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I now have twenty-five bird feeders in my yard. Squirrels do not get into ANY of them! You might think you have to accept squirrels eating at your feeders. But after many years feeding birds, I have found that you don’t have to give into squirrels. You CAN keep squirrels out of bird feeders.
When a squirrel decides your bird feeder is full of food put out just for him, what can you do? To keep squirrels out of feeders, first pause. Take a breath. Before you chase them away, stop and watch how they are getting into the feeder(s). Think creatively about how to block them and be willing to try a variety solutions.
Solutions I’ve Used Over the Years to Keep Squirrels Out of Feeders
Keep in mind that squirrels can be very tenacious. You may need to try multiple methods to solve the problem. You also need to understand that things change in the yard over time. And this might require a change to a set-up that has been working well for you in the past.
1) Baffle the Feeder to Block Squirrels
Almost every feeder needs a baffle if you want to keep squirrels out. When you buy a feeder, get a baffle for it. Consider it part of the expense of the feeder. If you have squirrels you are going to need it.
A hanging feeder not on a pole almost always needs a well-designed baffle above the feeder. (Exceptions might be feeders filled only with nyjer or a Squirrel Buster feeder.) A hanging baffle needs to be wide enough that a squirrel can’t get around it to get down to the feeder. The Extra Large Hanging Baffles I use and highly recommend are made by Erva. If you need to choose a hanging baffle, see my Best Hanging Squirrel Baffle post.
Exception: I’ve never had to baffle my four nyjer seed tube feeders hanging from tree branches. As far as I can tell, my local squirrels don’t eat nyjer. Keep in mind that if you mix anything else with nyjer – sunflower hearts for example – you’ll need a baffle. Squirrels will be happy to attack your feeder to get the seeds they like from the mix.
If you hang your feeder on a shepherd’s hook pole, you instead need a barrel squirrel or raccoon baffle that attaches to the pole below feeder level. This ensures that squirrels can’t climb up the pole to get to the feeder. The Pole Mounted Squirrel Baffle I use and recommend is another Erva product.
2) Adjust Feeder or the Hooks to Thwart Squirrels
Adjust The Feeder
Sometimes you can adjust a feeder to keep squirrels off. For example, some feeders are designed to close seed ports when a squirrel lands on it. They will come with directions on how to adjust them.
Turn The Feeder
Or if you find that a squirrel is jumping onto the feeder, see if you can to turn the feeder so that landing spot no longer works for the squirrel. (Squirrels are very acrobatic so this is a long shot. But it is possible depending on the specific situation.) This is especially worth trying in cases where the feeder is just at the edge of the squirrel’s jumping distance and you think a small tweak in orientation might get it just out of reach.
Adjust The Hooks
You might also be able to tweak a feeder’s position slightly by adjusting the hook it hangs from. For example, some of my feeders hang on a dual shepherd’s hook pole where you can adjust which way the hooks face. Sometimes moving the hook to a different orientation puts the feeder out of squirrel reach.
3) Cut Tree Branches to Thwart Squirrels
If you’ve baffled your feeder but find a squirrel is jumping out from a nearby branch, consider trimming or cutting off the branch to remove the squirrel’s jumping off point. Keep in mind that squirrels can typically jump eight to ten feet. They might also drop from a greater distance from a branch high above if there is a decent landing spot for them.
Don’t be surprised if a branch that wasn’t a problem last year has grown too close to the feeder this year. This is a case where something that has been working suddenly becomes a problem. You need to consider either cutting the branch or moving the feeder to keep squirrels off it.
4) Move Other Jumping Points to Thwart Squirrels
Watch to see if squirrels are jumping from other spots nearby. It might be a bench or a birdbath or a decorative statue. Move objects out of the eight to ten foot jumping zone to keep squirrels off the feeder. Think of the area around the feeder in a three dimensional bubble. Try to keep that area clear of squirrel launching points.
5) Move the Feeder to Block Squirrels
Get Feeder Out of Jump Zone . . .
Sometimes the best solution is to move the feeder. A feeder under a shady tree can be lovely and surrounding branches can be attractive to birds. But sometimes those same branches are just too good an access point for squirrels and you may not want to cut branches.
Or your feeder might be within jumping distance of something else you can’t move, like your porch railing or garage roof. If squirrels are jumping from something you can’t move, then you probably will need to move the feeder to keep them off.
. . . But Still Close to Cover
Look for a spot still within your sight so you can still enjoy watching birds using it. But don’t put it directly under something a squirrel could drop down from. And it should be at least ten feet from anything a squirrel can jump from.
That said, if you you can locate the feeder within a quick flight of cover (like bushes, tree branches or brush piles), feeder birds will have a better chance of evading predators like Cooper’s Hawks or Sharp-shin Hawks hunting around busy bird feeders.
When birds feel more secure, they are more likely to spend time at your feeders. So obviously, this approach takes some thought and maybe some experimentation to get the right balance.
6) Put Feeder on a Pole to Block Squirrels
Some Feeders NEED To Be On a Pole
While I do have a few feeders hanging from tree branches, I’ve found that some types of feeders really need to be on a pole out of squirrel jumping range.
- In my yard, if you hang a platform feeder or hopper style feeder on a tree branch, you are essentially offering a squirrel buffet. So these feeders go on poles.
- I also put globe and cage tube feeders on poles to keep squirrels from jumping on them and tipping seed out.
- And I’ve finally gotten to the point where all of my suet feeders are on shepherd’s hook poles.
Don’t Skip The Pole Baffle!
If you do put a feeder on a pole, make sure to use a baffle on the pole itself. And when you do, don’t just put the baffle any old place on the pole. Just a few inches off can be the difference between the baffle blocking squirrels or letting them past. See my post about properly positioning a barrel baffle.
Also see my post on Best Way to Hang Suet Feeders. And again, don’t forget to place the pole outside of squirrel jumping range (8 to 10 feet typically.)
7) Get a Different Feeder to Thwart Squirrels
If you can’t move the feeder to another location and don’t want/can’t use a baffle there, consider whether a different feeder would work better in that spot. Buying a different feeder might be expensive, but the right feeder in the right location can save you a lot of money on birdseed (that doesn’t wind up in a squirrel’s belly.) So it can be worth it.
For example, I have two Squirrel Buster Plus feeders that hang from tree limbs. These feeders are designed so a squirrel’s weight on the feeder closes the ports. If they climb on it, they are locked out. I’ve found that as long as the feeder is placed so a squirrel can’t sit on something else to reach to the feeder’s side, they are kept out. The less expensive Squirrel Buster Classic is also a good choice for keeping out squirrels.
I did add Erva disk baffles over these feeders, but only to add extra discouragement so squirrels won’t bother birds with repeated futile attempts to get into the feeders. These are not inexpensive feeders but positioned correctly, I’ve found they keep squirrels out.
8) Use Different Seed or Suet That Squirrels Don’t Like
Sometimes you can deter squirrels by switching to a different seed or using hot pepper suet. If you are lucky enough for this to work, understand that it is probably just a temporary reprieve.
Maybe Safflower . . .
While squirrels in my yard prefer sunflower seed and peanuts, they will eat anything they can reach (except nyjer so far) if hungry enough. When I first started putting safflower in some of my feeders, squirrels shunned it. But now they’ve adjusted so that they will readily eat safflower. But your squirrels might (at first at least) be pickier, so it is worth a try.
Maybe Hot Pepper Suet . . .
My local squirrels are not fans of the hot pepper type of commercial suet. They typically avoid it most of the year, but in mid-winter they will eat it if they are hungry enough.
Not convinced? See my post on A Seed Squirrels Won’t Eat?
9) Feed Squirrels to Distract Them From Bird Feeders
Another approach is to set up a squirrel feeding station at a distance from the bird feeders. The idea is to keep them busy over there instead of in your feeders.
I tried this for a couple years, by hanging an old bird feeder that was not squirrel proof right against a small tree’s main trunk so they could easily get into it. I filled it with black oil sunflower seed bought in bulk. This was cheaper than the safflower and hulled sunflower hearts I was using in my bird feeders. I also experimented with some squirrel foods as well.
I have mixed feelings about this approach. It reduced pressure on the bird feeders because squirrels were mostly happy to go with this easiest to get into feeder. But I was still paying to feed squirrels.
I also think the easy food source increased squirrel numbers in my yard and they were still getting into the bird feeders. Once I got my bird feeders set up to keep squirrels out, I stopped feeding squirrels. (I made the switch in the summer when they had plenty of access to other food.) That’s worked better for me.
But lots of people really enjoy squirrel antics and find feeding them to be fun. I must admit that now that squirrels are no longer in my bird feeders, I enjoy them much more.
Watch & Experiment!
There are multiple ways to keep squirrels out of feeders. Think of it like a puzzle to be solved. Start by watching to see how they are getting to your feeders. Then consider your options.
Some approaches will cost more than others. So you may want to consider the free options first (like moving an existing feeder for example.) But do keep in mind that spending $100 or more on a feeder and a baffle and/or pole might actually save you many hundreds of dollars in birdseed.
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