Truth be told, squirrel proof is a misnomer. When on a mission, there is no stopping a squirrel – only frustrating them. Squirrels are brazen and cunning thieves, singularly focused on gorging their fuzzy bellies with pilfered bird seed.
Squirrels can be a lot of fun to watch. They are tenacious, problem-solving acrobats who will jump through hoops, again and again to reach a nut (see squirrel obstacle course video). They can become a much anticipated and welcomed backyard visitor. They can also become a major nuisance, occupying sofit and attic interiors, chewing through wires, and digging up flower bulbs.
Deterring squirrels from raiding bird feeders requires placing barriers between them and the bird seed. Bird feeder placement is a big determinant of squirrel resistance.
Tip #1: Consider Bird Feeder Location and Pole Type
Place your bird feeder out of the squirrel’s reach. Squirrels can jump up to 4 feet high, and can launch themselves from a tree or roof to a target as far as 6 feet away. A bird feeder placed on a 5 foot or taller pole and at least 7-8 feet from any structure will provide the best chance of deterring squirrels.
Metal poles are difficult to grab onto, and will cause squirrels to slide down when they try to climb it. Wooden 4×4 posts are easy for squirrels to latch onto, and therefore not a good deterrent by themselves.
Tip #2: Add a Squirrel Baffle
Locating a squirrel baffle above and/or below a feeder can make it very frustrating for squirrels trying to reach the bird seed. The three basic baffle types are dome hanging baffles, wrap around baffles, and torpedo baffles.
All types of baffles effectively create a barrier between the seed and the squirrel, however the placement opportunities differ for each. The wrap around baffle can be placed above or below the feeder, the torpedo baffle must be placed on a pole below the feeder, and dome hanging baffles are mounted above a feeder.
Like a plastic helmet, the dome hanging baffle’s slick rounded surface makes it impossible for a hungry squirrel to stand on. The dome hanging baffle also offers weather protection to the bird feeder. Hanging baffles should be at least one third bigger than the feeder they cover. Otherwise, it just becomes a slide to the seed for the squirrels.
The Twirl A Squirrel baffle adds a “twist” to the hanging dome baffle, with the addition of a weight activated motor. It turns any hanging feeder into a carousel for unsuspecting squirrels, hilariously twirling them safely to the ground.
Tip #3: Use a Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
There are an amazing variety of bird feeders designed to keep squirrels away from the seed inside. To limit access, some squirrel proof bird feeders use cages with openings designed to be only large enough for birds to fit through.
Some bird feeders utilize a pressure sensitive seed portal or perch, that provides access to birds but closes, breaks away, or spins under the weight of a squirrel.
The best selling Yankee Flipper has a motor driven, battery powered, weight calibrated perch ring that allows birds to eat, but spins squirrels off.
Tip #4: Use a Squirrel Repellent Such as Shake Away or Bobbex
These squirrel repellents use hot and spicy natural ingredients like cayenne and chili peppers to drive squirrels away. Ground white and black pepper are also commonly found in squirrel repellents. These are available as both bird food additives and as deterrents from selected areas. Products like Shake Away use concentrated predator urine, and are sprinkled, sprayed or hung around flower beds and other squirrel free zones. For any squirrel repellent make sure to read the directions carefully as it is sometimes necessary to reapply after a certain amount of time or after a rain.
Bird feed selection can also deter squirrels. Squirrels do not particularly like to eat safflower seed, whereas most backyard birds favor it. Safflower seed is commonly found in many bird seed blends and is a favorite seed of cardinals, chickadees, mourning doves and finches. Likewise, squirrels love black oil sunflower seed. Feeders stocked with this seed will certainly draw the attention of a hungry squirrel.
Startling squirrels is also a good natural deterrent. The ScareCrow Auto Outdoor Animal Deterrent simply chases squirrels out of the backyard with a motion activated squirt of water.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them
Keep your squirrels fat and happily distracted by providing squirrels with their own feeders, stocked with nuts, corn and seed. This will reduce competition for the higher-priced foods offered at bird feeders.
There are many styles of commercially available squirrel feeders, most designed to hold ears of corn – a favorite of squirrels and chipmunks.
Trick squirrel feeders add a spin, twirl, see-saw, bungee or trapeze ride to provide an entertaining challenge for the squirrels. The trick squirrel feeders test the bushy-tailed acrobat’s skill and determination. The Squngee, our most popular trick squirrel feeder, tests the squirrel’s bungee jumping and corn on the cob eating skills.
Locate squirrel feeders far from bird feeders to avoid them crossing over. For more information about attracting and feeding squirrels, please watch this video.