Squirrels are relentless in their endeavors to steal your birdseed. Regardless of brand or model, a squirrel-proof bird feeder may not be quite enough to keep these marauders at bay. While squirrel-resistant feeders are thoughtfully designed to deter squirrels, they are only “squirrel-proof” when used properly.
These tips are geared towards the setup of squirrel-proof bird feeders to make them as effective as possible, but they may also be helpful when using other styles of bird feeders. Squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and other critters vary by area. A little trial and error may be needed before you find the right tactics for your unique backyard.
Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder Placement
After purchasing a squirrel-proof feeder, you’ll need to hang it in an ideal location for it to reach its full squirrel-deterring potential. Squirrels can jump from over 8 feet horizontally and up to 4 feet vertically. To make matters more complicated, they commonly use trees, fences and other nearby surfaces as launchpads. It’s crucial to consider distance from surrounding objects when placing your bird feeder.
You should try to hang your feeder at least 8 feet from anything else in your yard, and at least 4 feet off the ground. This means that hanging your feeder from a tree may not be ideal, since squirrels can easily leap from nearby branches. A free-standing bird feeder pole is the perfect solution to this problem since you can position it exactly where it will work best. A pole can also be moved if conditions change or the lawn needs to be mowed.
See also: Where to Hang Seed Feeders for Birds
When placing your bird feeder, you should also consider the needs of birds. Birds are often skittish. They feel more comfortable feeding when there is shelter nearby that they can flee to if a predator arrives. That means you’ll need to place your feeder far enough from objects that a squirrel can’t make the leap, but close enough to trees, bushes or other shelters so that birds feel at ease. Keeping your feeder within 15 to 20 feet of shelter for birds is ideal for their safety.
Pole-mounting or Hanging Your Bird Feeder
Depending on the style of your squirrel-proof feeder, you may be able to mount it at the top of a pole. The great height will make it difficult for squirrels to access it, especially when installed far from other objects.
Not all feeders can be mounted, so sure to check your feeder to make sure it will work with your plans. Shepherd’s hooks are a popular alternative because they can be used with feeders intended for hanging, like the Droll Yankees® Yankee Flipper®.
The Yankee Flipper is a motorized, weight-activated bird feeder that sends squirrels flying when weight is applied to its perch ring.
When hanging your feeder from a shepherd’s hook pole, the bottom of the feeder should be 4 feet off the ground. The pole should be smooth and not have ridges or indentations. Squirrels are nimble enough to use almost anything they can grip to climb, so this is very important.
It may be tempting to lubricate your bird feeder pole to make it even more difficult for squirrels to climb. You should never put lubricant on or around your feeder, as many oils can cause significant harm to birds. They may even render them incapable of flight.
Using the Right Seed for Your Feeder
For a squirrel-proof bird feeder to live up to its name, using the seed it was designed to dispense is crucial. Most squirrel-proof feeders require the use of larger seed so you can avoid having it spill out from ports excessively. Typically, sunflower seed or large mixed seed blends are ideal for most squirrel-proof bird feeders, but check the packaging or product details page to be sure.
Other Squirrel Deterrents
If you don’t own a squirrel-proof bird feeder, or if your squirrels are exceptionally talented at accessing food, you may need to further improve security. The good news is that there are additional squirrel deterrents you can use alongside your squirrel-proof feeder.
Use a Baffle
Baffles are a simple addition to your bird feeding setup that can help to foil even the most determined squirrels. A baffle is a domed or conical barrier placed either above or below your bird feeder to protect it from hungry squirrels.
When using a bird feeder pole, you can mount the baffle directly to the pole, below the feeder. Hanging your baffle above the feeder will deflect squirrels leaping onto the feeder from above. These squirrel-proofing accessories are highly effective at keeping squirrels out of bird feeders. They are too smooth for squirrels to grip, and eventually squirrels tend to give up on trying to scale them altogether.
Spike Your Seed
Another popular addition to keep squirrels out is bird seed spiked with cayenne pepper. You can purchase seed that has already been treated with this spice or add your own to your bird seed. Birds are unaffected by capsaicin, the chemical that makes food spicy, meaning they will be unbothered by the addition. Squirrels, however, will immediately notice the difference and begin seeking other food sources.
Offer a Different Food Source
If you can’t beat ‘em, feed ‘em! Sometimes, the simplest solution to squirrel trouble is to offer them their own food source, far away from your bird feeders. Without disturbing the birds, squirrels can enjoy cracked corn, peanuts and other favorites out of a specialized squirrel feeder. Just be sure to offer unsalted, unflavored snacks to keep these critters healthy.
Dealing with Squirrel Damage to Your Feeder
With proper bird feeder placement, you shouldn’t run into issues with squirrel damage to your bird feeder. If damage does occur, you do have a few options.
Droll Yankees bird feeders have a lifetime squirrel damage warranty. If the feeder is damaged to the extent that it is no longer effective, Droll Yankees will replace or repair the feeder for at no charge to you.
If your bird feeder is not a Droll Yankees feeder, you still have options. MoreBirds.com offers low-cost replacement parts for More Birds, Squirrel-X and Droll Yankees bird feeders. If you don’t see the part you need on our website, you can call us at 1-800-352-9164 and we may be able to help.