Last Updated on June 9, 2021 by Nancie
The best way to protect a hanging bird feeder from squirrels is to hang it on a pole with a squirrel pole baffle. But if you just stick the pole anywhere and put the squirrel baffle on wrong, squirrels can get in. There is a right way to hang a feeder on a pole! Here is what you need to know.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
In This Post:
- Hang a Feeder on a Pole & Baffle It!
- Why Getting Squirrel Baffle Placement Right in Important
- Erva Pole and Squirrel Baffle I Use
- A Pole Squirrel Baffle is a Must!
Hang a Feeder on a Pole & Baffle It!
When I bought my first hanging platform feeder, I naively hung it from a tree branch. Squirrels immediately took it over. The clear plastic dome “baffle” hung over it was more of a rain guard. It didn’t block squirrels.
To get squirrels out of this hanging platform feeder, I purchased an Erva dual shepherd’s hook pole and barrel pole baffle. This type of squirrel baffle is a long hollow tube open at the bottom. Some pole baffles have a more pointed torpedo shaped top; these are flat-topped.
Squirrels can jump, so the first step for success is to put the pole in a good spot. So I positioned the pole so it was at least ten feet from the nearest squirrel jumping off point. I slid the baffle down onto the pole, put the arms on the pole and hung the feeder. (More detail on this in just a bit.)
All went well at first. For several weeks after moving the feeder to it, the baffled pole thwarted squirrels. Because I’d positioned it correctly, squirrels could not jump to it.
I watched them easily climb the thin metal pole only to get stopped up inside the squirrel baffle. They would then slide down fireman style, peer up at the feeder and try a few more times before moving on. I will admit to an uncharitable feeling of glee that I was able to (apparently) defeat them.
Why Getting Squirrel Baffle Placement Right in Important
But then one day one of the squirrels figured out how to get around the squirrel baffle. Why the change? It was because of the baffle’s placement on the pole.
The Squirrel Pole Baffle Falls
The day before I had heard a thump outside. Looking out the window, I saw that the baffle had slid down to the ground. How did this happen?
This particular pole baffle is held in place by a metal collar ring you secure to the pole with flat bottomed screws. The supplied screws don’t actually go into the square-sided pole. They are just tightened snugly up against it on four sides. Then you slide the baffle itself up onto the pole from the top so that it rests on this collar.
This collar ring had come loose (probably because it had been hand-tightened when we first put up the pole.) It slid down, with the baffle right behind it. (I don’t know if a squirrel was in the baffle when it went down, but I suspect a very surprised squirrel took a ride to the ground in it.)
Putting the Baffle Back On the Pole Incorrectly
So I took the feeders down, took off the pole’s arms and slid the baffle off over the top of the pole. Then I reattached the metal collar ring (see photo), tightening the screws with a screwdriver this time. Then I put it all back together again.
When I did this, I unintentionally put the ring about two inches higher on the pole than it had originally had been. This made the baffle hang that much higher. It was such a small difference, who would have thought it would matter?
But now the clever squirrel could climb the pole to the point just below the baffle. From this point, he could jump up almost vertically to grab the edge of the platform feeder and scramble inside.
Fixing the Pole’s Squirrel Baffle Placement
Once I saw this acrobatic trick the next day, I went back out and took the whole thing apart again. Realizing the problem, I lowered the baffle to where it had been previously. I also took off the short hook I originally used to let the platform feeder hang a few inches lower.
With these changes, the baffle now extends about two inches lower and the platform feeder hangs about three inches higher. That did it. No more squirrels in the hanging feeder on the pole!
Erva Pole and Squirrel Baffle I Use
My pole is an Erva premium dual shepherd’s staff pole. Made of galvanized steel, it has a baked-on finish and two removable arms. (It is made in the United States from auto industry scrap which is kind of cool.) It shouldn’t rust and ought to hold up well over the years. The Erva barrel squirrel baffle (also galvanized steel) was purchased separately at the same time from my local bird store, Mother Nature’s. (2021 Update: Almost six years later and the pole and baffle are still doing great!)
Poles this long are awkward to ship, so you’ll probably want to purchase them locally if you can. Erva’s website has a store locator if you want to find their products in your local area.
How to Set Up the Pole and Squirrel Baffle
This particular Erva shepard’s hook pole comes in three pieces. The central pole has an attached H-shaped horizontal footer bar at the bottom to hold it level in the ground. Then there are two separate hook arms that slide into slots on the top section of the pole (see photo above.)
This set-up allows you to slide barrel-type squirrel baffles over the top of the pole when the arms are off. (Some shepherds hook poles have fixed curved tops and a wide bottom anchor that don’t allow this type of baffle to slide over the pole.) As you can see, the pole and arms are squared-off four-sided lengths of metal)
Baffle Placement By the Numbers
The two pole arms are actually the same size. The slots for them are on two levels however, so the result is that one hangs higher than the other. When the pole is in the ground, the higher arm’s hook winds up being roughly 82” off the ground. The hook end of the lower pole is about 74” off the ground. (Note: There is an additional length of pole at the bottom beyond the horizontal stabilizing band that is underground.)
The bottom of the hanging platform feeder is 62” off the ground. The lowest point of the suet/nut block feeder is 58” off the ground. Place the pole 8-10 feet horizontally from anything a squirrel could use as a base to jump to the feeders, bypassing the squirrel baffle. Erva’s website says that squirrels can also jump 4 feet vertically.
The squirrel barrel baffle is about 14 1/4” tall. I positioned the bottom of the baffle to be about 44” off the ground. So the top is 58 1/2” off the ground. (Note: Erva makes even longer pole baffles to deter raccoons, as well as baffles that will fit on a 4” x 4” post.)
Note: If you have any trouble with grackles or starlings using a flat-topped barrel baffle top to get to an upside-down suet feeder, there is a fairly easy fix. See Nuisance Birds Use Baffles to Get Suet. And if you have issues with poles leaning, check out my Stop Bird Feeder Pole Leaning post.
Pole Height vs Feeder Height
If you are considering this type of pole, think about exactly what you want to hang on it. Measure the feeder’s height, including any additional height for hooks or weather guard you’ll be using. Make sure the feeder will be far enough off the ground to deter squirrels.
This height is currently working for the feeders I’m using. If I put a taller feeder on the lower arm, I might try lowering the baffle to provide more space between the baffle bottom and the feeder bottom.
Alternatively, if you are using this particular pole, Erva makes pole arm extensions. These let you adjust these pole’s shepherd’s hooks to be higher if needed. I’ve now added extensions to several Erva poles now to give me more flexibility.
A Pole Squirrel Baffle is a Must!
Definitely get a squirrel baffle when you get a pole because squirrels can easily climb them. Keep in mind that some poles are round, while others are square. Get a baffle designed to work with the type and diameter of your pole.
If your pole doesn’t allow a baffle to slide over the top or bottom, look instead for a pole baffle that wraps around the pole. If what you find is a disk type squirrel baffle rather than a barrel type, choose a really wide one that the squirrels will have trouble getting around.
Baffling feeders is part of backyard bird feeding. If you put out food in your yard, you have to be realistic. Other critters will come to the party too. Setting up your feeders thoughtfully can save you a lot of money on bird seed and a lot of aggravation!
For more on squirrels, see my post on Solving Squirrel Bird Feeder Problems.
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