Tips for how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders this winter

squirrel bird feeder

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From elaborate obstacle courses to spinning, bungee-jumping apparatuses, people have invented ingenious ways to keep squirrels out of bird feeders.

Backyard birders get discouraged when squirrels drive their feathered friends away from bird feeders. Additionally, expensive specialty birdseed eaten by squirrels is seed that birds don’t get.

“That’s probably one of the reasons why it’s so frustrating to watch the squirrels get in there and eat it,” said Terry Lautzenheiser, horticulture technician for Virginia Cooperative Extension in Henrico County.

Lautzenheiser tried to find something that would keep the squirrels out. She eventually bought a bird feeder with a weight-sensitive closing mechanism—birds are light enough to perch, but a squirrel’s heavier weight will trigger the seed ports to close.

“That’s what’s worked best for us,” she said. “They’re very, very smart, so you have to get something that literally closes that they can’t get into.”

Horticulturist Mark Viette, host of a gardening segment on Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Real Virginia television program, customized his bird feeder using plastic-coated chicken wire purchased from a hardware store.

“You can make a box and put it over the feeder,” he explained. The holes are just large enough for birds to get in, but small enough to keep squirrels out.

Viette also placed a separate squirrel feeder 100 to 200 feet away from his bird feeders.

“Squirrel feed tends to be inexpensive and is based more with a mixture of sunflower, corn and other foods,” he said. “Some people like the squirrels, but you can feed them away from your birds.”

Consumers also can purchase round, slick metal baffles that attach underneath or above a feeder, preventing a ravenous rodent from climbing on. Additionally, both Lautzenheiser and Viette advised keeping bird feeders up high, in an open area, and away from branches or anything a squirrel could use as a jumping point to access the feeder.

Squirrels also can be discouraged by the birdseed choice. Birds tend to enjoy eating Nyjer and safflower seed, but squirrels will avoid it.


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