Skip to Content

How To Keep Squirrels Away From Bird Feeders – Especially In Fall & Winter!

Did you know that with just a few simple tips and tricks, you can keep squirrels away from your bird feeders with ease – and make feeding birds fun once again. Especially in the fall and winter when birds need the feed the most!

There is nothing more frustrating than watching a squirrel quickly empty your just-filled bird feeder. Squirrels can be quite a nuisance when it comes to those who love to feed birds. They have an uncanny ability to find and locate feeders, seemingly as soon as they are filled!

Unfortunately, once they find it, the squirrels will continue to come back time and time again. And they will continue enjoying the all-you-can-eat feast until it’s gone. Squirrels will even go as far as breaking a feeder if it means they can have easy access to a tasty treat. 

Squirrels visiting bird feeders and eating the seed.
While they might be cute and fluffy, squirrels can wreak havoc on bird feeders. They can quickly eat all the available seeds, leaving nothing behind for hungry birds.

What’s more, squirrels are hardly ever fazed from their eating by anything – and especially not visiting birds. In fact, squirrels most often scare away the very birds you are hoping to attract and feed. Even worse, it seems no matter where you place your feeder, they can engineer a way to get to it!

One thing is for sure, bird seed is not cheap! And it can get quite expensive when you have to constantly replace your supply due to squirrels. But luckily, with a few simple tricks, you can indeed safely keep squirrels away without injuring them in the least – and feed your birds safely at the same time!

How To Keep Squirrels Away From Bird Feeders

Stopping squirrels from getting to feeders really comes down to implementing not one but several strategies. When used together, these hints and tricks can send squirrels looking elsewhere for easier meals – and for good.

Without a doubt, the first and most effective method of keeping squirrels away is to begin by locating your feeders in a place that is hard for them to get to in the first place!

Locating Feeders For Success  

Squirrels can reach places you never imagine. In fact, believe it or not, squirrels are capable of jumping up to 5 feet high and 7 feet across. That means if there is something nearby or overhead of your feeder, squirrels can reach it.

Because of this, avoid placing bird feeders directly in a tree or underneath buildings or structures. Even placing the feeder a few feet away from these objects will still give the squirrels easy access with a simple jump.

A squirrel easily reaching for birdfeeders and seeds from far away.
Squirrels are well known for their acrobatic stunts, including jumping from nearby structures or trees.

Squirrels are actually quite the little acrobats. They are no stranger to dangling upside down or holding on with two feet just to grab a bite. In fact, it is amazing how resourceful they can be to jump, hop and fly to get to a feeder!

The best way to hang a bird feeder is to place it on the top of a tall pole or post. Put the post in a location that is out in the open, away from structures and trees. This eliminate an aerial assault from squirrels – which is a huge help as a first line of defense.

Use Squirrel Baffles – How To Keep Squirrels Away From Bird Feeders

Now that you have your feeder out in the open, the next line of defense is to protect the pole. As in making it impossible for squirrels to climb up it! And one of the easiest ways to do that is to use squirrel baffles.

Squirrel baffles are inexpensive and easy to install on most bird feeders and birdhouse poles. Baffles are essentially large, dome-shaped metal covers that attach to the top and/or bottom of bird feeders.

squirrel baffle - squirrels and bird feeders
Baffles are a great way to keep squirrels from getting to bird feeders.

Their slippery dome shape prevents squirrels from being able to grip the sides. Instead, they simply slip off and have no choice but to jump away. When installed on top, they protect flying squirrels from coming from above. And on the bottom, the dome keeps them from getting above to the feeder.

It’s important when using baffles to still make sure your feeder is high up off of the ground. This will prevent the squirrels from jumping from the ground, bypassing the baffles altogether. Install it no lower than five feet off of the ground for best results. (Affiliate Product Link: Predator Guard Squirrel Baffle)

Use A Slinky – How To Keep Squirrels Away From Bird Feeders

While it sounds a bit silly, a metal slinky can also go a long way in stopping squirrels from visiting your bird feeders as well. Similar to how a baffle works, a slinky makes it extremely difficult for squirrels to get to the feeder. 

Simply slide a slinky over the top of the bird feeder post and allow it to extend down. Use zip ties to secure it to the bottom of the feeder. Ensure that the slinky is made of metal. The cheap plastic slinkies can’t hold up to cold weather conditions or to chewing squirrels.

As long as the feeder is up at least 5 feet high, the squirrels will attempt to grab the post to climb up but grab the slinky instead. The slinky will send them right back to the ground. Eventually, the squirrels will give up. Using a slinky below a baffle can make for a quite a dual squirrel defeating combination! 

Doctoring Your Feed – How To Keep Squirrels Away From Bird Feeders

In addition to installing baffles or slinkies, you can also help the cause by doctoring your feed to make it less desirable for squirrels. This can be done in a couple of different ways, with the first being to add bird feed the squirrels simply don’t like.

Squirrels prefer peanuts, dried fruit, and sunflower seeds. Unfortunately, these items are often preferred by some of the most beloved winter birds as well. (See, “How To Feed Chickadees In The Fall & Winter”)

So what can you do? Since excluding these bird feeding staples isn’t always an option, you can actually introduce feeds to the mix that they do not want to eat.

One of the best to add is safflower seeds. Squirrels don’t like them in the least. But most birds do. And when they are included in the mix- squirrels aren’t quite as fond to come visit. Affiliate Link: Safflower Bird Seed

safflower seeds for birds - squirrels and bird feeders
Most birds like safflower seeds – but squirrels do not!
The Spicy Trick

The second way to make bird feed less desirable to squirrels is by adding hot pepper spice to the mix. While your taste buds might notice the heat from hot peppers, birds don’t seem to be affected by it. 

Both mammals and humans are very sensitive to capsaicin, the ingredient found in hot peppers. Capsaicin is what causes peppers to be spicy. And by adding a little bit of hot pepper to your birdseed mix, with one taste of the spicy mixture, the squirrels will be well on their way looking for much less spicy treats!

Simply sprinkle a little bit of hot pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or any other type of hot pepper powder on your seed mixture. You don’t need to go overboard – with this, a little bit goes a long way. 

If you don’t want to make your own spicy bird feed, you can purchase ready-made bird feed with the spice already added. Whether you purchase the spicy bird seed or make it yourself, be careful with the product around kids and other pets. (Affiliate Product Link: Wild Delight Sizzle N’ Heat Bird Food)

Keep Bird Feeder Areas Tidy – How To Keep Squirrels Away From Bird Feeders

Last but not least, try to keep areas under bird feeders as clean as possible. Birds can be rather messy when they eat from bird feeders. They often use their beaks to push the seeds out of the feeder, forcing it to the ground below.

Large amounts of fallen seed will attract not only hungry squirrels but also raccoons and other hungry pests. Unfortunately, when there is no longer any seed on the ground for the squirrels to eat, the squirrels will go right to the source – the feeder.

A squirrel eating birdseed that is has fallen onto the ground.
Leaving a mess below a bird feeder allows squirrels and other pests easy access to food. Once that food is gone, they will then move on to the feeder itself.

You can either clean up the mess every couple of days or you can add a seed tray to the bottom of your feeder. This will help collect the seeds and mess and prevent it from going onto the ground. While this tip alone isn’t foolproof, it will help from attracting squirrels to your property – and to your feeders. 

Here is to keeping squirrels away from your bird feeders – and to enjoying bird watching all year around!

This Is My Garden

Follow Our Facebook Page For Great Gardening Tips And Advice! This Is My Garden Facebook Page

This Is My Garden is a garden website created by gardeners, for gardeners. Jim and Mary Competti have been writing gardening, DIY and recipe articles and books and speaking for over 15 years from their 46 acre Ohio farm. They publish three articles every week, 52 weeks a year. Sign up today to follow via email, or follow along!