One of the best parts of staying by the window or at the terrace is watching birds fly by your backyard and eat whatever you have prepared for them. It is both rewarding and oddly relaxing to see them munch through the seeds or nectar you left for them to consume.
The frustrating part however is when uninvited guests such as squirrels come along and help themselves with the birds’ food. They can also be cute, fuzzy, and fun to watch – until they start wreaking havoc on your bird feeders.
Squirrels and Bird Feeders
The creatures that we all love to hate. We love their crazy antics but we hate them when they become destructive. Especially when they start raiding our birdfeeders.
Squirrels can drive you nuts but consider that they are only practicing what is natural of them – to look for a meal and a safe place to stay. They can be irritating when they do that but try to be patient to not harm them.
Squirrels are attracted to the best types of birdseed. Such bird seeds include black oil sunflower seeds, nuts, and suet. Thus, if your feeder has them, you can’t be surprised why squirrels appear. Their voracious appetite will cause more frequent visits, some domineering attitude, and sometimes even broken feeders.
Unlike birds who are willing to share their food with fellow visitors, squirrels tend to take the food all to themselves. They will scare or chase the birds away and may stay at the same spot until the feeder is empty.
Since squirrels consume feeds ravenously, they don’t just consume the food. They will try to drain the feeder until its very last seed by chewing and clawing through both wooden and plastic feeders. Feeders end up severely damaged and may no longer be used.
Not only are they destructive with feeders, but they can also be predators. Squirrels have been known to eat bird eggs and kill newly hatched chicks. As a result, nesting birds will find your squirrel-friendly yard less attractive.
Squirrel-Proofing Your Bird Feeder
When positioning your bird feeder, always keep in mind the rule of 5-7-9. Squirrels can’t leap more than 5 feet up from the ground, hop more than 7 feet across from building or tree, and are hesitant to jump off from more than 9 feet onto the feeder from above.
With that in mind, you will have an idea of where to fix the feeder. It should be within those dimensions away from trees, gutters, roofs, or other launching points. Better to mount or hang these feeders on a smooth metal pole, in at least 6 feet high and away from where squirrels can climb up to launch.
Squirrels can not fit through small wire openings of cages, so it is just wise to put a wire cage around the bird feeder. The small wire openings won’t restrict smaller birds from feeding but will keep away squirrels.
This can also help prevent larger birds like starlings, grackles, and pigeons that are known to be bird bullies.
You can invest in bird feeders that are already equipped with a cage. You may also choose to make a DIY cage by adding mesh around the feeder. You can use chicken wire. Or, you can also use a larger cage where you can place several feeders inside.
Just like in industrial process vessels, baffles help keep squirrels off of the feeders. They are flow-directing and have obstructing vanes. In the case of bird feeders, you can add smooth plastic or metals just above and below the feeders.
These baffles should be at least 15 to 18 inches wide or long to keep the squirrels from reaching around them. There are also squirrel baffles that are designed to twirl or angle if a squirrel climbs onto them. It keeps squirrels off-balanced and results in them being unable to access the feeder.
If you’re feeling creative, you can also make a DIY baffle. Check out this video from a homeowner who made a DIY baffle.
Squirrels are attracted to debris and spilled seeds on the ground. Keep them uninterested by keeping the area around the feeder clean. Remove any debris and spilled seeds around. This step does not just deter squirrels but keeps you ground-feeding birds from eating old, contaminated, and probably rotting seeds that could be unhealthy for them.
Spinners can be a line of empty thread spools, shorth lengths of pipe, or empty plastic bottles that are looped along a wire that will spin. This keeps the squirrels from being able to access the feeder. You can hang a feeder from its thin horizontal wire that is strung with spinners to keep these rodents from climbing across the wire.
The squirrels get tipped over and fall away from the feeder at the moment they try to cross the spinners.
Unfortunately, squirrels can damage or even destroy your feeders, especially when made from plastics. If that has been the case for you or you simply wanted to get rid of squirrels, replace them with feeders that are specially designed with doors and hatches that are triggered to close by an intruder’s weight.
This will keep away squirrels from accessing the seeds, while still accommodating lighter birds since they can not trigger the hatches. The birds can feed freely while away from preying squirrels. You can also choose metal feeders that are made of thick and sturdy materials the squirrels can’t damage.
Squirrels, no matter how ravenous they are, are less attracted to seeds like nyjer and safflower seed. These are slightly bitter and squirrels do not like it. With these seeds in your bird feeder, you can eliminate the visits of squirrels without compromising the feeding of birds.
Spice It Up
Birds are not sensitive to the heat of the pepper, unlike most mammals. Cayenne pepper or similar spices added to bird seeds can dissuade squirrels from even trying. However, you must use it consistently for best effects since spices can be washed off easily.
Make sure to wear gloves and avoid breathing in the spice powder when preparing this process. There are pre-treated seeds and suet available in the market with even spicier components. They may be more expensive than regular seeds, but they can surely be more convenient.
Every area has wildlife laws. You may not be able to use traps without contacting your local wildlife authorities. If these squirrels are becoming strong nuisances at your backyard feeders or in your backyard as a while, the authorities can help you remove them from your area.
Remember to always follow local regulations regarding trapping and releasing unwanted animals.
Remove Possible Shelters
You may have old sheds that squirrels will make use of as their shelter. They can also be under eaves or up in the attics. Be sure to remove possible shelter locations that they can use as a convenient home nearby.
What You Should Not Do
It can be both disturbing and annoying to have done squirrel-proofing methods that do not work. Sometimes, your frustration may want you to take matters into your own hands. Such techniques should never be used as they just might get you into trouble.
Such approaches that you should not try are:
Hunting and Chasing
With wildlife laws that are enforced in many areas, you should never try to shoot squirrels. Hunting them down is not just illegal but risky, too. You may end up injuring birds while in the process of aiming for squirrels.
Wildlife authorities will heavily disagree with these even when you use slingshots, BB guns, or dart guns.
Poisoning / Exterminating
Poisoned bait for squirrels can result in not just poisoning them but the birds, too. Especially that birds like to sample what they eat. They may die with that. Other animals may also be unpleasantly affected by improper use of poisons, like raptors that may target poisoned squirrels.
It can be tempting to freed cats to the backyard to scare off squirrels, but it is not the wisest move. Cats are a threat to birds, just as they are to other animals, too. Cats do not choose what they prey on. They may go after your birds or other wildlife that you are taking care of in the yard.
Brushing oil, Vaseline, or grease to a pole or the string that holds the feeder will not deter the squirrels. It does not make it slippery to climb up or down. What it can do is coat the birds’ feathers causing them illness and vulnerability to predators. Imagine what an oil spill can do to the rivers, that’s what you will cause animals.
Glue traps are too small for squirrels, therefore making it ineffective if not inhumane. Not only that, but they may also trap birds instead of rodents or squirrels. These traps will only cause squirrels and other animals some nasty injuries and will not entirely eliminate the problem.
In reality, there is no way that you can eliminate squirrels in the backyard. Even with all the techniques, you will use, they will still find their way back. If you can’t deter these squirrels from leaving your feeders despite the methods you’ve tried. It may be time to stop feeding for a while.
This may stop squirrels from visiting your yard since they will no longer find any food source from there. Then, they will be encouraged to move on and find another source. But, expect that they’d be back once they realize you have set up another feeder.
There is also this phrase that said, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” In this case, if all else fails, let them join your birds in your yard. Instead of excluding them, why not compromise by creating a feeding station particularly for squirrels.
Provide them with tempting treats like nuts, corn, and berries. This will attract their attention and will leave the birds eating with no competition.