Squirrels and bird feeders—it’s a match against wits and will. We try to outwit them and they have the will (and the skill) to overcome whatever we do to stop them from getting into our bird feeders. It can be a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, it’s fun to watch them scamper about, but on the other, it’s frustrating when they empty out your birdfeeders. It’s time to stop the hate and share the love by using some easy, relatively inexpensive squirrel deterrent methods to keep them out of your bird feeders.
Baffle them with baffles
Baffles are protective devices that keep squirrels from gaining access to hanging feeders from above, and pole or post mounted feeders from below. For hanging feeders, large plastic hood or dome baffles are available where wild bird feeding supplies are sold. These clever gadgets deflect the squirrel when he attempts to jump on the feeder from a location above the feeder. Stove pipe baffles or conical metal collars can be used to protect feeders mounted on posts or poles. When a squirrel shimmies up the pole, the baffle will stop him in his tracks and keep him from getting into the feeder. These baffles are marketed as predator guards for nesting boxes but also work well to keep squirrels out of feeders when mounted 4 to 5 feet off of the ground. Both the stovepipe and conical baffles can be purchased or easily made.
Location, location, location
All the baffles in the world will not keep squirrels off of feeders if they are mounted too close to a structure or tree from which they can jump and land on the feeder. Place feeder poles at least 8 to 10 feet from trees (and branches), decks, or buildings that a squirrel can use as a launching pad to jump onto the feeders.
If you prefer to hang feeders in trees, hang them from a tree branch with at least ten feet of wire and at least 8 to 10 feet from the trunk. If some lucky squirrel manages to slide down the wire, deflect him by installing a hood or dome baffle.
A better bird feeder
Many birdfeeders claim to be “squirrel proof” when “squirrel resistant” is more accurate. So do your homework when selecting your feeders and it’s a good idea to read the reviews and feedback from others that have purchased them.
Some of the feeders that are more effective are those that have an external cage which allows only smaller birds access. Others use a counterbalanced baffle that closes access to the feeder when a heavier animal like a squirrel attempts to eat from it.
Don’t be cruel
Trapping and killing problematic squirrels is inhumane, especially during spring and late summer. During this time of year, killing squirrels will leave behind babies to die of starvation and dehydration.
Some methods and products are cruel and tortuous and are never recommended. They are:
- Polybutene – a thick stick gel material applied to surfaces where squirrels may climb. It repels squirrels, but if the substance gets on a bird it can kill it.
- Shock feeders – these feeders actually use an electric current to shock the squirrels off the feeder causing unnecessary pain.
Check with your local bird store for strategies and devices that do not cause pain or discomfort to squirrels or other animals.
Can’t beat ‘em, feed ‘em
Sometime it is easier to just surrender. Squirrels are amusing creatures and are fun to watch so rather than curse them, embrace the fact that they will be attracted to the bird feed and adjust your strategy to try to minimize the amount they receive and maximizing the amount delivered to the birds!