Squirrels can be a problem for back garden birders, although many are happy to see them and feed them alongside the visiting birds. If you are not a fan of sciurus carolinensis and you have been searching for a solution, you may have come across something called a squirrel baffle. But what is a baffle? How do you use one and are they effective?
A squirrel baffle is one of the most effective methods of keeping squirrels off bird feeders, if used correctly. Ensure your baffle is high enough from the ground (usually about four feet up) and that your feeding pole is far enough away from any place a squirrel can jump from.
Until recently I had avoided using a squirrel baffle, mainly because of how they look but now I would not be without one. I was also put off by the price charged for a simple piece of plastic but once I saw how effective a baffle is, I was persuaded.
What Are Bird Feeder Baffles (squirrel baffles)?
There are many varieties of squirrel baffle, all designed to do one thing – stop squirrels from climbing a bird feeder pole. There are baffles that fit a shepherds hook type feeding poles and there are baffles which fit square wooden bird tables.
In basic terms, a squirrel baffle is usually a dome or wide cone shape and sits part way up a bird feeding pole. It prevents a squirrel from climbing any further; enclosing the squirrel in an umbrella shape, which they simply cannot reach round or climb over. There are also tubular baffles which squirrels find it hard to get round.
Baffles can also be used above bird feeders, which are hung elsewhere and not from a pole. They sit above the feeder and due to their shape, size and smooth surface prevent squirrels from being able to grip and climb underneath to the feeder. The above feeder option has the benefit of providing protection from rain, helping bird food to stay dry.
How To Use A Squirrel Baffle
Squirrel baffles are easy and quick to set up. As long as you have the right type of baffle for your feeding station, it takes just a minute or two to position the baffle. Although they are easy to attach and use, the position of your baffle will be important.
For example, height from the ground and distance from other objects will be critical if you are to be successful in squirrel proofing your bird feeders. Below I have set out some of the basics.
Where Do You Put A Squirrel Baffle?
A baffle can be used above or below bird feeders. Placing a baffle below a feeder is the normal method when using a pole. A baffle that sits above a bird feeder is normally suited to feeders hanging from tree branches.
A baffle should be attached to the feeding pole/ shepherd’s hook at an appropriate height from the ground. A baffle should be supplied with a fixing bracket, which holds the baffle in place, or the baffle will fix directly to a pole or stand.
Bear in mind that most squirrel baffles designed for use on poles will need to be slid on to the pole. So, if your feeding station has fixed hooks or feet, you may need to find a baffle that can be fitted around the pole, rather than slid on from an end. Luckily, most shepherd’s hooks come in sections that are easily separated to enable fixings to be slid over the pole.
How High Off The Ground Should A Squirrel Baffle Be?
This is a key part to using a baffle. Fixing your baffle too low will enable squirrels to jump above them and continue up the pole to the feeders. Fixing them too high might enable larger birds to use the baffle as a feeding platform, scaring other birds away.
The correct height for a squirrel baffle is around four to five feet (125 – 150 cm). When I first used my baffle, which is a clear plastic dome version, I quickly realised I had set it too low. I had not really witnessed the gymnastic ability of squirrels I had read about until that point.
I raised the height of my baffle just 10cm or so up the pole. The squirrels decided they couldn’t make the jump and persistently climbed the pole, looking for a way around the baffle. Again and again, they sat and looked at this new challenge but no squirrel was able to defeat it from the ground.
The Best Position For A Squirrel Baffle
Through a process of trial and error, I have found the best height for a squirrel baffle to be at least 115cm (top of baffle from ground). This is just high enough that they cannot jump over the baffle to reach the pole.
The minimum distance from potential launch sites is at least 2.5 metres. It took me a couple of moves to find the minimum distance from my tree and shed that my squirrels cannot jump to.
Once the squirrels decided they couldn’t jump over my baffle from the ground, they tried from a nearby tree. BINGO! Squirrels really can jump… about 2 – 3 metres across on a good day! So, when you put a baffle on your feeding pole, you may also need to move the feeders a little further away from the nearest tree, fence, shed or wall.
If you start with a position that looks best, see what the squirrels do and adjust from there until you achieve success. Some trial and error may be necessary to find the best compromise between what is best for the birds and worst for the squirrels.
Do Baffles Keep Squirrels Away?
YES – squirrel baffles do keep squirrels away. A correctly positioned baffle will prevent even the most persistent squirrel getting to a bird feeder. They are persistent little creatures though and they will return day after day, trying to defeat your baffle after you start using it. Baffles will definitely help to squirrel proof a bird feeding pole by preventing easy access to food. I have even found that over time, squirrels no longer bother coming to my garden, as they have learned not to waste their time.
Do Squirrel Baffles Scare Birds?
Squirrel baffles do not scare birds and after a short time of hesitation, if any, they will continue as normal with the new addition to the pole.
I have seen no impact or negative effect since using a baffle on my bird feeders. Sometimes it may take a short time for birds to get used to something new at their regular feeding spot. I have noticed this when placing a camera tripod next to the feeders. It takes a while for the birds to realise it is not a threat.
The baffle I use was the same and after a very short pause in feeding, the birds were just as happy as they were before.
How To Clean a Squirrel Baffle
When you introduce a baffle to your feeding pole it will more than likely become covered in fallen seed and bird poo. Depending on which type of baffle you use, you can clean it in different ways.
Warm soapy water is the best and safest thing to use for cleaning.
Clear plastic dome baffles – use a hose pipe to blast off most of the debris first. Use a soft clean sponge or cloth, with soapy water to clean off the dried-on bits. Do not be tempted to use a scourer pad or any kind of abrasive, as this will scratch the surface of the baffle making it look awful. It will also make the smooth surface less effective against the grip of a rodent.
Metal coated baffles – these are usually more hardy to the elements and harsher cleaning methods, if required. Warm soapy water is still the best thing to use, with a soft clean sponge or cloth. Just because they are metal and coated in a hard surface, you do not need to scrub harshly. You can but it is only bird poo and a hose pipe will still get rid of the worst bits.
Avoid harsh chemicals or other treatments, as these may damage your baffle and could also become harmful to birds. If you are concerned about germs and bacteria, consider the following:
- a mild detergent such as Fairy Liquid or similar.
- a mild disinfectant solution, such as this one.
- A weak bleach solution (1:9 ratio of bleach to water).
See my post – Do Bird Feeders Need To Be Cleaned? for more information about bird feeder hygiene.
What Type Of Squirrel Baffle Works Best?
Regardless of which type of baffle you choose, they all do a good job at stopping squirrels. Each type of baffle used on a pole simply prevents a squirrel from climbing further up that pole, to where the food is.
Personally I prefer the dome or cone shaped baffles because they fill me with more confidence that squirrels won’t be able to get past them – it is physically impossible. The tubular baffles will work and often look much better and more discrete when you look out. There is also less chance of someone or something bashing into it and causing damage.
With tubular baffles, I just think that if the conditions are right a squirrel could get enough grip or momentum to simply climb up the side of it. Some people say they were sceptical at first but they work really well. I have not yet tested one of these so I am unable to confirm their suitability. However, most reviews for the torpedo shaped baffle are positive and I will be trying one soon.
The best type of squirrel baffle is the one that works best for you. It has to look right and still let you enjoy looking out into your garden.
So… Are Squirrel Baffles Effective?
From my experience of back garden birding and recent use of one, I can confirm that yes – squirrel baffles are effective. They are a good physical barrier that squirrels just cannot overcome. Although the look of some baffles takes a bit of getting used to, I 100% recommend using one.
Bird seed is not cheap (pun intended!) and watching greedy squirrels take the lot is disheartening. Since using this squirrel baffle, not one squirrel has got to my bird seed.