Are Squirrels Bad for Your Bird Feeders?

by Derrick | Last Updated: August 7, 2021

Squirrels are clever little creatures with never-ending appetites. If they have access to your bird feeder, they’ll eat every last seed, leaving your little bird friends with nothing to eat. 

Squirrels are bad for bird feeders because they scare birds and cause damage. To prevent squirrels from getting to feeders, put them in a good location, place a cage around them, use baffles, remove old seeds from the ground, buy squirrel-proof feeders, and pick seeds that squirrels don’t like.  

Next, we’ll go over why squirrels are harmful to bird feeders and how to keep squirrels away from your feeder for good! Then, we’ll go over some squirrel-prevention methods we don’t recommend since they can cause harm to the squirrels and other wildlife. 

How Are Squirrels Harmful to Bird Feeders?

When it comes to bird feeders, squirrels are one of your biggest enemies. Typically, the squirrels will scare off all birds at the feeder and eat every seed, leaving the birds with nothing. 

Additionally, if the squirrels have a hard time getting the birdseed out of a wooden or plastic feeder, they will gnaw and claw their way inside, damaging or completely ruining the feeder. 

Even worse, squirrels are known to eat bird eggs and kill recently hatched chicks, so if you have several squirrels in your yard, birds likely won’t feel safe nesting nearby. 

How To Keep Squirrels Away From Your Bird Feeder 

Squirrels are clever creatures, but they can be stopped. Here are several techniques you can use to prevent these troublesome little rodents from getting into your feeder once and for all! 

Put Your Feeder in a Safe Location 

Squirrels are excellent jumpers, able to span distances of 10 feet (3 m) or more! Therefore, you’ll have to be strategic with where you place your bird feeder to prevent them from jumping off nearby objects. Try to keep your feeder away from roofs, porches, gutters, and any other high things they can use to reach your feeder. 

When it comes to trees, you’ll need to pay special attention to their branches. You want the limbs to be cut back, so they’re at least 10 to 12 feet (3 to 4 m) away from the feeder to prevent the squirrels from using them as a bridge. 

While keeping your feeder at least 10 feet (3 m) away from objects in your yard is ideal, we know that this may not be possible if you have a smaller yard. However, don’t worry, as we have other techniques you can try to keep those pesky rodents away from your bird feeder for good! 

Put a Cage Around Your Feeder

You can also prevent squirrels from eating all of your bird seeds by putting a wire cage around your feeder. The cage’s holes are too small for squirrels but are large enough for small birds to squeeze inside. These cages are also excellent for stopping larger “bully birds,” like pigeons and grackles, from stealing all the birdseed from the little guys. 

Some feeders come with wire cages, but if yours doesn’t have a cage, all you’ll need to do is purchase some chicken wire to place around your feeder. Then viola! No more squirrels. 

Use Baffles 

Squirrel baffles are plastic or metal cones or domes that you can install on your bird feeder’s pole to prevent squirrels from climbing up on it. Many baffles are designed to turn or tilt over when the squirrel tries to climb on them, which can knock them off-balance, so they cannot go up to the feeder. Make sure to install your baffle at least four feet (1 m) above the ground, or else the squirrels may be able to jump over it. 

While some squirrels are creative and can find ways to bypass the baffles, these are very helpful when used in combination with other squirrel prevention methods. 

Remove Old Seeds From the Ground 

Leaving old seeds on the ground is a calling card for squirrels. The leftover seeds attract the squirrels to your feeder since they know they’ll be able to acquire an easy snack. 

To prevent this, clean up any spilled seeds in the area surrounding your feeder. This will help keep the squirrels away, and it will prevent ground birds from eating old seeds that could be harmful to them. 

Buy a Squirrel-Proof Feeder 

If the squirrels have managed to break your old feeder and you’re in the market for a new one, why not buy one that’s already squirrel-proofed? These feeders typically have weight-sensitive doors or hatches that will shut when squirrels sit on the feeder’s perch but will remain open when lighter birds want to feed. 

Select Seeds Squirrels Don’t Like 

There are a few types of seeds that birds love, but squirrels aren’t too fond of

One of the squirrels’ least favorite snacks is safflower seeds, which have a slightly bitter taste. While cardinals, finches, chickadees, and many other birds thoroughly enjoy feeding on these tiny white seeds, squirrels typically reject them. 

Additionally, squirrels aren’t a fan of nyjer seeds, which also have a slightly bitter taste. However, nyjer seeds are one of goldfinches favorite snacks, so they’ll likely be regular visitors to your feeder. 

Squirrels also hate spicy foods, which is why many people cover their seeds with cayenne pepper or other spices. Birds don’t mind the spice, making this another feasible solution. However, the Humane Society of the United States doesn’t recommend this tactic since the spice can irritate the squirrel’s mouths, causing them discomfort. 

Things You Shouldn’t Do To Keep Squirrels Away 

While squirrels constantly breaking into your bird feeder can be pretty annoying, we believe that the “punishment should fit the crime” for the preventative method you use. In other words, we don’t think you should harm the squirrels just because they’re trying to get a snack! 

Therefore, we recommend that you don’t try any of the techniques listed below, as they can harm the squirrels and other wildlife that interact with your feeder, including the birds.  

Don’t Use Glue Traps 

Glue traps are sticky gel pads that are used to harm or kill rodents. Typically, users will place the traps in areas where the squirrels might walk or climb to get to the bird feeder. If the squirrel steps in the trap, they’ll become stuck, preventing them from moving. Ultimately, they will die stuck in the trap or harm themselves to break free. 

While these traps are harmful to the squirrels, they can also hurt the very thing you’re trying to attract: the birds. If a bird gets stuck in the trap, it will very likely die. So, to avoid harming any wildlife, we recommend you don’t use glue traps altogether. 

Don’t Grease the Pole 

Some people grease the poles their bird feeders are on to prevent the squirrels from climbing up them since they’re too slippery. However, this is a bad idea since grease can get stuck in the squirrel’s fur, leading to illness and other health concerns. The grease can also get caught in bird’s feathers, making them more susceptible to predators. So, we recommend skipping the oil and getting a baffle to stop squirrels from climbing instead! 

Don’t Use Poison 

Poisoning is a big no-no since it can cause so much damage to so many creatures. While it may effectively get rid of your squirrel problem, it’s also very likely to kill birds who could ingest the poisoned bait. Additionally, you may harm larger birds of prey like raptors that may eat the poisoned squirrels, thereby poisoning themselves. 

Conclusion 

Squirrels can be huge pests, especially when it comes to stealing the birdseed from your feeder. However, there are plenty of safe and humane ways to stop them from stealing all of the seeds for good. Some of the best methods are:

  • Putting your feeder 10 feet (3.05 m) away from other objects 
  • Placing a wire cage around your feeder
  • Using baffles to prevent the squirrels from climbing the pole
  • Removing old seeds from the ground
  • Buying a squirrel-proof feeder
  • Selecting seeds that the squirrels don’t like

I hope this article helps to keep your bird feeder protected and squirrel-free!  

Sources