Many of us who feed wild birds have had months—even years-long feuds—with squirrels. To be honest, engaging in such a petty struggle with small animals can be a little demoralizing. But what choice do we have? These bushy-tailed tree-dwellers are tough to keep out of bird feeders. To truly baffle squirrels and reserve your birdseed for birds only, you’re going to need—well, a baffle.
What is a Squirrel Baffle?
You may have tried hot pepper seed blend, greased up your bird feeder pole (please don’t try it—it’s not safe for birds), or tested any number of wild ideas to vanquish the squirrels at your bird feeder. You may have looked into bird feeders that are squirrel proof or squirrel resistant. But for those of us with a regular old bird feeder—who aren’t in the market for a new one—our best option is a baffle.
Think of a squirrel baffle (or squirrel guard) as a protective shield for your bird feeder. These bird feeder accessories are typically round, clear, strong plastic domes to be mounted atop your bird feeder—or below it on a pole. Because squirrels can’t grip their tiny paws on the slippery plastic, they slide right off when they try to climb it to reach the bird seed. It’s one of the best options available for protecting your bird feeder and seed.
Why Use a Squirrel Baffle?
If you love squirrels and don’t mind sharing your birdseed with them—you’re not alone. In fact, plenty of backyard bird feeders love feeding squirrels as well. There are even feeders specifically designed to satisfy squirrels.
But most people who set out to feed birds and discover they’ve been feeding squirrels aren’t exactly thrilled. Not only will squirrels cost you money in “wasted” seed, but they can damage bird feeders that are less than squirrel-proof.
Let’s back up and consider what squirrels are capable of. A grey squirrel—your typical North American variety—is able to:
- Jump 9 feet horizontally
- Jump 4 feet vertically
- Chew through wood, plastic and even aluminum
That means that no matter how high you hang your feeder, a squirrel could easy jump to it from a nearby tree. There’s even a chance that a determined squirrel could chew right through your bird feeder! Feeders made of high-grade plastics with metal ports will withstand a squirrel’s onslaught, but that doesn’t mean the seed is safe from pilfering. Squirrels learn through trial and error that a good jostling of the feeder is all they need for an instant reward.
How to Install a Squirrel Baffle (Above or Below the Feeder?)
A common question about baffles is whether they should be attached above or below the bird feeder. The answer is entirely dependent on how squirrels are currently getting to your feeder. Are they jumping on top from a nearby tree? Try a baffle above the feeder. Are squirrels climbing the pole that your bird feeder hangs from? Place a baffle below your feeder, on the pole.
See also: Where to Hang Seed Feeders for Birds
If you are not sure how squirrels are reaching your feeder, spend some time observing your feeding station. Given squirrels’ acrobatic abilities, you may want to start troubleshooting the squirrel problem by moving the feeding station away from trees, fences or other structures that squirrels can leap from.
Types of Squirrel Baffles
There are so many different types of baffles on the market that choosing one can be overwhelming. Just remember to use the knowledge you gained while observing how squirrels access your bird feeder. Often, it’s wise to employ multiple strategies. Don’t be afraid to get creative with combinations of feeder placement, bird food type and baffle type. Installed properly, most types of baffles will get the job done.
Built-in Squirrel Baffles
Many large-capacity bird feeders will have a built-in baffle atop the feeding area. An added benefit to having your baffle above your feeder is that seed will be protected from rain, snow and wind. Some feeders with built-in baffles will allow for adjustable height. This feature can be doubly helpful when dealing with large bully birds at your feeders.
Dome Shaped Squirrel Baffles
Dome baffles are highly effective at keeping squirrels from accessing a bird feeder. Typically made of strong, clear plastic, you can be attach them above or below your feeder. Because dome baffles are usually clear, some people find them more aesthetically pleasing than other types of baffles.
Cone Shaped Squirrel Baffles
Cone baffles are another popular option that work similarly to dome baffles. They are usually made of lower quality materials and are less durable than your average dome baffle. Look for a model that’s at least 18 inches in diameter to ensure squirrels can’t climb it.
Platform or Disk Squirrel Baffles
Flat baffles in the shape of disks can be effective if squirrels are only attacking from above. Placed below your feeder, this type of baffle may actually assist squirrels in reaching your feeder because of the flat design.
Cylinder or Tube Shaped Squirrel Baffles
Cylindrical squirrel baffles can be attached to a bird feeder pole below the feeder. The logic behind them is to widen the pole’s girth, keeping squirrels from climbing up to the feeder. Adding this type of baffle and moving your feeder far from trees and jumpable objects can be a highly effective way to deal with pesky squirrels.
Homemade Squirrel Baffles
DIY can be a fun way to go if you have the time and you’re good with your hands. The problem is that may online tutorials will help you produce squirrel baffles that are largely ineffective. One popular, affordable method is to retrofit an old plastic bowl as a baffle. Simply drill a hole into the base of the bowl hang it above your feeder. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s not a huge loss.
If you’re ready to end your quarrels with these bushy-tailed rodents, it’s time to take a stand. Most squirrels are no match for a well-placed, high quality baffle.
Check out these additional tips for squirrel-proofing your bird feeder: