Why Most Squirrel Proof Feeders Don’t Work!

I thought that by using a caged bird feeder my squirrel problems would be solved. I had been using a number of different feeders for various food types but eventually the squirrels were taking over. When I started using a caged feeder the squirrels were not deterred and if anything were even more persistent. Nothing I did stopped them and this got me thinking – do squirrel proof feeders really work and are they worth the money?

I have seen a few ways in which squirrel proof bird feeders fail:

  • weight sensitive feeders are placed too close to other objects, meaning squirrels don’t add their weight to the feeder.
  • caged bird feeders are easily tipped by larger birds or squirrels, allowing seed to fall out to the ground below.
  • poor quality feeders are made from material which squirrels can chew through.

Some feeders that claim to be squirrel proof are pretty good but they can be pretty expensive. Also, like most things in this life, nothing is guaranteed! Let me explain why most squirrel proof feeders do very little to deter squirrels.

You are unlikely to prevent a squirrel getting to your feeders unless you take extreme measures. Greasing a pole or some other way that may be harmful to them, electric shocks for example. The best way to beat them is to concentrate your efforts on the feeder itself.

Why Do Squirrel Proof Feeders Not Work?

This is the bit I need to explain – bear with me. You have no doubt seen the variety of caged feeders available to buy, like this one or this one (on Amazon). If you haven’t, where have you been? Very briefly, the cage around the central feeder is sized to allow small birds through the gaps but not larger birds and squirrels. The theory is that because they can’t fit through the cage to reach the food, the food is safe. Don’t be fooled.

After putting out a caged seed feeder in my fight against the rodents, I watched with interest to see how the squirrels attacked the problem. Actually, only one squirrel visits at a time so I will assume it is ‘the squirrel’ for now. Before the squirrels got to the feeder I saw the pigeons do something interesting. 

As they are larger and heavier, when they landed on top of the shepherd’s crook the feeder shook and rocked. Guess what… seed fell out and dropped to the ground. “Down!”, cried the pigeon and gorged his little face on my seed. Often it looked as though they initiated this release of food by accident as they landed. Over time they knew exactly what they were doing. They knew…

Another Reason Why Caged Feeders Fail

After the pigeons learned how to get to the seed it was the squirrel’s turn. I am lucky in that my garden is not overrun by squirrels; the lone squirrel, or whichever of his siblings comes along is just plain annoying, rather than a massive problem. But, I don’t pay good money for bird seed to feed the pests. I shall continue.

The problem with many caged bird feeders is that they have a base on which birds can stand inside the cage. As much as some bird seed is marketed as ‘No Mess’ bird seed small garden birds, especially the great tits it would seem, are a bit fussy and tend to throw some seed from the feeder in favour of the best bits. The unwanted seed either falls to the ground or gets left on the base of the cage.

The squirrel knows this and, although he cannot get through the cage to the seed holder, he easily gets to the discarded seed on the base. This keeps him coming back. He has also learned the famous ‘jump on top of the feeder’ technique to release seed from the feeding ports for easier access. The saving grace for the caged peanut feeder is that the peanuts do not fall freely from the tube when disturbed. Birds generally peck at those, so no nuts should loosely fall out. There will be small amounts of debris though, which will encourage the pests.

Don’t get me wrong, the more mainstream squirrel busters are OK; they make it more difficult for a squirrel to get to the seed and, hopefully they will move on to other feeders. They are just not actually ‘squirrel proof’.

Is There A Bird Feeder That Is Squirrel Proof?

Yes, there are birds feeders that are better at being squirrel-proof, if you are happy to invest the money in squirrel prevention. After bashing the generic squirrel proof feeders I feel it is only right that I offer some kind of reassurance that there are some squirrel proof bird feeders that can work quite well. Be aware, though, that these cost money.

For many people who just want to feed the little garden birds, £50 plus for a feeder is quite steep. It might just be that you are happy to put up with a visiting squirrel or three and hope for the best with your squirrel proof (*coughs*) feeder. If you want a better feeder that works against squirrels, buy something that shuts the feeding ports when a squirrel climbs on. Keep reading to see how these work. 

One of my next posts will be a study of how much seed the birds in my garden get through. I also want to monitor how much the squirrel(s) eat. The basic maths may suggest that I should invest in a more pricey way of beating the squirrels. If a squirrel is eating through a substantial amount of seed, which costs me a certain amount a month, will spending £50, £60 or more on a decent feeder save me money in the long term? I will get back to you on that one…

What Is The Best Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder?

There are three squirrel busting seed feeders I recommend you try. I think they’re quite good, as do the users reviewing them. They all seems to do the job quite well. As I said before, you are unlikely to prevent squirrels getting to your feeders and trying their luck. They learn quickly and I would hope that a consistent approach would eventually cause even the most determined squirrel to give up and go elsewhere.

The Droll Yankees, Yankee Flipper

This is a 21 inch tube with a spinning perch at the base. The tube has a 5 lb (2.2 kg) seed capacity and with the hanging wire and spinning perch it is 28 inches tall in total. The length is quite important because it prevents a squirrel hanging from the top of the feeder and simply reaching into the feeding ports at the base.

There are four feeding ports and the feeder is weight sensitive. Its actually the circular perch that is weight sensitive and only activates when something heavier than a small garden bird settles on it. A rechargeable battery inside the feeder base powers a motor, which spins the perch round as soon as the maximum weight is exceeded.

No matter how much a squirrel tries to hang on, it will eventually be thrown off the feeder. The squirrel will not be hurt and will no doubt continue to try again and again and again, until it realises there is no point. Check today’s price.

The downside to this feeder is that the battery pack will need to be recharged and it will eventually need to be replaced. Check the price of a replacement battery before you decide to buy this feeder. I’ll just leave this here – replacement Droll Yankee Powerstick

These videos are a must watch to see the Yankee Flipper in action, especially the second one!

 

Woodlink Absolute II Squirrel Resistant Bird Feeder 

This feeder is a little too large and overbearing for my liking and I don’t like the shape but it works really well. It is a hopper style seed feeder with a whopping 12 lb (5.4 kg) capacity. It is made from powder coated steel which no squirrel will be able to chew through. What I like about this feeder is that is protects the seed from the rain and it is easily cleaned and refilled. Also, it can be pole mounted or hung.

The main selling point of this feeder is that it is a weight sensitive bird feeder. It is specifically designed as a squirrel proof bird feeder which activates when a heavier weight settles on the perch. The maximum weight can be callibrated to suit, so you can also eliminate larger birds, not just squirrels. When a squirrel puts its weight on the perch the whole perch simply tips forward and blocks off the feeding ports.

On Amazon this is an expensive feeder (over £80 at the time of writing). The company who make it are based in the USA, where it is cheaper to buy. You can find it elsewhere in the UK if you look around, e.g. Wayfair.  

The Squirrel Buster

This is probably my favourite option of the three. It is nice looking, about the right size for a pole feeding station and requires no expensive replacement parts. The best bit is the price – at the time of writing it is just over £30 on Amazon. See it here.

Again, it is a feeder that activates when weight is introduced. There perches and feeding ports at the bottom of this feeder and the outer cylinder is sprung loaded. This means that as soon as a squirrel (or heavier bird) climbs on to the feeder, the outer section slides downward, blocking off the feeding ports.

Made from metal for obvious reasons, this feeder comes in a variety of styles and sizes with prices to match. My next purchase will be one of these because I like the price point, which I can justify to my wife!

I also just like the look and feel of this feeder, safe in the knowledge my hard earned pennies are going towards feeding the birds, not squirrels.

How Do You Squirrel Proof A Feeder?

Over the past year or so, I have found the most effective method to squirrel proof a bird feeder (or rodent-proof) is to use a squirrel baffle. A baffle is an almost full proof way of preventing squirrels and other rodents getting to your bird feeders.

In terms of the feeders themselves, there a number of methods used by people and manufacturers in the fight against squirrels and other rodents. The most common and ethical ways of squirrel proofing a bird feeder are the mechanical methods. They are spinning, shaking or weight triggered, like the examples above. 

One example above uses a motor that spins the base of the feeder making it very difficult for a squirrel to hang on. Eventually they let go and drop (or are flung) to the ground. Although funny to watch, it may look a bit excessive to some. Remember though, squirrels are very agile and a five foot drop to the ground below really won’t phase them. 

There are some bird feeders that shake when a squirrel climbs on. – I saw something on the internet which i cannot find now but they do exist. 

The weight sensitive feeders appear to be the most effective way of squirrel proofing a feeder. They represent the best value for money too. There are no batteries to charge, no expensive parts to replace – they just work. 

Alarmingly, some people recommend using electric shock treatment to deter squirrels. This is not something I recommend. Using electric fences to keep sheep or cattle in a field is one thing but frying a squirrel on a bird feeder? OK, I exaggerate but I don’t see any need to implement such an extreme method.

Realistically, I imagine a small battery wired to something which passes a low power current to the squirrel would just be enough for them to be put off without getting hurt. A bit like putting your tongue over the terminals of a small square battery when you were a kid (don’t deny you did that!). If you don’t know what I mean, try it now. It’s not the same as being tasered – I promise!

Conclusion

There are many so-called squirrel proof bird feeders out there that don’t do such a great job. They are squirrel proof in that they are surrounded by a cage, which a squirrel cannot fit through to eat the seed in the feeder.

Caged feeders can still be rocked or jolted so seed falls out. They can also hold discarded seed flicked out from the feeding ports – easy pickings from the edge of the cage. There are some feeders that are way more ‘squirrel proof’ but they cost way more money. Some are bigger and maybe not the look you are going for but they are effective in thwarting squirrels.

My best advice is to spend a little more money. Invest your pennies in a weight sensitive feeder like the Squirrel Buster above – it looks nice, it works well. It will break a squirrel’s spirit, without breaking the bank.