How To Keep Squirrels Away From Bird Feeders Without Harming Them Plus Tips & Tricks

Squirrel on a bird feeder featured image

Last Updated on by Garrett Hayes

A bird feeder is a device designed to supply bird food, nuts, or seeds to wild birds, it is usually hung up outside. Bird feeders attract birds depending on the feeder’s location and the type of food offered.

This is perfect for bird watching as you will attract different kinds of birds.

But:

At first, you may find squirrels stealing food from your bird feeder. And after a while, they won’t only steal food but the whole feeder instead, and if they can’t, they’ll just destroy and gnaw on it until all the food spills to the ground…

When you feed squirrels, they tend to depend on you, and if you ever stop feeding them, they’ll have an extremely hard time becoming self-sufficient again.

On the other hand…

If you do keep the supply of food steady, those one or two squirrels you’ve been feeding will invite their friends, and your endless supply will continue to attract more and more squirrels.

And if you’re still not into keeping squirrels away from your bird feeders, then maybe the illnesses it’ll bring can change your mind.

When your area overpopulates with squirrels, the result can mean an increase of diseases such as Lyme disease that can be transmitted to humans, pets, and their own kind. 

Treating squirrels as your pet will eventually result in them becoming aggressive and entering your house through open spaces such as windows and chimneys, which will result in property damage. 

So no matter how much you want to keep them, you just can’t. 

There are a lot of tips on how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders online, but some of them are harmful to both the squirrels and the birds. It’s important to keep in mind that no harm should be done when eliminating them. 

Here are a few harmless tips on how to keep squirrels out of your bird feeder:

Hang Feeders Away From Trees

If your feeder is placed near a tree, squirrels can easily jump from it onto the feeder. Squirrels can jump up to 5 feet up from the ground, drop 9 feet from above, and jump 7 feet horizontally.

Your feeder should be placed 8-10 feet away from trees or any other structure that they can leap from. But if your feeder is suspended, you can also string a wire between two trees with a 9 feet radius away from it then place the feeder in between.

The squirrels will have a hard time leaping that far and won’t be able to keep their balance crossing the line. 

Squirrel Proof Your Feeders

Yes, that’s right. You can squirrel proof your feeders and there’s no rocket science into that. And to make it a lot more easier for you than just what’s written below, check out this squirrel proof bird feeder reviews that we compiled, with a lot of thoughts put into which ones are the best in the market and why.

Cages

If your feeder is meant for tiny birds such as finches and canaries, then cages are a good investment. Caged bird feeders don’t only keep out squirrels but also the bully birds that can dominate over the others. 

a robin in a cage bird feeder

You can buy a bird feeder that comes equipped with cages, but you can also make your own cage just in case you don’t feel like replacing your current one.

You can add mesh such as chicken wire around your feeder or just buy a wire cage designed as an add on to your current feeder.

By buying a caged feeder or adding one, the small wire openings will restrict the squirrels while also protecting tiny birds against them and other bully birds. 

Spinners

Spinners will keep the squirrels from accessing the bird feeder because of their motors that are triggered by the squirrel’s weight causing the perch to spin and the squirrel will eventually lose its grip. 

Some spinners are equipped with feeder tubes that are too wide and long so that the squirrels can not cling onto them, no matter how hard they try! 

birds on a spinner feeder

Weight Sensitive Perches

When worse comes to worst and the squirrels have destroyed your feeder, its best to replace it with a squirrel-proof feeder. Select one that is designed with doors or hatchets that will shut the feeder when a squirrel’s weight is applied on.

It’s best to choose a squirrel-proof feeder that is made of metal or thick sturdy material to avoid them being chewed on again. Some of these feeders may be expensive but with good care, they will last you for years. 

This type of feeder will restrict the squirrel’s access because of its perch that will shut the feeder when a squirrel hops on it, and since birds are light and small, the hatchet will not shut.

Use a Squirrel Baffle

A baffle is a dome you attach to the bottom of your feeder, it is curved in order for the squirrels to have a hard time reaching the feeder. Some baffles are triggered to tilt or twirl when a squirrel climbs onto it so that it would lose its balance. 

Baffles are good for feeders that sit on a pole, they come in plastic and metal materials and are also cheap and easy to make. 

Let’s watch how squirrels “approach” baffles in this short clip:

 

D’ya see how clever they are? 😉

You can make your own squirrel baffle by suspending your feeder from a wire equipped with a baffle made from an empty soda bottle and attach it to your feeder or buy this contraption at hardware stores. 

Baffles should be placed upside down and 1-5 to 18 inches wide or long, it should also be high enough so the squirrels can’t just jump past it.

Make Some Bird Food Adjustments

Now if you’re not planning on buying anything expensive, then you may be wondering how to keep squirrels away from your bird feeders in a low-cost way. 

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Add Pepper

Pepper acts as a natural squirrel deterrent, especially cayenne pepper and some other similar spices. Squirrels hate its smell and taste and they are also sensitive to its heat, so you wouldn’t even see them approach or go near your feeder.  

Birds and Squirrels taste things differently. While a squirrel hates the presence of pepper, birds don’t taste or mind them at all. 

You can either apply a pepper-based repellent or mix a tablespoon of sliced dried cayenne pepper to your feeder. When handling pepper-based repellents, take caution by wearing gloves and avoid inhaling it since some products contain extremely hot pepper ingredients. 

Seed

Squirrels eat most bird seeds. They especially love sunflower seeds, fruit, and corn, but they are less attracted to some specific seeds and would rather just leave them alone… 

bird feasting on seeds

To a squirrel’s tongue, White Proso Millet, Safflower, and Nyjer seed can be bitter. Squirrels don’t really hate them, but with a continuous supply of these seeds on your feeder, they’d really rather look for another food source rather than to eat those bitter seeds. 

Fortunately, these seeds don’t taste bitter for birds, and will also help you attract birds like cardinals and titmice.

Cleanliness

So now, you may know how to squirrel proof bird feeder, but squirrels aren’t the only harm the wild birds encounter.

By keeping the area clean and removing spilled seeds or debris from the ground, you can avoid attracting squirrels. You can also attach a tray around your feeder’s pole or under the feeder itself that will catch the falling seed.  

A bird feeder must be properly maintained in order to avoid any contraction or spread of diseases and even cause illness that can harm other animals, and even humans.  

To avoid harm, your feeder must be disinfected as well as your watering stations and birdbaths, to ensure they have no mold or moss and that the food is not contaminated or stale. 

Aside from not attracting squirrels to your feeder, this can also ensure that ground-feeding birds do not eat dirty and old seeds that may be contaminated. 

What to Avoid Doing

While feeding wild birds and enjoying their visuals may be fun, it still does carry some potential risks. Some solutions are effective, but can be harmful and can even cause death to both the squirrels and the wild birds.

Squirrels may be invasive and irritating, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to hurt them. There are other ways listed above on how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders that are better than any effective but harmful way.

Sticky and Slippery Stuff

We often use sticky stuff such as glue traps to catch rats and other insects that are in our house; however, such things must not be used towards squirrels and other animals because they can cause death. 

Glue traps are of high concern: they have a thick and sticky gel-like glue material that you put in places where the squirrels or other rodents may walk or climb.

Squirrel getting onto a bird feeder

Squirrels are most of the time too big for the glue traps, and instead of catching them, these would only cause cruel injuries and cuts. In short, the glue traps are not only harmful but won’t also eliminate your squirrel problem. Moreover, the birds could also possibly land or fall in the trap and die.

Another technique used to stop squirrels from climbing your bird feeder pole is adding grease, oil, or petroleum jelly to the bird feeder’s pole. Not only is this ineffective but extremely harmful too!

These can coat the squirrel’s fur and can cause illnesses. Birds may also have their feathers coated by it, giving them a hard time flying and keep their balance as well as making them more vulnerable to predators and birds of prey. 

Excessive Spice

Earlier, we discussed the use of pepper-based repellents and mixing pepper along with the bird seeds, it may be effective, but also only harmless when in moderation. 

Adding too much dried cayenne pepper and especially capsaicin can give squirrels an irritated mouth causing them not to eat more from your feeder, and not just that, they won’t eat more anywhere for the whole day! 

Aside from its harm to squirrels, excessive amounts of pepper can cause irritations to the bird’s eyes as well. 

Electrocuting 

Some people desperately use shocking stuff on squirrels and even enjoy the sight. But these rodents shouldn’t be harmed!

In some hardware stores, you can buy remote-controlled shocking products and some bird feeders even come equipped with an electric current that won’t only surprise the squirrels but will also electrocute them. 

The harm that these products cause is not only unnecessary but is also extremely cruel to squirrels. 

Hunting

Never harm squirrels!

Killing such animals is illegal in some areas and is obviously against the animal’s rights. So shooting at them to kill and eliminate them is not suggested at all. 

Also, using other weapons that won’t really kill them but will viciously injure them such as slingshots or dart guns are inhumane.

Poisoning

Poisoning may be the most accurate tip on how to keep squirrels off bird feeders since they’re obviously poisoned and dying…

But no matter how much you wish to eliminate them, you shouldn’t harm them, especially when there are harmless and effective ways available.

Poisoning your bird food and setting poisoned baits in order to keep the squirrels away from the feeder is not only harmful to the squirrels but also to the wild birds.

Poisoned squirrels are more vulnerable to raptors that can prey on them and birds can get poisoned too resulting in their death.

Cats

If you have a pet cat, it’s best to keep them with you as birds perch on your feeder. And if you don’t own one but there are some wandering around your neighborhood, then it is best to buy a caged feeder for the bird’s protection.

Cats can not only injure the birds but even kill them, some cats are even caught eating them!

If you wish to keep squirrels away, do not release your cat to hunt them. Just like birds, squirrels are also threatened by cats. Cats can be predators towards squirrels and other rodents, and again, the harm is not a suggested way to eliminate them from your yard.

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