When you set up a bird feeder in your yard, there are few things more frustrating that watching squirrels devour all of the seed. You can purchase a squirrel-proof feeder, but it can be costly and if you already have an adequate feeder, you probably do not want to incur the additional expense. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep squirrels out of your bird feeder by using simple household items or altering your feeding habits.
Change the Seed
Squirrels eat most of the common types of seeds that are fed to birds. However, there are a few varieties that do not appeal to them. For example, many squirrels will not eat safflower seeds, while most birds, including house finches, cardinals, mourning doves, nuthatches and chickadees, will. Replace your traditional bird feed with safflower seeds and squirrels should stop visiting your feeder.
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Grease the Pole
While squirrels can climb a variety of objects, they usually have trouble if the surface is slick and smooth. If your bird feeder's post is made from PVC or metal, that may be enough to keep squirrels from reaching the feeder. However, you can make the surface even more slippery by coating it with vegetable oil, or a similar oil, from your pantry. Squirrels will not be able to climb up the feeder's post so only birds will have access to the seed.
Try Natural Repellents
Certain natural substances are known to repel squirrels. Cayenne pepper usually deters squirrels and may be sprinkled on the area surrounding your feeder to keep them away. If squirrels are accessing your bird feeder from nearby tree branches, mix cayenne pepper to water to make a strong solution and apply it to the trees beside the feeder. You can also use the cayenne pepper solution on your feeder's post, which may be particularly helpful if it is wooden and easy for squirrels to climb otherwise. Hot peppers, lemon juice and apple bitter are other natural substances that can keep squirrels away.
Feed the Squirrels
While it may seem counterproductive, feeding squirrels in your yard can keep them away from your bird feeder. Consider adding a feeder specifically for squirrels at another location in your yard that is a significant distance from the bird feeder. If you do not want to build a separate feeder, simply put out containers of foods like peanuts and corn, which not only satisfy squirrels' hunger but helps grind down their teeth as well. Remember to keep these feeding areas stocked so squirrels are not driven to find other food sources and begin visiting the bird feeder again.
In some instances, squirrels eat from a bird feeder not because they are hungry but because they are thirsty. Providing water for them to drink may cut back on their visits to the feeder. If you do not have a bird bath in your yard, fill shallow plastic trays with water and place them in a corner of your yard away from the bird feeder. Be sure to clean and refill daily since standing water attracts other unwanted pests like mosquitoes.