Feeding Birds by Keeping Squirrels Away

Outwit squirrels with these tips for keeping squirrels away from bird feeders to leave bird seed for the birds.

Squirrels! Squirrels! Squirrels! They are everywhere…on bird feeders, on wires, on the ground and in the birdbath.

Most are gray squirrels, but depending on where you live, some may be red squirrels or fox squirrels. All can be pests.

True, they are fascinating to watch, and obviously very intelligent as they outsmart the protective baffles and domes we place around bird feeders. But there is a limit to how much of this behavior we’re willing to tolerate.

After decades of studying and observing wildlife, I’ve come up with four methods that will stop most squirrels in their tracks.

Rule of 5-7-9: I have found that squirrels cannot jump more than 5 feet from the ground to reach a feeder on a post with a baffle. They cannot jump more than 7 feet from a tree or building to the side of a feeder. And they are reluctant to drop more than 9 feet onto a feeder from above.

So, if your feeder is 5 feet off the ground, 7 feet on each side from a launching place, and 9 feet below an overhang, 90% of squirrels will be unable to jump onto a baffled feeder. If you add 6 inches to those dimensions, you should prevent 100% of squirrels from reaching the feeder.

Soda Bottle Roller: Squirrels are regular circus performers when it comes to walking on high wires. Their amazing agility makes bird feeders hanging from wires easy pickings for any squirrel.

But, if you string plastic liter-size soda bottles onto the wire on both sides of the feeders, the squirrels will be rolled off the bottles as they approach the feeders. Make sure to keep the Rule of 5-7-9 in mind when placing the wire for the soda bottle setup.

Slinky On A Post: A “Slinky,” the children’s toy, makes a great post baffle. Thread the post through the Slinky and attach one end under the feeder and allow it to drape down the post. Shorten it if the Slinky touches the ground.

A squirrel that tries to climb the post will get a ride on the Slinky back to the ground every time. Again, remember to use the Rule of 5-7-9 when placing the feeder to prevent squirrels from bypassing the Slinky baffle.

Birds In A Cage: By enclosing bird feeders in wire mesh (hardware cloth) that is large enough to allow birds to enter the cage, but small enough to exclude squirrels, you have squirrel-proofed the feeder. This works especially well for feeders that only serve small birds, like tube feeders, and it keeps out large bully birds as well.

Use these four methods, alone or together, and you will have outsmarted the squirrels in your backyard. Then you can go back to watching the birds on the feeders, while the squirrels watch from the trees.

  1. ken tolle says

    I don’t have squirrels in my back yard but I do in our front yard… Good research in your information… I will probably use some of it… thanks…
    We have metal sheep hooks which hold two feeders each… I coated the metal rods with white grease… The rodents can’t climb the poles anymore…
    Thanks again… ken & Vicki

  2. says

    I use moth balls put a couple of moth balls to a nylon stocking hang it up on the top of bird feeder or on the birds house and the smell makes the squirrels run away!
    But the one Mr. Tolle say sounds much better going to try it! I am always ready to try new things. Thanks

    • Gene Clifford says

      I’ve found that if the squirrels are eating up all the food in the bird feeders, as I’m filling the birdfeeder I sprinkle about 3 tablespoons of Cayenne Pepper amongst the food and once the squirrels taste that they leave the feeder alone.

        • Birdwatcher101 says

          Actually, the heat of pepper does not bother birds, but it will be unpleasant to mammals.

          I used crushed peppers.

  3. Birdy17Birdy17 says

    George….I wanted to thank you very much for using my photo for your squirrel article. I was very surprised to see it on the home page. Your article was very informative too. Thanks for sharing!! Kathy

  4. says

    I have tons of squirrels in my yard, (they annoy me.) They always used to stuff there faces at my bird feeder and the only time they would leave was when I chased them away or when there was no seed left. I used to try many things to keep them away from my feeder such as traps, chili pepper seed, and more but they never worked. Soon I realized that moving feeder in a open spot 3 meters away from anything they could jump from such as trees, roofs, and more with a baffle on the pole would prevent them. Now my feeder is squirrel proof. When I read this article it sounds like what I did to make my feeder squirrel-proof.

    • ernaldo says

      Trap and move them, or eliminate them via pellet or BB. I had them, as well as chipmunks, chewing into my house a few years ago and used every means to get rid of them. BTW, when relocating, I believe Cornell U studied and found half returned when relocated ten to twelve miles away. It was much better when a large river was between you and the new location…

  5. Sharon Davidson says

    I purchased a “Audubon Torpedo Steel Squirrel Baffle Model NATORPEDO” from Amazon and it is awesome. The squirrel’s be really mad because they can no longer climb up the pole to my feeders although the are away and I use the 5-7-9 theory.

  6. craig says

    The birds I have spend half their time at the feeder discarding seeds in search of “perfect” kernels. Squirrels sit on the ground awaiting for the discards. I have a solution that some may not like. Spread a metal screen below the feeder and rig a grid of electric fence wiring six inches higher connected to a farmer’s electric fence capacitor. Birds fly in an out of the grid to pick up the fallen seed; squirrels, touching grid and screen, get the 10,000-volt shock of their lives. It only needs to operate one or two days to end the problem.

  7. Jane Bush says

    We have a feeder from Wild Birds Unlimited called the “eliminator”, and it is squirrel proof. It can be hung not far from a tree and they can’t get seed. Their weight closes it. It is not a cheap feeder but it works.

  8. Carol says

    A friend had given me a double shepherds hook so hung two tube feeders on each side. One morning I was amazed and not too happy to see a squirrel at the top and eating the birdseed upside down. I have tried the baffles but this was too thin. I stood there just thinking about what would stop me and since the pole is metal-well, I took mineral oil (baby oil) and poured in down the pole. boy oh boy the squirrel did not like that and has not even touched the pole since.

  9. Doris says

    I don’t have enough clear space for the 579 rule to work so I bought a bag of squirrel “treats” and put some on a tray feeder on my deck near a favorite launch pad to get to the bird feeders. Now everyone is happy. The squirrels like their treats as do a few ground feeders and the one bag of food has lasted all winter, the birds have no competition for their food and I don’t have to r un out to chase the pests.and entertain my neighbors.

  10. says

    Being a modern era “Snow White,” (obsessed with all birds and animals) I take a different approach with squirrels. I provide them with several Dried Corn feeders and areas of their own in the yard.

    There’s a chair that holds an ear of dried corn that hangs on one of the trees and several squirrel corn (or peanuts) holders other places, in addition to the birdfeeders.

    They’re adorable, intelligent animals (as the gorgeous pic shows) and are a lot of fun to watch.

    I’ve also learned their visiting patterns and take my more expensive birdseed out to my birds after the squirrels have gone back to bed.

    It’s now a matter of watching the birds raid the squirrel corn and nuts – something Blue Jays have become brilliant at!

    Thank you so much for giving tips that don’t harm the squirrels.

    • Ann says

      I am so glad someone wrote that feeding the squirrels is a solution. That is how it is at my house. We don’t “try to eliminate” anyone from food. Everyone in our yard has a feeding spot.

  11. Delta says

    A constant use of a b-b gun gets rid of the few left in my yard after three years of baiting a so-called hav-a-heart trap. They croak in just eleven seconds in my stationary tub.

  12. says

    A constant use of a b-b gun gets rid of the few left in my yard after three years of baiting a so-called hav-a-heart trap. They croak in just eleven seconds in my stationary tub. The vaseline’s a good idea (and it works) but is gone after a rain.,

  13. Jerry Friedman says

    I have Walnut and Pecan trees in my yard as well as native Oaks (So Cal). My garage, a fence, two power lines from the poll all conspire to render these barriers infective. I doubt I can legally shoot anything in my yard – But culling them down a bit…Is that legal? Can I get in trouble for killing these pests?
    They often drink from a bowl I put out on a metal table…They use a metal chair to get onto the table – Was thinking about connecting an old extension cord, one conductor to the table and one to the chair. Any squirrel that touches both would be killed and the birds and other critters would not be affected.
    Any thoughts?

  14. Kathryn East says

    All of this is great; however, how do I keep the squirrels from digging in my potted plants and flowers. I don’t mind feeding them, they are a hoot to watch; however, they bring me to tears every time I go outside and see my beautiful plants uprooted and thrown to the ground of porch floor… : ( I keep replanting them, or what is left of them, to no avail.

  15. Barb says

    My squirrels come down from the roof & get in my feeders which are hanging from the over hang. I even got a squirrel proof feeder. He has a way to tip it & chow down. I finally brought in my feeders which now I feel for the other birds going with out. My feeders are in front of my picture window which I enjoy watching the birds, so didnt want to move the feeders to other area.

  16. Carol Ann Speight(CanadianShe_Wolf) says

    Have spent a fortune on WBU feeders, poles and baffles…..red squirrels slip right through the “cages” into the feeders and sit there filling their faces. Altho it is annoying…it also entertains my husband for hours! so…….se la vie!

  17. Rickster says

    I use a high powered pellet gun or 22 rifle.
    I got so tired of chasing the little monsters I made squirrel pot pie out of ’em.

  18. Mike says

    I use metal feeders with adjustable drop-down perches, along with large metal baffles on the poles. It has worked well for years. If a squirrel somehow gets past the baffle (very rare), he then discovers to his dismay that the perch drops down and closes off the seed tray when he attempts to pull himself up onto the feeder.

    The “regulars” who visit have learned from experience that they can’t win, so they are mostly content to find whatever they can under the feeders and hope that I’ll give them a handout (sucker that I am). In fact, when a newbie invariably shows up and tries his luck at climbing the poles, the old-timers almost seem to look over and snicker (“Hey Hank, check out this chump…he really thinks he can get up there”).

    Most commercial mixes have an excess of sunflower seed, so I make my own mix limiting sunflower while adding millet, safflower, thistle, etc. This reduces spillage of sunflower seed onto the ground while still providing a sufficient amount for titmice, chickadees, cardinals, etc. Squirrels then have less incentive to hang out under the feeders and eventually move on.

    BUT — there are a few friendly ones who have lived in the neighborhood for quite some time, and they know full well that I’ll occasionally cave and give them a treat. For this, I’ll place a few piles of sunflower seeds and peanuts on the ground away from the feeders.

    Squirrels are quite territorial, so these established moochers know to go eat there, and will run off any outsiders that attempt to get near “their stash”. I usually give them enough to fill them up (well, almost) and then they go wander up a tree to sack out for the remainder of the afternoon, leaving the birds and feeders alone.

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