quite successful at keeping squirrels away from my bird feeders by placing piles of deer corn (they love the apple flavored variety sold locally by Walmart for nine dollars a bag) near the back of our yard close to one feeder that the birds and squirrels share.

    I also use the pepper treated suet and seed cakes, and seed mixes in certain feeders, to deter not only squirrels but the occasional foraging raccoon! Those wily visitors have, in the past, been known to open suet cages and depart with the entire contents! Once they took the cage away as well!

  2. The starlings have learned to take a peanut and dipping in my fountain they can now even eat the peanuts. I so want to feed the doves, cardinals and blue jay but the starlings empty the tube before they can get anything to eat even though only one bird can stand on the perch

  3. I can handle a few squirrels…my inside cats especially love watching them, but when the rats take over especially at night, I need to draw the line. anything besides taking in all the feeders…big hassle!

  4. Great tips! I have the Absolute III, but they can outsmart it at the corners, reaching from nearby bushes. My version of greasing the pole is with solid vegetable shortening (like Crisco). My way to use capsaicin is Louisiana hotsauce! Easy to sprinkle and VERY effective.

  5. Our granddaughter came to visit and set up a cord from the bottom of the feeder to a chair in the patio. As the day passed and the squirrels visited the feeder she would slowly pull the cord causing the feeder to rock back & forth. Eventually the rocking motion became stronger & finally the squirrel would go flying through space and always land on their feet! No squirrel fed throughout the day. By evening we counted seventeen squirrels gathered around the backyard waiting their turn to dine. It’s no wonder the birdseed disappeared so quickly! Yes, it was fun watching them launch through the air & land on their feet every time! But are you sure, Scott, there are only 7-8 squirrels on your feeders? 😁😁😁

  6. Sorry, Scott, but squirrel stew is a staple. Grain fed Possum has it’s possibilities too. We have both varmits poaching the feeders and the feed bins. Baffles work for the feeder pole but can’t convince She Who Must Be Obeyed to stop using a hangin feeder that is attached to yard barn. The bushy tails just climb right up the side trim and help themselves. The local Cardinals are not amused. Three solutions: 1) get rid of the hanging feeder, 2) Get rid of SWMBO (not a good idea) 3) Squirrel stew. I’ve live trapped possums and transported them out of the county, but their buddies show up and help themselves to the feed bins. Using 30 gallon galvanized trash cans is the expensive solution. I may have growed up in the South, but I can’t quite get excited about Possum Fricassee. Locking the family pooch outside this time of year is not an option per SWMBO und der Munchkins. Perhaps der Munchkins could sleep on patio to keep the midnight Maurading Marsupials at bay?

    1. Ann smith been reading all the reply and the cost of gadgets I have just cut up e plastic milk bottles and put these over the top of feeders have seen no squirrels today 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👍

  7. I don’t want to kill them either, but they are terrible. None of this stuff has worked for me. I bought the pre-peppered feed, and they still came. I put pepper on myself, and they still came. I set up an area for them, and they took all that, and then still wrecked the feeders. They destroyed 3 “squirrel proof feeders” very expensive. The last one has survived, but I have had to piece it back together a couple of times. I am now seeing rats joining in on the stuff on the ground I put out for squirrels. I am getting woke up in the night from sounds in my house. I called an exterminator and he said he would live catch them, but it was not worth it to me to pay him, and I can just do it myself (he told me this) I did it. No one comes to the cages. I am beside myself. I don’t want to kill them or any of the other animals, but it is wrecking my house. I can relate to the person saying they had destroyed the car.

    1. The answer is pretty simple. It’s either them or you. I’ve already taken down 23 & probably one more to go. Meantime,my car is left untouched, my birds get to enjoy their seeds & I’m saving money plus, my feeders are intact. I have peace of mind & ALL is right with the world. Meantime, squirrels will continue to multiply & bring joy to others (who’ve not experienced what I have) but not in MY PEACEFUL space.

  8. After feeding them shelled pecans, peanuts, walnuts, etc.; I was spoiling them rotten. Then “Their reward” to me was over $1,700 worth of car wiring damage. There were over 23+ & still growing. I tried calling animal control who said I could not catch them then release them in the wild. I had to get rid of them myself. I bought a pellet rifle & crossbow and eliminating the problem. “I” have to survive too & don’t have that kind of money to splurge on their shenanigans at my cost. While your empathy lies with squirrels you have no idea the astronomical costs these hairy rats can inflict on your car or attic. Yeah, I hear you “they’re trying to survive.” Guess what? So am I. 👍

  9. I use pop cans split and fitted over the pole (two for best results one above the other) this works really well for chipmunks, but only deters squirrels until they manage to wrestle the cans down. then i just put them back up.

  10. I just put safflower seeds and niger thistle seeds out on my ‘strictly birds’ feeder, but I also feed the squirrels elsewhere. I have wondered why a somewhat large diameter PVC pipe over the bird feeder pole (below the feeder) that is long enough and wide enough would not keep squirrels from being able to climb to the feeder. Of course you would have to place it out of the squirrels’ jumping range. Maybe I’ll try that some day.

  11. Thanks for all the info. We have squirrel “restraining” feeders that work well, but we have chip monks that literally syphon the silo / tube feeders empty in 2 – 3 days. Any ideas?

  12. That is the trouble I am having with squirrels – I had a long feeder that was a tube with 3 holes/perches near the bottom. One day I was taking it down to refill it when I noticed the perches had been bitten and broken off (I saw the bits on the ground!) and most of the seed had gone (it had only been filled the day before so I knew the birds had not eaten it that fast! The squirrel would leap from the fence or a tree onto the top of the feeder, then hang upside down from the top and eat the seeds and destroy the perches for easier access! I have a new feeder now but I have just seen the squirrel doing the same thing again! I even put some fat balls into a different feeder hoping it would go for those and leave the seed alone — but no – so far it has ignored the fat balls and gone straight for the seeds! Driving me mad!

  13. Place out of squirrel “jumping zones”. Because raccoons were also invading our primary feeder and after several unsuccessful attempts to to stop them, we invested in the biggest pole baffle we could find (at Wild Birds Unlimited) and it works like a charm!

  14. Regarding the use of capascain … Cornell Lab of Ornithology states that while they cannot digest hot pepper and seem unaffected, may still burn their eyes (we don’t know for sure) and fallen seed will affect any pets you may have that root around under the birdfeeder. Our siberian husky loves to snack on birdseed. Other studies show that the birdseed covered in hot pepper are NOT DIGESTED and pass through their system unaffected, only to germinate somewhere in the yard. So, you may burn their eyes and they cannot digest the food.
    What we DO know is that capacain is toxic to bees and other beneficial insects!! Using it may be damaging in some unanticipated ways. The humane society considered this cruel.

    I have the green, weighted bird feeder that you show and love it! I’ve adjusted each side for lighter vs heavier birds. We attached a slinky to the bottom of our feeder and let it drop down the post holding the feeder up. They cannot get up the pole, , although the squirrels have sometimes jumped onto it from the nearby trees.

  15. I live on the water in the outer banks, NC. I have bird feeders and hummingbird feeders I just put up in my yard. The squirrels get to them but there’s plenty for everyone. I love watching them!