Many of us have experienced problems with squirrels raiding bird feeders. These problems range from squirrels simply stealing birdseed to maliciously (so it seems) gnawing on and damaging feeders. Fortunately, there are actions you can take to avoid these squirrel problems.
First, consider the possible sites for feeder placement. If you are having squirrel problems, it is best if the feeder can be kept at least 10 feet away from any trees and “launching areas” such as decks or posts and 4 to 6 feet above the ground. If this is possible, a pole-mounted bird feeder may be your most effective choice. Most squirrels have difficulty climbing metal poles that are less than 1” in diameter. If your squirrels have mastered this skill, you should consider purchasing or making a squirrel baffle. A squirrel baffle (also called a squirrel guard) can be cylindrical, dome, or cone shaped and mounts on a pole beneath the feeder, preventing the squirrels from reaching the seed. The baffle should be placed approximately 4 feet above the ground.
If you would prefer to hang your feeder from a tree, you have several options. If your feeder is only accessible from above, you may use a standard tube or hopper feeder in conjunction with a squirrel baffle that is positioned above the feeder. In most cases, plastic baffles work well. Tube feeders constructed with metal perches and reinforcements around the ports will keep most squirrels from destroying the feeder. If the squirrels cannot gain access to seed from the ports, you can bet that they will look for another way to “get the goods”. Make sure the top of your tube feeder (if exposed) is metal and fits snugly to the tube. It is best to hang the feeder using a wire or cable. When feeders are hung using ropes or strings, squirrels will sometimes chew the string or rope and the feeder will fall to the ground.
If your feeder is accessible to squirrels from the side or from multiple directions, it would be wise to consider a caged feeder. Caged bird feeders typically offer one or multiple tubes that are surrounded by a metal cage. Squirrels are prevented from reaching the seed ports and stealing seed. Again, make sure that the caged feeder is constructed of metal, including a metal top that fits securely. Caged feeders also tend to be songbird selective and minimize feeding by grackles, starlings, and other large birds.
Another option is to purchase a weight calibrated feeder. The weight activated feeding perch is calibrated to react to a squirrel’s weight. When a squirrel steps on the perch, a connection is made with a motor that makes the perch spin, and the squirrel is flipped off the feeder. Other weight-activated feeders cause the doors to close on the seed ports, preventing access to food.
And still another option is to befriend these furry and funny creatures. Keep in mind that squirrels do not want to have to work for their food. By providing seed or nuts on the ground away from your feeder, or hanging a squirrel feeder on a nearby tree, the squirrels will be more likely to eat what you have graciously offered them.