12 Tips for Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders, and 5 Feeders That Work
Let's be honest: there's no such thing as completely squirrel-proof bird feeders. But you can cut down on their visits using these tips.
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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 bird feeders?” So we’ve rounded up all the best tips we can find for squirrel-proof bird feeders, and found five feeders you should try. It’s unlikely you’ll ever get rid of these pesky critters entirely, but these suggestions should should help ensure that more of the seed in your feeders goes to the birds.
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 the Squirrels
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.
3. Toy with the Squirrels
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 a caged bird feeder. The design works especially well for feeders meant for small birds, like finches or chickadees, and it does 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.
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 debris from your feeders may be attracting them. Once they’re in the area, they’re sure to try to invade the feeders. 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. Try the Brome Seed Buster Tray from 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. Just Add Soap
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.
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 a 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.
1. 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!
2. Duncraft Squirrel Proof Selective Feeder
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)
3. Squirrel-proof Double Suet Feeder
4. 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, $98)
5. Electric Blue Absolute II Feeder
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, $100)