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Many gardeners erect birdfeeders with the hopes of attracting and enjoying backyard birds. Before long, neighborhood squirrels discover them too, and move in to steal the seed. Keeping neighborhood squirrels out of your birdfeeder can seem like a losing battle. It doesn't have to be. All it takes is a little patience and some trial and error to see what works best.
To truly appreciate squirrels (and learn to live with them peacefully), it helps to know what drives their behavior-what makes squirrels do what they do. The squirrels you see raiding your birdfeeder are probably one or more of several common species of tree squirrels: Fox squirrels, Red squirrels, or Gray squirrels. These species are most active in morning and late afternoon. During mid day they usually retire to their nests or nap on nearby tree branches. Solitary by nature, tree squirrels don't hibernate in the winter, although they sometimes nest in small groups to stay warm. Here are a few interesting facts about squirrels:
Gardeners have found the following 3 tactics to be the most effective in discouraging squirrels from visiting birdfeeders. You may have to experiment with one or more before finding a solution that works for you.
Baffling them. If your birdfeeder hangs from a pole or is attached to a post, place a stove-pipe or pyramid-shaped baffle underneath the feeder to prevent squirrels from accessing the feeder from the ground. Purchase one, or make your own. To be effective, the bottom of the baffle needs to be at least 5 feet off the ground and 8 to 10 feet away from nearby objects. To prevent access from above, use a dome or umbrella-shaped baffle above your feeder. Make sure it's large enough to cover the feeder completely and that your feeder is least 8 to 10 feet away from buildings, branches and other objects the squirrels might climb.
Excluding them. Try enclosing your existing feeder in a wire mesh cage that has openings large enough for birds to get inside, but are small enough to exclude squirrels. Another option is to buy a "squirrel proof" feeder. Some feature weight activated trap doors that close off access to feeding holes whenever any animal as heavy as a squirrel steps on the perches. Others are stationary hoppers protected by an outer shell that spins when activated by a squirrels weight. You can expect to pay more for these types of feeders up front, but you'll make up for it quickly by buying less seed.
Changing seeds. Squirrels raiding birdfeeders favor nuts, sunflower seeds, and cracked corn. One way to eliminate their visits is to offer seeds that are less appealing. For example, safflower seed attracts cardinals, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and grosbeaks. Squirrels (and other feeders hogs like grackles and starlings) don't care for them. Nyjer seed (also called thistle seed) is a favorite of goldfinches, purple finches, pine siskins, and even mourning doves, but squirrels won't bother with it.
At times squirrels can seem like a nuisance, but like backyard birds, they are really just going about the business of survival. There are many strategies for keeping them out of your birdfeeder, but the following methods are NOT recommended as they are either considered unnecessarily harmful (for squirrels and birds) or they just plain don't work.
Many people find the antics of squirrels very amusing and actually enjoy feeding them. After all, watching squirrels clown around in an effort to secure food can be an interesting and entertaining way to learn about nature. One way to keep them distracted from your birdfeeders is to provide them with their own feeding station. From "picnic tables" that hold corn cobs to feeders that bounce up and down on cables, there are countless squirrel feeders designed with your amusement in mind.
We hang our bird feeder between two large trees. The heavy duty wire is about 18 to 20 feet long and high enough off the round so that most squirrels can't jump to it. It's a basket feeder and the lid flips off to fill it. In 5 years only one squirrel has managed to jump on to feed, and we're not too sure how this happened. However with all the snow we've had this season we did have to keep it cleared under the feeder, or else we'd have had a few more chowing down. We find there is always some seed on the ground, and they do eat suet so they are pretty well fed. Good luck....
The circular hardware shown is actually made to support tall plants growing upright. I got it free at a garage sale and my husband used small chains with eyelet hooks to hang in it two places below on our birdfeeder.
If you have a feeder that is on a pole, measure from the ground to the bird-feeder at the top of the pole. Use 6 inch PVC pipe the same length and slip the bird-feeder pole inside before you pound it into the ground.
First we hang our feeders far out on the branches away from the trunk of the tree, so that leaping from trunk to feeder won't work. Next we use fishing line to hang our feeders with. It's so fine that they fall off when they are trying to climb down from the branch.
I hang my birdfeeders on a shepherd's pole. There are 3 squirrels that keep climbing on the pole sitting on the bird feeders and eating all the feed. I yelled at them, threw things at them, and still they climbed and ate.
Squirrels love to get into bird feeders, especially suet ones. This is a guide about how to stop squirrels from eating suet feeders.
This is a guide about making a squirrel proof songbird feeder. Squirrels can raid your birdfeeders, keeping the birds away from your yard.
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I have a couple of dozen squirrels in my yard. I am fine with that except they're tearing down my bird feeders and eating my bird seeds. Is there a trick I can use to keep them away from the bird feeders or repel them?
Hardiness Zone: 8a
By Donna from FL
We've also had this problem, even though we also put out corn cobs for squirrel food. We recycle gallon milk jugs as bird feeders, and hubby was cutting a fair-sized hole in the side for access. Obviously, this was big enough for the squirrel to help his greedy self. Bigger and nastier birds like crows and blue jays were following Mr Squirrel's bad example.
Last time hubby made a new feeder, he only cut a hole big enough for a sparrow or wren to fit through. This seems to have solved, or at least minimized, the problem. We've also noticed those smaller birds fighting the larger creatures for their share of the food, it's awesome, especially when the smaller birds win!
Try squirrel b gone feeders. I have 4 of them, they work. I work in a bird feed store and we get this issue from everyone. I also, have a feeding area just for my squirrels, farthest away from the bird feeders. It works too, and I know when theirs is empty. They try the other feeders.
Maybe not exactly a gardening question, but not quite a pets question either. I have been told that the best way to keep the squirrels out of my birdfeeders is to mix red pepper in with the seed. Mammals (squirrels) are affected by the pepper taste, birds are not. Any info? And yes I have "squirrel proof" feeders, baffles, poles, etc. and the squirrels are apparently smarter than every one of them.
Hardiness Zone: 8a
By Kathy from Seattle, WA
The red pepper burns their eyes so badly that they will actually scratch their eyes right out in order to stop the burning. Don't use any kind of pepper around any animals! Squirrels like the larger seeds, so use the seed mixtures with the smaller seeds, for instance, no sunflowers or pumpkin seeds.
Squirrels always outwit me, so, I have a feeding station for the little darlings, away from the bird feeders, for the most part they are content with that. They are basically lazy and if the don't have to work for food, all the better. I have several pot saucers on the ground with some nuts, but mostly generic honey nut Cherrios and stale bread in them, very seldom does one come to the bird feeders.
How can I keep the squirrels off the bird feeder? I have oiled the pole, put up a baffle, and let the dog chase them off. Nothing works, we are spending a fortune in bird food. I don't want to harm them in any way.
We put PVC pipe around the poles on our feeders. It must be big enough around so they squirrels cannot grasp it. It has worked for us but a friend has had her squirrels just ignore the pipes and run up as if not there. We also put velcro tape around the poles - using just the stick side out portion of the two pieces. Glued it around the pole in a spiral shape with outdoor glue. Haven't had a squirrel run up a pole since. Good luck!
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I built my sunflower feeder support mast from 1 1/2 inch Schedule 40 plastic pipe. I figured the plastic finish would be too slick and hard for squirrel claws to grab.
This guy solved the problem - he simply 'hugged' his way to the top.
I've no idea if he would have 'slid' down the 1/16 inch steel cable to the pan holding sunflower seeds because I think he noticed me taking the picture and fled the scene. Scrambled down the pole barely under control. So funny.
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We cannot keep this critter out of the bird feeders no matter what we do. My husband has tried everything, but alas the little squirrel out wits him every time. I snapped this picture just a few minutes after my husband thought he had the problem solved. Any suggestions would be helpful!
By Bobbie G from Rockwall
You could try a new feeder. I saw one at a garden shop recently that a cage drops over the feed from the weight of the squirrel. I used to have a bird feeder that I attached to a plastic pole. It was away from trees so the squirrel could not jump on to it nor did I have any lines to the feeder. The only way the squirrel could get to the feeder was to climb up the pole. I sprayed the pole with silicone every day. Every time the squirrel tried to climb the pole he would slide back to the ground. I finally got rid of the feeder as it was attracting to many other pests. (06/26/2009)
Great picture! Unfortunately, we had to take our birdfeeder down. Not because of squirrels, but because it was dangerous drawing raccoons into our yard which put our cat at risk.
I've seen bird feeders that keep squirrels away by using extra-large plastic funnels. Placed either at the base of the feeder if it's on a pole, or on the top of the feeder if it's hung from a limb. As foxrun41 said, I bet you could spray silicone on it, too! (06/26/2009)
We actually had the same problem. But the squirrels are so much more entertaining, so we started putting food out for them! That's one way to solve the problem. (06/26/2009)
Twirl-a-Squirrel looks promising (search for the sample video on Youtube). (06/26/2009)
Ditto on feeding the squirrels their own food or just put bird seed more often in the bird feeder ;-) Birds and squirrels know how to takes fair turns eating from the same place ;-) BTW, great picture! (06/27/2009)
I had the same problem and found that if I put some Tabasco (or any other hot sauce) around the edge of the feeder it kept the squirrels away. Birds don''t have taste buds so the hot sauce doesn't bother them. I watched a squirrel jump up on my feeder to eat. He took a bite, looked shocked, jumped down and didn't return. He decided bird seed didn't taste that good after all! (06/27/2009)
By Diana W.
The bird feeders that were suspended on metal poles were a challenge to the squirrels, so I "greased" the pole with automotive grease, a good thick coat. Boy were they surprised that they couldn't climb up any more! Did this for a week and then just put thin stripes about every 12 inches up the pole. It took about a week, but they disappeared from my yard and are now in my neighbor's yard. (06/28/2009)
I had the same problem, so I put up more feeders. I keep bird seed in all of them and put peanuts in half of them, on top of the bird seed. The squirrels prefer the peanuts and don't eat as much of the bird seed, and like some of the people said, the squirrels are highly entertaining! (06/29/2009)
By Dena Roberts
Great picture! I suggest a bigger top with sheet metal (not aluminum) so they can't reach the food, and hang it further from the building so the squirrels can't jump
I was told to use Safflower seed in my birdfeeder, squirrels don't like it. It worked great for me. No more squirrels! Good luck. (07/07/2009)
Hang the bird feeder between two trees which are far enough apart so the squirrels cannot jump to the feeder.
However, in order to keep them from walking the line, you must run the line through the top and bottom of a 2 liter bottle, one on each side of the feeder. When the squirrel walks the line it cannot cross on the bottle because the bottle will spin around, and their footing is not sufficient to jump across it.
If you don't have room for the line, there is a birdseed which the squirrels will not eat. I don't have the name of the seed right now. I purchased it at the feedstore and the lady there told me the squirrels do not like it. And, she was right. They no longer frequent my feeding area. (07/19/2009)
I thought that I was the only one that thought of stringing up a feeder between two trees.
I made exactly the same feeder and was sure that I had our squirrel problem licked, but those little guys are pretty smart (or hungry). What they did first was to crawl from the tree upside down on the string. Thus the use of the two plastic soda bottles. This worked for awhile until they figured if they push hard enough with their back legs last, they can actually jump under the bottle and grab the string on the other side. It took them a few tries, but they mastered it!
So what to do? I now add another bottle. That helped, but didn't cure it.
One day I found one squirrel feeding away on the bird feeder and all of his buddies enjoying what he drops on the ground below. Hmmmm, how did he get there? It took me awhile to catch them getting to the feeder. I actually had to watch for quite awhile before I caught one and after I saw this squirrel do what he did, I decided they won this round. I haven't tried the oil of peppermint yet, but that will be my last resort as I think that it is impossible to build a feeder to keep them out.
So anyway, I sat and watched the squirrel walk upside down just up to the Coke bottles. Here he swings himself right side up and is standing on a string! He then perches his front paws on the top of the Coke bottles and scampers across the two of them quick enough to not stay on long enough to be spun off and, I guess, equally distributing his weight so his balance would not cause too much of a spin.
These buggers are pretty good! You have to give them credit, but I saw that twice and threw in my towel. (08/09/2009)
How do I keep squirrels from climbing my patio door screen to reach bird feeders? I know we could move the feeders, but then we wouldn't be able to watch the birds.
If you have a bird feeder on a pole or post, this can be pretty effective. Apply a coat of petroleum jelly to the pole or post that your bird house or feeder resides on. Squirrels won't be able to climb the pole or post.