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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?

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..