The HubPages Birdwatcher's Club: Feeding the Birds
One bit of advice that I can give you about squirrel-proofing your feeder is this: it won’t happen. There are many baffles available out there, but these animals are resourceful, determined, and very bright. In order to protect the feeder, it has to be done in all possible directions, and it isn’t just squirrels that you have to worry about. There are chipmunks, raccoons, and other animals that are hungry and want your seeds, nuts, suet, and fruit.
In order to do this as efficiently as possible, hanging or pole mounted feeders need to be five feet from the ground, and ten feet from any launch, which can be an eave, a deck, trees, roofs, window sills, ad nauseum.
Let's Discuss Baffles
One can keep squirrels from climbing up a pole by using a sliding pole baffle that has a sleeve that fits around your pole. When the squirrel grabs that sleeve, it slides down the pole, and the squirrel will jump off to escape harm. There is a counterweight inside the pole that returns it to its original position. A cheaper option, is a dome baffle that fits on your pole right under the feeder. Now for hanging feeders, there is a similar option, which tilts when placed over the feeder under the weight of an animal, so they cannot climb down on it. If you have a hanging feeder with a bottom tray, remove that, as it will give your pesky squirrel something to grab onto.
Some people have been known to grease the poles on a pole feeder, but the grease needs to be replaced periodically, especially after a good rainstorm.
How to Divert Squirrels
You can also get dried ears of corn to try to keep the squirrels from your feeders, but I found that they’d rather have the seed. They can be mounted on a post or hung from a branch. Not only that, they will fall off the tree, and keep you, your family, and the cats entertained for hours upon end. It may be worth the effort spent just for the purposes of entertainment.
There are also whirl-a-gig products that you can attach to a tree or post with an ear of corn on the ends. This device spins when the squirrels land on it, and cats and children find this amusing and it will keep them busy for hours, as well. It’s similar to a passive babysitter.
Some people will use humane traps for their individual pests, and relocate them elsewhere. If you do this, another animal will replace the one that you had eventually, and believe me, it won’t take long.
- Squirrel Spins Off of Bird Feeder - YouTube
The world's funniest squirrel video.
Where to Get Bird Food
Last time, we discussed specific seed for birds, and today, I’d like to elaborate on that a bit. Grocery store commercial seed mixes end up being costly, as the birds will just throw off what doesn’t appeal to them. I like to visit Atwoods, local feed and seed stores, or Wild Birds Unlimited. Many of these locations will allow you to buy 10 bags, then get one free. Check what is available for quantity seed in your local area, and go from there. Keeping a 50 pound bag of seed in a galvanized metal trash can secured with a bungee cord will allow you to keep it outside, or in a shed or barn. Some people even make bins with a sheet metal inner liner to keep the pests out.
Seed Mixes and Grit
One can even made a homemade general seed mix of 45% millet, 35% black oil sunflower seeds, and 20% safflower. For something a little less expensive, you could do 55% millet, 35% fine cracked corn, and 10% black oil sunflower seeds.
Keep in mind that the birds that you feed have no teeth, so they need a bit of help to crush their food. Either mix in or provide a small dish of grit next to your feeders. It really is critical to the health of a bird to have grit, 20 parts seed to one part grit.
What to Do in the Winter for Birds
Suet is good to have in the winter, as the fat content will help the birds keep their weight on. You can either buy it commercially, or get it from the butcher at the local supermarket. Some will sell it to you very cheaply or charge you nothing at all. Just ask for beef fat. You can also make your own suet mix, if you wish, by melting it down, and adding seeds, dried berries, peanut butter, oatmeal, etc. You can use cat food or tuna cans for a mold, and store it in the freezer.
How to Attract Hummingbirds
To attract hummingbirds, hanging nectar feeders are the method of choice. Place them outside after frost is over, usually early May through October. Hang them near flowering plants, orange or red in color, and once the hummers know that there are feeders in your yard, then move them to a shadier location with a better view for you. You could end up with several pairs, so more than one feeder will be necessary if there is more than one male. They will fight to protect their territory, so you could place another one across the yard. The best feeders are easy to clean and open up, and bee guards are a necessity, too. To deter ants from the feeder, coat the hanging wire with petroleum jelly. A hanger made of fishing line is also effective. There are a number of commercial feed mixes available, but don’t bother to get one with the red dye in it. If you wish to make your own mix instead, use one part white sugar with four parts of hot water. Stir until mixed, and keep the excess in the refrigerator. Don’t use honey or artificial sweeteners, and clean and change the mix once a week, or less, if it isn’t used up by the birds. You could have a pleasant surprise and meet orioles this way, too, but there are special feeders for the orioles, too.