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When I hung suet feeders from a tree branch, I learned some tricks to keep squirrels off them: use the right baffle and locate them carefully. Anyone who has tried to thwart squirrels knows this is a tricky process because squirrels are clever and tenacious. But I can be just as tenacious!
These days, I hang my suet feeders on baffled poles because a raccoon was eating my suet. But before that, I hung suet feeders from a large tree branch. By using extra large Erva baffles, I was able to keep squirrels off them. At that time I was using traditional cage suet feeders starling proofed with plastic.
The suet feeders were hung from a branch using long shepherd’s hooks and chains. (Note: I’ve purchased hooks and chains in a variety of shapes and configurations at various times. As I move feeders around, I swap hooks around. So here, I used a combination of hooks and chains originally purchased for hanging these and other feeders.)
How A Baffle Keeps Squirrels Off
Before I added the baffles, squirrels nimbly climbed down the hook and/or chain attaching the suet cage to the limb. Then they hung from the underside of the feeder cage to get at the open bottom side. They were basically cradling the feeder cage on their stomach as they dangled.
A very wide metal baffle prevents access from above. If they climb down, they can’t get around the baffle. When a squirrel lands on it, it tips just a bit. The squirrel can’t use it as a secure perch to hang from the edge. It is too close for the squirrel to leap around the baffle edge onto the feeder. They usually wind up either falling off or climbing back up to the tree limb. (If you need to choose a hanging baffle, be sure to see my post on Best Hanging Squirrel Baffle.)
If they want to get to the feeder, they have to instead leap out sideways from the tree’s trunk which is a trickier prospect. Not impossible, but harder. Squirrels can jump up to eight to ten feet horizontally. So the feeder needs to be at least that far from the trunk or any other squirrel launching point.
Positioning the Baffle Correctly
It is important to get the baffle position correct. If you leave too much space between the feeder and baffle, a squirrel may be able to bypass the baffle by jumping onto the feeder from the side.
The tree limb I was hanging these feeders from is pretty high. On my first try at this (above), I hung a shepherd’s hook from a tree limb. Then I attached the baffle, then added another long hook and/or chain and then finally the feeder. This created a wide space above the baffle and another between the baffle and the feeder dangling below.
I soon realized that this put the feeders too far below the baffles. If the baffle is instead very close, squirrels have to nail the landing so that they land on the suet feeder and not on top of the baffle just above it.
So I rearranged things, using long shepherd’s hooks and chains, then the baffle and then finally the feeder. This left a very wide space from branch to baffle but only a couple inches from baffle to feeder.
This made it very challenging for them to jump horizontally onto the feeders. My branch only allowed six feet from the trunk, so they could do it, but it took many attempts. (I watched one squirrel make repeated tries at it for the better part of an hour and finally give up.)
See? I’m as tenacious as any squirrel! If you use a really good baffle and position things carefully, you can keep squirrels off suet hung from a tree branch.
Also see my post on “Keep Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders” for more tips on dealing with squirrels.
Note: The core of this post was originally a side topic inside Where To Hang Suet Feeders. I split it out to streamline the original post and make this information on setting up baffles easier to locate.
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