A bird sitting on top of a wooden table

How to Squirrel-Proof a Bird Feeder Plus More Great Reader Tips

Recently, I had the occasion to shop for a bird feeder for a dear friend. I learned quickly that squirrels are nuts about bird feeders and can outsmart just about any design or effort to keep them out of the birds’ food. For me, that begs the question:

Why aren’t there “squirrel feeders” so squirrels can have their own filling stations and stop tormenting the birds? I’m sure if there’s an answer to that, I’ll be hearing from my readers very soon.

A bird sitting on top of a wooden table

In the meantime, enjoy today’s first tip from EC reader Marge, who discovered a cheap, albeit effective, way to deal with thieving squirrels in her yard.

Squirrel-proof

After watching squirrels hanging upside down on my bird feeders—sometimes one on each side of the roof—I finally found the solution: a jar of Vaseline. I put on a rubber glove and then smeared the pole from top to bottom with the Vaseline. In no time at all, I watched as one squirrel tried to climb the pole, but jumped off because it was too slippery. So far none have been able to overcome Vaseline while I am enjoying many different birds at the feeder. Marge

Catch mice like magic

I have another use for Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. I bought a new one and stored it under my kitchen sink. The next day I reached for it and something had been eating it. Pieces of white torn up sponge were around. A mouse, I thought. So I got out some handy mouse traps.

As I was about to use peanut butter for bait, I suddenly thought, “If he likes the Mr. Clean Dry Erase Sponge so much…” So I cut off a piece and used it to bait the trap (so much less messy than sticky peanut butter). This morning there he was in the trap, having gone for it. Who would have imagined? Sharon

Ornament storage container

I reuse the plastic fresh apple containers from Costco to store my Christmas ornaments. The clear plastic containers stack nicely and are rigid enough to protect delicate ornaments. Plus I can easily see what’s inside each container. Marianne

Slick closet rod

Use a piece of waxed paper to run across your clothes rods. This will make the hangers slide more easily when searching through your clothes. I do it every six months and don’t feel I have to “work out” just to slide the hangers when viewing my clothes. If the rod in your closet has a sagging point don’t do this until you fix that, since all the hangers will slide to the lowest point. I learned this tip when working in a bridal shop since the gowns were so heavy to push along the rod. The wax paper trick made them slide like butter. Lea

The teriyaki stretch

I’m a single mom of three kids. They love to eat out and they love teriyaki but at almost $8 per person it really adds up. More annoying are the leftovers that never seem to get eaten. So now I just order two meals, requesting extra meat which only runs about $1-2 for each meal. Then I add some fruit or extra vegetables to make the meals stretch farther. The kids are happy and my so is my budget. Tobi

Furniture switcheroo

I counsel young folks moving into an apartment to outfit its insides with patio/outdoor furniture. When they buy a house, they can move the old furniture outside and purchase new inside stuff. Judy

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  1. rachel frampton says:

    I’ve always wanted to have a bird feeder in my garden, but I have no idea how to mice proof it. I’m glad that you shared the magic of MR.clean magic erasers in trapping those pests. These tips will be followed; I just have to look for a cute bird feeder that will add an accent in my garden. https://www.copperfieldgifts.com/outdoor/patio-lawn-garden/bird-feeders.html

    Reply
  2. Diane says:

    We found the best way to stop squirrels from bird feeders is to give them their own feeder. You can find them in Duncraft. Fill them with peanuts. After a few days they will never bother birds again…hint for the first few days fill it so the top is open so they can get the idea. AND they are so cute to watch

    Reply
  3. Debbie says:

    A neighbor suggested I put grease on the bird feeder pole but a bird got some on it and slid down getting it all over it’s feathers. It ended up laying on the ground stuck and we had to rescue it and take it to a place to get it cleaned up and released. I wouldn’t recommend that option although it sounded like a great idea. I’m very interested in other options!!!

    Reply
  4. Wren4 says:

    Great topic. My husband and I own a birdwatching/nature shop in Madison, CT (since 1986). Shout out to The Audubon Shop! We’ve sold, seen and heard about a lot of products to keep squirrels at bay in 30 years! We love steering people to products that work. We do not mind squirrels picking up seed off the ground, but when they start chewing feeders we draw the line.
    I’ll briefly say that using a petroleum product is unhealthy and does not work for long. Unhealthy because it adversely affects skin, fur and feathers. It eventually gums up and becomes a mess.
    Providing corn or other seed to squirrels may work temporarily, but they are opportunistic and will try all feeders eventually.
    First, you must think about where you want to place your feeder. Hanging in a nearby tree, off the deck or a window, or on a pole in the yard. Any of these three locations requires a different set up.
    Second, think about what birds you want to attract. All birds that come to seed can be lumped into two categories – tree clingers or ground feeders. Sometimes there is cross over. Tree clingers are birds like Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches. Ground feeders are Cardinals, Mourning Doves, and some sparrows. There are more in each category.
    One of the easiest and cheapest ways to provide seeds to birds and not squirrels is to use a tried a true metal cage-type feeder. There are simple ones that cost under $40 that work very well. Yes, squirrels can climb onto them, but they soon learn that no seed is available. These feeders thwart squirrels because they cannot get their heads and teeth into the feeder and there are no plastic parts to chew. The one caveat is that these feeders do not accommodate all birds. For example, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Mourning Doves cannot (generally) cling to a feeder, nor enter inside a caged feeder (cage holes are not large enough). These feeders are perfect for Chickadees, Titmice, Nuthatches, Goldfinch and most woodpeckers.
    There are also feeders that have parts that move that make the feeder ports close off to squirrels and raccoons.
    If you wish to have a “feeding station” out in the yard, a tall pole (7ft or higher) with a torpedo shaped squirrel baffle must be placed on the pole below the feeders. The rule of thumb for the baffle is to place it 5′ off the ground.
    That’s 30 years of being in the business distilled into a few paragraphs. We hope that you found a good feeder for your friend!

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  5. Texasgirl says:

    I used to put Vaseline on the bird feeder pole which helped to thwart the squirrels, but then I read where the Vaseline (or any petroleum jelly) is very bad for the birds. The birds will often hold on to the pole with their feet while waiting to get to the feeder. Birds cannot assimilate the Vaseline and it can be very harmful to them. I have found that keeping feeders several feet from trees and bushes and using a “squirrel baffle” about mid way up the pole works the best to keep them from climbing the pole although occasionally an enterprising squirrel can jump from the bush to my pole. Unfortunately, I did not put my pole far enough from some bushes. Keeping them trimmed way back helps in my case.

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  6. eveh says:

    Love these tips. I dry my dish clothes in the air instead of the dryer. I just found out fabric softener interferes with absorption. Live and learn!

    Reply
  7. blazingb says:

    There are squirrel feeders out there, I got mine at the Farm Supply store. I put corn out for them and they leave the bird feeders alone. Surprisingly, the birds join the squirrels in eating the corn as well as their bird seed. The squirrel feeder is basically a tray with holes to let the rain drain on out. It also fits on a pole off the ground. I also got a couple of cheap metal bowls from the same place and then throw corn on the ground for the birds.

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  8. Nancy says:

    We tried the Vaseline on the pole trick. It worked for awhile. Then the squirrel hair stuck to the Vaseline and when it got really cold out the frozen Vaseline hair mixture only provided a textured surface to climb up.

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  9. Ann says:

    If you have a birdfeeder on a pole, the best deterrent to squirrels is a raccoon baffle. It’s easy to install, looks fine, is permanent and works better than anything else. Also, the birdfeeder should be placed away from trees or structures/furniture that a squirrel can jump from.

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