Backyard Birdfeeding 2: Baffling the Squirrels

As bird feeding season approaches (for those of you who the birds can’t convince to feed all year), so does outwit-the-squirrel season at the your feeders. The problem is that the squirrel has nothing better to do all day than to scheme and plot about how it’s not only going to get at the seed you’ve put out for the birds, but also how it’s going to destroy your feeder and make the seed more accessible next time while you have to go out and work for your living, shovel snow, and other such human activities.

I’ve gotten so mad I’ve stopped feeding the birds for a few days. Really stupid, but I get so tired of chasing the squirrel away and replacing feeders that they chew on.

After years of designing ever more elaborate (and ugly) squirrel baffles, I’ve come up with one that is inexpensive and easy to install and replace, and as attractive or as plain as you’d like it to be, plus I read about another that wears out soon enough but is a riot to watch.

Bowl Baffle

bird feeder with bowl cover and squirrel baffle

Tube feeder with bowl-style squirrel baffle.

The first is a bowl baffle that hangs over just about any feeder, made from a large plastic bowl easily obtainable for about $1.00, like the 8-quart plastic bowl pictured. The bowl should be wide enough to keep the squirrel from being able to hang over the edge and reach the feeder for feeding or destructive purposes. Even if the squirrel can hook its toes around the cord or chain that suspends your feeder the depth and circumference of your bowl generally keeps it from reaching around and under the edge of the bowl. The squirrel’s weight usually manages to tip the bowl far enough that the squirrel slides off before it can do much damage if it can reach the feeder. An added benefit is that the bowl also keeps the feeder covered from the weather.

Cut or drill a hole in the center of the bottom of the bowl; this can be reinforced by gluing washers around the hole, but it’s not necessary. If the bowl has a lip, as this one does, also punch some holes in the lip so that liquid and debris won’t collect in it. Slide the suspension cord or chain for your feeder through the center hole and hang the feeder. Slide the bowl as far down toward the feeder as you can get it—this won’t get in any bird’s way unless the feeder has openings near the top. They often perch on the lip of the bowl to wait their turn.

You can find bowls in all colors and perhaps coordinate with your house, or be creative and paint designs on your bowl with outdoor trim enamel to stand out in the winter landscape. You can also use stainless steel or other materials if you have the right tools. Just don’t get too attached to it if it’s plastic, because the squirrels will chew on it, if only in frustration—but better a $1.00 bowl than a $40.00 feeder with $10.00 of seed in it.

Slinky Baffle

bird feeder with Slinky squirrel baffle

Bird feeder with Slinky baffle

This one is so much fun you should install it right outside a prominent window so you can laugh all winter. It works like this: the squirrel jumps onto the post or tries to climb it and lands on the Slinky, which stretches as Slinkys do, depositing the squirrel back onto the ground. No matter how high the squirrel jumped, it landed on the Slinky, which stretched and provided no good footing for continuing up the post.

You just have to have a post that’s taller than a squirrel can jump, and placed so that the squirrel can’t just jump on the roof of the feeder.

Slinky-style squirrel baffle on feeder

The feeder pictured sits on a wooden shelf that is nailed to the top of a wooden post. I screwed a cup hook into the post right under the shelf and slipped three coils of the slinky over the hook to reinforce its hold. If there is no wood on your feeder into which to put a hook, like the shepherd’s crook feeder holders, you could probably obtain some type of metal strap holder used in plumbing or electrical work.

The Slinky stretches permanently after a few months and then it becomes a squirrel ladder, but until then it’s really fun to watch the squirrel trying to outwit the slinky.

And why the black and white photos? I used them in a newsletter article a few years ago, and they are actually better than the ones I took today to use for this. Why not?!



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