If you have started feeding birds in your area, you’ve probably found that other small animals also love to raid your bird feeders.
Chipmunks, squirrels, and even raccoons are experts at reaching birdseed. Even when it seems impossible that they could access your feeders, these little acrobats manage to raid your stores.
What’s to be done?
Some birders don’t mind helping out chipmunks or squirrels. Some love raccoons. Other dishes are placed out with food for them.
But, there’s a problem.
Why Can It Be A Problem To Feed Squirrels, Chipmunks, Or Racoons?
You may actually contribute to their starvation. That’s a cruel and painful death sentence.
Chipmunks, squirrels, and raccoons love an easy meal. When young animals are given an easy food source, they don’t learn to forage.
Foraging is necessary for them to survive the winter. As a result, they starve to death during the cold months.
And there’s more.
Easy access to food often means unnatural population growth in the micro area.
This could be as small of an area as your backyard.
But, a population of squirrels or chipmunks that the natural habitat can’t supply food to also means future starvation.
Other potential issues include inadequate nutrition for the animals.
It can also lead to increased disease as the population grows and more animals congregate. A single sick animal can more easily spread disease at the feeder where many have come to eat.
And, sometimes a small animal destroys or damages your birdfeeder trying to get food.
It gets spendy feeding the seemingly unlimited number of little furries who want a piece of the pie.
- Young squirrels, chipmunks, and raccoons don’t learn how to forage
- People-dependant animals are very likely to die of starvation
- Inadequate nutrition
- Overpopulation of squirrels or chipmunks leads to starvation
- Disease spreads more rapidly among the wildlife
- Bird feeders can be damaged
- It becomes expensive to also feed the squirrels, chipmunks or raccoons
How To Protect Bird Feeders From Raccoons, Squirrels or Chipmunks
If you don’t want to also feed chipmunks and squirrels, then you can take several steps to reduce the pillaging of birdseed.
- Identify which animal is stealing from your feeders
- Choose the appropriate defense
Who Is Raiding My Birdseed?
Before you protect your birdseed, know which animal is stealing your food.
The best way to tell which animal is stealing bird seed is to try and observe them in the act. Watch your feeders.
Or, set up a camera to capture the action.
Raccoons are the largest of the three thieves. They are nocturnal and will usually steal food at night.
But, their habits can change if food is only available during the day.
Raccoons have dark patches around their eyes. They are larger than squirrels and they tend to get into trash while squirrels don’t.
Yet, squirrels dig holes. They will dig in lawn, flowerbeds and other areas. They can kill vegetation. They also tend to hoard nuts in little stashes.
Squirrels are usually identified by their bushy tail.
Chipmunks also have bushy tails.
There are several differences between chipmunks and squirrels.
Smaller than most squirrels
Have 1 or 3 stripes down their entire body
Stripes are on the head
6-12 inches long
Ground squirrels 8-12 inches long
Tree Squirrels 12-20 inches long
No stripes on the head
Ground squirrels have white around the eyes
Tree Squirrels have very busy tails
Tree Squirrels can jump 10-12 feet horizontally
Tree squirrels can leap 4-5 feet high
Tree squirrels can jump down almost from almost any height
Use Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders
One of the easiest ways to keep your bird seed safe is to use squirrel-proof bird feeders. They are built to keep squirrels out. They also keep out larger pest birds and will only let the little birds feed.
There are several types of squirrel proof feeders: Cages, weight sensitive, and automatic.
Cave feeder https://www.amazon.com/Squirrel-Solution200-hanger-Feeding-Capacity/dp/B00AUFIQ1U/ref=as_li_ss_tl?tag=birdwatchingh-20&s=pet-supplies&ie=UTF8&qid=1521485315&sr=1-4&keywords=squirrel+proof+bird+feeder&linkId=0ab1ea452395df7ccaa56cc66d3ad6d8
Cage feeders have a metal cage that surrounds the food. The openings are just large enough for small birds to go through, but too small for squirrels to fit inside.
Cages are used to keep larger birds from eating your bird seed also.
Weight sensitive feeders are spring loaded. As birds land on the hopper, their weight is too little to push the hopper down.
But, larger birds and small animals have enough weight that it pushes the hopper down. When that happens the outer shell of the feeder closes off the opening to the food.
You can find out about my favorite weight feeders here.
Automatic spinning bird feeders spin squirrels so they can’t get access to the food. Check out this video to see one squirrel trying to access birdseed:
But, squirrel resistant feeders don’t work as well for chipmunks because of their smaller size. Chipmunks can often get through the openings and their weight is often small enough to not prevent feeding.
- Specific bird feeders are built to be squirrel and raccoon proof
- Cages keep squirrels and raccoons from accessing the food through the cage
- Weight-sensitive feeders close the opening when more weight is on the hopper
- Spinning feeders throw squirrels off the feeder
Worth The Extra Cost?
You will notice that squirrel resistant feeders are more money than regular bird feeders. If you only plan to feed the birds for a short season then, the more basic feeders are the way to go.
But, if you plan to feed the birds long-term, then squirrel proof feeders will actually save you money.
Squirrels can double or triple your birdseed cost. Plus, they can ruin cheaper feeders.
The squirrel resistant feeders will save you a lot of money on birdseed and most of them are heavier duty to resist damage by squirrels or raccoons.
Add Baffles To Stop Squirrels, Chipmunks, and Raccoons
If you have chipmunks, they you will probably need a baffle. A disk baffle should be at least 18 inches in diameter. https://www.amazon.com/SQUB05-Squirrel-Stopper-Universal-Baffle/dp/B00416V9ZE/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=Squirrel+Stopper+Pole+and+Baffle+Set&linkId=f4eeddc5a0f8ae2199a40062422cb4b8&qid=1562367645&s=gateway&sr=8-6
Baffles work for chipmunks, squirrels, and raccoons.
There are two ways a baffle is used: below and above the birdfeeder.
How To Place a Baffle On The Feeder
Baffles should be placed above the bird feeder when it is hanging from something that squirrels can jump or climb from.
This includes trees, near porches, or roofs, or posts.
The baffle should be wobbly so that it shifts with the weight of the animal.
This drops it to the ground.
Or, if you hang it from a tree branch, hang it far from other branches and at least 2-3 feet down from the branch.
Below The Feeder:
A baffle should be placed below the feeder when squirrels can scale the post the feeder is on.
Use a baffle above the bird feeder to keep smaller animals from climbing down the rope or chain to the birdfeeder.
Place a baffle under the feeder to keep chipmunks or squirrels from climbing up the pole to the feeder.
Baffles hung below the feeder must be at least 4 feet high. Squirrels can jump 4 feet vertically and go over the baffle to the feeder.
- Use a baffle on existing feeders to keep away
- Have a 2-3 foot gap between the tree limb and the baffle
- Baffles hung below the feeder must be at least 4 feet high
- Squirrels can jump 10-12 feet horizontally
- Chipmunks can jump 7-10 feed horizontally Raccoons, squirrels and chipmunks have incredible climbing abilities
But, raccoons are a different story.
Here’s a link to lots of feeders to add to my resources page https://birdwatchinghq.com/squirrel-proof-bird-feeders/
How To Keep Raccoons From Raiding Your Bird Feeder
Raccoons are larger than squirrels and can get over baffles that stop squirrels.
Yet they are stronger and more likely to ruin the feeders.
Skinny poles are easier for raccoons to climb because they can wrap their hands around and pull themselves up.
That’s why you’ll need a torpedo baffle. They are longer and wrap around the pole. By the time the raccoon climbs and hits the baffle, they are too far in to figure out how to get out. https://www.amazon.com/SQUB05-Squirrel-Stopper-Universal-Baffle/dp/B00416V9ZE/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=Squirrel+Stopper+Pole+and+Baffle+Set&linkId=f4eeddc5a0f8ae2199a40062422cb4b8&qid=1562367645&s=gateway&sr=8-6
If you’d like to make your own, here’s a great article I found that explains how to DYI it yourself in depth https://www.todayshomeowner.com/how-to-make-a-squirrel-and-raccoon-bird-feeder-baffle/
There are a few things you should NOT do to keep raccoons away.
- Do NOT vaseline the pole. Vaseline gets into bird feathers and can harm the birds. Grease keeps birds from preening, which affects insulation against the cold or heat. It also hurts their ability to fly.
- Raccoons can wrap their hands around narrow poles to climb
Use A Slinky And Shepherd’s Hook
Place feeder on a shepherds hook 10 feet from branches or other poles that chipmunks can climb and leap from.
Shepherds hooks make it easier to place feeders where squirrels can’t jump or leap to them from other places.
You can also attach a slinky around the pole to keep animals from climbing up. As they climb up the slinky, it drops the m to the ground.
- Shepherds hooks make it easier to place feeders away from access points
- Use food that birds love, but raccoons, squirrels and chipmunks don’t
- Put a slinky around the pole to keep animals from climbing up it.
- Put PVC Pipe around the pole holding the birdfeeder
Use PVC Pipe
It’s not the most beautiful solution, but adding a PVC pipe around your pole will make it hard for animals to climb.
PVC is smooth and doesn’t allow gripping.
The PVC pipe will need to span at least 4.5 feet up the feeder pole.
Remember, squirrels can jump that high and you don’t want them to simply jump above the pipe and continue their climb.
Use Birdseed That Only Birds Love
There are some types of birdseed that birds love, but chipmunks, squirrels, and raccoons don’t love. Try these seeds to keep the pests away.
- Safflower Seed: Squirrels don’t love this seed and will leave it alone. But, chickadees, titmics, finches, and cardinals all love it!
- Nyjer Seed: Squirrels hate this seed, but Goldfinches love it!
- White Proso Millet: This is a great ground seed for doves, sparrows, finches, and juncos. Squirrels and raccoons don’t like it a lot however.
- Suet: Nuthatches and woodpeckers love it, but squirrels don’t.
String The Bird Feeders Up
Another method that often helps to keep small scavengers away is to string up fishing wire between two trees or poles.
Hang the bird feeder between them.
You still need to hang it far enough out from the poles or branches of nearby trees that squirrels can’t jump.
String a soda bottle across the wire from neck to bottom. This will cause the bottle to spin when a squirrel tries to tight walk across.
Put one on both sides of the feeder.
If your problem is raccoons, then jumping up isn’t as big of a problem. Raccoons are better climbers than jumpers.
Fishing string is harder for them to climb across.
Put The Bird Feeders Away At Night
Birds aren’t active at night. So putting the food away for the night doesn’t starve the birds.
But, it will keep it out of the way while raccoons are the most active.
It will take more time as you’ll have to remember to put it out every morning and take it back at night.
Add Hot Pepper To The Birdseed
Some studies have shown that hot pepper in birdseed seems to have no negative effects on the birds.
It keeps the squirrels and chipmunks away.
You can even purchase birdseed with hot pepper mixed in already.
Don’t add whole pepper seeds. Mix your birdseed with powdered cayenne or other hot pepper.
Whether you want are an occasional bird-watcher or an avid birder, you can keep your bird feeders safe from scavengers.
You may also be interested in these related articles:
Best Places To Hang A Bird Feeder
How To Keep Squirrels Out Of Your Yard And Garden
Keep Raccoons Away From Your Campsite, Trash Cans and Garden