Are you struggling with squirrels eating the bird seed in your garden? You’re certainly not alone. As soon as you have set up a bird feeder, it can seem like you’ve managed to attract just as many squirrels as you have birds!
However, not all is lost. A bit of patience and some trial and error to see what works best is all that is required to make this problem a thing of the past. Here are three of the most effective ways to stop those pesky squirrels eating the food you put out for birds.
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Use Squirrel Proof Feeders
Your first course of action should be to purchase a feeder that is designed to keep squirrels out. With so many on the market it can be difficult to make the right choice. Some work fantastically well, while others can be nothing more than a waste of money. We recommend looking into ones that incorporate at least one of these features.
Weight Sensitive Feeders
Squirrels weigh more than most birds, so a feature common to many of the more effective feeders is a weight sensitivity mechanism. This mechanism works by closing the feeder’s door as soon as enough weight is applied. This way the birds get to eat and the squirrels do not.
Some feeders are equipped with cages that prevent squirrels from eating by having openings just large enough for smaller birds to enter but too small for squirrels to do so. You’ll want to make sure that the cage is made of strong enough material. It’s not unheard of for the squirrels to chew their way through these cages. Look for a feeder that uses metal or otherwise thicker materials for its cage instead of plastic.
Some feeders use batteries to power a motor that starts spinning as soon a squirrel jumps on. A bird, of course, will not set it off. But as soon as a squirrel jumps on, it starts spinning to throw the squirrel off the perch.
Think about Feeder Location
You will also want to consider where you place the feeder. Squirrels are terrific jumpers that can jump as far as 10 feet. It would therefore be wise to avoid placing a feeder near trees, roofs, wire. Or generally anywhere that acts as a launching point. If you are unable to do this a squirrel baffle will also do the trick. Shaped like an upside down bowl, a baffle is designed to prevent squirrels from being able to climb up and obtain access to the feeder.
Squirrel Deterrent Food
Squirrels can give the impression that they will eat anything. However, there is one ingredient in particular that they can’t stand: capsaicin. This is the compound found in chilli peppers that is responsible for the heat sensation you feel when you take a bite.
If you think that capsaicin would be harmful to birds – fear not! Capsaicin-treated bird food has been sold for a long time with no reports of any negative effects on birds. Birds don’t feel a thing but squirrels most definitely do. This is because as mammals squirrels have a reaction to capsaicin while birds do not.
This is one recommendation that we can even back up with science. The efficacy of capsaicin in deterring squirrels was subject to a experiement that can be read about here.
Other foods that squirrels don’t like but birds will happily eat include millet, Nyjer, suet, safflower and canola seed.
Feed the Squirrels
Our last recommendation takes a different approach and may seem counter-intuitive. However, many people have had success with setting up a second feeder just for squirrels away from the feeder used for birds.
It’s likely that the squirrels will choose the easier eating option instead of the extra work required to eat from a bird feeder. If you find this to be a suitable compromise you will be rewarded with being able to enjoy the sight of both squirrels and birds in your garden.
Things to Avoid
We know all too well just how frustrating it can be stop squirrels from eating the feed you put out for birds. It is out of this frustration that things like the use of poison, grease, glue and letting a cat deal with the problem are attempted.
While they may all work to some extent, they are not things that I would recommend due to their inhumane nature. They may even have the unintended effect of harming the birds that enter your garden in the process too.