For over 150 years, mankind has taken pleasure in feeding birds. Today is no different. From the comfort of a garden bench or even the comfort of our own living room, we can enjoy bird watching as our feathered friends feast. It’s a great way to connect with nature without intruding, and it can even hook children on nature.
Of course, our feathered friends also benefit. In fact, there are over 100 species in North America that depend on bird feeders, especially during inclement weather. Often snowy or icy conditions make finding enough food difficult. Migrating birds also need the extra fuel for their long journeys.
Unfortunately, those pesky squirrels have a way of taking advantage of our offerings. They seem to think that the bird feeders are put there for their enjoyment and proceed to steal the food at every opportunity. Their cunning and natural acrobatic skills make them formidable foes.
However, don’t despair. There are steps you can take to outwit the little rodents.
First, there are several clever designs that will thwart the squirrels’ attempts. For example, metal cages can frustrate their efforts to reach the food, and spring loaded weights can cut off access to the seeds. A baffle with a spring bounce can also be an excellent weapon.
These baffles are colored or clear domes with an umbrella shape. They present the squirrels with a slippery slope that is impossible to scale, and they can even be added to the poles of existing feeders. If you want to prevent access from the ground, place the baffle a minimum of four feet from the ground. The baffle can be placed above the feeder to prevent access from above.
A great way to stop squirrels from stealing bird food is to serve what they don’t like. For example, house finches love white millet seeds, but squirrels don’t see the appeal. The same can be said of suet that attracts nuthatches and woodpeckers and the niger or thistle that goldfinches find delectable. To these less than tasty treats, squirrels will generally say, “no, thank you.”
Remember that acrobatic talent squirrels have? That means that where you place the feeder can make a huge difference. Squirrels can climb or jump with amazing agility and can even hold on in almost any position.
Optimally, feeders should be placed 12 feet from anything a squirrel might use as a jumping point. At a minimum, place it eight feet from these launching points. Plus, make sure that it is a minimum of six feet above the ground.
Also, consider mounting the feeder in the middle of a long line. A strong monofilament line works great, because it is so slippery. Want to make it even tougher? Try tying obstacles such as plastic soda bottles or sections of garden hose onto the line. The squirrels will find it impossible to gain a foothold.
Of course, you might want to get creative and consider your own home remedy. For example, one woman filled old nylon stockings with mothballs and hung them from the feeder. Another person fitted the feeder pole with PVC pipe, making it too slippery for squirrels to climb. So put on your thinking caps and see if you can come up with another great idea.
If you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well enjoy them. In other words, try looking at this problem from a different angle. Squirrels really are energetic creatures whose antics can be amusing. Provide them with their own feeding station close to the ground, and they just might leave the bird feeder alone. Keep in mind — they are partial to dried or cracked corn or even peanuts.
So don’t despair, you can outwit those pesky squirrels at the bird feeder. Just follow these simple tips, and you’ll be enjoying nature at its finest. You might even find the squirrels can be rather entertaining too. So go ahead and buy a garden bench so you can sit back and enjoy your feathered friends.
Stan Horst is living his dream come true spending most of his days outside. He runs Cabin Creekwood with his wife and business partner, Deb. When not “working”, they can usually be found with their two teenagers enjoying the great outdoors. They particularly love camping and hiking.
As a former carpenter, Stan has also managed to incorporate his love of wood into his current life. He publishes Betterbenches.com and provides customers with quality bench sales. In his spare times, he plays golf and rides horses.
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