How to Buy or Make a Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
How Do You Keep Squirrels Off Your Bird Feeder?
First, know your enemy! Squirrels belong to a family of mammals known as Sciuridae that include tree squirrels with bushy tails as well as flying squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks and woodchucks.
In the UK our native squirrels were originally red squirrels but they have been largely displaced the American Eastern Grey Squirrel.
There is a wood behind our house and a large oak tree in our garden so we are overrun with grey squirrels. They are very cute, but like naughty children, can also be very annoying.
Their irritating habits include chewing plants, Digging in plant pots and tubs, eating bulbs and even digging up whole plants and playing with them. But their worst crime by far is destroying bird feeders and stealing the bird food inside.
Anyone who lives within range of squirrels and has put out a conventional bird feeder containing nuts or seeds will understand what I mean.
If it is made of plastic or wood then squirrels will take it apart by chewing and gnawing it until they can access the food. Trying to make the feeder inaccessible is more difficult that you might think.
Why a Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder?
Squirrels are not only very smart and cunning but they can do all of the following:
- Leap well over 10 feet
- Climb along or down a thin metal wire
- Chew and gnaw plastic or wood to destruction
- Pull bird feeders to the ground by detaching them from supporting hooks, cable or other fixings
Here is a typical cycle of events that those who underestimate squirrels will experience:
- Start with wooden or plastic feeder hung from a bird table, pole etc. - The squirrel easily accesses the feeder, destroys it and eats the food.
- Similar feeder relocated where you are sure squirrel can't reach. For example, feeder hangs from a bracket mounted on a brick wall of the house 15 feet from the ground - squirrel climbs the brickwork and destroys feeder as before.
- Similar story if hung from a wire hanging from a tree branch. Squirrel leaps from the tree to the suspended feeder.
- If the feeder is made of bite-proof material then the squirrel will attempt to release it and get it on the ground and then roll it around to empty the contents.
So what can you do to defeat these hungry little bast**rds? The liberal view is to provide a squirrel-friendly feeding area especially for the local squirrels. However, the squirrels will rapidly remove all the food you provide and then bury what they can't eat.
They will then return to attacking the bird feeders with renewed vigour (You've just provided them with an energy-rich meal!)
Just to show you that, I too have a soft spot for squirrels, I've included a shot of one of our local albino squirrels eating a nut I kindly provided!
Albino Squirrel in my Garden
Defence no. 1 - Enclose the Feeder in a Squirrel Proof Cage that only Birds can Enter
I made a home made version by enclosing the feeder in a suspended chicken wire cage.
Unfortunately an enterprising squirrel (be warned there is always one that is even smarter than the rest and won't give up) jumped onto the cage and then prised it open and squeezed inside.
Unfortunately for the squirrel he couldn't get out again. He or she became very stressed and, when I climbed the ladder and retrieved the cage, they made the most dreadful noises, assuming they was about to be my supper.
When I released the squirrel it was so upset that it just lay spread out on the grass at my feet waiting to die. However, once I left him alone he quickly recovered.
So unless you are a first class craftsman it is probably safer for you and the squirrels to buy a manufactured version of the caged feeder.
No 2. The Baffle to keep the squirrels away from your bird feeder
Here is a typical baffle that you can fix above the feeder to keep the squirrels at bay.
Defence No. 2 - Keep the Squirrels Away from the Feeder
This is typically done using baffles. These are dome-shaped objects mounted either on the suspending wire or the supporting pole which hopefully prevent the squirrel getting to the feeder.
I ended up with a feeder suspended on a wire about 15 feet off the ground between our oak tree and the house.
The squirrels simply walked, upside down along the wire and dropped onto the feeder. I then tried home-made baffles and grease on the wire but neither stopped them.
At one point I left the stepladder next to the suspended feeder (yes I am that stupid) and when I returned a squirrel had climbed the ladder and leapt onto the feeder.
Defence No. 3 - Shut the Food Hatch When the Squirrel Arrives
This approach typically involves shutters which drop over each of the food ports on the feeder, triggered by the extra weight of a fat squirrel as opposed to a small bird such as a tit.
Some feeders have a metal sleeve which covers the bottom part of the feeder when a squirrel lands on it. These only work if the squirrel attacks the feeder from above, for example, climbing down the supporting wire.
No 3: Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder with Automatic Closing Hatches
This design closes the food hatches when a squirrel is detected on the feeder
Approach 4 - Active hostility towards the squirrel
This is where it gets nasty. Squirrels projected through the air at high speeds, whirling blades, high voltage wires and explosive devices. These are just some of my fantasies.
The most practical devices include adding a motor to the base of the feeder so the feeding area spins when the squirrel 'perches' on the feeder. This hurls them into space.
Typical of these feeders is the Droll Yankee range that includes The Flipper (see entertaining video below). I have slight health and safety concerns here.
Be sure the motorised feeder isn't too high off the ground and avoid the temptation to put a padding pool full of water under the feeder - this would be cruel!
No 4: Rotating Squirrel Proof Bird feeders
This feeder spins when the squirrel appears on the bottom rail and keeps going until the dizzy squirrel drops to the ground
'Flipper' in Action - Rotating Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
Know your enemy
The following video is a reminder not to underestimate your opponent. Squirrels are very athletic and cunning! Watch out for the vending machine theft at the end!
How Do You feel About Squirrels?See results without voting
Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders
So if the squirrels are defeating your attempts to keep the local bird population alive, then now is time to fight back! If you are a handyman then get building the ultimate squirrel-proof bird feeder.
If not then check the Internet for the latest squirrel proof bird feeders designed to beat those thieving squirrels!
Why not let the world know what your take on the squirrel population is by voting in the poll opposite?
it is time to take the battle into the enemy camp. Buy or make a squirrel proof feeder and together we will win this battle!
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