Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders Explained
If you’re frustrated by squirrels, you might be tempted to rush right out and buy the first squirrel-proof feeder you find. But wait! This impulsive decision could end up only adding to your misery. You have many options when it comes to selecting a squirrel-proof feeder. But with so many feeders claiming to be squirrel-proof, how do you choose the one that’s right for you? In this article we’ll explain the differences between various styles of squirrel-proof feeders.
Before you hand over your hard earned cash for a feeder, start by asking yourself these questions:
Do you have a sturdy tree limb to hang it from (some metal feeders get very heavy) or will you need to install a pole?
Just how serious a squirrel problem do you have?
Is money no object when it comes to this purchase or are you on a limited budget?
Do you also have a problem with larger nuisance birds like grackles and pigeons that you need to address, or should your new feeder accommodate all size birds?
With these answers in mind you should now have a better idea of your individual needs. Here’s some information to help you understand the differences between various squirrel-proof feeder styles and technologies. And keep in mind that squirrel-proof doesn’t mean that a squirrel won’t try to get on the feeder. It simply means that in the majority of cases, the squirrel won’t be able to damage it, or get to the food inside it.
Hanging vs. Pole Mounted Feeders
Let’s assume your yard doesn’t have any sturdy tree limbs capable of supporting a filled feeder. No problem! It’s easy and inexpensive to install a free standing pole. Pole mounted feeders are generally easier to defend than hanging feeders. Pole mounting solves a lot of problems inherent with hanging feeders, as long as your pole is located at least ten feet away from trees, fences or other places a squirrel can jump from. And did you know squirrels can jump about 5 feet, straight off the ground!? Usually a simple post baffle can be used to prevent squirrels from climbing the pole to your feeder.
If you plan on hanging your feeder, select a feeder that has little or no plastic parts exposed (squirrels teeth can chew right through plastic), or choose an all-metal, chew proof feeder. Locate your feeder in a way that squirrels cannot defeat the squirrel-proofing mechanisms; that is, if the feeder has a weighted perch system, make sure the squirrel can’t just reach over from a handy tree branch and avoid the perch altogether. Also consider how the hanger will attach to the branch. Choose a sturdy branch that won’t break and if necessary, add hardware to be sure the squirrel can’t pull the feeder off. They are quite resourceful!
Wire Cage Feeders
One common squirrel-proof feeder style includes a stationary cage with a central plastic tube. The caging prevents squirrels from entering the feeder, gaining access to the seed tube or chewing on the plastic. Typically these feeders are 8 to 10 inches in diameter which helps to keep out troublesome larger nuisance birds, while allowing smaller birds to enter through the wire caging. It is important the feeder also feature some kind of lock to prevent squirrels from lifting the seed filler cap. These feeders are available in styles that let you offer regular mixed seed and also tiny Nyjer seed.
Drop Down Cage Feeders
Much like stationary caged feeders in appearance, but with a more narrow profile, drop down cage feeders discriminate based on weight and don’t need a large space between the caging and the tube to keep squirrels out. When a squirrel climbs onto the caging, its weight causes the caging to drop down. When this happens, a small grid or cover comes into position over the feeding ports. As long as the squirrel stays on the feeder, the ports remain blocked. Drop down feeders usually have springs that can be adjusted for even very small and lightweight squirrels. Some larger birds can use these feeders, but a bird as big as a dove or cardinal might find these small perches difficult to maneuver. When adjusted correctly, these feeders can help to keep starlings and grackles off as well. Some can be pole mounted as well as hung and are priced in the low to mid range.
Weighted Perch Feeders
Larger hopper feeders with weighted perches not only block out squirrels but also give you complete control over what size birds you want to feed. The weight sensitive perch is set with a quick spring adjustment. When a bird or squirrel heavier than the set weight lands on the perch, it drops down and closes the “door” to your seed. Most offer three weight settings, for light birds only, light and medium birds, or light, medium and heavy birds. Even the heavy bird setting will trip when a squirrel gets on. These feeders work well if you like to feed cardinals and blue jays (medium setting), or even doves (heavy setting), because they have a long, sturdy perch. They are also all-metal and very rugged and can be either hung or post mounted. Because they tend to be heavy and the hoppers hold a lot of seed, you will probably want to use a ground socket cemented in the ground to support your feeder on a pole.
Weighted perches can also be found on long hanging tube feeders. These feeders feature perches situated at the bottom of the tube. Some are equipped with adjustable perches that can be moved out to accommodate larger birds; others have optional attachments for cardinals. Larger birds such as pigeons and doves would have difficulty with these perches if no adjustments or attachments are used. Hang these feeders in a location where squirrels can’t defeat the perch mechanism simply by reaching out from a convenient tree limb. Weighted perch feeders are generally priced in the mid to high range.
Battery Operated Squirrel-Proof Feeders
The most prevalent battery operated feeders are those that have a spinning perch which flips squirrels off, and those that deliver a slight jolt of electricity to startle them.
In the spinning perch style, a circular perch is located at the bottom of a hanging tube feeder. When a squirrel gets on the perch, its weight activates a motor which causes the perch to spin, making it impossible for the squirrel to hang on. These feeders utilize a rechargeable battery and come with a charging device. All birds can use this feeder, since they don’t weigh enough to trip the spinning mechanism. Although a little more costly, these type of feeders offer top-notch squirrel control. This style feeder can only be hung—not pole mounted.
Feeders that use a jolt of electricity are also somewhat expensive but equally effective. The metal seed tray and the metal perches are both wired to a 9 volt battery. When a squirrel lands on the tray and reaches up for the seed ports, his body makes a complete connection to the battery and causes a mild electric shock. The squirrel quickly jumps off—startled but unharmed. These feeders can be either pole mounted or hung.
Double Grid System Feeders
Another method to keep squirrels’ paws out of the seed is our patented double grid system. Two horizontal grids are set inside a hopper or platform feeder, with one grid stationed one inch on top of the other. Seed is spread on the bottom of the feeder underneath the lower grid. The combination of two grids allows beaks to reach through, but it is too small for a paw to reach in. An added benefit of these types of feeders is they allow all birds to feed, and cardinals especially find the platform style very appealing. Other large birds can also eat from this style feeder so keep that in mind if you have a problem with grackles, starlings, doves or other nuisance birds. We offer double grid feeders in both all-metal and plastic versions. These feeders can be hung or post mounted and prices range from low to mid level, depending on the style you choose.
Armed with this information you are now an informed buyer and can go ahead and purchase a great squirrel-proof feeder that’s right for you. Good luck in your war against the squirrels! Shop Duncraft.com for squirrel-proof bird feeders and more.