No matter what birds you want to attract to your yard, bird feeders inevitably attract other types of wildlife, too.
Rodents are among those types, and squirrels are among the most agile rodents that can reach the feeders and claim them as their own.
Ways to keep squirrels off your feeders include:
- Squirrel-proof feeders or poles
- Spicing up the bird feed
- Using home-made deterrents
- Repelling squirrels with plants
- Install dedicated squirrel feeders
In addition to the methods above, there are other ways you can stop squirrels from eating the birds’ seeds. Check them out below.
13 Ways to Keep Squirrels Off Bird Feeders
1. Hang Feeders on a Squirrel-Proof Pole
Unless you’re hanging the bird feeder from a tree, you might think that squirrels can’t climb the thin, metal poles. However, squirrels are agile climbers that can climb on almost all surfaces.
Reaching the feeder isn’t hard for them if there is nothing to block their path. This is where squirrel-proof poles step in.
These poles use baffles to prevent squirrels, rats, and other rodents from reaching the seeds. Baffles are usually made of metal, but poles with clear baffles made of acrylic or plastic are also available on the market.
2. Squirrel-Proof Your Existent Feeder Pole
If you already have a bird feeder pole and don’t want to replace it, you can install a baffle yourself. Universal baffles are readily available on the market, and they typically match all bird feeder pole styles.
When squirrel-proofing your pole, though, remember that not all rodents climb up to reach the seeds. If the pole is located near a tree, the squirrels might simply jump on the feeder.
For this reason, you should also install a baffle (upside-down) above the feeder tray.
3. Place Bird Feeders Away from Trees
As mentioned, squirrels are agile jumpers, and a bird feeder located close to a tree is a hard-to-resist attraction.
You can prevent issues by placing the feeder in an open area. There should be no tall structures near the feeder (including your own house), as squirrels could climb on those and jump onto the feeder.
4. Use Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders
Bird feeder pole squirrel-proofing is not the only way to deter these pests. You could also invest in a squirrel-proof feeder.
There are various models to choose from, but they all fulfill the same purpose.
Cage feeders are the most popular. Suet is placed in a support at the center of the feeder, while the chicken wire prevents squirrels from reaching it.
These openings are usually large enough to allow small birds to pass through or reach the suet with their beaks. Even if squirrels manage to climb these feeders, they won’t be able to reach the seeds and will eventually give up.
5. Use Bird Feed That Squirrels Don’t Like
Squirrels feed on numerous seeds found in suet, which is why they are attracted to bird feeders in the first place. However, there are bird seed types that squirrels don’t love.
A way to keep other birds and squirrels happy is to surround these feeders with sunflowers and fruit-producing plants.
6. Deter Squirrels With Hot Peppers
If you don’t want to change the suet and other deterring methods seem not to work, hot peppers could help you keep squirrels at bay.
Hot peppers, such as chili and jalapenos, have a stingy and heating effect when consumed by mammals – including squirrels and humans. However, capsaicin, the spice in hot peppers, has no effect on birds.
Sure, not all birds eat hot peppers, but they won’t be too bothered by them sitting next to the seeds. Squirrels, however, are very likely to stay away from feeders containing the hot spice.
7. Stop Squirrels With Plastic Bottles
In an attempt to keep rodents and other pests away from bird feeders, many homeowners decide to hang the feeders from ropes or wires. What you may not know is that squirrels are agile athletes that can walk on wires and reach the delicious feed.
An easy way to keep them away is by slipping plastic water bottles onto the wire (cut out the bottom, and place the bottle between the feeder and the end of the rope.
If a squirrel or other rodent tries to bypass, the bottles will rotate under their weight and cause them to fall off.
9. Keep Ground Clean Under Feeders
Bird feeders typically attract squirrels in winter, when there is a shortage of food supply. However, if you notice the rodents near the feeders in the warm season, cleaning the ground under the feeder might help.
Like all wild animals, squirrels are opportunistic and won’t shy away from an easy food source if it’s available. Seeds scattered under the feeder may act like a magnet, attracting the pesky rodents.
10. Don’t Overfill Feeders
Too many seeds are another factor that could attract squirrels to your feeder.
Overflowing trays provide easy food access to rodents, so keeping them only partly full and refilling more often could deter squirrels and other pests.
11. Repel Squirrels With Plants
Another way to keep squirrels away from the feeders is by surrounding the poles with flower pots. Squirrels aren’t very fond of geraniums and flowers in the allium family, including, scallions, onions, and garlic.
Daffodils and other bright flowers are also said to deter squirrels, as well as other rodents.
12. Hang Feeders From A Spinning Hook
Similar to the plastic bottle method, a spinning hook is supposed to scare squirrels away as they approach the feeder.
The concept is simple. All you have to do is to hang the feeder from a hook that spins in the wind or when something touches it.
Birds won’t be affected, as they can maintain balance after landing on the feeder. However, the movement is likely to scare rodents.
13. Use Separate Squirrel Feeders
Perhaps the most humane method to keep squirrels away from bird feeders is to provide them with an alternative.
Squirrels are very fond of nuts, dried fruits, and sunflower seeds. Place a tray or hang a squirrel feeder from a tree, then use a metal rod or wire to hang the bird feeder.
The rodents will appreciate the easy access to foods they love, leaving bird feeders alone. For an even greater chance of success, fill the bird feeders with millet, thistle, or safflower seeds.
Keeping squirrels away from bird feeders may seem impossible, but barriers or using suet that squirrels don’t like might deter them. If all else fails, try offering an alternative to the pesky rodents.