How To Keep Squirrels Away From Bird Feeders (Without Harming Them)

squirrel on a pole with feeder

Last Updated: April 25, 2021

When squirrels are able to access your bird feeder, birds will not get enough food, and feeding birds will be an expensive hobby for you. 

Squirrels!

They are voracious. They also have sharp teeth that chew wire, feeding ports, and anything else that prevents them from reaching bird food. It sounds like the component parts of your bird feeder, right?

A month after installing my bird feeder, I was back on the Internet asking how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders as they were scaring birds away and eating several packets of bird seeds and suet per day. 

4 Ways to To Keep Squirrels Out Of Bird Feeders

Got birdhouses in your yard where you periodically take a peep to see if there are new eggs or just to check on the nestlings? 

Don’t let the squirrels get ahead of you!

Squirrels eat bird eggs and nestlings, so they are not welcome in a backyard with birdhouses. 

The fact that these critters can wreck your backyard and go unnoticed is even more infuriating, and until you see a squirrel leaping onto your feeder or find some parts of the bird feeder chewed to bits, you might assume small birds left because they didn’t like your bird food.

You may attempt to keep squirrels away by moving your feeder from one tree to the other, but unless you measure the distance between your bird feeder and the tree accurately, you’ll see a squirrel on the bird feeder in no time.

During my search for answers to how to keep squirrels off bird feeders, I came across dozens of expert articles and opinions from bird feeding enthusiasts. I can group these solutions in the four ways below:

1. How To Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder

Before you can think about why squirrels love your backyard, you have to consider if the bird feeder you are using makes it easy for squirrels to eat bird food. If it’s clear your bird feeder is not squirrel proof, you can:

Place The Bird Feeder In A Cage

A small cage built around your bird feeder will keep squirrels and raccoons out but allow small birds to access the food and perch around the feeding ports. 

Most of the steel cages have a handle to hang the feeder on the deck or a feeder pole in the backyard. If you use a feeder pole, attach a baffle below the cage with the bird feeder to prevent squirrels from knocking it over from below. 

Cages come in many sizes, but they are large, over six inches in diameter, and about 10 feet tall. The chew-proof steel is a few inches from the feeder, and the feeding ports around the food tube allow several small birds inside the cage at once. 

A cage does not hide the bird feeder from small birds or interrupt your view of birds, and it is durable and weather resistant.

If you'd like to utilize more space in your backyard, build a multi-purpose chicken-wire cage,  place the bird feeder inside and grow vegetables and flowers too.

Attach A Baffle

A squirrel baffle goes above or under the bird feeder preventing squirrels from accessing the seeds and suet. Baffles also minimize other predators like large birds and cats, and the extra cover over the bird feeder enhances the longevity of the feed by protecting it from rain and heat.

If you’re worried that adding a squirrel baffle will destroy the aesthetics you had in mind when you bought your bird feeder, relax. There are stylish, glass-dome designs that blend into the rest of the feeder design, and they won’t interrupt your view or turn birds away.

On the other hand, two baffle designs that are more functional than visually appealing are the pole wrap-around and the torpedo. The wrap-around design has a cone that you fit around the pole to stop squirrels from going up or down.

The torpedo baffle stops squirrels coming from the ground, so you ought to hang your bird feeder away from trees where squirrels can leap from to the food.

Buy a Squirrel-Proof Pole

birdhouse on a pole

Your current pole might be the reason squirrels have an easy time reaching the feeder. 

Therefore, buy a metallic or PVC pipe because it is very smooth, and when its diameter is over five inches, squirrels will practically slide off it.

Buy a pole designed for the number of feeders you want to hang on it, as its efficiency and durability depend on the weight it holds. 

You might be using two bird feeders now, but getting a feeder pole that accommodates four is wiser because when your bird population grows, you'll need to hang more feeders.

2. How To Keep Squirrels Away From Feeders Using Tricks & Treats

Use A Separate Feeder

To stop squirrels from climbing your bird feeder pole, distract them with an ear of corn nailed to a tree away from the feeder. Squirrels love nuts, fruits, fungi, insects, and berries, and you can place these on a feeding trough on the ground. 

On the other hand, you can offer them the same food as the birds, since that’s what attracts them to bird feeders in the first place, but do so in a separate animal feeder that is more accessible so that they get tired of attempting to break the squirrel-proof one.

squirrel eating feeds

Put Food Squirrels Don’t Like

One such food item is safflower seeds, which birds like cardinals and chickadees love but squirrels loathe. 

Others are millet, nyjer seed, and plain suet, but when using this method, the food you put in the feeder should be appropriate for the birds that frequent your backyard.

Another deterrent to squirrels is spraying bird seeds with palm oil or rubbing some dried pepper on bird seeds.

These two items are not harmful to either birds or squirrels. Nonetheless, one school of thought argues that the pepper may get into the eyes of squirrels as they groom themselves. 

Therefore, pepper should be your last option when getting rid of squirrels.

3. How To Keep Squirrels Off Feeders Through Backyard Improvements

Clean Leftovers Regularly

Bird seeds that drop from the feeder create a feeding spot on the ground. When squirrels eat everything they find on that spot, they’ll want to leap into the bird feeder for some more food. 

Furthermore, the fallen seeds rot or mix with waste material making them unfit for consumption by large birds that do not use the bird feeder.

Change The Location Of Your Bird Feeder

Squirrels climb trees to reach a bird feeder, and they can leap from a distance of 10 feet. For that reason, your bird feeder should be about 10 to 15 feet away from trees. 

If you’ve perched it on a wire between two trees, the wire should be at least 15 inches long and four feet from the ground.

bird eating on a bird feeder

You may also consider suspending your bird feeder between two poles using a wire wrapped in a plastic tube that rotates when a squirrel lands on it. Instead of a full PVC tube, you can use small one-foot plastic tubing to make the wire more unsteady for squirrels.

Eliminate Their Food Storage and Nests

If you don’t want to see squirrels in your backyard altogether, clear the area so that they cannot store food in hollow trees, build nests or bury nuts in your backyard.

Further, prune trees to leave a distance of 10 feet from your roof or wall so they cannot leap from the house to reach your window feeder.

4. How To Keep Squirrels Away By Changing The Bird Feeder

Replace your bird feeder if squirrels have chewed parts of it or broken it altogether. This time around, look for a squirrel-proof design. 

For example, there are light bird feeders with perches for small birds, and when the weight on these perches exceeds, an automatic door blocks the entrance and keeps squirrels out.

Another option is getting a bird feeder with a small feeding port so that squirrels cannot reach the seeds or suet.

Unconventional Solutions That Work

Grease The Feeder Pole

Use oil or grease that is safe for squirrels, such as cooking oil. Some oils are toxic, and they stick to the fur of squirrels. When these squirrels access the feeder, the grease sticks to bird feathers. 

Another downside of this method is that you’ll have to oil the feeder pole regularly.

Use a Slinky

Attach this colorful toy through the top of the feeder pole and let it hang at the bottom. When a squirrel climbs the feeder pole from the ground, it grabs the slinky, and this toy stretches back to the ground and launches the squirrel off the feeder pole. It’ll be entertaining to watch squirrels evade the slinky. 

However, for it to work, the pole and the feeder should be a few feet apart, or a squirrel can leap from the feeder pole to the bird feeder. Watch this short video to see how it happens:

How Not To Stop Squirrels

  • Do not use your cat or dog to scare away squirrels. First, squirrels are wild creatures that may be carriers of disease-causing parasites. Second, a cat will chase away birds and squirrels indiscriminately.
  • Avoid the trap and release method because once you remove one squirrel, another will occupy the habitat.
  • Glue traps and poison will harm both birds and squirrels.

Conclusion

For best results, combine a few strategies such as attaching baffles to the feeder pole and putting a separate feeder for squirrels. You can also change the location of the bird feeder and put a cage around.

If you didn't know your neighborhood had a squirrel problem when you bought your bird feeder, replace it, but shop with the phrase ‘how to squirrel-proof bird feeder’ in mind to find a product with such features.

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