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bird feeder banditSometimes the proposition of feeding the birds can provide significant aggravation if you have an ample supply of squirrels in your area. Squirrels can be relentless in their pursuit of your bird feed, especially if you have chosen to let the birds dine on sunflower seeds or chopped peanuts. However, it doesn't matter if you're giving your feathered friends sunflower seed, millet seed, safflower seed, chopped peanuts, or cracked corn, the fact of the matter is that squirrels will eat pretty much whatever the birds will, and most squirrels are hard wire programed not to share their food.

There are some simple yet effective ideas you can utilize to put those pesky squirrels on notice that your bird feeder is meant to be bird exclusive. You could always get a small game permit and shoot them to make a tasty meal, but I don't recommend that to most people because squirrels are hard to field dress. Let me share with you what I have found to be the three most effective, yet harmless squirrel prevention ideas.

Squirrel baffles:
Baffles serve to block the squirrel's path to your feeder. A squirrel baffle is a cone, saucer, or dome-shaped shield which mounts close to your feeder and discourages the squirrels from grabbing an easy meal. If your feeder is a pole mounted style, the baffle mounts directly on the pole right below the feeder. For hanging style feeders, the squirrel baffle hangs directly above the feeder. Most hanging style baffles have hooks integrated into their design to facilitate hanging the baffle and feeder in union. If you want to go high tech, there are even battery powered squirrel baffles that will detect the presence of an offending rodent and start spinning in an attempt to fling the critter off. You can get a good start on making your own squirrel baffles by checking out these design ideas at the Squirrel Free Birding website. Remember, a squirrel baffle won't work if the squirrels can make a lateral jump to your feeder, so try to keep feeders at least ten feet from possible squirrel launching points.

Cayenne pepper:
Adding this harmless spice to your bird food will send those pesky squirrel visitors scurrying for water but won't actually harm them. Because birds have a very limited volume of taste buds, they won't even know their feed is laced with the spicy substance. Squirrels, on the other hand, have a much greater ability to taste their food and will know that something isn't quite right about their peppery meal. You only need to add enough cayenne pepper to visually tell that all the seed has contacted it in order for it to be effective. Use care in working with the pepper, wash your hands when finished treating your seed, and keep it well away from your eyes. Cayenne pepper won't hurt you, but it's a fairly strong irritant. You can buy cayenne pepper in bulk for under $10 per pound.

Alternate feeding sites:
You can also give the squirrels somewhere else to go for food other than your bird feeder. In fact, there are opportunities for great entertainment by making squirrels work for their own meal. Try using the provided plans for building this "Squirrel under glass" feeder as discussed on the Birds and Blooms website. Squirrels enjoy corn, so a couple dried cobs of corn nailed to a stump can keep them busy for quite a while. Also, you can visit the good folks at Wildwood Farms to purchase any of their interesting squirrel feeders. If you are a mildly talented DIYer, you should be able to reproduce several of the ideas you'll find there.

Squirrels, like all rodents, are opportunistic scavengers by nature. If you give them an easier way to get their own food they'll tend to leave a difficult-to-reach bird feeder alone. Make your bird feeders a little difficult for the squirrels, and provide them with an alternate solution. If all else fails, just drop me a note and I might provide you with some instructions for making squirrel buffalo wings... Yummy!

  • John

    Here's an article I ran across that has a few more ideas on how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders.

  • Gary E. Sattler

    Thanks John!


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