Do squirrels at your bird feeders drive you nuts? You’re not alone. One of the most common questions we get here at Birds & Blooms is “How can I keep squirrels off my feeders?” So we’ve rounded up all the best tips we can find for squirrel-proof bird feeders. It’s unlikely you’ll ever get rid of these pesky critters entirely, but these ideas should should help ensure that more of the seed in your feeders goes to your feathered friends.
Tips for Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders
1. Rule of 5-7-9
Generally, squirrels can’t jump more than 5 feet up from the ground, more than 7 feet across from a tree or building, and are reluctant to drop more than 9 feet onto a feeder from above. Place your feeder station with these numbers in mind to deter a large majority of squirrels.
2. Baffle Them
Squirrels are amazing climbers, even on metal poles. Buy a squirrel baffle and attach it to the pole to prevent them from climbing up from below. (Metal Pole Baffle, $25, Lowe’s / Wood Post Baffle, $55, Lowe’s)
3. Toy with Them
If you’d like to have a little more fun with your squirrels, try a turning a toy Slinky into a baffle. Thread the post through the Slinky and attach one end under the feeder, allowing it to drape down the post. Shorten it if the Slinky touches the ground. Squirrels that try to climb it get a ride back to the ground every time!
4. Bird (Feeder) on a Wire
Suspend your feeders on a wire strung from one pole to another, at least 5 feet from the ground. To prevent squirrels from doing a tight-rope walking trick, string plastic liter-size soda bottles onto the wire on both sides of the feeders. The plastic bottles roll the squirrels right off as they approach.
5. The Caged Bird Eats
Invest in squirrel-proof bird feeders featuring a cage design. They work especially well for feeders meant for small birds, like finches or chickadees, and do a good job of keeping out the bully birds too. (In areas where squirrels are especially small, like the Deep South, these feeders may be less effective.) See below for a round-up of some of our favorite squirrel-proof bird feeders.
6. Switch Up Your Seed
Squirrels love most types of bird seed, but some folks notice that they tend to leave safflower seed alone. Birds like cardinals and titmice enjoy safflower, so replacing the seed in one or more of of your feeders with safflower may help.
7. Pick the Proper Pole
Wood and metal poles are very easy for squirrels to climb, but it’s been noted that PVC or copper piping are more of a challenge. Try building your own pole or feeder station using these materials.
8. Keep it Clean
Squirrels love to forage for seeds on the ground, and the detritus from your feeders may be attracting them. Once they’re in the area, they’re sure to try to invade the feeders themselves. Keep the areas underneath your feeders clean (this is also a good way to deter other unwanted pests like rats or raccoons). Attach a large tray on the pole beneath the feeders to catch the falling seed. (30″ Seed Hoop, $25, Duncraft / Brome Seed Buster Tray, $50, Duncraft)
9. Spice It Up
Squirrels and birds taste things differently. For instance, birds don’t taste the heat of peppers, but squirrels sure do. Some people swear by thoroughly mixing a small amount of dried cayenne pepper into their seeds (a tablespoon or so to a 10-pound bag of seed). However, there are those who argue the pepper can be irritating to birds’ eyes, so use this method with caution.
10. Get Fresh
One often-shared tip for a squirrel-proof feeder involves hanging a bar of Irish Spring soap in a sock nearby. Supposedly, the scent repels squirrels and other unwanted mammals.
11. Spin Me Right Round
Hang your bird feeders from a spinning hook, or seek out specialty feeders designed to spin squirrels off. (See our list below.)
12. Feeding the Enemy
Sometimes giving squirrels their own feeders is enough to keep them away from bird feeders. Try a dried corn cob feeder, or build your own easy DIY squirrel feeder to offer them peanuts.
5 Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders to Try
We’re not making any promises, but these are some of the most popular squirrel-proof bird feeders out there. Combine them with the tips above for your best chance of foiling sneaky squirrels at last.
Droll Yankees Yankee Flipper® Seed Feeder
The Yankee Flipper uses a small motor to send squirrels on their way. It’s weight-activated, so when birds land on the perch, nothing happens and they’re able to enjoy a snack. When something heavier like a squirrel tries it out, though, the fun begins! (Doctors Foster and Smith, $150)
Duncraft Squirrel Proof Selective
This classic style is popular for a reason – it works. The tube feeder inside the cage can be filled with a wide variety of seeds, and only smaller songbirds can make their way in to dine. (Duncraft, $70)
Squirrelproof Double Suet Feeder
Caged feeders work well for suet, too. Smaller songbirds and woodpeckers slip right through, leaving squirrels, raccoons, and big bully birds behind. (Doctors Foster and Smith, $23)
Rollerfeeder Bird Feeder
This one comes recommended by Birds & Blooms Field Editor Kat Rucci, who says, “The best (and funniest) bird feeder I have… They never give up or get in this one!” Birds feed from underneath at this feeder, while squirrels who land on top are slowly rolled off as the feeder turns due to their weight. (Rollerfeeder, $84)
Electric Blue Absolute II
This feeder also works on the weight principle. Lightweight birds can land on the spring-activated perches and feed, but a heavier squirrel will immediately cause the metal shield to close, cutting off access. It can be adjusted for weight to keep off heavier bully birds too. (Duncraft, $90)