Safe, Easy Tips to Keep Squirrels Out of Bird Feeders

Feeding birds in your backyard can be an enjoyable hobby. Watching colorful songbirds visit your feeders gives you a close-up view of nature’s beauty. However, you may find unwanted squirrels raiding your bird feeders and gobbling up all the seed before your feathered friends get a chance. Keep reading to learn some safe and easy tips to deter pesky squirrels and protect your bird feeders.

Use Feeders Designed to Deter Squirrels

The best defense is a good offense when trying to outsmart squirrels. Look for bird feeders specifically designed to prevent squirrel access. Here are some feeder options that can help:

  • Weight-sensitive perches: These feeders have perches that close access to the seed when a heavy squirrel steps on them. The perches remain open for lighter birds.
  • Caged or tube feeders: Squirrels can’t climb inside tube feeders or feeders with wire mesh cages surrounding them. Look for feeding ports sized for small birds.
  • Dome or covered feeders: A plastic or metal dome over the seed reservoir limits access for squirrels. Birds can easily feed through side ports.
  • Single feeding port: Feeders with one small feeding port are harder for squirrels to access. Meanwhile, agile birds have no problem.

Investing in squirrel-resistant feeders right from the start will avoid many headaches. Be sure to also clean and disinfect feeders regularly to prevent disease transmission.

Use DIY Baffles to Block Climbing Squirrels

Crafty squirrels are amazingly agile and can climb just about anything. Stop them in their tracks with simple homemade baffles placed above or below feeders. Try these ideas:

  • Cut the bottom off a plastic soda or water bottle, and place it upside down over a pole-mounted feeder. The slippery plastic surface foils climbing squirrels.
  • Loop a 3-4 foot section of PVC pipe around a pole below the feeder. The smooth surface blocks squirrels from shimmying up.
  • Mount feeders on a long metal pole or arm away from trees, fences and other launching points. Squirrels have trouble jumping the extended distance.

With a little creativity, you can fashion simple shields or barriers from cheap materials to keep squirrels at bay. Just be sure not to obstruct birds’ access when designing your DIY baffle.

Employ Natural Squirrel Repellents

Skip the chemicals and try some natural options to make your yard less appealing to squirrels seeking bird seed. Some easy deterrents include:

  • Sprinkle chili powder, cayenne pepper or black pepper around your feeder pole and on nearby fences or walls. Squirrels dislike the smell and spicy sensation.
  • Spray feeder areas with vinegar or lemon juice concentrates. The strong scents are offensive to squirrel senses.
  • Plant marigolds, daffodils or other pungent flowers around your feeders. Squirrels tend to avoid areas with these strong fragrances.
  • Rub feeder poles with bar soap or orange, lemon or grapefruit peels. The residual smells repel squirrels.

Reapply natural repellents frequently, such as after rain. Over time, squirrels may become accustomed to certain scents. Rotate repellents to keep them guessing!

Provide Alternative Food Sources Away from Feeders

Rather than battling endlessly with squirrels over your bird feeders, you can also distract and divert them with other food sources placed away from your feeders. Some options to try:

  • Set up a squirrel feeder on the opposite side of your yard with inexpensive corn, peanuts or mixed seeds. Refill it regularly to satisfy their hunger.
  • Toss whole unshelled peanuts or corn cobs onto the ground far from your bird feeding area. The natural foods will keep squirrels occupied.
  • Hang ears of corn, small squash, or pine cones smeared with peanut butter from trees to give squirrels another enticing place to feed.

Satisfying squirrel appetites elsewhere in your yard reduces their motivation to pilfer from your bird buffet. Just be sure feeding areas are spaced far apart.

Employ Scare Tactics for Stubborn Squirrels

For particularly stubborn squirrels not deterred by other methods, sometimes scare tactics are in order. Here are some intimidating ideas to try:

  • Set up a motion-activated sprinkler near your feeder. When squirrels come close, they are sprayed with a startling burst of water.
  • Place a model owl, hawk or snake nearby to frighten squirrels with the threat of predators. Change locations regularly so squirrels don’t catch on.
  • Hang old CDS or reflective tape near feeders. Flashing lights and movement will unnerve squirrels.
  • Play barking dog or predator sounds through a hidden speaker when squirrels approach. The noises startle them away.

Use scare tactics sparingly to prevent squirrels from becoming desensitized. Vary your specific approach day to day for best results. Persistent squirrels may eventually overcome their fear.

When All Else Fails, Take a Break from Feeding Birds

If your attempts to outsmart ravenous squirrels consistently come up short, don’t despair. Sometimes the simplest solution is to remove access to the prize – your birdseed. Taking a break from feeding for several weeks causes squirrels to seek food elsewhere and form new habits.

When you resume feeding, make sure to implement multiple deterrents right away before squirrels rediscover the free buffet. Consistently using several techniques maximizes your chances for success. Just don’t forget your feathered friends when the squirrels move on!

Outsmarting resourceful squirrels requires diligence and patience. Implementing various deterrents, repellents and scare tactics can ultimately convince squirrels to look elsewhere for their next meal. With the right strategies, you can enjoy watching birds feast at your feeders without interference from greedy squirrels. Don’t become discouraged if it takes some trial and error to find the winning squirrel-beating combo. Your feathered visitors will reward your persistence!

Frequently Asked Questions About Deterring Squirrels from Bird Feeders

Still have some questions about keeping squirrels away from your bird feeders? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What time of year are squirrels most active at bird feeders?

Squirrels are most likely to raid bird feeders in late winter and early spring when natural food sources are scarce. During warmer months they have abundant natural foods to keep them satisfied.

What senses do squirrels use to locate bird feeders?

Squirrels have excellent vision and keen senses of smell and memory. They use all these skills to spot feeders and remember reliable food sources.

How can I tell if a squirrel has been at my bird feeder?

Signs a squirrel has visited your feeder include chewed up ports, small tooth marks on plastic or wood, and seed hulls scattered on the ground. Missing perches are another giveaway.

Will moth balls or ammonia repel squirrels from my yard?

No, moth balls and ammonia are not recommended. These substances are hazardous to pets, birds and other wildlife. Stick with nature-based repellents for a safer approach.

Is feeding squirrels prohibited in some areas?

Yes, many municipalities prohibit purposefully feeding squirrels. Squirrels that become dependent on human food sources cause problems. Always check local regulations.

What kind of habitat and nesting sites attract squirrels?

Squirrels seek areas with large trees, standing dead trees, bushes, access to attics or eaves, and connecting power lines or fences. Remove these attractive features if possible.

When is it okay to give up and take down my bird feeders temporarily?

If squirrels persistently overwhelm all your deterrents, it’s fine to remove feeders for a couple weeks. The break will encourage squirrels to find natural foods instead.

Knowing more about the adversary is the first step to outwitting them! Understanding squirrel behavior and motivations helps you create an effective deterrence strategy. With flexible thinking and persistence, you can eventually claim victory in your battle with these crafty feeder raiders.


Bird feeding can be a fulfilling hobby, but squirrels seem determined to spoil your fun. Fortunately, with the right deterrent techniques, you can create an enjoyable bird watching oasis relatively free of freeloading squirrels. Invest in specialty feeders, employ natural repellents, distract squirrels away from feeders, and use occasional scare tactics as needed. Above all, don’t get discouraged! It may take some strategic trial and error to find the ideal anti-squirrel methods for your unique yard and squirrel situation. With flexibility and commitment to your bird buffet defense plan, you can outsmart even the craftiest of bushy-tailed feeder thieves. Soon your yard will be filled with peaceful birds feasting happily at their seed banquet, not pesky squirrels. Sit back and relax as you enjoy rewarding hours observing your feathered friends dine in safety at last!