How to stop squirrels eating your bird food

It can feel frustrating when you set up a perfect feeding station for your birds, but the ones who benefit are the squirrels! As much as we want to encourage all wildlife into our gardens, it can be frustrating when the majority of the food is being eaten by squirrels. They may look cute, but squirrels scare away birds and store any food they can’t eat, taking way more than they need. They’re clever and resilient and will chew through even wire to access the food they want.

If you want to stop squirrels from eating everything you put out, here are some ideas to try.

1. Keep the feeders clean

Squirrels are often attracted by food knocked off the feeders by birds. Try to keep the area under your bird feeder clean, and maybe consider attaching a tray beneath the feeder to collect any fallen food.

2. Invest in a squirrel proof feeder

Some feeders are designed specifically to prevent squirrels, and The Squirrel Buster is the perfect option. While the feeding ports remain open when birds are eating, the weight of a squirrel will cause them to close, and they can even be adjusted to deter heavier birds too (perfect if the pigeons are eating all your bird food and not giving the smaller birds a chance). You don’t need any special tools to set The Squirrel Buster up and with a Lifetime Guarantee and over 4 million sold worldwide it makes a great investment. The feeding tube is surrounded by a chew proof metal cage and the feeder is easy to fill and clean – just position with 18″ (47cm) clearance on all sides to ensure the squirrels can’t reach. Head to the store to get The Squirrel Buster for your garden.

3. Give squirrels their own space

This tutorial from Birds and Blooms shows you how to make a squirrel feeder. Keep it topped up with plenty of peanuts and it might just be enough to keep them away from the birds’ supply! You can also buy squirrel feeders and squirrel cafés online.

4. Hang your bird feeders from spinning wire

Make sure the feeders hang at least 5 feet from the ground so the squirrels can’t jump up. If you're hanging your feeder from a wire, you can try hanging a plastic bottle horizontally on either side of the feeder (make a hole in the base of the bottle), or thread copper pipe or hosepipe along the wire it will create a spinning obstacle course they might struggle to overcome.

5. Replace the pole

If your feeders hang from a pole, experiment with different materials to see if any keep the squirrels away. Some people find that copper or plastic poles are less easy for squirrels to navigate, and you can even invest in squirrel poof poles.

6. Keep a lid on it

Squirrels are clever enough to dismantle a bird feeder to get to the food inside. Make sure it is as well secured as possible, using thick wire that they can’t chew through to hold the lid and base on tightly.

7. Add a slinky

Attach a slinky so it’s coiled vertically from beneath the feeder – it shouldn’t be touching the ground. When the squirrels get close to the food, the slinky will suddenly uncoil and they will drop down – the shock might be enough to put them off.

8. Follow the rule of 5-7-9

It is thought that squirrels will be reluctant to jump more than 5 feet off the ground, 7 feet across from a fence or tree and won’t want to drop more than 9 feet onto the feeder from above. Measure out the site for your bird feeder to make sure it falls within the rule of 5-7-9 and prune away branches that give the squirrels easy access.

9. Create a squirrel baffle

Drill a hole through a plastic mixing bowl and invert it over your feeder to create a baffle for the squirrels - they will struggle to get underneath it to reach the food.

Squirrels are as much a part of our gardens as the birds we love to feed, so it is important to try not to become too frustrated by their presence and resort to deterrents that harm them.

Have you come up with any squirrel proofing tricks in your garden? Share your ideas below!