Love’ em or hate ‘em, grey squirrels can be a serious nuisance to garden birdfeeders. They eat a LOT of seed, destroy feeders, chase away small birds and have even been known to eat eggs and kill nestlings.
No one can guarantee 100% success in the fight against these ingenious and athletic rodents. But here are some proven techniques which will make your bird feeding efforts virtually squirrel proof:
Pick the right feeder …
- Use a specially designed squirrel-proof feeder. The simplest and most effective style has a feeder surrounded by a cage that allows small birds in, but keeps squirrels and large birds out. See our own Caged Seed and Peanut Feeders
- Other specially designed feeders have various weight-sensitive mechanisms to close the feeding ports, such as our Squirrel BusterTM seed and peanut feeders
- Always use strong metal feeders. Squirrels will make quick work of plastic feeders, and can even chew through wire mesh with their chisel-like teeth, so only special anti-squirrel feeders are really safe
- Never suspend feeders from rope or string. Squirrels will quickly chew through
Defend your feeders …
- Place your feeders at least 10 feet away from branches, fences and walls. Squirrels can jump more than eight feet and will jump directly onto the feeder or birdtable if you give them the chance
- Protect the route to your birdfeeders by placing a dome or disk (also called a ‘baffle’) above the feeder. If a squirrel jumps down from a tree or roof, it will slide off
- If your feeder is mounted on a pole, position a downward opening cone or a biscuit tin fixed to the pole beneath the bird feeder/table. This baffle should be positioned at least four feet off the ground.
- You can also grease the pole so that squirrels slip down when they try to climb it. Just be careful not to use too much grease because it can clog squirrel fur and bird feathers
- If your feeder is hung from a washing line or wire, thread the line through a length of hosepipe. Watch the squirrels struggle when the hosepipe spins as they try to crawl out to the feeder!
Make them sneeze …
- Mix cayenne pepper or chili powder into your bird food. It has no effect on birds, but squirrels hate it. Be humane, though. Don’t use too much – try mixing about one tablespoon of cayenne pepper into 5 kg of bird seed
If you can’t beat ‘em …
- Finally, you can try to keep squirrels away from your birdfeeders by providing them with their own source of food. Put out a box of favourite squirrel food well away from your birds, filled with corn kernels, peanuts or sunflower seeds. You may resent the expense of feeding these pesky intruders – a squirrel will eat about half a kilo of food a week - but at least you’ll have the additional pleasure of watching these cheeky, intelligent animals alongside the birds in your garden!
Squirrels are not the only unwelcome visitors to the birdlover’s garden. Cats and sparrowhawks hunt small birds, while rats and stoats raid nests for eggs and fledglings. What’s more, large birds such as pigeons, magpies and jays steal bird food and drive away smaller birds. Here’s what you can do if your garden is plagued by any of these pests:
- Put a bell on the cat’s collar. Small birds will hear the cat approach, and quickly escape
- Keep cats indoors when birds are most likely to feed – at dawn and dusk, and after bad weather
- Avoid low cover close to feeding areas, where cats can hide and wait to ambush birds
- Put bird food in hanging feeders or on a bird table, out of reach of cats
- Position nesting boxes high up, where cats can’t reach them. And use boxes with a metal plate around the entrance hole which can’t be gnawed away by predators
- Deter sparrowhawks by hanging old CDs in trees to scare them away
- Interrupt the hawk’s swoop on to the feeder by placing tall bamboo canes in your lawn, or place feeders under overhanging tree branches or foliage
- Keep the area around the feeder clean and remove spilled seed from the ground to avoid attracting squirrels, rats, pigeons and other pests
- Caged feeders are the best way to stop large birds eating your bird food. The bars are wide enough to let small birds in, but exclude pigeons, magpies, parakeets and other larger birds. You can also adjust the spring mechanism of our Squirrel BusterTM feeders to exclude larger birds.