Placing a bird feeder in your backyard will benefit the local bird population, especially during winter. There is nothing more beautiful than waking up in the morning and watching your favorite birds while sipping a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, other animals like squirrels can steal food from birds and steal the show. In this article, we’ll go over 8 natural ways to keep squirrels away from bird feeders.
Naturally, you want to protect the food from your birds but at the same time, do it in a way that doesn’t hurt squirrels. Luckily, there are natural ways to do that. You have plenty of options to try out, from placing a bird feeder away from trees or putting grease on poles that hold the feeders to feeding squirrels at another location.
My wife and I love to have birds and squirrels around our new house and researched the best ways to make them share our backyard. We found 8 natural ways to keep squirrels away from bird feeders.
1. Place the Bird Feeder Away From Trees
Squirrels are adorable, but they are also little rascals with the ability to make a mess in your yard. They too have to eat, but maybe not your bird food.
The first step in deflecting squirrels from bird feeders is to remove the feeder from a tree. Squirrels are incredibly agile tree climbers who jump around like magic and use thick branches and holes in the trees as hiding places.
If you remove the feeder from their preferable space and place it into an open area, you will make it a bit less attractive and more challenging to get on. This step is insufficient by itself, but it will work very well when combined with other methods in this list.
2. Fill the Bird Feeder With Seeds and Food Squirrels Don’t Like
Although they can eat insects if they are really hungry, most squirrels are vegetarian. They especially like nuts, such as walnuts and peanuts. So, if you have any of these in your bird feeder, they will hang out there.
Luckily, there are seeds that squirrels detest and you still will attract specific birds.
If you are not too picky about the type of birds you want to have in your yard, you can try seeds that squirrels detest and hopefully get the birds that like them. Here is the list of seeds/food that squirrels don’t like and the corresponding birds that enjoy those seeds:
|Type of Seed/Food||Birds that like these seeds|
|Nyjer seed||Sparrows, doves, quails, towhees, finches, and buntings|
|White proso millet||Sparrows, doves, quails, towhees, juncos, and cardinals|
|Safflower seed||Sparrows, doves, grosbeaks, chickadees, and downy woodpeckers|
|Canary seed||Sparrows and cowbirds|
Mixing seeds with capsaicin
An additional option is to buy or make food with capsaicin.
Capsaicin is the ingredient of hot peppers, and it causes that burning feeling and taste in our mouth when we eat it. Capsaicin has the same effect on the majority of mammals, including squirrels.
Buying seeds spiced up with it will make the squirrels run away from the food. According to the Humane Society, birds are not affected by it, and it does them no harm.
It will not harm the squirrels either, but the smell and taste will drive them away.
Using these seeds will pretty much guarantee that squirrels stay away from your bird feeders. However, it does limit the type of bird you can attract. For example, this wouldn’t work with Robins. I recently learn that Robins love berries, which is also a favorite of squirrels.
So, to attract other type of birds, you may have to try one or more of the following methods.
3. Install a Squirrel Baffle
If you removed the bird feeder from a tree, you probably have it installed on a pole to hold it above ground. These poles are great for creating some distance between birds and predators like cats.
The problem is that squirrels are excellent climbers, and they can go up and down that pole fast. To stop it, you can install a squirrel baffle, which is typically made out of metal and look like a small umbrella.
Position them under the feeder, and the squirrel will not be able to go around it. You can even install an additional one above the feeder to discourage squirrels from jumping from nearby trees.
This video below shows a successful working example from a bird lover who has been using it for 3 years:
4. Install DIY Obstacles Around Pole Holding the Bird Feeder
A squirrel baffle is great, but you can add more obstacles to make it extra safe.
Use materials that are hard to hold on to. For example, you can place a very loose spring or slinky underneath the baffle. The weight of the squirrel will make him go down, and will have a hard time climbing. And even if it gets to outsmart the slinky, then he has to deal with the baffle.
Use your imagination, and create an obstacle course. It can be a fun family project, not harmful for squirrels, but effective. And fun to watch when they try to climb.
But if you try the slinky alone, it may not be sufficient. As the video below shows, squirrels are way too smart, and they end up figuring it out.
5. Buy a Weight-Sensitive Bird Feeder
Some feeders are built so that if too much pressure is applied, the door will close. There is a simple spring controlling it, and if you have the tools, you can even make one yourself.
When the bird lands, the bird can safely eat, but when the much heavier squirrel appears, the food compartment’s door will close, and the squirrel won’t be able to steal it.
As we can see in the video below, this type of feeder works pretty well, but these smart squirrels still manage to get some seeds. Ultimately they go away because they don’t get enough for the effort.
6. Rub Grease/Oil Onto the Bird Feeder Pole
In case it wasn’t clear, squirrels are natural-born climbers. To disable their attempts and deflect them from climbing a bird feeder pole, you can take any edible grease or oil and cover the pole with it.
Just make sure it is environmentally friendly and avoid using any motor oil for it. Squirrels will try to climb a greasy or oily pole and simply slide down because they will lack a firm grip.
Squirrels are very persistent, though. You can do it daily until they give up because rain and their fur can remove the grease and make the pole good for climbing again.
7. Install a Motion-Activated Sprinkler
This option is a bit more expensive than the options above. You can buy one of these motion activated sprinklers made especially for scaring various animals away.
Position the device and the motion sensor at an adequate distance from the bird feeder. When the squirrel or other animal activates the device, the water will sprinkle them and scare them away. Just make sure you install it in a proper location, not to sprinkle the birds.
The video below demonstrates one of these motion-activated sprinklers targeting deer eating a household garden. This will also work for other animals, including wild rabbits.
8. Feed Squirrels at Another Location
If you can’t beat them, make friends with them. Let’s face it, they are not going away, and squirrels have to eat too, especially those living in urban areas where their natural habitat is declining.
Place a squirrel feeder that will be easily accessible and filled with nuts and seeds. Just make sure it is not too close to your house.
Squirrels love to hide and run from cover to cover. Having your yard full of different items, lush vegetation, and bushes actually attract them. If you add seeds fallen from a bird seeder into this situation, squirrels will arrive in no time.
If you don’t want squirrels around, use one of these methods above and clean the ground from seed leftovers, and the squirrels won’t have a reason to spend time in your yard.