There is no bigger pain in the ass for bird feeder hobbyists than squirrels. A squirrel will devour birdseed, hog the feeders, and chew away at any feeder not made of metal. I’ve also learned they’re smart, persistent, and crafty. They’re damn near unstoppable eating machines.
If you go to any bird store or website, there are numerous tools, techniques and tricks presented to you to keep squirrels away. I’ve tried many in recent months, thanks to the relentlessness of a handful of gray squirrels.
Rather than write another article about how to stop squirrels from visiting your feeders, I’ve decided to rank common approaches from worst-to-most successful when I tried it at my feeders.
Overall, I’ve had great success with the techniques ranked #1-#3. My hope for you with this post is that you’ll be able to pick from one, or a combination of the top techniques, to save yourself time and money.
If you have another technique you’d like me to try, drop a comment on the story below and I’ll be happy to deploy it against my legion of pesky squirrels.
5. Using Safflower Seed
The wisdom behind safflower seeds is that they’re bitter for squirrels and that they tend to leave them alone.
This is true, but someone should have told me about chipmunks. It turns out that chipmunks LOVE safflower seed. I put out a tray of it one morning thinking I was showing the squirrels who was boss. I returned two hours later and found it all completely gone.
Well…a chipmunk had vacuumed up every seed and stashed them away in a hiding place. I did a little experiment with my camera to confirm this fact:
Cute…but mission failed.
Beyond chipmunks, I’ve also found that many birds don’t like safflower when stacked up against sunflower or peanuts. Putting it out by itself resulted in most of it being tossed to the ground (birds are picky!) or no birds visiting at all. I prefer to have safflower as part of a cardinal blend made mostly of sunflower seeds.
4. The “If you Can’t Beat Them, Feed Them” Technique
Some people throw their hands into the air and decide it’s better to feed the squirrels with a ground feeder versus battling them. The idea is that squirrels will go for “easy” food presented to them on the ground versus hopping around on bird feeders.
I would recommend this approach…if you like squirrels! Some people find them entertaining and enjoy watching them just like the birds. If this is you, I would buy a big bag of cracked corn (and maybe some sunflower) and put it on the ground. You can also nail a suet cake feeder onto a tree in your yard to draw squirrels in.
(You can also buy ground feeders made to resemble mini-picnic tables for squirrels and chipmunks. Now that’s awesome!)
However, if you don’t want squirrels on your feeders, I don’t recommend this approach. I tried it and found that it only drew in more squirrels to my feeding station, creating additional havoc. Yes, squirrels will often go for easy food on the ground, but that doesn’t mean they will avoid your feeders entirely, especially if you have more appealing foods (like peanuts) in them.
3. Squirrel Baffles
Baffles are a device that you can set up on a bird feeding station pole or above bird feeders to impede squirrels. Here’s what one looks like:
I’ve set up a bird feeding station using a poll system with a squirrel baffle. They work! But only if you set it up mindfully.
First, make sure the baffle is at least five feet high on your bird feeding pole. Squirrels will easily be able to jump past it if it’s lower. You also need to ensure that your bird feeding station is at least ten feet away from any tall trees or brush. Squirrels will eventually learn to jump from the tree to your feeding station.
If you follow these two steps, a baffle is an effective barrier to prevent pests from eating all your birdseed. However, if you really want to up the ante…you’ll probably also want to incorporate one of the two additional strategies below.
2. Spicing Up Your Bird Feed
Did you know that birds aren’t bothered by spicy food? Birds have significantly fewer taste buds than mammals. According to Wild Birds Unlimited, birds may even enjoy spicy food. The theory is that peppers evolved so birds would be attracted to their red color, would eat their seeds, and spread them when they…pass through their systems later. Hurray bird poop?
This evolution favoring birds and peppers can also play into your hand as a bird feeder.
Squirrels, like humans, taste spice intensely and are repelled away from food that’s too hot to handle. I’ve had a decent amount of success getting rid of squirrels by spicing up my birdseed.
There are spicy versions of bird seed sold straight from the bag. I’ve had mixed success with that approach.
You can also buy special spice for birdseed and apply it to whatever you’re putting out. I’ve had the best luck using this Cole’s Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce. Warning: If you use this, be sure to be careful and not get it on your skin. It’s the real deal! I would recommend wearing gloves every time you use it. Also…don’t put it in a spray bottle with water…I ended up pepper spraying myself this way. I only sneezed for 30 minutes!
Squirrels also gobble up suet, and there are spicy options for that too. My favorite is this insect and hot pepper version of suet.
The only downside here is the cost. Spiced up birdseed is a lot more than regular birdseed and a bottle of Cole’s starts at $14-$15 on Amazon. However, if squirrels are gobbling up your birdseed at a fast rate, you’ll probably save money with this approach. It’s worth the investment!
1. Squirrel-Proof Feeders
My most successful tactic at deterring squirrels is also the most straightforward. In my opinion, you can skip all other approaches and start with buying a squirrel-proof feeder to keep them away.
There are several different versions of weight sensitive squirrel proof feeders you can buy. Each works in a similar way: If something heavy (like a squirrel) tries to hop on, the ports to the feeder close. Birds are light enough to not activate the system.
I currently use two squirrel-proof feeders at my feeding station and they both work well. My favorite is this Squirrel Buster feeder. It’s small and easy to hang anywhere. It’s a favorite for finches, chickadees and nuthatches in my neck of the woods. I haven’t even seen a squirrel try to use this feeder, but it also has great reviews on Amazon:
The other feeder I use is the Perky-Pet 8-Pound Feeder. This one is also effective at keeping squirrels away. Chickadees and finches both seem to like it. It’s a bigger and heavier feeder, but I’d recommend it if you have space.
If it’s in your price range (and if you’re looking for more entertainment…) you can also purchase a feeder that will literally spin when squirrels try to eat from it. I’ve heard great things about investing in a Droll Yankee feeder:
You can also go to any hardware or bird store and they will have several different anti-squirrel feeders available for you to look at. Outside of weight-activated options, there are also feeders with cages and feeders that will literally spin squirrels off of them.
If, for some reason, squirrels are still able to get to your birdseed with these feeders. I’d recommend deploying options #2 and/or #3 from this list. You should be squirrel-free at your feeders in no time!
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