Last Updated on
The best way to protect a hanging bird feeder from squirrels is to hang it on a pole with a squirrel 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.
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 baffle. This type of squirrel baffle is a long hollow tube open at the bottom.
Squirrels can jump so the first step for success is to put the pole in a good spot. So when I got it home, I positioned the pole so it was at least ten feet from the nearest squirrel jumping off point. I slide the baffle 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 this 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) to defeat them.
Get Squirrel Baffle Placement Right
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 placement.
The Squirrel 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. It is held in place by a metal ring you secure to the pole with supplied flat bottomed screws. The screws don’t actually go into the square-sided pole. They are just tightened snugly up against it on four sides.
This 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.)
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 ring, 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.
Fix Pole 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 was using to let the platform feeder hang a few inches lower.
Now the baffle 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!
The Pole & Squirrel Baffle I Use
My pole is an Erva dual shepherd’s hook pole made of galvanized steel with a baked on finish and two 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 barrel squirrel baffle (also galvanized steel) was purchased separately at the same time from my local bird store, Mother Nature’s. .
Poles this long are awkward to ship, so you’ll probably want to purchase them locally. Erva’s website has a store locator if you want to find their products in your local area.
How to Set Up the Pole & Squirrel Baffle
This particular pole comes in three pieces. The central pole has an attached horizontal footer bar at the bottom to hold it level in the ground. Then there are two separate 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 poles have 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.
The Numbers: The two 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. (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 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. (Erva makes even longer 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. Check out my post on Nuisance Birds Use Baffles to Get Suet.
Pole Height vs Feeder Height
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.
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. If you are using this particular pole, Erva makes extensions. These let you adjust these pole’s shepherd’s hooks to be higher if needed.
A Pole Squirrel Baffle is a Must!
Definitely get a squirrel baffle when you get a pole because squirrels can easily climb them. 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 baffle that wraps around the pole. If this is a disk type squirrel baffle, 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!
Want to read more about birds? Subscribe at the bottom of the page. You’ll get an email whenever a new post goes up (and only then. Promise!) Or Find Birdseed & Binoculars on Pinterest!