It can be a lot of fun to feed birds in your backyard, but it can also start to become frustrating if a squirrel is showing up to steal all the birdseed. The good news is that there are many ways to keep these sneaky animals out of your bird feeder.
We’ll share how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders below, so you can make sure the birdseed sticks around for the birds.
Here’s how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders:
1. Install a Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder Pole
One of the simplest ways to keep squirrels away from your birdseed is by investing in a bird feeder pole. If a squirrel isn’t able to climb to your bird feeder, the only seed they can get to is what is on the ground.
Poles that come with baffles are a great option or you can attach your own to any pole you like. Poles are hard to climb up and a baffle just adds extra insurance.
2. Keep Feeders Far from Trees
Have you ever seen a squirrel jump? They can go greater distances than you might expect. If you want to avoid squirrels, hang a string between two trees and attach the feeder.
The bounce of the string is hard for squirrels to walk on and it will make it less likely they can reach the seed. Just make sure the trees you choose are far enough apart that squirrels can’t leap directly to the feeder you use.
3. Cover the Pole in Petroleum Jelly
By covering a pole with petroleum jelly, the squirrels in your yard are going to find it nearly impossible to climb up. They won’t be able to grab hold of the pole and climb up it to reach the feeder.
Adding plastic tubing around the pole can also work in some situations. Some have also seen success with aluminum flashing wrapped around trees or poles where the feeder is located.
4. Utilize Pepper to Keep Critters Away
One of the natural squirrel deterrents out there is pepper. You can get ahold of a repellent that is based in pepper to keep the squirrels away. You can apply this repellent directly to the feeder to convince the critters to stay away. Squirrels don’t enjoy the smell or the taste, but birds don’t seem to mind it.
5. Add a Cage to Your Bird Feeder
Another option for keeping the squirrels at bay is adding a wire cage to the bird feeder. Squirrels won’t be able to fit through the holes in the wire, but smaller birds can still continue to feed.
This can also work to keep large bully birds away like pigeons, starlings, and grackles. Just be sure that the holes in between the wires are large enough for the birds you want to access the feed.
6. Pay Attention to Location of the Feeder
When determining how to keep squirrels away from bird feeders, you should be cautious about where you place the feeder itself. Whenever possible, keep the feeder at least 10 feet from any roofs, porches, gutters, trees, or other items that squirrels can jump off of to reach the food. This will ensure mostly birds make it to the food instead of squirrels.
7. Keep the Area Around the Feeder Neat and Clean
While it’s impossible to keep all the birdseed off the ground 24/7, that doesn’t mean you should leave a mess under the feeder on a regular basis. When there is spilled seed underneath the feeder, this can attract squirrels and make them aware that more food is nearby. This is also useful in general since birds won’t be eating stale and rotten seed that could make them sick.
8. Add Baffles Under the Bird Feeder
We mentioned that some squirrel-proof poles come with baffles, but that you can also install them yourself. A metal or plastic baffle can be added both above and below the feeder.
The best baffles to use for squirrels should be around 15 to 18 inches wide to keep squirrels away. Most baffles tilt or twirl when a squirrel gets on them, which can put them off balance and keep the food out of reach.
9. Hang Spinners from the Feeder Wire
If you are hanging a feeder from a wire, try adding spinners made of short pipe lengths, thread spools, or plastic bottles. These items will move and spin on the wire which can prevent squirrels from getting to the feeder.
Once a squirrel gets to a spinning item on the line, the item is going to tip, and the squirrel is likely to fall. Not only will this keep squirrels back, but it can also be a lot of fun to watch.
10. Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders
For those who are in the market for a new feeder, try one built to keep the squirrels away. Many of them have hatches and doors that close when something of a squirrel’s weight reaches it.
Lighter birds will have no problem feeding as they will not trigger the hatch. There are many squirrel-proof feeders on the market to choose from. Some tip with squirrel weight, others don’t offer enough space for squirrels to sit and eat.
11. Choose the Right Kind of Birdseed
While squirrels are happy to eat most types of birdseed, the exceptions include safflower seed and nyjer. These two seeds taste bitter to the squirrels, so they aren’t going to be interested in eating it.
There are also seeds that come coated in hot pepper which squirrels will stay away from, but birds will happily eat. Tiny seed is also less likely to be eaten by squirrels than large kernels are.
12. Consider Feeding the Squirrels in Their Own Location
Some people don’t mind feeding the squirrels themselves, but want to do it away from where the pretty birds are going to grab a meal. Setting up a small area for squirrels to eat away from the bird feeders can be an option in this case.
You may still notice squirrels occasionally getting into the birdseed, but it will happen much less. This might seem like a strange suggestion but it does work!
13. Try Adding a Slinky to Your Bird Feeding Pole
A Slinky is an inexpensive toy that many remember from childhood. Even if you don’t have one around, you can purchase one for a few dollars and it can help keep squirrels away from the bird feeders.
Attach the Slinky to the top of the pole for your bird feeder where it hangs down toward the ground. Squirrels attempting to climb the pole or jump onto it will be knocked down to the grounds.
Keep in mind that squirrels are just as much a part of nature as the birds you love to see in your backyard like blue jays, cardinals, and finches. There are many ways to keep squirrels away from bird feeders, but you can still expect an occasional crafty individual to make it to most bird feeders.
These tips will just ensure that happens on a less frequent basis, so your expensive birdfeed is enjoyed by the birds.