/ Home & Energy

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
Member

I don’t think anti squirrel bird feeders exist, despite the claims from manufacturers. I’d give the feeder in your picture a couple of weeks before they’ve pulled it apart just enough to get easy access to the food.

My parents feed birds regularly, and they’ve lost 2 squirrel proof feeders to the squirrels. The feeders have been so badly butchered they no longer can hold the food.

Their solution is to fill a bird box with peanut chunks, which the squirrels have also made unsuitable by chewing through the wooden lid. But at least the squirrels and pigeons go there first, leaving the smaller birds to get at the feeder. Oddly the small birds don’t seem to like the fat ball feeder with gaps too small for large birds. Not sure why though.

Member

If the bird feeders have been damaged by squirrels then your parents could make a claim under the Sale of Goods Act, on the basis that the feeders are unfit for their purpose.

Member

Not too sure…I believe the Sale of Goods
Act may include a specific provision that
excludes that eventuality…. the parliamentary
draftsman may well have thought of that.

Member
ClareLondon says:
15 November 2012

What about the squirrels? They have to eat too.

We need to look after all creatures. I love birds. But I can’t bear to think of squirrels starving. Or foxes. Or any creature.

Member
asdfg says:
14 May 2015

uuuuh these animals have survived for a very long time without human intervention i don’t think you need to worry about squirrels not being able to eat from my bird feeder

Member
Marigold says:
1 June 2015

Did you know that the grey squirrels have wiped out the red squirrel population from much of Britain. The grey squirrel is aggressive and has spread a deadly virus, which has eradicated swathes of red squirrels. We have condoned this decimation, regarding the grey squirrel as cute rather than as a predator.
Something needs to be done to radically control their numbers as in Cumbria, where the red squirrel is able to thrive.

Member

Grey (not red) squirrels are rats with good PR and we need to get rid of them, but that’s another story. I have a bird feeder with a round cage around it that very effectively prevents squirrels from acceeding to the nuts, but my so called “squirrel-proof” bird feeder without the cage just doesn’t work.

Member

I’ll take one of your squirrels. They are so graceful, and a real pleasure to watch.

Member

Given that my comment is in “Your comments of the week”, I feel I should explain my being unwelcoming to our grey (not red) friends, so please see Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels website: http://www.scottishsquirrels.org.uk/

Which Conversation editors, please let me know if you think this is irrelevant.

Member

No, that’s fine, carry on Sophie 🙂 I love red squirrels and I miss them

Member

Squirrels are ingenious creatures, maybe if you take an air rifle to one or two then the others will get the message?

Member
Snowdin says:
16 November 2012

Certainly the squirrels are looking hungry this year. There are virtually no acorns on our oak trees, and fewer cotoneaster berries – which have already gone, as have the last apples and crab apples. I use bird feeders surrounded by a cage which I half cover with wire mesh to keep sparrowhawks off as well – it generally works. I find the dome devices relatively useless but it’s fun, and frustrating, watching squirrels acrobatically learning to beat them.

Member

My backyard is visited by two squirrels, so I have four feeders. Three are used by both squirrels and birds (hanging peanut feeder, tray peanut feeder, seed table) and one just used by the smaller birds (fatball feeder). I’ve only once had a squirrel raid the fatballs, and because there are more feeding stations than squirrels everybody gets to have some. The squirrels only eat the sunflower seeds on the table and leave the rest for the birds. The hanging peanut feeder is so huge that it’s too much even for two greedy squirrels to polish off within 3 or 4 days.

“Squirrels: Natures first attempt at stop-motion animation”

Member

I’ve given up trying to squirrel-proof my feeders, to the point where I hardly put any food out now.
However I find it amazing just how ingenious the squirrels are – with one supposedly squirrel proof cage type seed feeder they discovered that if they simply hang off it and swing furiously from side to side then all the seed will be shaken out onto the grass.
The only solution I’ve found so far is to use the suet pellets with squished insects inside them, the squirrels don’t seem to like these at all, but the birds aren’t wildly enthusiastic about them either, and they are quite expensive too.

Member

Any chance you could open a new convo to discuss where people buy their bird feed from. I use one website and am interested to see if any1 knows of a cheaper one (although the service if excellent, I’m all for saving a few pennies if I can find one with similar service). Its not really appropriate to discuss here

Member

Try you local petfood stores. I found ours cheaper than online but I do buy 25kg sacks at a time.

Member

Have you tried gjwtitmuss.co.uk? They sell bird food at a very competitive rate compared with other suppliers I have tried, and I believe certain items can be delivered free (though I have to admit they are based just round the corner from me, so I can just pop in for a bag or sack when I need one). The quality of the products I have bought – peanuts and sunflower seed – seems to be just as good as from other suppliers, and equally popular with the birds.

Member
Sarah says:
13 May 2013

I find the wild bird mixtures are very convenient and seem to go down a treat – http://www.gjwtitmuss.co.uk/wild-bird-food/cid325/wild-bird-food.asp

Member
Dave says:
31 October 2017

[Sorry Dave, we don’t allow promotional content to be posted on Which? Conversation. Please see our community guidelines for further information. Thanks, mods]

Member

It took our squirrel many weeks last winter to overcome this arrangement: suspend the peanut feeder on a very flexible tree branch (yew is ideal) using a piece of thin garden wire at least 2 feet long.This presents the squirrel with the problem of shinning down the wire to the feeder which is quite tricky as the flexible branch oscillates up and down and at the same time the wire swings in pendulum fashion due to the efforts of the squirrel. Make sure that the bottom of the feeder is not too close to the ground as the squirrel will simply jump on board. Try it!

Member
Danny says:
22 November 2012

I’m not against squirrels per se, but I have four visiting this year, rather than two. My peanut feeder is on a 4 feet long wire from a high, sturdy tree branch. They either slide gracefully down the wire, or leap 5 or 6 feet from another branch. It’s funny watching them try to climb back up the slippery wire, but they seem quite happy to free-fall 7 or 8 feet to the ground (or crash land on a shrub!) I need to add a baffle as well I think.
The tear in the mesh the squirrels have made has its benefits though. A couple of agile jays have discovered they can take whole peanuts from this new hole, which I don’t at all.

Member

Dozens and dozens of birds feeding here …. Including far too many pigeons …. But I feed squirrels in their own easy-access feeder with nuts and they don’t seem to bother the bird feeders much : squirrels seem to dislike suet and other fat products.

Member
Frank says:
17 April 2015

Not true! Squirrels love suet. They get on our suet feeders all the time. They poke their little noses into the holes and nibble away until the suet is all gone. One squirrel can clean out a suet feeder in one afternoon. And I have not seen a feeder yet that is squirrel proof. Spring-loaded perches only work if the squirrel puts his full weight on them. But smart squirrels learn to hang down from the feeder hooks or hangers by their hind feet, and reach down into the feeding troughs without disturbing the spring-loaded perch. Manufacturers need to do MUCH MORE RESEARCH in designing their squirrel-proof feeders. They must design feeders that do not allow the squirrel to dangle by its hind feet to gain access to the feeding trough. Once they have done that, then they need to TEST their product before rolling it out to the market. Manufacturers, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

Member

Some interesting comments and ideas here! Sounds like fatballs are the way to go if you don’t like squirrels too much.

In my old garden I was pretty chuffed if anything visited my bird feeders – birds and squirrels included. Mind you, one day I looked outside and thought ‘oh that’s clever, the squirrel’s leaning on the fence in order to have a nibble at the bird feeder’. Then I realised it was a rat. That turned my stomach completely!

Member
Bob Hilscher says:
24 November 2012

Hi there. Well it is an on going battle. I have spent the past three weeks, moving a bird feeder from one place to another. All in an effort to defeat the jumping skills of one, Grey squirrel. So far I am still losing! I live in Toronto, Canada, and earlier this year, my wife, Jean, and I were in Ireland where we came upon the rarely seen Red Squirrel. To us, they actually look somewhat like our American Red squirrels, but boy, do they have long ears! We were shocked to learn that U.K. and Irish Red squirrels are contracting the pox virus from Grey squirrels, and dying. We feel very lucky to have seen two Red squirrels in Ireland, and have posted some of our pictures and videos for anyone interested at: http://frametoframe.ca/photo-essay-red-grey-squirrels-canada-ireland

Member

I put a new medium sized so called squirrel proof feeder on a plant bracket and secured it with a large
strong clip across the hook. It has been ok for a few months but today I heard it fall, the squirrel was sitting on the fence looking down at it 😉

Member
Chris Whitfield says:
28 November 2012

For 25 years I have fought a war with vast legions of squirrels, Epping Forest is at my back fence.
A 213 cm (7 foot} aluminium pole is driven into the ground, then a 150 cm [5 foot] length of 100mm
{ 4 inch} round plastic downpipe is fitted over the pole. Keep it clean and polished. Add feeder to the top. For a more elegant solution buy 3 such poles, Two Wests and Elliott sell them along with 2 plastic inserts. At your local DIY buy 180 cm {6 foot} of chrome plated 2.5cm {1 inch} tubing. Drive 2 poles into the ground about 40cm { 15 inches } apart, clip the other pole across the top, saw the chrome tube in three and slip over the 3 parts of the aluminium cross pole. A cork and hook in each end of the aluminium cross pole hang up feeders. After this no end of variations.

Member

I don’t follow what you have described but congratulations on your ingenuity, Chris. 🙂

Member

Our squirrels have their own feeders that have metal lift-up lids. Watching the young squirrels trying to get into them is great fun to watch. The wooden squirrel feeders are useless.
Domes on poles to stop squirrels climbing up to the bird feeders do work if they are high enough.
Haven’t had a destroyed feeder for years now, and everyone is happy !!!

Member

I have two squirrels in my garden, and they are always entertaining. It was an ongoing Disney cartoon as I tried to stop them eating the bird food, they run, jump and laugh at me as they found ever more ingenious ways to get to it! In the long run I’ve won. You can buy a squirrel baffler, but there are quite expensive and I found a plastic tub that worked just as effectively. Over time I’m sure they’ll work it out, but for now they just continue digging up my lawn looking for the acorns they’ve hidden.

Member

Maybe not relevant to this conversation, and probably disapproved of by most responders, but has anyone here tried a squirrel trap? [probably not, I suspect]. Amazon apparently sell one for under £15 (which, if effective, in my garden would easily be recouped not only in saving on birdfood but also in reduction of stolen/damaged fruit like plums & apples). My problem would be what to do with a squirrel caught in the trap: it can be legally shot, but I don’t have a gun; I believe it’s legal to give a blow to the head, but how, when it’s trapped in a cage, and presumably terrified? I know it’s illegal to release it elsewhere, because it’s classified as vermin. And as for drowning in a tank of water, I recall a few years ago the national news had a story about someone being prosecuted for this, though I don’t see how this is any less humane than bashing it on the head.

Member
E.A. Coles says:
2 December 2012

Which?/squirrels

Seeing your article in Gardening – comments:

1.Chapelwood anti-squirrel sphere. We were given one, filled it almost daily for a couple of months. Saw no birds or squirrels but nuts gone every morning and no idea how.
2.Flat-topped ground feeding sanctuary is not proof against small squirrels. The slight spread of the uprights lets them in at the bottom.
3.The spring slider for the feeder pole was easily beaten by speed.
4.The pole-mounted squirrel guard is simply batted aside as they jump to one of the hooks.
5.Is it possible to email us the “Gardening” entry or seller of Giant Squirrel buster seed feeder/.

We’ll try the hanging feeder squirrel guard next.

It would be nice if we could email you – or am I missing the info.?

E.A. Coles 2479729.

Member

Hi there

I’d love to know what’s eating your bird food. Clearly something that prefers to operate at night… We are aware that small squirrels can still beat squirrel-proof feeders.

The Giant Squirrel Buster Seed Feeder is available from http://www.arkwildlife.co.uk if you want to give that a try.

Hope that helps!

Veronica

Member
Wendy Matthews says:
5 December 2012

The big dome like peanut/seed feeders do keep the squirrels out (except the babies!) but birds are deterred from using them as the squirrels are always trying to find a way in and scare them off. We’ve found the only deterrent that works for us is the plastic baffle which we put below the feeders on the pole. We have two on different feeders and they are 100% successful.

Member
Pete says:
6 December 2012

chilli doesn’t work with the squirrels in our garden – I’ve tried the hottest chilli powder I can find and they still eat everything. I even tried smearing smooth peanut butter loaded with chilli powder on the top and bottom of the feeders to deter them. It had no effect – they ate that too!

Member
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

Member
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..

Member
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.

Member

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.

Member
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.

Member

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.

Member
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.

Member
annie says:
30 March 2013

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

Member
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..

Member

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.

Member
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.

Member
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.

Member
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.

Member

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

Member

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?

Member
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.

Member
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…

Member
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 🙂

Member
James says:
2 January 2015

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

Member

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!

Member
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.

Member
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.

Member
Gary says:
18 June 2015

very useful information you shared with us… thanking you.

Member

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!

Member

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

Member

:-)))

Member
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.