Defending Your Bird Feeders

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Out of all the problems you may encounter while feeding your backyard birds, marauding squirrels are likely the source of your biggest headaches. If your bird feeder isn’t properly located or protected, then these critters can likely have a field day stealing seeds from your birds to eat for themselves. You can prevent many of these headaches, however, if you’re aware of the most effective ways to thwart squirrels’ attempts at seed theft.

Baffles at the Bottom
On a bare pole-mounted feeder, all a squirrel has to do is shimmy up the pole and hop on to the feeder in order to take its share of seed. In order to avoid this particular problem, it would help to have a baffle located directly under the feeder. It’s important that it be positioned there so that squirrels can’t simply climb up unimpeded, or jump up to a piece of exposed pole above the baffle and continue climbing. With a baffle affixed onto or even sometimes built into the pole—such as in a downward-tapered shape—squirrels won’t be able to get more than a foot or two off the ground, leaving the seed safe.

Baffles at the Top
Possibly the most visibly recognizable way to stop squirrels from stealing bird seed, baffles hung over the top of feeders are a diverse group of objects that all share one thing in common—squirrels just can’t solve them to get past and steal seed. Top-used baffles can be shaped like a dome, angled like a cone or simply flat but extra-wide, and they stop squirrels in a variety of ways—whether by sending them sliding completely off or making them unable to reach anything even by hanging off the edge. Whatever the case, baffles hung over your feeder are extremely effective at keeping your seed in the feeder for your birds.

The wire grids that can be found surrounding some tube feeders aren’t just for providing extra perching space—they also provide another layer of protection against squirrels. These grids have openings that are big enough for smaller songbirds to squeeze through, but far too small for squirrels to do the same. Additionally, the cages have a wide-enough diameter and extend far enough away from the feeder that squirrels can’t even reach through and reach the seed. They’re sturdy enough that they can’t be warped or damaged by frequent squirrel theft attempts.

This is paramount when using a pole-mounted feeder. Optimally, the feeder should be located at least 10 feet away from anything else – whether that’s a tree branch, your deck or another feeder. Any closer and most squirrels will be able to jump from the other object on to the feeder, free to take as many seeds as they want. Since unwittingly giving squirrels a head start on stealing bird seed is not the best idea, it would certainly do well to isolate any pole-mounted feeders that you have. As you can see from the following video, squirrels will do anything to reach the seed.

Their Own Feeders

Another strategy is simply to draw squirrels completely away from the bird feeders with their own feeders. With their own preferred kinds of food –wildlife snack mixes and ears of corn—offered at these feeders, squirrels have no reason to bother trying to steal bird seed. Birds aren’t interested in those foods, so the squirrels can eat peacefully by themselves. These feeders come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you can use as many as needed to get the job done without making your yard look too redundant.

Weight-Sensitive Perches
These are useful features that can be found on many popular bird feeders. Frequently adjustable, they are spring-activated perches that pull down when sat, perched or hung on by an animal heavier than a given weight—which are usually squirrels. When the perches pull down, a seed shield drops down over the feeding port to cut off access to the seed inside. Thwarted and possibly bounced to the ground by the sudden drop, the squirrel leaves without having taken anything.

Found any other squirrel-resisting strategies that work, or have a good story about baffling a squirrel? Feel free to share on our Facebook page.

Written by Guest Writer Sean Peick

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  • Shari July 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Give then their own food too.

  • mirriambingaman July 26, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    we got this birdfeeder at weis and it had a round gage around it only big enough for birds to get in squirrels proof feeder that was a laugh my husband yell at me to look there was a squirrel in the feeder they must be like mouse i pay 32.00 for it every feeder we got said squirrels proof they lie

  • Claudia Pedersen July 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    My squirrel family has it’s own strategy for dealing with ‘squirrel proof’ bird
    feeders. They swing on the top of the feeder, happily spilling seed out of
    the various feeding ports. Then they hop down and enjoy a meal, repeating
    the procedure when they get hungry again.

  • Sandy Balmer July 28, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Nothing worked until I lathered the pole with Vicks Vapor Rub..I guess the squirels did not like the smell or the taste when then tried to lick it off their feet. Now my birds eat in peace. The squirrels moved next door. LOL

  • jewely January 18, 2012 at 10:54 am

    because i have three species of squirrels to contend with: fox, red & black (both color phases), i put a wide cone-type baffle on all my feeder poles and haven’t had a problem since. $17 each. they still eye the hanging feeders, but can’t get up to them. it also helps that i put out food for them on the ground. i only use 4 types of feed: peanut rejects, hulled sunflower, thistle & peanuts in the shell. oh, and suet cakes. lots of suet cakes around. my feeders are very busy ALL day. i have a special feeder just for squirrels away from all the others. it holds peanuts in the shell. i hung it up near my lilac bush and they just scamper through the branches to get to it. it’s a large red spring formed into a ring. the squirrels & blue jays love it.

    that being said, last year was a hard winter w/lots of snow so all my furry & feathered fellow earthlings had difficulty finding food. i kept my feeders full and even added another station. which brought my feeder count to 10 on a city lot. i only fill in the morning and the ground seed is completely gone by about 4pm so i’m not attracting rats and possums and racoons in the night. but like i said, last year was very hard and at times, i had 12 or 13 squirrels in my yard at a time. i had one plucky black squirrel who amazed me. i should have filmed him (it was a male) because he actually made the leap from my garage to a feeder. no small feat, let me tell you as it’s well over 10 feet.

    ps. i’m in the Detroit MI area.

  • Laurelgirl April 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    I have two types of feeders – the cage variety which works well but is too small for my Cardinals to use, and a weight-sensative feeder. Tha latter feeder was easily solved by the grey squirrels in my yard. I have counted 35 squirrels on and around the feeder. Baffles have proved ineffective. A friend recommended using Cayenne peppar. I coated the seeds and while the squirrels find the peppar heat annoying it hasn’t dissuaded them in the least. My 11 lb feeder must be refilled 2 or 3 times a day and the birds receive very little food. Any suggestions???? I’m being eaten out of house and home. 🙁

  • BlueBird June 1, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    The Duncraft clear large dish baffle works for me for the most part, squirrels slide off! I have the baffle above my duncraft caged bird seed feeder. 1 or 2 squirrels are smart and strong enough to stick on the side of the cage and sweep the seed off the bottom with their hands but they are not there long. 1 of them the fattest one is the smartest one, he clings to the side of the cage and spins it! Yes he calculates his powerful jump and by doing this he spins the seed right out of the tube! This one squirrel the fattest of all… I use my sling shot on with paint balls…this is the only fat squirrel running around the neighborhood with green water paint on his fur. He loves it and has fun because he always returns to my same feeder and does the same thing, spins the seed out of the feeder and I have fun painting him green. Such silly madness, its funny how both animal and human can be so easily entertained!

  • Pepper September 14, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I purchased the superduper feeding station with the spring loaded baffle from Duncraft about 6 months ago. Yes, it is a bit more in cost, but it works. You do have to make sure that you have nothing within 12′ that squirrels can jump from. Trees, birdbath, planters, etc, get them out of the way. But I only fill my feeders 2X a week usually, compared to every day with the old station. Have one little guy that keeps trying, he jumps from the solar yard light or the hummingbird hook, but never makes it to the pole. I love to watch him try to figure out how to get up there. He runs up the baffle and hits the dead end and comes back down and you can almost see him scratching his head saying “what the h…”. Priceless!!!! Spend the extra now and it will save in the long run. Plus it is a great entertainment station!

  • Brad September 16, 2012 at 7:47 am

    I have found the best way to keep the little bugers out of my feeders is to give them one or two of there own. One filled with corn the other filled with sunflower seed. i placed them about 20 to 30 feed from my window feed them all summer then in the winter slide open the window and pull out the pellet gun and bang squirrel and noodles for dinner. worked for the last 10 years. There fatened up and ready…..

  • Athena September 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    As far as squirrels go, I use the Squirrel Buster feeder and it is AWESOME! When I noticed them chewing on the top I sprayed it with oil then sprinkled cayane pepper on it (read about doing that one a couple sites). It does not hurt the birds a bit but the squirrels hate it. They now don’t even bother with chewing on the top to attempt to get in, which is futile!!