We love feeding and watching the birds at our feeders and get very frustrated when all that money that we spend on birdseed ends up in a squirrel’s stomach. How can we stop them? There is no one fool proof way to defeat the squirrels’ attack on your feeders but there are ways that will work. It may also take a combination of tactics to thwart those little mammals depending on where the feeder is placed. They are VERY smart and ingenious, and it appears some may possess abilities worthy of an Olympic athlete.
Perhaps the quickest and cheapest way to keep squirrels from your feeders is to feed safflower seed. Most birds will eat this white seed and cardinals especially enjoy it. It is a bitter seed, which is what keeps the squirrels away, and the hull is tougher to crack. You would need to feed only safflower and not mix it with other seed. Allow some time for the birds to get used to this seed; don’t be surprised if they don’t seem to be eating it at first. Another simple solution is adding capsicum pepper, in liquid and powder form, to the seed. You may also purchase hot pepper suet. Birds can’t taste the hot pepper but it affects squirrels in the same way as other mammals.
The placement of your feeder is another way to stop squirrels. When hanging your feeder, keep in mind that squirrels can jump up to 5 feet vertically and close to 10 feet horizontally. If the feeder is in a tree, the squirrel may launch from a nearby branch and catch the feeder in its flight. Hanging the feeder on a line between 2 trees may work if the trees are far enough apart. Squirrels can easily climb a pole so if a feeder is on a pole, you will need to add a baffle on the pole. The feeder must be at least 5 feet from the ground or the squirrel will simply jump onto the feeder. The baffle top should be placed right below the bottom of the feeder.
If there are no safe places to hang a feeder, then the next tactic is to purchase a squirrel resistant feeder. There are several effective varieties available including the Squirrel Buster line;
and the Droll Yankee Flipper series of squirrel proof feeders:
These feeders all prevent the squirrel from accessing the seed ports due to the animal’s greater weight.
The Sky Café;
is designed to hang from a tree, is also squirrel proof due to its large sloped top, preventing the squirrel from reaching the seed area. In addition, these feeders are all manufactured in the U.S. or Canada. Baffles are also available to place above your existing feeder to prevent squirrels from reaching the feeder from above.
Another effective solution is a tube birdfeeder surrounded by a cage. Caged feeders are commonly used to prevent large birds, such as crows, from eating the seed and if the cage is large enough, a squirrel is also blocked from reaching the seed ports.
The last method is to give up and enjoy the squirrels antics. You may set up a corn feeder away from your other feeders in hopes that the squirrels will eat the cheaper corn. The harder it is for the squirrels to get the corn, the longer they will be occupied. The “Squngee” is a great feeding toy for squirrels, essentially a bungee cord to which you attach a corn on the cob.
Many people complain of deer tipping their feeders and emptying them in 1 night. The only solutions are raising the feeders above the height of a deer on its hind legs (which may make refilling the feeder a challenge for many people) or to take down the feeder every evening. Once the deer don’t expect that nightly easy treat, they will hopefully find other food sources. And with spring in view, these natural sources will become more readily available.