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Best squirrel proof bird feeders: How to stop furry pests stealing your birds' food

squirrel proof bird feeder
(Image credit: Roamwild)

Putting up a squirrel proof bird feeder is a great idea, as when we put out food to attract birds to our gardens we occasionally attract some of these unwelcome pests. It's by far the best way to prevent the vandalism-happy mammals from stealing nuts and seeds or even destroying the best bird feeder that you’ve put out for your garden birds.

Things to look for include a sturdy metal construction and a decent capacity - too many cheap squirrel-proof bird feeders concentrate on the defenses instead of the feasting, meaning you’ll have to go out and refill it more often. Squirrels, for all their fluffy tails and cute looks, possess sharp rodent teeth, nimble fingers, and a level of low cunning that would put many petty criminals to shame, so feeders need to be designed with this in mind, with metal bars or clever mechanisms to fend them off.

The two main types of squirrel proof bird feeders are the cage, which keeps out chunky squirrels but allows small birds through the bars, and the spring-loaded, which is pushed down by the weight of a marauding rodent and closes off access to the food. Lighter birds don’t have the same effect, and can feed happily.

Alternatives to full-blown Fort Knox feeders include keeping your bird food on a pole with a baffle installed, preventing squirrels from climbing but allowing birds to alight. Some people use these to create full-blown assault courses to test squirrel intelligence. If that’s not to your liking, some say you can mix cayenne pepper with the seed, as squirrels dislike the taste but it has no effect on birds. 

Whatever you choose, squirrels are a natural part of a garden ecosystem, so consider leaving some food unprotected so they can get to it.

1. FORUP Caged Tube Feeder: Best overall squirrel proof bird feeder

(Image credit: FORUP)

FORUP Caged Tube Feeder

A mighty cage to keep out the bandits

Height: 10in | Diameter: 6.7in | Capacity: 1lb

Large metal guard
Decent capacity
Reasonable price
Plastic parts
Lid can be lifted
Not good for large birds

The most common, some would say the best, kind of squirrel proof bird feeder is the caged tube. It’s just a normal seed or hut feeder, surrounded by a cage that doesn’t allow squirrels to penetrate. Birds, being smaller, can fit through the gaps between the bars and get to the seeds.

We’ve chosen this FORUP model as it’s readily available, holds a good amount of food, can be viewed from any angle, and is reasonably priced. This does, however, open it up to a few flaws: the plastic construction of the inner parts could be sturdier, and squirrels can learn to lift up the metal lid and retrieve some food that way. Experimenting with clips or wire will hold it down more securely, but be sure to use metal as squirrels will easily chew through plastic. The feeder also protects against the theft of food by deer, as they are unable to get their noses through the bars. Rodents smaller than squirrels may, however, be able to slip between the bars.

The lid’s other purpose is to keep out the rain, so the food within doesn’t get wet and go moldy, and for this it does work, the overall construction being as weather-resistant as it’s possible to get while still allowing birds access to the seed. The long hanging hook, running from side to side rather than being attached to the lid, allows it to swing in the wind with less danger of it falling off to the ground or pulling the lid off under its own weight. Some squirrels and larger birds eventually learn not to bother with feeders such as these, redirecting their energies elsewhere.

2. North States Two-Way Squirrel Baffle: Best budget option

(Image credit: North States)

North States Two-Way Squirrel Baffle

Protect your feeders from climbing pests

Height: 5.8in | Diameter: 15.75in | Capacity: N/A

Protect many feeders
Requires careful siting
Some skill needed to mount

A baffle requires you to first mount your feeder – or multiple feeders – on a pole. You then install the baffle around the pole, more than halfway up. The domed shape and slippery nature makes it impossible for the curious critter to climb any higher, protecting your nuts. Another method is to hang your feeders from a chain or rope, with the baffle positioned to stop squirrels climbing down. 

Both methods require planning and careful positioning, however, as squirrels can jump. They can either jump from the ground to land on the pole above the baffle if it’s too low, or can leap from a nearby tree, building, or anything it can use to get the necessary height. Likewise, if you use the dangling technique, squirrels can jump from whatever you have anchored your rope on. Careful placement – on top of a pole with a large clear area around - is therefore essential for successful use of a baffle. Get this right, and they’re very effective, and also nice and cheap, being just a dome (or cylinder) of plastic.

We’ve chosen a North States model as it’s made from tough, chew-resistant plastic, and comes with the mounting hardware you’ll need. You may find cheaper ones, especially if you’ve got a few screws around the place you can use to put it up, but make sure the baffle isn’t going to give in easily to jaws and the weather.

3. Roamwild Squirrel Proof Wild Bird Feeder: Best spring-loaded feeder

(Image credit: Roamwild)

Roamwild Squirrel Proof Wild Bird Feeder

A clever little number

Height: 21in | Diameter: 7.5in | Capacity: 3lbs

All metal
Good capacity
Siting still important
Heavier birds excluded

A clever solution to the problem of squirrels – and other mammals – getting to bird food is the spring-loaded bird feeder. These nifty pieces of engineering contain, as you’d expect, a spring. When there’s only a light weight on it, such as a bird with its light build and hollow bones evolved for flight, the spring remains contracted and the food available. When a heavy weight is placed on it, such as a squirrel, rat or curious cat, the spring is stretched and a metal door is closed, blocking off access to the seeds.

The downside is in the calibration. A certain weight is needed to push the door closed, and if larger birds are above this weight, they will be unable to feed too. This can be annoying if you enjoy feeding species such as grackles or woodpeckers, but perfect if finches or cardinals are more your thing. The construction of this particular Roamwild model means the whole thing is kept waterproof, and as it holds a decent 3lb of seed you won’t be refilling it too often - depending on how hungry your garden birds are, of course.

Siting is once again important, as squirrels will try to hang off the feeders and shake them to see if anything comes out, which prevents small birds from being able to use them, so try to suspend them high enough to keep them out of jump range. A built-in baffle helps dissuade them from climbing down to the food too.

(Image credit: Woodlink)

Pricey but well built and durable

Height: 11in | Diameter: N/A | Capacity: 12lbs

Large capacity
Metal construction
More expensive
Slight design flaw

Another spring-loaded model, this titan takes the concept and runs with it. Birds can feed from either side of the metal tray, and the hopper above takes up to 12lbs of seed to cope with even the hungriest flocks. 

The all-steel construction and overhanging roof mean the seed is kept dry, while a clever adjustment mechanism means you can calibrate it to close when subject to light or heavy weights, or somewhere in between, depending on the kind of birds you attract. 

Mounting is handled by a sturdy metal bracket above, and a 5ft pole with mounting hardware is also included. Once again, some thought is needed to position the feeder, possibly with a baffle on the pole, where squirrels can’t jump onto it easily. A slight flaw has been reported in the design, with enterprising squirrels able to hang from the roof to scoop up food from the feeding stations, but a coating of petroleum jelly or other slippery substance should keep them from doing this more than once.

The windows into the seed hopper are covered with thick plastic rather than glass, but the feeder is overall very well built, and the windows allow you to see when the seed needs replenishing. While more expensive than many other feeders, with this kind of build quality you can expect the feeder to last many years, so perhaps the high price is worth paying for those committed to feeding their garden birds.

5. Droll Yankees YF-M Yankee Flipper

(Image credit: Droll Yankees)

Droll Yankees YF-M Yankee Flipper

The funniest squirrel proof bird feeder

Height: 17in | Diameter: 8in | Capacity: 5lbs

Good capacity
Needs batteries

An elegant variation on the spring-loaded feeder, the Yankee Flipper brings an electric motor to the party and spins its base around when triggered, sending the squirrel, or other interloper, flying.

This is pretty funny, and squirrels generally come to no harm as their arboreal lifestyle means they’re pretty good at landing safely on all four paws. 

The feeder is well made, with four feeding ports and holding up to 5lbs of seed. There’s an internal baffle mechanism to keep the seed flowing freely to the birds. Construction is of metal at both top and bottom, with a UV-stabilized polycarbonate tube in between so you can see the seed level. Other models are available, including the Dipper, whose perches collapse under too much weight before raising themselves again, and the Tipper, with a plastic disk for the birds to perch on that tips sideways when something heavier comes along.

All models are battery powered, which is why there’s both an AC adapter and a rechargeable ‘powerstick’ included in the packaging. Charges can last up to eight months, depending on how persistent your local squirrels are, but having to charge it is the main downside to this model – along with the expense. You can buy five of the number one feeders on this list for the price of one Flipper, but then you wouldn’t have the entertainment of watching the pesky pests get flipped off.

6. Perky-Pet 336 Squirrel-Be-Gone

(Image credit: Perky Pet)

Perky-Pet 336 Squirrel-Be-Gone

Does the job and looks good too

Height: 19.8in | Diameter: 7in | Capacity: 2lbs

Metal outside
Multiple feeding ports
Plastic parts quite soft
Can be knocked off

A clever combination of both the caged and spring-loaded designs, this feeder uses the weight of interloping squirrels to push the cage down over the feeding ports, rendering them inoperable.

With its plastic construction keeping both the price and the weight down, the feeder relies on its metal cage to prevent strong rodent teeth from chewing their way into the seed hopper. In defensive mode, all plastic parts including the six feeding ports are covered by metal, making it impossible, or at least much less likely, for them to break in.

Unlike many of the other products on this list, some thought has been given to the aesthetics of this feeder, and the leaf pattern used on the cage means this is a pleasant feeder to watch from a window – usually the birds provide the entertainment through their beauty, but this can be nice to watch on its own, swinging in the breeze. If it remains unvisited too often, however, you should consider changing the kind of food you’re offering.

Feeders such as this need to be securely fixed to whatever you’ve chosen to hold it up with, especially as being knocked off and onto the ground often means the lid coming off and a feast for the squirrels. The supplied hanging wire allows just this. Built-in drainage helps stop the seed from becoming waterlogged, and the sturdy metal lid overhangs the sides enough to keep light rain off the food.

How to choose the best squirrel proof bird feeder

Squirrels are well adapted to the human world. No other creature, apart from perhaps racoons and brown bears, is better at exploiting our gardens to their advantage. Unlike larger creatures, however, they rarely bother our garbage, preferring instead to raid the food we put out to attract garden birds.

Squirrel proof feeders need to be three things. The first is sturdy – squirrels are rodents, and as such their chisel-like teeth grow constantly. These are the first weapons they turn against bird feeders, chewing through soft plastic parts to reach the seeds inside. Metal is the way to stop them, with caged feeders employing it to keep them from reaching the feeding stations, and spring-loaded feeders using it to cover those stations when sufficient weight is applied to the perch. 

Secondly, feeders need to be placed properly, so that squirrels cannot jump to raid them, or rappel their way there like a Navy SEAL team. Generally, squirrels can jump five feet high, seven across a gap, and will drop up to nine feet from a higher perch, so in a smaller garden keeping feeders away from fences and trees can be a problem.

Lastly, you need to consider how large your feeders are. There’s nothing you can put in your garden for birds that squirrels won’t eat, so once you’ve got a population of garden birds waiting for you to feed them, you need to keep the food coming. Putting out large amounts can lead to wastage as it gets wet and becomes moldy, especially if the local birds are slow eaters, so try to keep your seed dry indoors or under cover rather than sitting uneaten in a wet feeder. If you have a lot of birds, a larger feeder may make sense, as you’d be trudging to replenish a small one several times a day.