How to Keep Squirrels Out of Your Bird Feeder

Squirrel standing in the snow asking for food

Many of us have experienced a similar scenario. You diligently fill your bird feeders, carefully selecting the proper foods to attract your favorite species. You settle in by a window or on your patio with expectations of watching a hungry flock perched for refueling while you enjoy their songs and colors. Instead, you find a happy squirrel, growing chunkier by the day from all the treats believed to be set out for him or her. What can you do?

Here are 9 tips to help outwit your playful yet pesky diners.

Use Hot Peppers to Keep Squirrels Away

Squirrels are not fans of spicy foods, especially oils or seasonings that include chili peppers. Capsaicin, the heat compound found in chilies, is an irritant to the furry interlopers and will have them scurrying off to the nearest water source for relief. Often the smell alone of hot spices will deter squirrels away from feeders.

Red hot peppers over a table.

On the other hand, birds seem to love foods that are blended with chilis. It is non-toxic and harbors no ill effects or health concerns as their receptors are very insensitive to the compound.
You can make your own mix or purchase pre-made seed or “hot sauces” such as Coles Hot Meats Seed and Cole’s Flaming Squirrel Seed Sauce to put on the birdseed of your choosing. If using a sauce for your DIY mix, add three tablespoons for every 5 lbs of seed. Remember to take precautions and wear disposable gloves while working with hot sauces. Wash your hands well afterwards to further remove any hot pepper oils.

Otlher Bird Food that Squirrels Don’t Like

Squirrels don’t seem to be very picky eaters, seeing how they seldom meet a bird feeder they don’t like. However, there are three foods that birds enjoy yet squirrels will snub:
1. Nyjer Seed
2. White Proso Millet
3. Safflower-Cardinals, titmice, finches and chickadees love safflower but squirrels don’t. On a side note, members of the Blackbird family also are not fans of safflower for anyone who may have a grackle or starling problem.

Put Obstacles in the Way of Your Bird Feeder

Hang your feeder on wire strung between two trees. Make sure it is at least 5 feet off the ground.For a simple but effective deterrent, string a one liter plastic soda bottle on each side of the feeder. The persistent rodents will roll off the bottles with each attempt.
Place a wire cage around your feeder. Squirrels cannot fit through the smaller wire openings.
Keep in mind, you may still be outfoxed, by a squirrel. Watch this video on one man’s attempt to outsmart his backyard acrobats.

Place your Bird Feeder Where the Squirrels Can’t Reach

A squirrel trying to reach a bird feeder

Follow the 5/7/9 rule. Squirrels can’t jump over 5’ high from the ground or 7’ feet across from a tree to a feeder. Although they can fall up to 100 feet without being injured, they hesitate on dropping more than 9’ to ground. This formula will assist in proper placement of your feeder to lower chances of a squirrel invasion.

Put a Slinky on the Feeder Pole

Said to be about 99% effective, some folks are now employing the power of the popular children’s toy, Slinky, into protecting their bird feeders. Simply attach one end of the Slinky to the top of the pole, and let the pole run through the center.  You’ll find squirrels will try to jump onto the pole, and quickly be lowered back down to the ground thanks to the elasticized toy.

Purchase Bird Feeders with Weighted Perches

Many bird feeders are designed with weight sensitive perches where the seed ports will close if a chunky critter or heavier birds like doves land for a snack. They provide a very humane yet stern nudge to the guest to move along.

Invest in a Baffle for Your Bird Feeder

There are two types of baffles to help in your battle to thwart unwelcomed furry visitors to your feeder. One attaches above your feeder and looks like an inverted cone. Squirrels will harmlessly slide off when they pounce from above. The second style is cylindrical and fits below the feeder so squirrels cannot reach the feeder when they try to climb up.

Mosaic Birds offers several options of baffle domes and feeders:

Mosaic Birds Glass Baffle Dome

  • Product Measurements: 15″ L x 15″ W x 4″ H
  • Color infused glass for an artisan look
  • Saves seeds from ruin and protects birds from elements
Four blue birds in a glass bird feeder.

Mosaic Birds Petite Glass Baffle Dome

  • Product Measurements: 11″ L x 11″ W x 2″ H
  • Deflects water and debris away from food and birds
  • Color infused glass for durability and a more artisan look
Two hummingbirds on a glass bird feeder with a green with red flowers background

Mosaic Birds Baffle Dome Bird Feeder

  • Product Measurements: 15″ L x 15″ W x 10″ H
  • Bowl with drainage helps seeds stay fresh longer and prevent ruin
  • Metal hook on bottom allows for linking of another sphere feeder
Three Bluebirds eating at the Mosaic Birds Dome Bird Feeder

Keep the Yard Clean to Avoid Luring Squirrels

Remove debris and spilled seed from the ground that could be attracting the squirrels.

Feed the Squirrels

Don’t call it defeat. Call it coexisting. While it may sound counterintuitive, there are steps to manage a friendly relationship with your intrusive visitors and find ways to enjoy them.

  • Try diversion techniques like providing a feeder specifically for squirrels. Offer cracked corn or dried corn cobs, peanuts in the shell, or other nuts to draw their attention away from other feeders.
  • Feed squirrels on the ground away from feeders hung in trees or in locations too easy to access.
  • You may also want to consider building your own feeder.
A squirrel with two half-chewed corncobs.
Feed the squirrels to keep them away from bird feeders

Fun Facts

Squirrels can find food under up to a foot of snow.
Their front teeth never stop growing.
Squirrels may pretend to bury a nut to divert potential thieves.
By not digging up all of the nuts they bury during the winter, squirrels play an important role in restoring the forest tree population when the buried cache germinates into more trees.
Squirrels have good memories.
They use their tails as parachutes and can fall from 30 meters high, uninjured.

A squirrel is jumping in the air.

Why Should You Love Squirrels?

If you need some reasons, here are six.

Whether you hold your ground by detouring the furry mammals away from foods for your more welcomed feathered visitors, or you hold up the white flag and succumb to their entertaining charm, squirrels can be a source of stunning wildlife photography, comic relief, and boundless energy as well as planters of future forests.

A squirrel on a tree with a green background.
Squirrels can provide stunning wildlife photos.

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