This is a million dollar question for backyard bird enthusiasts chasing after zealous squirrels eating all their bird’s seeds. The good news is there are plenty of methods available to keep squirrels out of bird feeders.
Assess Your Squirrel Situation
You are going to need to develop a solid strategy to combat the problem. There are a couple options. The first option is to invest in a quality squirrel proof bird feeder. The market offers a wide variety of these feeders all which do different things to discourage the hungry squirrel. It is important when designing your plan to assess your backyard environment.
Some yards are tree laden, while others offer less launching platforms. A squirrel will launch from anything it can—a wire, fence, roof and whatever else help their ultimate goal. They also can jump straight up at over 5 feet. They are glorious trapeze artists and can hang by one paw off the slimmest perch.
Another thing to consider is whether or not you are willing to replace the existing bird feeders with squirrel proof feeders or modify them with squirrel proof home remedies.
Know What is Available
To help with your plan for reclaiming your back yard bird life, here are the six basic types of squirrel proof feeders available on the market today:
- Baffles: Baffles are dome or cone shaped devices that can fit in two places on a bird feeder. They are either above the feeder so the squirrel cannot climb down, or they are underneath so the squirrel cannot climb up. Many of the squirrel proof bird feeders have these built in. You can also buy a baffle separately or make your own baffle system.
- Cage: These mesh cages are very effective at stopping a squirrel. The concept behind the design is quite simple. The center is the traditional bird feeder and around it is a steel mesh cage material which is just big enough for birds to eat, but the squirrel cannot access the seed. Like baffles, you can buy separately or make your own, however this can be more trouble than it is worth. It is less expensive and more realistic to just purchase the cage feeder, they work so well.
- Tension: There are some great squirrel proof bird feeders on the market which use a tension-spring action to control what can access the seeds. Some have weight detection built into the perch, so if a squirrel steps on it, the perch is the lever which closes the door to the seeds.Another type is a spring-activated baffle which collapses and dumps the squirrel to the ground. Similar to tension feeders is the motorized version which when activated by the squirrel will start twirling the base until the squirrel is launched off. There is another version of this which will spin the entire feeder from the top as soon as a squirrel hops on board.
- Collapsible: Perches are convenient for squirrels to hang onto while they hungrily grab at the bird seed. There are squirrel proof bird feeders with collapsible perches only. The perch is meant to hold the weight of a bird, and anything heavier will spill the furry mammal to the ground.
- Zapper: On the market now is a newer idea for discouraging squirrels from a bird feeder, but it comes with much controversy. Zappers give a harmless shock, similar to static shock, to scare the squirrel away. When a squirrel is trying to get at the seeds, you just press the zapper button.
- Rolling: The rolling bird feeder is a uniquely patented design which sways in different directions when a squirrel launches on it from above. As the squirrel tries to maneuver around it, the rolling action dumps the would-be seed thief to the ground.
More Squirrel Deterrence Ideas
- Location: Squirrels can jump distances of at least 8 feet or greater, so any feeder should be placed well away from trees, wires, and other launching points to make it more difficult for squirrels to get on the feeder. Ideally, mount birdfeeders on a smooth metal pole at least six feet high, and prune any branches or bushes within a 12 foot radius.
- Cleanliness: Keep the area around the feeder clean removing any spilled seed from the ground that could look like a meal to squirrels. As well, the birds do not eat old or rotting seed.
- Spinners: Hang a feeder from a thin horizontal wire strung with spinners to keep squirrels from climbing across the wire. Spinners may be a line of thread spools, short lengths of pipe or hose, or empty plastic soda bottles strung along the wire that will spin and keep squirrels from accessing the feeder.
- Feeder Style: If you need to replace feeders that squirrels have destroyed, opt for specially designed birdfeeders with doors that will be trigged by a squirrel’s weight to close and restrict access to seed. Try to choose a metal feeder when possible. There are some really great new designs in feeder styles on the market today with triggering mechanisms.
- Seed: While squirrels will easily try out most types of birdseed, they are less attracted to nyger thistle and safflower seed. For some reason, they seem to have an aversion to these two bird specialties. You can also offer up some spice in the seed. Squirrels are sensitive to perceived heat of peppers, but birds are not. Add a little cayenne pepper in the birdseed to deter squirrels. Some retailers have pre-treated seed available, but it should be treated just as cautiously.