How to keep squirrels off bird feeders: 3 easy ways to deter these critters

If you want to welcome more feathered friends to your plot you may need to know how to keep squirrels off bird feeders – our guide explains

squirrel on bird feeder
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Knowing how to keep squirrels off bird feeders is useful if you're trying to encourage more feathered friends to your plot. These little critters are on the lookout for food, too, and a bird feeder can be like a banquet.

There are plenty of ways to get rid of squirrels from your backyard (they can also be a nuisance for digging up plants). But, if you're trying to keep them away from bird feeders in particular, there are some specific approaches you can take.

How to keep squirrels off bird feeders in your yard

Try these tips on how to keep squirrels off bird feeders so your small, winged visitors can feast in peace.

1. Choose squirrel-proof designs

grey squirrel reaching for nuts in squirrel-proof feeder

Squirrel-proof bird feeders will stop these pests from helping themselves

(Image credit: Ian Watts/EyeEm/Getty Images)

Providing food is one of the best ways to attract birds to your garden. But, if you're dealing with a squirrel problem, then consider trading in your standard bird feeder for one that's squirrel-proof.

One of the most popular types of design has a caged structure around the bird food. This stops squirrels but allows birds to still have easy access. 

Then there are weight-activated designs such as the Cj Wildlife Squirrel Buster (available at BirdFood.co.uk) (opens in new tab) – as recommended by the Amateur Gardening experts. 'When a squirrel lands on the feeder its weight automatically closes the feeding ports, denying access to the food inside,' they explain.

Alternatively, you can invest in a ground-feeding sanctuary. These are small cages designed to cover bird food on the ground, and protect smaller birds from both squirrels and larger birds as they feed.

2. Install a baffle

squirrel baffle beneath bird feeder

Baffles will block access

(Image credit: Cliff Day/Alamy Stock Photo)

You can also find 'baffles' – which, you guessed it – are meant to baffle a squirrel. They are generally cone-shaped and are to be positioned below or above a bird feeder – there are lots of baffle designs available on Amazon (opens in new tab). When a squirrel climbs on, the baffle either tilts them straight off or is shaped in such a way that they won't be able to get a foothold.

If you're looking for a DIY fix, the RSPB (opens in new tab) suggests fixing a biscuit tin to the pole beneath a bird table to stop squirrels from climbing up it. 'Vaseline or other grease on a smooth pole will also help,' they add.

Bear in mind that these will only work if the squirrels can't jump directly onto the feeder or table, from, for example, a nearby wall or tree. Moving your bird feeder away from such potential access points is a good idea.

3. Pick bird food that won't entice squirrels

woodpecker on bird feeder

Chili-dusted food won't deter birds, but squirrels don't like the flavor or taste

(Image credit: Landscapes, Seascapes, Jewellery & Action Photographer/Moment/Getty Images)

Squirrels don't like the smell of chili, and hate the taste, too. Luckily, lots of bird food manufacturers have caught onto this. This means you can now find chili-coated mixes (such as the Wild Delight Sizzle N' Heat Bird Food from Amazon (opens in new tab)) that birds will happily devour, while squirrels will leave them well alone.

The RSPB suggests making your own mix simply by sprinkling hot pepper sauce or chili powder onto bird food.

If you're trying to stop squirrels from digging up bulbs, you can also try sprinkling cayenne powder onto the soil, which will deter them.

Holly Crossley
Senior Content Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.