Regardless of how you feel about feeding squirrels, we love it. However, this doesn’t mean that we want them eating our bird seed. That’s why I wanted to share some tips on how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders, to help you save big time.
How to Keep Birds Out Of Bird Feeders
Squirrels can be pests when it comes to stealing your bird seed. In fact, they can cost you hundreds of dollars if you’re a bird lover. The best thing you can do is invest in a squirrel resistant bird feeder or buy bird seed they won’t eat. I’ll share some more tips that you can use, in case you have a stubborn squirrel in your backyard.
Related: Best Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders
11 Tips for Keeping Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders
The tips below are meant to help you keep squirrels away from bird feeders. I’ve done my best to provide the most humane tips possible, as I don’t believe in poisoning squirrels or any live animal.
However, squirrels can cost you hundreds per year in birdseed expenses. Before we started feeding them, we had to buy a new bird seed every week. We’ve finally learned how to coexist with them and it has saved us hundreds.
You may have to apply several of the tips to see what works for you. We all know that squirrels are foragers who love eating and sometimes it takes several steps to keeping squirrels off bird feeders.
So seriously, how do you keep squirrels away and off your bird feeders?
Well after doing some research and from my own personal experience, I have put together 11 strategies that can help you deter squirrels from bird feeders, without harming them.
None of the tips below hurt squirrels. I do not believe or recommend any strategies to harm or kill these small mammals. As I said, we love feeding squirrels, we just don’t want them eating our birdseed.
Related: Do Squirrels Eat Birds?
#1 Invest In A Squirrel Baffle
There’s a good chance that you already have a feeder, and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a brand new one. Well, you could buy a squirrel baffle like this one. It prevents the squirrel from climbing the pole the feeder hangs on.
They’ll still be able to climb the pole, but once they reach the baffle, they won’t be able to climb any further. You’ll just need to make sure that it is at least 15-18 inches wide, this will prevent the squirrel from reaching around it.
#2 Put Cayenne Pepper In Bird Seed
Another great humane option to squirrel-proof your bird feeder is to try using hot sauce. I know it sounds weird, but squirrels can’t stand anything hot like jalapeños, Tabasco sauce, paprika, crushed red pepper flakes or any other hot spice.
If you’ve ever eaten a jalapeño, then you know that it can make your mouth uncomfortable.
The heat you feel in your mouth after eating a hot pepper is triggered by a compound called “capsaicin.” The capsaicin reacts to heat by sending warning signals to the brain after swallowing.
The best part is that only mammals are affected by capsaicin, which includes squirrels.
You won’t harm your birds because they can eat capsaicin all day long without getting sick!
You can add capsaicin as a powder coat, liquid or even add it to your suet feed as a natural squirrel deterrent for bird feeders.
The best part is that you can even add it to bulbs and plants you don’t want them eating.
#3 Invest In Squirrel Feeders
If you can’t beat them, then you may as well feed them. That was one of the reasons we started feeding the squirrels in our backyard. If you’re feeding wild birds, eventually, you will have a squirrel trying to eat from the bird feeder.
One of the best ways to keep stop squirrels from eating bird food is to provide them with their own food. Yes, squirrels are opportunistic feeders, but if you provide them a sanctuary where they can eat their own food.
You’ll be surprised at how easy it can be to keep them off your bird feeders. I’ve put together a huge resource to help you find the best squirrel feeder for your backyard.
You can check out some of the best wild squirrel food that doesn’t cost a lot and will help you save money on your birdseed.
#4 Get A Squirrel Proof Suet Feeder
Squirrels love eating suet and if you don’t protect your suet feeder, you will have to replenish it a lot faster. I know that you can buy bird suet at Walmart for like a $1.00, which isn’t a lot.
But the truth is that if your squirrels are eating the suet, they can Peanut Delight tray in less than a day. I know from experience because they ate so much of our bird suet before we realized how to squirrel proof our suet feeder.
They are NOT expensive and the best part is they work. You won’t have to worry about scaring off your birds, and they also keep raccoons, and Starlings from eating your birds suet.
#5 Invest In A Squirrel-Proof Feeder Pole
These feeder poles have baffles that block squirrels from climbing all the way up the pole. You can get them in complete systems that consist of bird feeder poles, bird feeders, and squirrel baffles.
Heck, some crafty people have even made their own using PVC pipe and a slinky. It’s pretty amazing what you can do if you’re crafty enough.
#6 Place Your Bird Feeders and Squirrel Feeders Wisely
Squirrels and bird feeders go hand in hand. If you’re NOT careful, you will end up overspending on your birdseed. One of the best things you can do is make sure that you place them far away from each other.
If your backyard squirrels have a fresh supply of their own food, there’s a good possibility that they won’t bother your bird feeder.
Squirrels are acrobatic creatures and can jump from a branch to the bird feeder. You should place your feeder at least 10 feet away from fences bushes, or trees.
I recommend using a shepherds hook or pole to place it in your yard away from trees.
#7 Invest In A Squirrel Proof Feeder
There are tons of squirrel resistant bird feeders to help you save money. In fact, this is one of the best ways for discouraging squirrels at bird feeder problems.
As a wildlife lover, there are several different options when choosing a squirrel proof feeder.
#8 Offer Foods That Squirrels Don’t Like
Believe it or not, squirrels will NOT eat all kinds of birdseed. Yes, they love sunflower seeds and they will do anything to eat it. However, they will not eat Safflower seeds.
Safflower seeds are small white conical seeds that are similar to black-oil sunflower seeds. This type of bird seed will attract:
- House Finches
- Red-bellied Woodpeckers
- Purple Finches
The best part is that squirrels don’t eat Safflower seeds. It’s one of the easiest ways to stop squirrels from bird feeder headaches.
#9 Have Fun With Your Squirrels
No matter what you do, if squirrels have been eating from your bird feeders, they are going to keep trying, especially, if you’re NOT feeding them.
If you’re like us, you enjoy watching the wildlife in your backyard. Well, there are tons of different anti-squirrel bird feeders on the market that will entertain you more than your favorite television show.
Some will sling squirrels around, spin them around or even twirl them until they are dizzy. It can be hilarious watching how persistent these critters can be.
The best part is that it’s totally human and you won’t have to worry about them getting hurt. Check out this funny video on YouTube where a squirrel gets spun off a bird feeder.
If you’re always seeing squirrels in bird feeders on your yard, then it’s time to start enjoying it.
You’ll be amazed at all the different types of bird feeders to keep squirrels away that will make you laugh.
#10 Keep Your Yard Clean
Squirrels are foragers and will only come to your yard if it’s considered a food source. If you are feeding birds, there’s a good chance that the birds are throwing seeds on the ground.
Whenever we go out to fill our bird feeders, it always amazes me how much bird seed they throw on the ground.
Yes, some birds like Doves love eating the bird seed on the ground. However, this is also what attracts squirrels to bird feeders.
Make sure that you are keeping the ground underneath your bird feeder clean. You can use trays under feeders to keep debris from falling on the ground.
#11 Make It Hard for Them
If squirrels are eating your bird feeder, you can’t expect them to stop without you taking some type of action. This problem will NOT go away on its own, trust me, I ignored it for several months.
We only started feeding the squirrels once they started eating all our bird seed and we realized how much it was costing us.
If you want to stop squirrels climbing bird feeders in your backyard, you’re going to have to make it hard for them. They are persistent critters and will continue eating all your bird’s food if you don’t do anything about it.
The great news is that there are several squirrels on bird feeders prevention techniques you can use. I’ve listed several that you can use.
Hopefully, one of these work for you and help you save money on feeding the other wildlife critters in your backyard.
Things You Should Avoid
While I am all for using humane bird feeder squirrel deterrent tips. I wanted to share some tips that I would NEVER recommend. These can harm or even kill a squirrel.
I know that most people are frustrated from trying to find ways for keeping squirrels off bird feeders, without wanting to harm or kill them.
Personally, I don’t agree with any methods to get rid of squirrels that can harm or kill them. There are several effective strategies you can use as squirrel deterrent and repellant, while still keeping squirrels safe.
There’s nothing you can do to terminate or eliminate them permanently. If you kill one, eventually, you’ll see another one at your feeder.
That’s why I always recommend you try to appreciate squirrels as a part of nature and remember they are just trying to survive in the wild like any other wildlife animal.
Vaseline Or Grease
Before we started feeding squirrels, we used to use Petroleum jelly to keep squirrels off our bird feeders. It was annoying to wake up every morning and see a squirrel eating from our bird feeders every day. So we finally decided to add some Vaseline to the poles and the shepherd’s hooks in our yard.
It worked, at first, they would try to climb the pole and would just slip down. They eventually realized that they couldn’t get up the poles. However, we have since learned that it is NOT good for them.
We have learned that when squirrels try to climb grease coated feeders, it gets grease on their fur. They can not clean the grease off and it prevents them from being able to “fluff up” which is what provides them insulation in the winter. This can cause them to freeze to death.
When they try cleaning the grease or Vaseline from their coat, it can cause them intestinal discomfort and diarrhea. This can lead to dehydration and eventually death.
I know some people who say that shooting them with a BB gun won’t kill them. However, there’s nothing that you can shoot at a squirrel that will not hurt them, except a camera.
Some people think that these critters are a nuisance and will put out rodent bait control for mice and rats. However, this won’t work against squirrels and can only cause harm to your pets and other backyard critters.
Letting Your Cat And Dog Kill Squirrels
Both dogs and cats love chasing and scaring squirrels away. While dogs won’t typically kill the squirrels, most cats will.
I still remember that day vividly when our dog caught a squirrel and brought it in the house. The squirrel woke up and started running around everywhere.
We were finally able to trap the squirrel and take him back outside. That’s when we realized we didn’t want our family pets catching or killing squirrels.
My hope is that these tips will help you learn how to get rid of squirrels around bird feeders without harming them.
There’s no reason why you can’t feed both birds and squirrels. We have and it didn’t take a lot of effort to make everyone happy.
The best part is that since we’ve started feeding our backyard squirrels, they have left our garden and bird feeders alone.
References and Further Reading
The Humane Society of The United States – Squirrels and Bird Feeders
The Gardening Cook – Natural Squirrel Repellent Ideas