SQUIRREL PROOFING 101SQUIRRELS 101 »
IDEAL LOCATIONS FOR BIRD FEEDERS
Squirrels can jump several feet to reach a feeder, so the first step is making sure you place your feeders away from all “launching” points, including trees, houses, laundry lines and utility wires.
Hanging Bird Feeders from Trees
If you are hanging your squirrel-resistant bird feeder from a tree branch, try and locate it at least 12 feet from the tree trunk or limb and at least 4 feet up from the ground. This will prevent squirrels from either jumping from the tree or up from the ground and onto the feeder.
Despite those efforts, it will be quite difficult to keep a squirrel from accessing a feeder attached to a tree. It can leap into the tree from a nearby launching point or climb the trunk and run out along the branch.
Attach the feeder’s hanging line or hook to a very thin branch, and hope the squirrel doesn’t want to venture out where it could fall or be spotted by predators. The combination of a squirrel-resistant feeder in a hard-to-reach spot can be enough to keep some squirrels away!
Hanging Bird Feeders from a Line
If you are hanging the feeder off a line, make sure the feeder is suspended at least four feet above the ground (or snow). The length (and thinness) of the line will make it difficult to climb up and down the wire.
When suspending the feeder from a line, remember that a metal wire, piano wire or unbreakable monofilament is probably best. Any other material can be exploited by a frustrated squirrel. They are smart enough to chew through a rope or plastic cord, which causes the feeder to crash to the ground and possibly break.
Mounting a Bird Feeder on a Pole
If you choose to pole mount your feeder; make sure the pole is at least 5½ feet in length. This will allow you to place the pole approximately one foot into the ground and still keep the bottom of the feeder four feet off the ground. You may also want to add a squirrel baffle, see below, which will prevent the squirrel from scaling the pole and reaching the feeder.
Before you set up your mounting pole, make sure your feeder can actually sit on a pole. Many Perky-Pet® feeders include this feature.
Your other pole-mounting option is to hang the feeder off of a shepherd’s hook. You should follow the same guidelines for a shepherd’s hook as you would a pole – make sure it’s at least 4½ feet off the ground and out of jumping distance.
When selecting a pole or shepherd’s hook, pick one that is built from a smooth metal and has no places for a squirrel to get its grip. Possible handholds can include connector joints, metal welds and even indented lettering. Squirrels don’t need much to hold on to thanks to their claws!
Remember Bird Preferences
While you engage in all these anti-squirrel efforts on the proper placement for your bird feeder, remember to think of birds, too!
Keep in mind that some birds are more nervous than others when squirrels are around. So while you should keep the feeder away from any launch points, birds appreciate cover within 15-20 feet of the feeder.
Remember also that ground cover is a hiding place for predators so keep feeders away from it, too.
SQUIRREL-RESISTANT BIRD SEED & FOOD
While squirrels will eat almost anything, there are some kinds of bird seed a squirrel will not jump through hoops to get, so this can help to "squirrel-proof" your feeder indirectly. The combination of these seeds, a heavy-duty feeder and other factors virtually guarantees the squirrels go looking elsewhere for a meal!
Safflower was one of the first plants cultivated by mankind. Humans used it to create vegetable oil, make margarine and as a natural fabric dye. Safflower seeds appeal to a number of birds, including cardinals, doves, titmice, nuthatches and house finches! Squirrels, however, don’t like safflower, which means they will generally leave it alone.
Another seed option for keeping squirrels at bay is Niger seed, which is sometimes called thistle seed or Nyjer®. This seed comes from Africa or Asia and squirrels simply do not like to eat this tiny seed, which attracts a variety of finch species, including American Goldfinches, Purple Finches and Pine Siskins.
It’s worth noting that if you opt to try niger seed, you will need to buy a special finch feeder, which has small feeder ports to accommodate the size of the seed.
Another option is to make your bird seed taste spicy with cayenne pepper. Just shake this pepper powder, which you can find at a grocery store, directly on your bird seed. Your squirrels will try it, spit it out when it torches their taste buds and start looking for another meal elsewhere. If the powder isn’t effective at first, try increasing the dosage.
Can the birds taste it? No. They don’t have the same sense of taste, so they keep eating cayenne-covered bird seed as if nothing had changed.
Be aware though – there are reports of squirrels who grow a tolerance to cayenne pepper. Others may be hungry enough that they simply don’t care how hot it tastes.
Squirrels love store-bought suet! Why? Because it usually includes nuts surrounded by a high-energy cake, all of which a squirrel will happily eat.
The original form of suet was created using only beef suet, and is something squirrels aren’t exactly fond of eating. That suet is a fat from the loin area of cattle that surrounds its kidneys. If you render it first don’t add any extra tidbits that would be tasty to a squirrel.
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