If you’re passionate about birds, then bird feeders may no longer be something new to you. Also known as tray feeder or bird table, a bird feeder is a specially-designed structure often placed outdoors to provide birds with food (could be seeds or bird food). In some instances, bird feeders are used for bird watching. While the purpose of constructing bird feeders are generally the same, there are different types of it designed for attracting/feeding different kinds of birds. Some examples of bird feeders are as follows:
● Tray or Platform Feeder
Of all types of bird feeder, it is the tray or platform feeder that attracts the wide variety of seed-eating birds like pigeons, grosbeaks, and starlings. Because of its structure, the tray feeder is prone to soiling the seeds during wet season. Unless it is properly screened and secured well on a chain, the feeder is a good squirrel magnet.
● House Feeder
The house feeder, also known as the hopper feeder, is the type of feeder that protects well the seeds from the weather and even from the bird droppings. However, just like the tray feeder, the house feeder is also a squirrel magnet, not to mention that it’s hard to clean.
● Window Feeder
This is the type of bird feeder that you often see being attached to the windows. The good thing about using the window feeder is that you get to watch birds closely when you use them. Of all bird feeders, this is considered to be the safest among them and the easiest one to clean too.
● Tube Feeder
For feeding and attracting birds that can eat hanging upside down, the tube feeder is a good fit. It’s fairly useful in keeping seeds clean and dry. Tube feeders are known to attract smaller birds like sparrows, finches, and grosbeaks.
● Nyjer Feeder
The nyjer feeder is popular among American Goldfinches and Common Redpolls. This is one of the few bird feeders that squirrels are not particularly attracted to.
● Suet Feeder
This is the particular kind of bird feeder made from wire mesh. It is often placed beside a hopper feeder and often attract birds such as jays, woodpecker, starlings, chickadees, and nuthatches.
Squirrels and Bird Feeders
In a glance, squirrels may seem like harmless furry animals. While they are most likely to be preys than predators in the wild, these mammals have the tendency to become predators themselves.
A squirrel-friendly backyard is not a suitable place for your bird feeders. These animals are your birds’ competitors for seeds and nuts most especially black oil sunflower seeds and suet. Unlike birds, squirrels can be self-centered, not allowing anyone to share the seeds with them. Other than that, they often leave bird feeders damaged from clawing the food containers.
Helpful Tips on Squirrel-Proofing the Bird Feeder
There are different ways on keeping your bird feeder away from the voracious appetite of the squirrels. Some of the effective means are as follows:
1. Choose a different location. Squirrels are arboreal; that is, they love to stay on trees and usually jump from one tree to another. If you want your bird feeder to be away from these furry animals, then one way to do that is to choose well a location for them.
Keep it away from trees and other areas that would be easier for squirrels to get unto it. An ideal spot for your feeder would be a smooth metal pole that is 6 feet high and a couple of meters away from neighboring trees.
2. Caging. Another way to squirrel-proof your bird feeder is through placing a wire cage around it. There are commercially-available feeders with this kind of concept but you can do it on your own by simply wrapping your feeder with a mesh. When applying this to your feeder, make sure that you provide a small opening for the small birds to feed from it. Caging the feeder is also an ideal concept if you want to keep the feed away from larger birds.
3. Adding baffles. You can add plastic or metal baffles above and below your feeder to keep squirrels away. In order for it to be effective, you need to make sure that your baffles are 15 inches wide and are sloped to keep squirrels from reaching your feeder.
4. Keep it clean. As simple as keeping the surrounding area of the feeder clean is good enough for keeping the squirrels away. Make sure that the area surrounding the feeder is free from spilled feeds and other debris that may attract the squirrels. This strategy is actually hitting two birds with one stone as it keeps birds from eating spoiled seeds.
5. Using spinners. The use of spinners is another great idea for making your feeder squirrel-proof. To do this, hang your feeder on a thin horizontal wire then place spinners around it. It could be spools of thread, empty plastic bottles, or whatever materials that you could think of that could keep squirrels from your precious feeder.
6. Opt for different seeds. Squirrels may have a voracious diet for seeds and will take almost all kind of seeds they could find but they are least likely to be attracted to safflower seeds and nyger. By opting to fill your feeder with these kinds of seeds, you keep the squirrels away without making your birds go hungry.
7. Using spicy seeds. Most animals are sensitive to spicy food but not the birds. By adding cayenne pepper to the seeds, you drive away squirrels but not the birds. There are pre-treated seeds in the market although precaution must still be observed when using them. When adding spices on your own, make sure that you protect yourself by using gloves and mask.
8. Set traps. If squirrels are becoming a headache in your backyard, then you may consider setting traps. However, special precautions must be observed when using this option. After all, squirrels are still animals that need to be protected. For setting traps and safe handling of these mammals, you better contact your local wildlife protection office.
The Don’ts of Squirrel-Proofing the Bird Feeder
Squirrels may become increasingly annoying especially if they have been feeding from your feeder frequently BUT there are certain practices that you MUST NOT do in attempt to keep them away from your bird feeder. These practices include:
● Hunting. Hunting is a big no-no when it comes to squirrel-proofing your bird feeder. Squirrels, after all, are wildlife animals that deserve to live. Aside from legal issues that you need to deal with, shooting animals in the wild can lead to accidental killing of other animals including birds.
● Adding poison. Adding poison to the seeds or placing poisoned seeds in the feeder is not a good practice for getting rid of squirrels as you may also poison the birds and other animals.
● Using cats. Using your cat to chase the squirrels is also something that you shouldn’t do as cats can also be threats to the birds.
● Adding grease. Placing grease around poles or trees to make them too slippery for squirrels to climb through is not a good practice. Grease could stay on the fur of the squirrels and birds, making them more vulnerable to acquiring diseases and being caught by their predators.
How to Make Your Own Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
Squirrel-proof bird feeder is now widely available in the market. But if you’re on a budget, the smartest thing to do to get one is to go the DIY route. Here’s how to make your own squirrel-proof bird feeder:
1. Prepare the following materials:
● 1 4-inch diameter plastic drain pipe(at least 24 inches long)
● 4 pieces of ½-inch PVC coupler
● 1 4-inch PVC cap
● PVC glue
● 4 pieces of ⅜-inch sheet metal screws
● 1 10 gauge galvanized wire (this should be at least 33 inches long)
● 4 pieces of 6-inch cable ties
● 1 piece of wood block (this should be approximately 6” high x 6” wide x 1“ thick)
These are the tools that you will need:
● ruler (you can also use tape measure)
● spray paint
● sand paper (to be used later for the wood block)
● staple gun with staples
● drill and bits
● screw driver
2. With the use of the hacksaw, cut the 4” pipe to 24” long. This shall be the body of your bird feeder.
3. Choose an edge of the pipe to become the bottom part of the feeder. Cut the wooden block in a way that it will fit snugly into the bottom of the feeder. Sand the block so it will fit the bottom of the feeder. This shall be your base plate.
4. The pipe has 4 evenly-spaced lines. Mark the block (your base plate) for each of these lines; also mark the center of it.
5. Remove the base plate from the PVC pipe and using a drill, create a 5/32” hole in the center.
6. Between the lines marked in your base plate, create 4 equally-spaced points unto your PVC pipe (about ⅞” up from the bottom).
7. Drill holes into the 4 equally-spaced points. Put screws into these holes. They shall keep your base plate in place.
8. Measure 1” from the bottom of the pipe on each of the four lines marked unto your base plate. Make a slot large enough for the tie to pass through.
9. Measure 1 ⅜” from each of the slots made and create a mark on the line. In between these marks, drill a 1” hole. These shall serve as feed holes.
10. From the PVC connectors, cut a ⅓ section from each of them. These shall serve as your feed baffles.
11. Place the baffles in each of the feed holes. Make sure that you’re placing the baffle with the open side down. Apply glue on the the ⅓ protruding part of the baffle and enforce them inside each hole.
12. Using a wire, create a hanging loop.
13. With the use of a PVC cap, mark a hole in its center and drill a 5/32” hole on it. Thread the wire in this hole.
14. To create the flexi perches, place cable ties on the marks you made on your baseplate. Make sure that the ties are placed pass the edge of the plate. Secure them using staple wires.
15. Assemble your feeder: Insert the base plate unto the bottom of your feeder’s body. Thread the ties into each of the perch slots that you’ve created a while ago. You may rotate the base plate until you get the proper alignment.
16. Once you’ve thread the ties into each of the perch slots, put the slide cap on top of the feeder’s body (the one with the loop). When hanging your feeder, make sure that it is at least 4 meters off the ground and at least 18” from its nearest vertical surface.
Things to Consider When Buying a Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder
If you don’t have the luxury of time to make your own squirrel-proof bird feeder, then you can simply choose from those that are readily available in the market. Here are some things to consider when choosing one:
Not all bird feeders are created the same. Squirrel-proof bird feeders in the market, though designed specifically for getting rid of squirrels, come in different sizes. It’s up to your need on what to choose.
Other than the size, another thing that squirrel-proof bird feeders differ in the market is their design. Some are designed similarly to those of bird houses while there are also those that designed in almost the same way as typical bird feeders.
Squirrel-proof bird feeders come in various prices. Expect to pay more for those that are bigger and made from sturdier materials.
These are just some of the things worth in choosing a squirrel-proof bird feeder. Settle for one that suits your needs. An ideal squirrel-proof bird feeder is one that is big enough to accommodate the birds that you’re attracting/feeding to but has the right protective materials to ward off the squirrels.