At first glance, how could squirrels be anything but cute & fuzzy? With their bushy tails, cute little noses, big black eyes, and those little paws- picking up and holding food in an almost human-like manner- who wouldn’t see them and instantly fall in love? To watch their acrobatic antics as they chase one another around the yard, scurrying up trees and across fences, branches and wires is just plain cuteness overload.
Or so it seems… If you’ve ever had these little bundles of cuteness invade your bird feeders and devour all of the birdseed and suet that you worked so hard to provide for the birds, then you know first hand what pests these critters can be. Maybe they’ve even destroyed your bird feeders, gnawing through the plastic to get at the seed inside; I’ve had many feeders ruined this way. They’ve uprooted my flowers and dug holes in my gardens while burying their nuts for the winter as well. Not so cute anymore, are they?
If you’re passionate about feeding your backyard birds like I am, then you understand how frustrating it can be to deal with squirrels. There are many types of squirrel deterrents on the market, some work better than others, but I ‘m not sure that any of them repel all squirrels 100% of the time. Each type seems to work for a short time, but squirrels are clever and persistent, and almost always figure out a way around them. Squirrels are extremely agile and can climb up almost any pole or post, and can easily jump from a nearby tree, fence or window sill. Experts recommend that you place your feeders in an area with at least 10 feet (3 m) of clearance on all sides, as squirrels can jump up from the ground 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8 m), horizontally 8 feet (2.4 m) from a nearby fence or tree, and 11 feet (3.8 m) down to your feeder from a roof or tree branch. Watching them attempt and fail at these feats can be quite comical and entertaining in itself, until they succeed and land on your feeder, emptying it, all the while preventing your songbirds from eating.
Listed below are some of the most common squirrel deterrents.
- Squirrel Baffles– These are available in a variety of styles, including domes, cones and tubes. Our squirrels have figured out how to get around the domes, and I have yet to try the cones. You can easily make an inexpensive tube baffle with a 5-gallon bucket purchased from your local home improvement store. Simply cut off the top 3 inches (7.6 cm) or so, the part with the handle and any ridges, drill a hole the size of your pole or cut a square the size of your post in the bottom of the bucket, invert it and attach it to your pole or post at least 4 feet (1.2 m) off the ground, preferably right under the feeder. Squirrels will climb up the pole and under the bucket but will not be able to get around it. They will try with all their might though, and probably chew up the edges thinking they can eat their way through it. Ours lasted for years and actually did quite a good job of keeping them at bay.
- Slinky– Yes, the child’s toy. The theory behind the Slinky is that when squirrels try to climb or jump on the pole, they land on the Slinky and are bounced off as it stretches and springs up and down. Simply place the Slinky over your feeder pole and tie it to your feeder with twine or fishing line. This method works for a while, but once they’ve jumped on it a number of times, it loses its ability to be springy, no longer throwing them off and allowing them easy access to your feeder.
- Chili Powder/ Cayenne Pepper Flakes– You may have luck with this one, however, I have not. I have read that squirrels do not like the taste of hot peppers, so by mixing it in with your bird seed, it is said to turn them off to the taste of the seed. The birds are not supposed to be bothered or harmed by the pepper. So for about $2, it’s worth a try.
- PVC Pipe/Duct Pipe- Place a 4-6 foot (1.2-1.8 m) section of 6-inch (15 cm) Dryer Duct Pipe or Plumbing PVC Pipe over your post or pole. Because the pipe is slippery and too wide to put their little arms around, they should slide right off as they try to climb it. I’m going to try this method once I complete my mega feeding station this Spring.
- Commercial Sprays- There are many sprays on the market that claim to repel squirrels. The main ingredient in these sprays is Capsaicin or Cayenne Pepper. Store sprays can be a bit pricey but you can make your own with a variety of recipes found online. The trick with using sprays is to continuously spray areas where squirrels are bothersome. I have tried them with no luck, but maybe I did not use them regularly enough, diligence is the key here.
- Greasing a Pole- This method is NOT recommended. The idea behind greasing a pole is to make the squirrels slide off of the pole when they attempt to climb it. Grease can mat feathers and fur, causing both squirrels and birds to freeze to death in winter. Also, as the squirrels groom themselves in an attempt to remove the grease, ingesting it can cause severe intestinal pain and diarrhea, which in turn causes them to dehydrate and die a painful death. As much as I don’t like to see squirrels eating my bird seed, I certainly don’t want to see them in pain or suffering, so please do not grease your bird feeder poles.
If you don’t have any luck deterring squirrels from your feeders, I have one more suggestion…
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Try placing Sunflower Seed, Cracked Corn or Peanuts in Shells on the ground away from your feeders. You may spend a few dollars per month feeding the squirrels, but you may find that they will leave your feeders alone. Try hanging corn cobs from a tree branch as well to distract them from your bird feeders. Maybe you will find a new appreciation for them if they are no longer emptying your bird feeders.
I hope these tips help in your war against the squirrels. Please comment below and let others know what you’ve tried, what worked and what didn’t. Sometimes in the Winter, when it’s really cold and there is a lot of snow on the ground, I actually feel bad for them and will let them have their way at my feeders. They really are kind of cute and fuzzy after all.