Testing Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeders
My experience of squirrel-proofing my bird feeders over the years
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To some, squirrels are welcome cute and fluffy-tailed garden visitors. To others, they’re public enemy number one.
To bird-loving gardeners like myself though, squirrels are the ultimate garden thieves and I’ve seen them steal hundreds of pounds worth of bird food, right from under the beaks of the local birdlife.
If you want to encourage more birdlife into your garden (who wouldn’t?) but are struggling to do so because squirrels are pinching the food, try one of my reviewed bird feeders below. They are all designed to deter squirrels while allowing the local birds to feast.
Be warned though; squirrels are as crafty as cats and they’ll try their best to steal the food, wherever it’s placed.
I’ve tested so many products over the years, here’s what I know.
The Squirrel Buster Feeder
The Squirrel Buster is by far the best squirrel-proof bird feeder that I’ve seen in the UK.
I first saw this in a customer’s garden back in 2018 and on inspection I found it to be very well designed and it was constructed robustly.
I saw first-hand how heavy animals such as squirrels or pigeons climbed onto the device and pushed the closing device into place.
As soon as the pigeon or squirrel stepped off the feeder, the feeding hole opened.
I also saw small birds reach the food without setting off the closing device.
There are several products and sizes within the Squirrel Buster range to choose from but they’re all based on the same principle.
I’ve seen both the Finch and the Peanut, and both worked well despite the squirrels spending hours trying to break into the device.
The video below explains how the Squirrel Buster works:
- The most robust feeder I’ve seen.
- I’ve witnessed the closing device work and it does keep out large birds and squirrels.
- It holds lots of seeds.
- The price.
- You’ll probably want to use it in conjunction with a squirrel baffle (see below) as squirrels are persistent and smart.
- Some clever birds such as Blackbirds may learn to nudge the feeder to knock out the seeds.
Based on my knowledge of this feeder and seeing it in action, I rate it 9/10.
The Roamwild Pestoff Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
Similar in design to the Squirrel Buster, the Roamwild Pestoff uses spring-mounted feeding ports. Whenever a large animal sits on or hangs from the device, the ports are closed off making it impossible for the pest to gain access to the food.
The device also has a rounded hood which acts as a rain guard, this keeps the seeds dry and free from clogging and rot – a common problem with other, inferior products.
You can expect the Roamwild Pestoff to deter rats, squirrels, crows, pigeons and magpies. It’s woodpecker friendly and smaller birds, such as finches, will love it.
Holding an impressive 1.5 litres of bird seeds, this feeder won’t need refilling as often as smaller feeders. Fill with sunflower hearts or mixed seeds, this feeder is versatile and built to last.
Given that this feeder is at the same price point as the Squirrel Buster, I feel that you’re better off with that product as it is better built and has better reviews and ratings online.
My rating: 6/10. The closing door is the weak spot and the mechanism should be improved.
Nature’s Market Squirrel Guard Feeder
I had high hopes for this fat ball feeder, the thick metal frame looked sturdy enough to deter even the most determined squirrel.
This feeder by Nature’s Market is meant to keep out large birds such as pigeons, crows and rooks, creating a safe haven for smaller birds such as starlings, sparrows and blue tits.
During testing, I found that the squirrels were able to open the lid and extract the fat balls, bit by bit.
I then tried the lid down with garden wire. The squirrels countered this by chewing through the thick metal and getting to the fat balls.
My rating: 1/10. It doesn’t work very well at all at keeping out squirrels.
I purchased one of these when I lived at my previous property, I already owned several bird feeders and squirrels were either climbing up the pole or hanging down to access the food.
Baffle devices like this are cheap and effective, I found that they worked best when placed in the middle of the lawn – squirrels can jump up several feet from the ground and can hang from fences and branches so if it’s located near a tree or too close to the ground, they will bypass it.
- I found it was very easy to set up.
- Works well when squirrels can’t hang off trees or jump off fences to bypass it.
- I discovered during testing that it’s ineffective in small gardens where squirrels jump off fences, walls or branches to bypass it.
- Aesthetics – it’s not attractive or discreet at all.
Bird Seed and Food That Squirrels Won’t Eat
Squirrels absolutely love peanuts, sunflower hearts, fruit and cereals and they’ll also consume a wide selection of other foodstuffs.
There are, however, some foodstuffs that squirrels generally ignore.
Try filling your bird feeders with these feeds and you’ll keep the birds happy while the squirrels pass on by:
- Niger Seed, also known as Nyger or Thistle Seed, is a food that’s generally ignored by squirrels unless they are really desperate. It will, however, attract small and medium-sized birds such as sparrows, finches, redpolls and siskins. Unwanted birds such as pigeons and doves may also be attracted to it, so consider placing this seed in a feeder rather than via a bowl or dish.
- Safflower Seed isn’t the preferred food for birds but if let outside for long enough, titmice, some finches and some woodpeckers will find and consume it. It can take a little while for the local birdlife to get used to Safflower seed but eventually, they will. The good news is that squirrels will only eat it as a last resort.
- Capsaicin is often added to suet as birds will consume it while squirrels are deterred by the heat from this pepper extract. If you’re making your own suet balls, try adding this extract to them.
I rate these seeds 7/10.
I would rate them higher but not all birds are attracted to them.
Scented Spray Repellents
Squirrels dislike hot pepper extract, garlic, peppermint oil and onions. These disrupt the squirrel’s sense of smell, so they generally stay away from them.
Extracts of these hot or pungent foodstuffs can be sprayed or rubbed onto or near bird feeders, the birds will still be attracted to the food while some of the squirrels will be deterred.
I tested Rodent Defense back in 2019 and it had no effect on the squirrels at all.
My rating: 1/10.
Do squirrel proof bird feeders work?
They work very well provided they’re placed far enough away from fences, walls, trees and branches so squirrels can’t jump or hang from these and gain access to the feeder. Metal feeders are also more resilient to squirrels than plastic ones.
How can I deter garden squirrels naturally?
You can deter squirrels naturally without using chemicals by placing your bird feeders strategically in the garden away from launchpads, by using a squirrel-proof bird feeder, choosing seeds and food that squirrels dislike and by deploying baffles.
Do squirrels eat suet feed?
Squirrels love birdseed suet but will stay away from it if it contains capsaicin, a hot pepper extract that birds happily consume.
Our blog contains info about what squirrels eat and lists their favourite foods.
How can I stop squirrels climbing my bird feeder pole?
First, you should relocate the pole far away from launchpads such as trees, overhanging branches and fences etc. Next, use a baffle such as a dome to stop the squirrel climbing up the pole.
Meet The Author: Daniel Woodley
Daniel has over 18 years of experience in the construction, home improvement, and landscape garden industries.
He previously worked as a project manager and has experience in managing teams of tradespeople and landscape gardeners on both small and medium sized projects.
Daniel is also a keen gardener and enjoys growing unusual plants and tending to his lawn.
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Daniel Woodley wrote this guide, and the information is based on his personal experience in controlling squirrels while still attracting birds to his garden.
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