Working for the Weekend: Squirrel-Proof Your Feeder For Less

Jill Staake

Do a Google search for “squirrel-proof bird feeders”, and the results are nearly endless. Every bird-watcher out there is looking for ways to keep squirrels from chowing down on their bird seed, and the options are varied and sometimes amazing.

While you could spend more than $100 on a feeder “guaranteed” to keep the squirrels away, I thought Birds & Blooms readers might appreciate ways to keep squirrels away that won’t cost an arm and a leg. I’m going to share my one fool-proof tip with you, and then I’m going to ask for your tips in return. Together, we should be able to create the best list of ideas around!

Jill’s Squirrel-Proofing Tip: Use Safflower Seed
We tried a lot of options to keep squirrels away from our feeder. We don’t mind squirrels in general – they’re awfully cute, especially here in Florida where they’re much smaller than those up north. However, one squirrel can clean out a feeder quicker than you can say “sunflower seeds”, and filling a feeder can get expensive, so we needed to keep these guys in their place.

You can click here to read about the options we tried, but in the end, the easiest solution was to add only safflower seed to the feeder. The downside to this trick is that it can somewhat limit the visitors we receive, but cardinals, titmice, wrens, and woodpeckers are all perfectly happy with this option, and squirrels just aren’t interested. They check it out once or twice, and then steer clear.

So there’s our first inexpensive solution. Now it’s your turn, readers. What low-cost tricks do you use to keep squirrels away from your feeders? Drop by the comments section and give us your ideas… let’s build the most comprehensive  list on the web!

P.S. Squirrels aren’t the only problem in our yard – look for an upcoming post about the bird-feeder battle that nearly drove us quackers

Every Thursday, the Working for the Weekend segment highlights a project or job for Southeastern gardeners to tackle in the weekend ahead. Know of a project you’d like to see featured here, or a garden chore you’d like some help with? Make your suggestions in the comments section below.

  1. Danielle H. says

    I tried mixing the safflower then just going straight safflower seed and the squirrels still cleaned me out. I just quit buying the safflower since it didn’t seem to matter.

    I had tried the “slinky” draped down the poles at our last house since we had no trees in the yard. It worked for quite sometime, until the slinky started to get too droopy. Here I have way too many trees and the squirrels have easier access to my feeders.

  2. Gordon De Mouth says

    I rub Vaseline Petroleum Jelly on the entire sheperd’s hook that the bird feeder hangs from. The squirrles can’t crawl up it and if they jump on to the hook, they slide right off.
    I have to reapply every 2-3 months but it is cheap and easy.

  3. Joyce says

    Buy squirrel proof feeders!!! They cost a little more than other feeders but the money you save on seed is worth it!! Love watching them try to get the seed is so funny!!! The safflower seed worked for a little while but soon they were eating it too.

  4. Kristy G says

    In the long run, you save more money on seed when you buy squirrel baffles and squirrel proof feeders. That is the only thing that worked for me. I also finally found the way to deter deer from eating the seed, especially in the winter. I bought extra pole extensions and made my bird feeder poles taller. It is harder for me to get the feeders down to fill, but has been so worth it. I used to fill feeders and overnight, the deer would empty them. Now that I have both problems solved, I use less seed and get to enjoy more birds!

  5. Rusty says

    I have 5 feeders on shepherd hooks in the back yard. The squirrels would climb them like climbing a tree. I went to the dollar store and got a jar of vaseline petroleum jelly. I keep a soft cloth with the jar and once a week I just rub the poles with the vaseline and the squirrels will try the poles once and get the message and move on. Has worked great on the metal shepherd hooks. I dont have wooden poles so not sure how it would work on wood.

  6. Jean P says

    My husband has a metal pipe (3/4 ” or so) attached to a post from which we hang plants. He put a pvc pipe a little larger over the metal pipe but a little shorter and hung the feeder at the end of the metal pipe. When a squirrel attempts to get to the feeder, it steps on the pvc pipe which spins and causes it to fall off (like a logger trying to stand on a log). It’s not high enough to hurt the squirrel. :) As far as the trees, he hangs the feeders attached to a single long metal wire which the squirrels cannot hang on to thus making it difficult to get to the feeders. Finally, during the fall after the purple martins have left, he removes the house and places a tray upon the pole. The pole is equipped with a squirrel barrier so it keeps the feeder squirrel free.

  7. says

    Somewhere I read squirrels don’t like copper. Using copper tubing, I slid a wire hanger through the tubing and bent the wire hanger on both sides to make hooks. One end hangs on a tree limb and the other holds a feeder. I’ve seen a squirrel touch the hanger one time but did not try to climb down. Don’t know why it is working but it has for years!

  8. Dee Zessin says

    In addition to the petroleum jelly on the pole, we mixed cayenne pepper in it and smeared it on the pole. The squirrels get this on their feet when trying to climb a pole, and lick it off. Not a very good taste in their mouths, and they learn very quickly not to even try to climb that feeder pole!!

  9. Jerre B says

    I sprinkle Cayenne Pepper on my bird seed on feeders that don’t have baffles. One bite of THAT and the squirrel does NOT come back. Doesn’t hurt the birds, and the birds can’t taste it, but the furry rodents can! :-)

  10. Jim says

    I found that using a large plastic cheese puff or pretzel container turned upside down with a hole cut into it works like a baffle only better. They can’t climb around it, they can’t chew through it from underneath, and they get frustrated trying to get past it. I have 2 on my feeder poles painted to match the feeders, and the squirrels try every way the can to get around it and it makes for some real funny amusement early in the morning.

      • Catherine Leach says

        Totally hilarious! Thanks for sharing.

        My only solution is a Jack Russel terrior and a back door doggy door. She can’t stand the squirrels in her yard! It helps some though putting a feeder just for them at the rear of my yard. She doesn’t spot them as quickly.

  11. Wanda Gebhardt says

    I’d rather see the squirrels at my feeder than black bears!!! There’s not a whole lot to be done about that except remove the feeders and watch the bears from inside the house. Bears also have a wonderful memory and they’ll remember for years that I had bird feeders at one time.

  12. Irene Beattie says

    I second Gordon’s comment. All my feeders are on metal posts and shepherd’s hooks. I keep them at least squirrel jumping distance from trees/roofs and I use Vaseline (generic) on the poles as needed (usually only 2-3 times a year). The squirrels catch on pretty quick. My husband had the most fun watching the feeder right after I did that about 5 years ago. That squirrel took quite a while to get message …. it’s cheap and doesn’t hurt the squirrels.

  13. Linda Patten says

    My idea is similar to Jim’s:

    Cut a slit up the side of a plastic planter to the center of the bottom, then cut a hole in the middle of the bottom, about the diameter of the pole. Attach two clamp type clothespins, one going left and one going right, one above the other, onto the pole at the desired location of baffle. Place planter around pole, upside down, positioning it to rest on the clothespins. Secure the split in the planter with duct tape. Works great! It doesn’t even look too bad if matching planters are used. Looks even better if you can find matching duct tape.

    Now if I can figure out a way to keep the squirrels out of the window feeders…

  14. John R says

    Tried all the above [except the obstacle course :)] with no long term success until I set a 10 ft. 4X4 in the ground (3 ft deep hole) with a 100 in. plastic section over the wood and a pointed top cap. Four hanging hooks were installed at the top of the post (one on each side) to hang various feeders from – I use sunflower seeds, thistle seed, peanuts and suet. The squirrels try to climb up the plastic covering and slide down keeping the feeders virtually squirrel free. Occasionally, one gets up to the feeders if the post gets too dirty so the post needs to be kept clean. I use a counter cleaner that cleans and waxes – Counter-top Magic that works well. There are signs that raccoons can climb the pole but I use long hooks so they don’t do much harm. This is an idea written about a number of times in B&B. It absolutely works!

  15. Charles H Hawk Sr says

    Out of all the “squirrel ” problem solvers, the only sure fire solution is to use a baffle on the pole about 4 ft. from the ground. The squirrels can not get past it and there is not need to use anything else. I live in a wooded area and am surrounded by trees, so just keep in mine squirrels can jump a long way from branches to the feeders. My feeders, and I have 6 suet feeders, 3 thistle feed feeders, and 3 black oil sunflower feeders and are all squirrel free. My feeders are 8 feet from the nearest overhead branches.

  16. Sandy says

    the best $15 I ever spent was on a baffle for the pole that I have 5 feeders hanging from. It’s about 15 inches long and 6 inches in diameter and I watched our herd of squirrels try for days to get over or around or through it. I felt so bad for them that I dump seed on the ground and buy peanuts to feed them (sparingly) since they can’t rob me anymore.

  17. Barbara says

    I live in a very wooded area, including my back yard. I have sooooo many squirrels and also have raccoons. We have purchased the squirrel proof feeders that do the best job at keeping the squirrels from eating all of our bird seed. But, the little buggers learned how to get above the feeders and then lean them sideways, spilling out the majority of it’s content onto the ground, where they then have their feasts. Oh, and by the way, they have learned to love safflower seeds here at my house too.

  18. Faye Burke says

    Reading up on starting a bluebird trail, I learned about using a 4×4 post set about 5!/@ feet above ground, cover the upper 4 ‘ with a pvc piece. I plan to set up my feeders this way this year and see if it works. Lots of squirrels and nothing I have tried ,all the vasaline I could load on the poles did not slow them; maybe this will.

  19. Margaret Kauffman says

    Please help….My unwanted guests are RATS. Does anyone have any suggestions. They not only eat the bird food, but I have Mallard Ducks that come to my pool every year and we put corn out of them. Rats love corn and I love to feed the ducks but don’t know what to do about the rats. HELP…

    • Diana says

      For rats…I use electronic zappers. Its humane and keeps the neighbors from being upset with my bird feeders. Can get at Wild Birds. I have 2 we get such a problem. Set out after the sun goes down to not entice the small birds then check in the morning. Empting the trap, you just dump it out.

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