Easy Tips to Keep Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders

Bird-watching is one of nature’s most serene and beautiful experiences. The sight of colorful birds flitting to and fro, chirping melodiously, can bring unparalleled joy to our lives. 

But sometimes, squirrels can spoil the fun by getting into bird feeders and eating all the food, which can be annoying for bird lovers.

Hence, finding effective and humane solutions to keep squirrels at bay without harming them becomes essential.

Relevance & Problem Statement:

Bird-watching is not just a hobby; it’s a passion for many. When bird feeders, an integral part of this activity, are constantly raided by squirrels, it becomes a significant concern. Finding a balance where birds and squirrels may coexist without hurting either is difficult.

Guide to Keeping Squirrels Away from Your Bird Feeders:

Do you have issues with squirrels visiting your bird feeders?

Here’s how to keep them out of the area so the birds can eat in peace:

1. Elevation & Placement Techniques:

  • Place your feeder out in the open: Positioning bird feeders in open areas minimizes the chances of squirrels accessing them from overhanging trees or structures.
  • Elevate the feeder out of jumping reach: Ensure it is high enough to prevent squirrels from jumping onto it from the ground. A minimum height of 5 feet is recommended.
  • Hang the bird feeder from a pole: Positioning feeders away from trees and using poles can help reduce squirrel access. The choice of location plays a crucial role in ensuring its effectiveness.

2. Feeder Modifications:

  • Use a squirrel baffle: Baffles are cylindrical or dome-shaped objects positioned above or below bird feeders. They build a wall that keeps squirrels from getting to the feeder.
  • Upgrade to caged bird feeders: These feeders have a protective cage around them, ensuring only small birds can access the food while keeping squirrels out.
  • Squirrel-proof poles: Using slippery materials like PVC or copper can deter squirrels from climbing.

3. Deterrents & Distractions:

  • Offer foods squirrels dislike: Sunflower, safflower, and nyjer are some bird seed types that are less attractive to squirrels.
  • Spice up your feed: Squirrels detest the spiciness of cayenne pepper and garlic. Mixing these with bird feed can deter them without affecting the birds.
  • Feed squirrels separately: Setting up a designated feeding area for squirrels with foods they prefer can distract them from bird feeders.

4. Feeder Enhancements:

  • Attach a slinky to the feeder pole: Slinkies can make it challenging for squirrels to climb as they keep sliding down.
  • Use wire to outsmart squirrels: A thin wire can be used to hang feeders, making it difficult for squirrels to grip.
  • Put a spin on feeders: Some bird feeders are designed to spin when a heavier weight, like a squirrel, lands on them, making it difficult for them to stay on.

5. Yard & Environment Maintenance:

  • Keep the feeding area tidy: Regularly cleaning and ensuring no food scraps are left around can make the area less attractive to squirrels.
  • Create obstacles: Placing objects or creating barriers in the yard can deter squirrels from accessing feeders.
  • Use safe deterrents: While many exist, opting for safe ones like soap and avoiding harmful methods is essential.

Scents and Smells that Keep Squirrels Away:

Bird feeders and gardens are often plagued by squirrels looking for an easy meal.

While these creatures can be entertaining to watch, they’re not always welcome guests, especially when they’re raiding our feeders and plants.

One humane way to deter them is by using scents that they naturally dislike.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the top ten smells that effectively repel squirrels.

1. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which is what gives it its spicy kick.

While humans may enjoy this heat in our dishes, squirrels find it extremely unpleasant.

Sprinkling cayenne pepper around the base of bird feeders, or mixing it with birdseed, can make the food less appealing to them.

However, it’s safe for birds as they lack the receptors to feel the burn of capsaicin.

This method is highly effective and widely recommended by gardeners and bird enthusiasts.

The potent smell and taste of the pepper act as a deterrent.

2. Garlic

Garlic’s strong odor is known to deter various pests, including squirrels.

Planting garlic bulbs around gardens or crushing garlic cloves and spreading them around bird feeders can deter squirrels from approaching.

Additionally, garlic sprays are available which can be spritzed around desired areas.

Garlic’s potent smell can remain effective for several days, but reapplication is suggested after heavy rains.

3. Mint

Mint’s refreshing scent, while appealing to humans, is not favored by many pests, squirrels included.

Planting mint plants near bird feeders or gardens can deter squirrels.

Mint essential oil can also be used; by dabbing some on cotton balls and placing them around areas you wish to protect.

Mint’s strong aroma acts as a natural repellent, and the plant itself is hardy and easy to grow, making it a popular choice.

4. Cinnamon and Clove

Both cinnamon and clove pack strong, distinct scents.

They’re not just for baking; they’re also squirrel repellents.

You can sprinkle ground cinnamon and clove around areas you want to protect or use essential oils of both, dabbing them on cotton balls or fabric swatches.

These spices offer a dual benefit: a pleasant aroma for humans and a deterrent for squirrels.

They’re natural and safe for the environment.

5. Irish Spring Soap

The pungent scent of Irish Spring soap is a known deterrent for many garden pests, including squirrels.

Shave slivers of the soap and scatter them around gardens or hang bars of the soap from trees or bird feeder stands.

The strong scent of the soap repels squirrels, and as a bonus, it’s rain-resistant, ensuring longer-lasting protection.

6. Vinegar

Vinegar, with its acrid scent, is not a favorite for squirrels.

Its pungent aroma is known to deter these creatures, making it a handy tool in keeping them at bay.

Using vinegar-soaked rags or cotton balls, place them around the garden or near bird feeders.

Alternatively, a diluted vinegar spray can be misted in areas frequently visited by squirrels.

While the smell of vinegar is potent, it does tend to evaporate and dissipate after some time, especially in outdoor settings.

Regular reapplication, especially after rains, is recommended.

7. Coffee Grounds

Many pests, squirrels included, are put off by the strong aroma of coffee grounds.

Moreover, coffee grounds can also serve as a great organic addition to the soil.

Spread used coffee grounds around garden beds or near bird feeders.

If you’re not a coffee drinker, many coffee shops offer used grounds for free as part of eco-initiatives.

The sharp smell of coffee acts as a squirrel deterrent.

As a bonus, as they degrade, they enrich the soil, benefiting plants.

8. Mothballs

Mothballs release a scent that is commonly used to repel moths and other insects.

However, the strong smell can also act as a deterrent for squirrels.

Place mothballs in areas where squirrel activity is problematic.

It’s essential to note that mothballs should be used with caution as they contain chemicals that can be harmful to pets and children.

The powerful aroma of mothballs can deter squirrels, but due to their potential risks, they should be used sparingly and in areas inaccessible to other animals and kids.

9. Skunk-Like Odors

Skunks are natural predators of squirrels.

The very scent that is reminiscent of a skunk can signal danger to them.

Commercial repellents mimicking skunk odors are available.

Spraying these around affected areas can act as a deterrent.

Given the instinctual fear squirrels have of skunks, this method can be highly effective.

However, it’s essential to use products that are environmentally friendly and safe for other wildlife.

10. Predator Urine

Predator urine, like that of foxes or coyotes, acts as a signal of a nearby predator, inducing fear in squirrels and discouraging them from visiting.

Commercially available predator urine can be sprinkled around gardens or bird feeders.

As it’s natural, it poses no harm to plants or birds.

Being a natural repellent, predator urine can be very effective in deterring squirrels as it plays on their natural fear instincts.

Homemade Squirrel Repellent Spray:

1. Hot Pepper Spray:

Ingredients:

  • Several fresh cayenne peppers or other hot chili peppers
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of dish soap

Method:

  • Blend the peppers with the water in a blender until they form a smooth mixture.
  • Strain the mixture to remove any large pepper chunks.
  • Mix in the dish soap, This acts as a sticking agent, helping the solution adhere to surfaces for a longer time.
  • Pour the mixture into a spray bottle.

Application:

Spray the hot pepper mixture onto plants, bird feeders, or any other areas you want to deter squirrels from.

The spiciness of the pepper is a strong repellent for squirrels, but it’s harmless to them.

2. Garlic and Vinegar Spray:

Ingredients:

  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups of vinegar

Method:

  • Crush or mince the garlic cloves.
  • Mix the garlic with the vinegar in a bowl and let it sit overnight.
  • Strain the mixture to remove the garlic pieces and pour it into a spray bottle.

Application:

The strong smell of garlic combined with the pungency of vinegar acts as a natural repellent for squirrels.

Spray on areas where you’ve noticed squirrel activity.

3. Essential Oils Spray:

Ingredients:

  • 10-15 drops of mint essential oil (or other essential oils like lemon, eucalyptus, or cinnamon)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tablespoon of dish soap

Method:

  • Mix the essential oil drops with the water.
  • Add the dish soap to the mixture.
  • Pour the solution into a spray bottle.

Application:

Essential oils have strong smells that can act as natural squirrel deterrents. Spray onto areas frequented by squirrels or where you want to prevent their access.

Safety Precautions and Tips:

Before spraying any mixture on plants, it’s wise to test it on a small patch to ensure it doesn’t harm the plants.

These homemade sprays can be washed away by rain, so it’s essential to reapply them after a heavy downpour.

Especially when handling hot peppers, always wear gloves to prevent irritation.

Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly and avoid touching your face.

If you make these sprays in bulk, always store them in a cool, dark place, ideally in a labeled container to avoid confusion.

If spraying elevated areas, ensure the mist doesn’t get into your eyes or nose.

The strong odors or the spicy nature of the pepper can cause discomfort.

Homemade squirrel repellent sprays provide a humane and environmentally friendly method of keeping squirrels away from specific areas.

They’re cost-effective and utilize ingredients typically found in most households.

They demonstrate that you don’t need to rely on chemicals to maintain a squirrel-free zone.

Harmful Repellents: What Not to Use:

In our quest to repel squirrels and other pests, it’s essential to remember that our goal is deterrence, not harm.

Many repellents available on the market, or touted in home remedies, can be detrimental to the health of the animals, the environment, or even us.

Here’s a detailed look into some of these harmful repellents:

1. Mothballs:

Mothballs contain naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, chemicals which can be harmful when ingested.

While they might deter pests due to their strong odor, they pose significant risks.

These chemicals can be toxic to both animals and humans.

Ingestion, especially by children or pets, can lead to serious health complications.

When mothballs dissolve, these chemicals seep into the soil, potentially contaminating groundwater.

2. Toxic Chemical Sprays:

There are many commercial repellents that contain harsh chemicals.

These can adversely affect not just squirrels but also beneficial insects, pets, and other wildlife.

Chemical repellents can leave residues that persist in the environment and might be taken up by plants, which can be a concern if used in vegetable gardens.

Continual exposure or mishandling can lead to health issues in humans, ranging from skin irritations to more severe complications depending on the chemical used.

3. Rat Poison:

Some might consider using rat poison as a means to deter squirrels, but this is an inhumane and dangerous method.

Poisons lead to painful deaths for squirrels.

Birds of prey or pets might consume poisoned squirrels, leading to secondary poisoning.

This can drastically impact local ecosystems and lead to unintentional pet deaths.

4. Ultrasonic Repellers:

Though marketed as safe and humane, the efficacy of ultrasonic repellers is debated, and they might have unintended consequences.

They can be disturbing to other animals, including pets like dogs, cats, and birds.

Not all squirrels or pests might be deterred by the same ultrasonic frequencies.

5. Ammonia:

Ammonia is another substance sometimes recommended as a squirrel repellent due to its pungent smell.

Breathing its fumes can be harmful to both squirrels and humans, especially in enclosed spaces.

When used in large quantities, ammonia can harm plants and contaminate water sources.

Harmful repellents might offer quick fixes, but they come with a slew of associated risks that can be far-reaching.

It’s always recommended to research thoroughly and consult experts when considering pest deterrent methods.

Understanding Squirrel Behavior:

Physical Abilities: Squirrels are agile and acrobatic, capable of jumping distances up to ten times their body length. Their sharp claws and flexible ankles allow them to climb and even run head-first down trees easily.

Feeding Habits: Squirrels are opportunistic feeders. While they prefer acorns, nuts, and fruits, they won’t shy away from an easy meal at a bird feeder.

Memory: Squirrels exhibit excellent memory, which they use to locate caches of food buried in various locations. This also means they’re likely to return once they identify a consistent food source, like a bird feeder.

Advanced Deterrent Techniques:

Electronic Deterrents: Devices like motion-activated sprinklers can deter squirrels. The sprinkler activates once the motion sensor detects movement, sending squirrels scampering away. Ultrasonic repellents, which emit a high-frequency sound that squirrels dislike (but is inaudible to humans), can also be effective.

Camouflage the Smell of Bird Seed: Masking the scent of birdseed can reduce its allure. Use hermetically sealed containers to store seeds, ensuring minimal scent dispersal.

Predator Scents: Using the scent of a squirrel’s natural predators can deter them. Fox urine, available in some gardening or hunting stores, can act as a repellent when sprinkled around the feeder.

Diversity of Bird Feeders and Seeds: 

Tube Feeders: These feeders, particularly those with metal ports around the seed dispensing holes, prevent squirrels from gaining access to the seeds.

Weight-Activated Feeders: Advanced versions can be calibrated based on the weight of regular birds visiting the feeder. This ensures even larger birds aren’t denied access while keeping squirrels out.

Seed Selection: While previously mentioned seeds like safflower are less appealing to squirrels, black oil sunflower seeds (in the shell) are often too much effort for squirrels to open, making them less attractive.

Creating a Squirrel Feeding Zone:

Alternate Food Sources: By creating a separate area in your garden or yard for squirrels, filled with their favorite foods (like corn cobs, peanuts, or other nuts), they may be less inclined to disturb the bird feeders.

Natural Habitat: Building or setting up a squirrel house or nesting box filled with materials like straw or leaves can encourage them to stake a claim to a particular area, potentially reducing their interest in wandering.

Monitoring and Adjusting Techniques:

Install Cameras: Motion-activated wildlife cameras can help you monitor squirrel activity and adjust your deterrence methods accordingly.

Regularly Change Techniques: Squirrels are smart and adaptive. They might figure out a way to bypass one deterrent over time. By changing or rotating techniques regularly, you can stay one step ahead.

Recommendations

Invest in high-quality bird feeders that come with built-in squirrel deterrent features.

Regularly inspect and repair feeders for any damage caused by squirrels.

Engage with local wildlife enthusiasts or communities to share and gather insights on successful squirrel deterrence methods.

Additional Tips for Bird Enthusiasts:

Bird Watching: Invest in a good pair of binoculars and a bird identification book. Not only will you ensure the birds are eating, but you can also enjoy identifying and learning about different species.

Water Source: Alongside food, birds need fresh water. Consider adding a bird bath or a water fountain in your garden to attract a wider variety of birds.

Seasonal Care: During winters, provide high-fat food like suet to help birds maintain their energy. Consider offering nesting materials like twigs, leaves, or yarn scraps in spring.

Cleanliness: Ensure that you regularly clean bird feeders to prevent the spread of diseases. A simple rinse with warm water and mild soap every few weeks can be sufficient.

Stay Informed: Join local bird-watching groups or online forums. Staying updated on the latest trends, issues, and discoveries can enhance your bird feeding and watching experience.

Maintaining a bird-friendly environment requires effort and vigilance, but the joy of watching these feathered friends frolic and thrive in your space makes it all worthwhile.

With the right balance of care, creativity, and consistency, you can cultivate a harmonious haven for birds while coexisting peacefully with squirrels.

Verdict:

Keeping squirrels away from bird feeders is a matter of strategy, adaptability, and understanding the habits of these persistent critters.

By adopting the above mentioned methods, bird enthusiasts can enjoy their hobby without depriving squirrels of food sources.

Remember always to prioritize the safety and well-being of all animals while ensuring that bird-watching remains a joyous endeavor.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do these deterrent methods harm the environment?

Most of the deterrents mentioned above are environment-friendly. However, always ensure that any repellant or method is biodegradable and non-toxic. Predator scents, like fox urine, should be sourced ethically.

Can these techniques be used in urban settings?

Absolutely. Urban areas, in fact, often witness more conflicts between squirrels and bird feeders due to the limited natural food sources for squirrels. Techniques such as using weight-activated feeders, ultrasonic repellents, and specialized birdseed are all suitable for city settings.

About The Author
Hi 👋, I’m Billy Thomas, a passionate wildlife biologist with over 10 years of experience. With my expertise in wildlife biology and as a proud owner of over 20 squirrels as pets, I aim to provide reliable information, fun facts, and insights into the world of squirrels.

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