Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders

Protect your feeder from marauding rodents

Bird feeders are wonderful additions to your yard, but often they can be damaged or upset by overeager squirrels. These excited, hungry animals can scare away the birds that come to eat at your feeder. Squirrels can also scatter birdseed all over the ground that will grow into unwanted weeds in your lawn come spring. Squirrels are often attracted to the food source you are offering as well as to the eggs and young hatchlings that may live in the brush surrounding the feeder, so they're really quite a problem for birdwatchers.

There are many feeders that offer you squirrel-proofing features, but squirrels are very smart and a lot more creative than we give them credit for. Squirrels can jump up to eight feet across and six feet up in the air, and are famous for finding ways around the most intricate proofing. However, there are some ways that you can prevent squirrels from dumping and damaging your feeder. These can include:

  • Feeder location
  • Squirrel baffles
  • Squirrel-proof bird feeders
  • Homemade squirrel deterrents that attach to your feeder or birdhouse

The first thing that you should do is hang your bird feeder where the squirrels can't get it. Squirrels are notorious for being able to jump high and far. Hang your feeder away from tree branches, structures and fences that squirrels can use as jumping points. This will stump the squirrels as to how to get to your birdseed and stop them for a time while they try to figure it out. But, if you really want these little marauders to leave your feeder alone, you'll have to put some other methods into play because they will find a way to get to your feeder.

You can shop around any pet or hardware store for squirrel-proofing implements. A famous one is a squirrel baffle. These are essentially smooth plastic domes that you hang on the chain directly over your feeder. When the squirrel goes to grab hold of the chain and run down, he's stopped by the baffle. If he tries to land on it, he slips right off. You can also hang baffles below your feeder so that the squirrel can't jump onto it from the ground. It can be an entertaining sight to observe these little rodents trying to get around your baffle, but watch them - sometimes they manage to do it!

Squirrel-proof feeders have a plastic-coated metal or hard plastic netting around the feeding ports that allows birds to poke their beaks through, but makes it impossible for the squirrel to get any seed.

To squirrel-proof your feeder, why not try some of these options:

  • A piece of sheet metal or Plexiglas in front of the hole in the feeder or birdhouse - this will allow birds to fly in and out while keeping squirrels puzzled and preventing them from chewing the opening.
  • A metal cone placed over the feeder will do the same thing as a squirrel baffle.
  • Pipes that rotate when stepped on by squirrels placed over the chains or lines holding the feeder in place will ensure that a pesky squirrel can't run along the chains and dump it.

Be careful when using any sheet metal and file down sharp edges so that you don't hurt the birds or the squirrels. Remember that being inside a metal structure in the heat is like being in an oven, so make sure that the birds and squirrels can't get trapped under the metal. Many people smear petroleum jelly or another sort of lubricant on chains and lines, but this is a big mistake and should never be done. The jelly will get on fur and feathers and make it difficult for birds to fly and squirrels to clean off. You can also seriously harm a squirrel by making it susceptible to falling - squirrels don't always land on their feet.

If none of these methods work, why not get a squirrel feeder? Distracting them from the bird feeder will ensure that your birds get fed and that the squirrels themselves won't starve as well. If you can't beat them, why not compromise?