Squirrel-Proofing Your Yard
We have talked about who leaves and who comes when the weather changes, and we have talked about what food to feed those visitors. But there is one visitor to our feeders that never leaves: squirrels. If I had a nickel for every customer that told me about their squirrel issues, I would be quite a rich man. One of the most common questions customers have is how can they feed their birds without feeding their squirrels. Hopefully, I can help you out!
First things first, squirrels are not the enemy! Do not harm squirrels or relocate them from your yard because that shifts the ecosystem heavily. You should never shoot squirrels or put out some type of poison. I cannot express this enough. You may be thinking it is ridiculous that I am saying this, but several customers have asked me if they should kill their squirrels. Do not.
Moving on from the macabre, the most sure fire way to squirrel proof your feeders is to buy a squirrel proof feeder! These feeders, at least all of the ones at Wild Birds Unlimited, are reliable and foolproof. Sometimes the squirrels can come up with a clever tactic to get seed, but you will loose way less seed with a squirrel proof feeder. These feeders typically work on a weight system: when a perch gets too much weight on it, a gate type screen lowers over the port therefore making it impossible for squirrels to reach the seed. While these feeders are admittedly more expensive up front, the savings you have in bird seed equal it all out.
If you do not want to buy one of those feeders, you can buy a cage to go around your feeder. These cages work well in deterring squirrels but one of the drawbacks is that larger birds (anything the size of a cardinal or bigger) cannot enter these cages. That means you could lose a lot of birds at your feeder which is less than ideal. These cages can be an advantage though if you have bigger birds that are bullies. Chickadees, finches, and wrens have to eat just like blue jays and doves. Sometimes the larger birds will chase off the smaller ones.
Cages can even out the feeding and make sure the little guys are getting their food.
The next squirrel proofing option you have is your food. Safflower seed is very hard to crack open, so squirrels sometimes will not bother with it. However, I have learned that a squirrel will eat it if it is hungry enough. Instead of safflower, you can look into hot pepper foods. Birds do not process the spices like mammals do, so they do not notice the heat. Squirrels, however, definitely do. Almost every food type has a hot pepper option: suet, seed, cylinders, and Bark Butter. These spices slow down squirrel consumption and can sometimes chase the squirrels away. Over time, though, these foods can lose some of their kick. Squirrels will sometimes start eating the food when that kick is gone.
You last option for squirrel proofing is installing a baffle. Baffles prevent the squirrels from climbing up the poles or post. This stops them from getting to the feeders. When installing the baffle, it needs to be about five and a half feet high (a squirrel has a vertical leap of about five feet) and it needs to be 10-15 feet away from anything that they could jump from. This includes trees, roofs, fences, etc. You have to outsmart the squirrels which can be tough sometimes.
Those are your best options for dealing with squirrels in your yard. Hopefully this helps! PS we have some great festive Hot Pepper products!
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