10 NATURAL TIPS TO KEEP SQUIRRELS AWAY FROM YOUR BIRD FEEDER

I’ve seen many bird feeder videos uploaded by clients. It’s always exciting to see cardinals and chickadees fly in, peck away n’ fly out.  But … 20% of the guests that sneak into the feeder are gate-crashing.

Cute as they are, and almost cartoon-like adorable, squirrels can be a menace to your bird feeders as well as a house intruder.

They don’t just covet bird seeds. If they find a food source, they can go further and infiltrate any crevice that can give them entry to your house: chimneys, windows, garages. Once in the woodwork, they’ll start chewing away. 

Now - there is no cause for alarm! Yes, it’s inconvenient. That’s why we're here - to guide you through this phenomenon! No need to poison them, place glue traps or take any other inhumane measures. Squirrels are also the children of nature- all we have to do is give them something else to think about.

Here’s how.

1. The acrobatic revenge

If you are blessed with a good sized backyard, place a sturdy rope or wire between two trees or between a pole and another hanging port. Suspend your bird feeder far from each end - of course in a place where you have a good view from your window. This way the squirrels will have to do some cirque-du soleil training, because walking that rope ain’t easy. Agile as they are with their paws, it is very hard for them to balance. Mind you, it’s also entertaining to see! Professional acrobats they are not, so at some point they will give up walking the tightrope as a career and leave your bird feeders! 

2. Location

A squirrel-proof bird feeder placed in the center of your window should also do the job. Squirrels won't jump distances of 10 feet or more, so placing them right in the middle of a large window should do the trick. Generally, it’s good to hang your feeders far from trees, clothes lines, porches, gutters, roofs and any other jumping-off points that will give them a way to reach the bird feeders. 

3. Poles

If you have your bird feeder on a pole, make sure the pole is made of smooth metal with the bird feeder at least six feet high and away from any launching points such as trees, bushes, porches etc. Squirrels cannot jump more than 5 feet up in the air, 10 feet across from one point to another and for anything that is higher than 10 feet, they’ll just sigh and walk away.
If your poles are not slippery, covering them with layers of plastic or even cooking oil will help.

Stay away from chemicals like glue, grease or anything sticky. Some advise using petroleum jelly - this is a myth in need of debunking.  These substances can get on the squirrels’ fur which could cause it to bunch together and leave them unprotected from the cold. Also, these substances have been proven hazardous for the squirrels if ingested while grooming themselves.

So be safe and even inventive in keeping the poles slippery like this creative person! 

4. Squirrel baffles

You can get a squirrel baffle in most hardware stores. They are designed to - you guessed it - baffle squirrels. The idea is that it will stop squirrels from reaching your bird feeder. Smooth baffles, which are plastic or metal contraptions placed above and below bird feeders, seem to work well. The baffles should be at least 15-20 inches wide to stop the squirrels from reaching the bird feeder. They usually rock or tilt when stepped on, giving these acrobatic nuisances a real challenge  - after which they often fall and give up. Again, entertaining to watch!

5. Red Hot Squirrel Peppers

All mammals are affected by chilli flakes - including squirrels. Peppers contain a compound called capsaicin which is the spicy ingredient. This only affects the squirrels (and us, if we’re not into spicy food!) But birds are not sensitive to chilli at all, their beaks simply bypass it and find the good stuff - they can eat it all day without feeling the heat. So sprinkle it in your bird feeder with no worries! Mix chilli powder in your bird seed to deter them. And a light sprinkle of cayenne pepper on the ground under the feeder should also encourage them to keep them away.

6. Clean grounds

Keep the surroundings of your bird feeder clean and free of fallen seeds and fruit. Anything spilled on the ground from the bird feeder is a squirrel invitation  - this is one of their main food sources. It also helps the birds to avoid disease and contamination if they don’t peck at the debris.

7. Cages: Kill two birds - by saving them

Any cage with slats too small for the squirrels to sneak in through will do the trick. The slats of course will be big enough for the invited guests to nibble on the seeds inside. And you’re “killing two birds” as you are also preventing competition from bullies such as starlings, grackles and pigeons as well as keeping the squirrels out. 

8. Hot seeds

While squirrels are not fussy about birdseed, there are some varieties they are less attracted to such as nyjer and safflower seeds, which don’t taste as great, as they are rather bitter. That, together with the hot pepper, will be a double weapon. But goldfinches, chickadees and titmice, for instance, will be in heaven. 

Check out this squirrel saying no to safflower seeds:

9. Plant flowers squirrels dislike

Plant flowers that smell beautiful for us but unpleasant for them. Squirrels dislike the smell of daffodils, hyacinths, allium, lily of the valley, peppermint and geranium. Plant them in your garden, and the squirrels will get the message. Some recommend soaking cotton wool with peppermint oil, or spraying hard surfaces with apple vinegar spray or garlic and vinegar spray  - but these are things that need constant renewal. I am more for less effort and more effect. 

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10. If you can’t beat ’em, feed ‘em

Create the squirrels’ own feeding area away from your bird feeder, with their favourite foods to attract them. Bird feeders with a mix of cracked corn are less attractive to them, which will help to direct them to their own separate feeder.

Keep it humane!

If all else fails, you can always call up your local wildlife authorities to set up humane traps. Methods change, and their guidelines must be adhered too. 

It may seem like they are little kamikazes intent on attacking our resources, but at the end of the day, squirrels are forest creatures looking to feed on natural resources, and to them, any wood, whether a tree or a garage door is the same! No need to kill them or treat them inhumanely. We must coexist with nature. 

At the end of the day - it’s win-win. 

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