Three Easy Ways to Stop Squirrels at Bird Feeders

Squirrels are smart, relentless, and crafty when it comes to finding ways to gobble up your bird seed. They can be fun to have in your backyard, but a few squirrels can eat hundreds of dollars worth of seed in a month. According to Wild Birds Unlimited, one adult squirrel can eat one and a half pounds of seed each week. Worse, their presence will scare away birds for long periods of time as they hog the feeder.

If you’re tired of these crafty rodents eating your bird seed and scaring away your birds, here are three steps to follow below. I’ve been following a combination or all three of these tips for years and have almost completely eliminated squirrels at my feeders. I’d recommend starting with tip #1 and then proceeding to the other tips if you continue to have trouble.

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1. Buy Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders

If you follow one step from this article, this is the most important. Squirrel-proof bird feeders tend to be more expensive, but it’s worth the upfront cost for the seed you’ll save. There are several different weight sensitive squirrel-proof feeders you can buy. They usually work similarly: If something heavy, like a squirrel, tries to hop on, the ports to the feeder close via a weight-sensitive design. Birds are light enough to not activate the system.

Here’s a link taking you to squirrel-proof bird feeders for sale on Amazon. Local Wild Bird Stores and home improvement retailers like Home Depot will also have several to choose from. Just be sure to buy a quality feeder and avoid material like wood and flimsy plastic. Squirrels can chew through those materials and are persistent enough to do so. If shopping online, be sure to read customer reviews for squirrel-proof feeders, as some are better than others.

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 attempt to use this feeder. It’s also long lasting, my Dad gave me this feeder as a gift while my parents downsized their home. It’s still going strong after 15+ years in operation.

A squirrel-buster squirrel proof bird feeder hanging from a balcony with sunflower seed.
My squirrel-buster bird feeder with sunflower seed.

I also use this Squirrel-Resistant X X7 Feeder (pictured below) and really like it. It can hold a ton of bird seed at once too. You can read my full review of this feeder here.

A picture of a squirrel proof feeder on a hanging pole
The Squirrel-X™ X7 Squirrel-Resistant Bird Feeder

Outside of weight-activated options, there are also feeders with cages and feeders that will literally spin squirrels off of them. That’s free can’t-beat entertainment!

2. Get Spicy With Bird Seed to Stop Squirrels

A bag and cylinder of Flaming Hot Feast spicy bird seed. This is great at slowing squirrels down.
Flaming Hot Feast is great because it has a combination of sunflower seed, safflower, peanuts and mealworms. It’s a crowd-pleaser!

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. Birds have significantly fewer taste buds than mammals, so they can’t taste and aren’t bothered by spicy bird seed. According to Wild Birds Unlimited, birds may even enjoy the taste of spicy food. 

You can take advantage of this animal kingdom tastebud mis-match by either buying a pre-mixed spicy bird seed or a special spice sauce for birdseed and apply it to whatever you’re putting out.

Here’s a link to spiced up bird seed on Amazon. This can be tougher to find in-person, but bird feeding hobby stores should have a couple options. Me personally, I like the Flaming Hot Feast brand (pictured above) and buy bags of the mix and cylinders from Amazon linked here.

Warning: If you go this route, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands well after using spicy bird seed. It can irritate your skin and you’ll be in for a bad day if you accidentally get it in your eyes. I made this mistake and it ruined my afternoon.

3. Feed Squirrels on the Ground Away from Your Bird Feeders

animal, squirrel, sciurus-927904.jpg
Squirrels can actually be fun to watch and feed!

Some people throw their hands into the air and decide it’s better to feed the squirrels with a ground feeder versus battling them. That way they can keep them distracted from hanging feeders. This idea has merit: Squirrels will usually 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 feeders specifically made for squirrels and chipmunks.

This approach is not perfect. Squirrels will usually go for easier-to-eat options on the ground, but they’re wild animals and will still likely go to your feeders from time to time…just not as often. I’d recommend still having squirrel-proof hanging bird feeders if you’re trying this approach. Also, consider taking any squirrel feeder in at night, or keep it away from your home at the very least. Food on the ground will attract mice and raccoons.