Want to keep bird feeders from becoming squirrel buffet?
Many homeowners enjoy feeding birds in their yards until squirrels start nibbling at the feed—or the feeders. Squirrels climb on bird feeders and eat the food, often chewing and clawing through wood and plastic to get to it.
“While squirrels are nice to have in the backyard and are a part of wildlife, they can be a big nuisance,” said Chris Mullins, a Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist at Virginia State University. “There are several things you can try to keep squirrels away from bird feeders if you want to feed birds—not squirrels—in your yard.”
The best way to keep a squirrel away is to make bird feeders less accessible, Mullins said.
“Place feeders well away from trees, wires and porches to make it more difficult for squirrels to get on the feeder,” he said. Ideally, mount birdfeeders on a smooth metal pole at least 6 feet high, and prune any branches or bushes within a 12-foot radius. Placing a wire bird cage around a feeder or smooth plastic or metal baffles above and below it also can restrict a squirrel’s access.
If feeders are hanging from a horizontal wire, adding spinners can keep squirrels from climbing across the wire. The spinners can be thread spools, short lengths of pipe or hose or empty plastic soda bottles.
Also consider cleaning and removing debris and spilled seed from the ground that could be attracting squirrels.
Replace destroyed feeders with those that have doors that will be trigged by a squirrel’s weight to close and restrict access to seed. Alternatively, choose metal feeders to discourage chewing.
Feed birds nyger or safflower seed, which are less attractive to squirrels. Also try adding cayenne pepper or similar spices to birdseed to deter squirrels; squirrels are sensitive to the perceived heat of peppers, while birds are not.
“If all else fails, consider putting food out for the squirrels. Squirrels love to eat dried corn,” Mullins said. “Perhaps they’ll consider snacking on the corn and leave the bird feed alone.”