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Get off my bird feeder! Are squirrels driving you nuts?

Keep an eye on your bird food – the squirrels are coming! That’s what the British Trust for Ornithology is saying, as a third more squirrels will invade our gardens this year than in the same period over the last three years.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) puts the squirrel invasion down to patchy seed and nut availability in the countryside this autumn, which means that all kinds of wildlife will be foraging for alternative food. As a result, there could be tough competition at bird feeders – not just between different bird species, but between birds and squirrels too.

Squirrels: welcome or unwanted?

This is bad news for anyone who considers squirrels to be pests, as many people don’t want to share their expensive bird food with them. Squirrels not only empty feeders at an alarming rate, but often wreck them in the process. They can even deter the boldest birds from visiting.

The BTO has suggested a few deterrents to keep squirrels away from your bird food. Try using bird feeders that have a metal guard around the food, allowing access to small birds but not squirrels or larger birds. You could try spring-loaded bird feeds, which use a squirrel’s body weight to close feeding ports when it comes to eat.

You could also try using a baffle, which are domes you attach to the feeder pole that cause squirrels to slip off. Vaseline on smooth feeder poles can have a similar effect! You could even dust chilli powder onto your bird food, turning the heat up for the squirrels while your birds won’t be affected.

Although we’d never condone it – we’ve even seen a feeder that spins when a squirrel lands on it, throwing it off.

An army of super-smart squirrels

At Which? Gardening, we have tested squirrel-proof bird feeders in the past, and some were better than others. One of our Best Buys included a weight-activated mechanism that closes the feed ports whenever a squirrel climbs on it. Another came with a round cage surrounding the feeder that excludes all but the tiniest squirrels.

Our triallists around the country have recorded the ingenious ways  squirrels avoid being caught out by some squirrel-proof feeders. For example, some sneaky squirrels avoid putting their full body weight on feeders by resting on a branch or a second bird feeder.

While some bird feeders worked well, we’d hesitate to say that any product is 100% squirrel proof. Do you think squirrel-proof bird feeders are effective? Or have you developed any ingenious methods of your own you’d like to share?

Comments
Squirrel& bird lover says:
9 December 2012

Please,please do NOT put chilli powder on seeds,if it gets into the eyes of birds or squirrels it would be horrendous

Janet says:
9 December 2012

I swear by my weight activated squirrel proof feeder (It stops pigeons too – they are reduced to picking up the crumbs the sparrows, tits and robin drop!). It hangs from a lilac tree and at first the squirrels tried hanging down too. But the metal dome frustrated them. What I can’t keep them out of is a wire cage I have on the ground for dunnocks and blackbird. Must try chilli powder.i
Incidentally my kind next-door neighbour has a squirrel feeder on his fence! A box they have to lift the lid of to get at the peanuts inside..

Squirrel& bird lover says:
9 December 2012

Please do not use chilli powder,I have been told if squirrels get it on their paws then touch their eyes they will scratch till they bleed to get rid of the burning pain the chilli has caused.

The traditional so-called squirrel proof feeder is useless as, sooner or later, a slimline squirrel will appear and manage to squeeze through the outer wire cage. Feeders on top of a plastic dome are fine provided they are located well away from trees and shrubs; we have one in the middle of the lawn but that means we can’t get a close view of the birds feeding. We have recently bought Squirrel Buster feeders, separate seed and peanut versions and find them admirable. When a sqirrel climbs onto the feeder, its weight forces a shroud down, closing access to seed tray or nut mesh. The onlt possible drawback is that only a few birds can feed at any one time. The feeders are imported from Canada by Jacobi Jayne and Co.

M J Wooldridge says:
17 December 2012

I purchased a squirrel proof bird feeder a few years ago which still works today. It has a metal tube above the nut cage and when the squirrel climbs on to it the tube slides down and covers the nuts. I have tried to buy this product recently but it does not appear to be available now.

I searched for ‘squirrel proof bird feeder’. You will soon find what you are looking for if you browse through the amazing variety of products.

M. Hall says:
22 January 2013

I yet have to find an anti grey squirrel feeder.
A mesh feeder with a cage around: The squirrels have learnt to jump onto the feeder which then shakes and sends food through the mesh to the ground which the squirrels pick up.
Squirrel Buster: I have taken it back to my Garden Centre. Although the mechanism in principle of “shutting the feeding hole” works when something heavy jumps on it, the design for “ventilating”the seeds is bad. The air holes at the bottom of the feeder are too big and more than half of the birdfood ( No Mess, Seed Mix for Wild Birds by Gardman) falls through and the squirrels have a feast. Chasing them away with the sound squirrels make when they chase each other is the most effective – but only for a short while and very time consuming.

annie says:
30 March 2013

how can i stop pigeons eating all seeds for small birds @ blackbirds

ann says:
3 May 2013

Has anyone any new ideas to deter squirrels? Over the years I have lost count of the number of feeders that have been desecrated or “stolen”. Chilli powder is useless. Vaseline on the post is helpful (although the squirrels have learnt to run even faster to get up the pole). Pigeons are also a problem, plus the fact that they leave a calling card all over the patio. Both squirrel and pigeon are equally brazen and return within seconds of being chased away. I seem to be in a losing battle with them..

Have a look at the “Squirrel Guard Pole Mounted Cone” on the RSPB website.
It works perfectly if it is high enough on the pole and away from branches that the squirrels can jump from. It is much better than the clear dome as it stays a lot cleaner.
We also feed our squirrels and they have their own feeders to keep them happy. A search on CJ Squirrel Feeder should bring up a green metal and clear plastic hopper type that we have found best and can bring a lot of pleasure watching the squirrels work out how to get into them. The wooden feeders don’t last. We get ours from out local pet shop.
Not sure what you do about pigeons though apart from putting the feeders away from the patio as they tend to clear up the dropped bits under the feeders in our garden.

Annie says:
21 June 2013

I’ve been using this squirrel baffler http://bit.ly/15pB0ls

– I found that keeping the feeder away from a fence helped otherwise those clever squirrels lean across or jump!

They still come to the garden which is nice but just to pick up dropped seeds etc.

Caroline says:
26 June 2013

I find the squirrel proof feeders to be no help at all!! They always manage to work their way into the food 🙁 I have started buying products with chilli in as it is thought that squirrel’s taste receptors are like our own and so they feel the heat of the chilli and are put off by that. They’re the only thing that keeps them aware, and the birds still eat it with relish.

cheapskate says:
1 June 2014

I have a method which seems to be working so far…. and it costs nothing.

My feeder is pole mounted. I tried a 2 litre coke bottle with the bottom cut out on the pole, but they soon learnt to climb over that. However my response has been to cut the sides of the coke bottle into strips a couple of centimetres wide so that they collapse when the squirrels try to climb them.

I also have a disposable plastic plate with a slit cut in it on top of a hanging seed feeder (cut the slit with a heated skewer)..

Another tip is to have neighbours with more easily attacked feeders – same principle as avoiding mosquito bites.

try joining two large empty hanging baskets to make a sphere with your feeder suspended inside.works every time!!!!

I’ve seen these spinning squirrel-proof bird feeders on Youtube. The way it works is that the seeds/nuts are contained in a plastic tube (not wire mesh) so the squirrels cannot get a grip and therefore cannot feed through the mesh. At the bottom of the tube are four feeding holes for the little birds that can perch on a wire ring around the feeding holes. The wire ring is weight sensitive so that if a squirrel (or a heavier bird) stands on it, then it spins around (battery powered) and the squirrel can’t hang on and has to let go. They are not cheap (about £100). I wonder if anyone has tried these? do they work?

Frank says:
17 April 2015

I’ve seen squirrels hang on to one of these spinning feeders, allowing seed to be spun out onto the ground for other squirrels to pick up. They even take turns getting on the feeder and spinning so that more seeds are thrown out onto the ground. The failure of these feeders is in the manufacturers’ short-sightedness in designing them. They apparently don’t spend much or any time field testing their products, but simply rely on the “ingenuity” of their design. This would all change if the government required them to provide truth in advertising, that if their product failed to do what they claimed, it would have to be taken off the market until it was improved and could do what they claimed.

Prof Tim Noakes says:
3 January 2018

Agreed. The law on advertising is a disgrace.

Silly Little Sheep says:
30 December 2014

I have two regular squirrel visitors, with an occasional third one, which is slightly thinner and jumping like crazy, possibly this years young. I have bought a heavy-duty squirrel resistant bird feeder at Homebase for about ten pounds. It has been a few months and it is still intact. The previous one, cheap and plastic, was chewed to bits. I also have a peanut feeder which is made of a wire netting. They had absolutely no problem chewing through the wire and pulling it outwards, giving them just enough space to stick their mouths through and eat. They are pretty fat now, compared to squirrels near my workplace or in the park.
I got used to them and really enjoy watching them stuff their faces, but there are about two hundred cache holes in our lawn and of course, I would much rather see the native species there…

Silly Little Sheep says:
30 December 2014

Oy, I put it a bit wrongly, the irst feeder is intact, but they just hang on it and eat… they could not chew it to bits though, so some victory there 🙂

James says:
2 January 2015

[This comment has been removed for breaking our community guidelines. Thanks, mods]

We’ve a bird feeder with a cage, and one with two hanging baskets clipped round it, to in principle just allow small birds access. Forgot about the intelligent crows – they grip on the cage, flap their wings to swing the feeder and seed spills onto the lawn – where their compatriots await their dinner.

The little birds are also selective about the seed they will eat, so sling the stuff they don’t want away – onto the lawn where the pigeons strut around having a picnic.

No squirrels though!

kaz says:
25 April 2015

Bought an expensive anti squirrel feeder for our bird pole and the female squirrel destroyed it in two days! The ones bought in the pound shops lasted longer, so we buy them and repair as needed putting food out for parakeets, magpies, woodpeckers, robins, starlings, sparrows and squirrels.

Sharon says:
3 June 2015

You should never recommend greasing a pole. A variety of animals may get their grease in their coats and eyes. Just put up a feeder for the squirrels and they will leave your bird feeder alone.

Gary says:
18 June 2015

very useful information you shared with us… thanking you.

My elderly Mum has a cunning solution! Fed up with buying a series of ‘squirrel proof’ feeders which the squirrels just learn to take the lids off, after partially filling the containers she now fits a small glass jar (e.g. baby food size) upside down in the top. The squirrels can’t gain any grip on the sides of the jar and it drives them mad to see the food below which they can’t get at. Job done!

No wonder there was a queue of stressed squirrels in the vet’s this morning hoping to get some counselling.

:-)))

Cheech Albanese says:
16 February 2017

I have recently purchased the squirrel buster, and have found it to work brilliantly. I have seen for myself a squirrel trying to get to the food only to give up, there has not been any damage to the feeder from the squirrels either.

In fact I am now thinking of buying a second one to add different food to attract even more birds.