As passionate birders, we do everything we can to help wild birds by placing bird feeders and houses in various spots in our yard. However, there is always the challenge of having to protect birds from predators that are always looking to steal seed and destroy feeders and houses.
Squirrels are the most notorious and annoying predators that threaten birds, but the answer isn’t always to just shun them away. Sometimes the best solution is to give squirrels their own feeders so they won’t interfere with the feeding times of birds. There are ways to keep birds and squirrels happy together in your yard.
Here’s why squirrel feeders are a must for bird watchers
- To keep them away from bird feeders: The main reason to have a squirrel feeder is to keep squirrels preoccupied. A strategically placed squirrel feeder can keep the animals away from your birds and their food.
- Seed dispensers: Contrary to popular belief, squirrels have an important role in the preservation of nature. They don’t eat the nuts or seeds they steal, but they bury them on the ground. According to a study done at the University of Richmond, squirrels fail to recover 74% of the nuts they bury. These nuts will sprout after some time, keeping your yard more green. (1)
- As a decorative piece: There are many different designs that spice up the regular backyard. Particularly if you have feeders that imitate the looks of a picnic table, a lunch box, a merry-go-round, or a dining room table and chair, you will add character to your yard.
- For entertainment: When we watch squirrels outside, they tend to be one of the most hilarious creatures. They are really bold when they steal food, devise ways to take bird seed, or even their own food at their feeding stations. When a squirrel makes a mistake in its attempt to take food, or when a squirrel puts on an acrobatic show, just sit back and laugh.
Types of squirrel feeders
Based on Installation
- Hanging Feeder: Squirrels love to dangle off hanging platforms, as you have seen with bird feeders. Most of these feeders will alert you of when a squirrel is present, by ringing a bell or making other noises.
- Mounted Feeder: These feeders are mounted up against either the trunk of a tree or the windows of your house. These feeders allow you to see what the squirrels are doing up close.
- Ground Feeder: This kind of feeder is a tray that is positioned close to the ground, having some elevation off it. This feeder gives squirrels easy access to food without having to work hard for it.
Based on Usage
- Hopper Feeder: Combining the merits of traditional silo feeders and the plain platform feeders are these feeders. The food is stored in a vertical silo that allows the seeds to spill out onto the platform in a slow, measured manner.
- Tube Feeder: These feeders come in many styles, which include a tube with perches and feeding ports alternately placed down the length, or a seed tray or perch and seed openings around the bottom.
- Platform Feeder: This feeder is also a tray that is hung above ground, having simple flat bases with short sides to keep food from slipping off. You are not restricted by the type of seed to be used with this feeder.
What do squirrels eat?
Feeding squirrels isn’t a complicated science, but there are basic rules to follow. Squirrels can eat an average of around 1 pound of food per week, which would be 2.272 ounces per day. What to feed squirrels in the backyard would be seeds and nuts, but they also love to eat various fruits, vegetables, and grains as well as roots, bulbs, bark, and fungi.
- Squirrels enjoy eating nuts with or without the shell, and to them, it’s more about the process of extracting a nut from its shell that gives the squirrel exercise and a way to sharpen its teeth.
- Acorns, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, beechnuts, butternuts, pine nuts, hickory nuts, and macadamia nuts are all nuts that squirrels enjoy eating. Regular peanuts are okay for squirrels to eat as long as they are unsalted and given only in small amounts.
- Corn is also a favorite food source for squirrels, but if you are looking to offer quality nutrition in your squirrel feeder, you should offer corn in small amounts.
- When it comes to which seeds you should offer in your squirrel feeder, safe options include pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Pumpkin seeds have the nutrients that squirrels need, and sunflower seeds are easy for squirrels to chew through.
Where to place a squirrel feeder?
Sidewalls of your house: You can mount a squirrel feeder up against your house as you will get a close view of the action. Squirrels will easily notice the food in the suction cup mounted feeder. However, be mindful of your home because squirrels can be destructive by chewing through parts of your home.
Hanging feeders: Once you find a sturdy enough tree branch, you can use either twisted coat hangers or fishing wire to serve as your base for a hanging feeder. Then you attach a bungee cord and attach corn cobs to them. Squirrels will perform acrobatic stunts for you if they want the corn. However, watch for any unexpected events like squirrels getting accidentally caught on the cord.
Mount on a tree: Most mounted feeders require screws attached to the back of them. Alternatively, you can wrap the feeder around the tree trunk using a cord. However, these feeders will be left vulnerable to attacks from other animals like raccoons.
Ground feeders: Most of these feeders are set a few feet off the ground, having a single tray platform where food is placed. It is easy to set up these feeders, but difficult to protect squirrels from birds and other animals investigating these feeders as well.
How to choose the right squirrel feeder?
- Capacity: When choosing the right squirrel feeder, you first have to consider how many squirrels do you want being on or around your feeder at once. How many squirrels can your feeder hold?
- Food Storage: What do squirrels eat? How much of that food can you store inside a feeder? If you want to have squirrels to keep coming back to your feeder, look into feeders that can store a lot of squirrel food.
- Material: Also, consider the durability of your feeder. If you want a long-lasting feeder, get one with steel that won’t rust after rainstorms and snow. Quick solutions include feeders that contain wood or plastic.
- Space: Squirrels need enough space to either enter inside the base or to lift up a lid to gather food. Consider getting a feeder that has enough space for squirrels to sit on platforms at the bottom, or one that has an entry hole of 3 inches in diameter.
- Entertainment Value: You can settle for a typical feeder box, but you can also have an entertaining squirrel feeder. Can you find a feeder that allows squirrels to sit in a little chair to eat, or to dangle off a cord to eat corn?
Best Squirrel Feeders
1. Erva Tool & Die Bird Proof Squirrel Feeder
The simple design of this feeder is meant to hold a wide variety of food, and it is the perfect choice to load up with peanuts.
The top part of this feeder, which resembles a house roof, can be easily opened by the squirrels so they can gather the peanuts.
You can also carefully remove all necessary parts of this feeder for cleaning purposes.
Made with 18 gauge steel, this feeder has tremendous durability, so this product can’t be chewed on by squirrels or any other animals.
The steel will easily outlast other feeder designs that feature plastic or wood. However, there are concerns about this steel rusting after a long period of time, particularly around 10 months. Rain and moisture can rust out the little rivets that hold the roof on. Moisture collects on the floor of the feeder as well.
What we liked
- Can hold a wide variety of food
- Easy to assemble, mount, and clean
- Squirrels can gather food by lifting up the roof
- Bird-proof design
- Made with 18 gauge steel, this feeder won’t be damaged by chewing
What we didn’t like
- The steel may rust after it collects rain and moisture
- No opening in the bottom of the feeder
How much seed can fit: 1.5 pounds of roasted no-salt peanuts
What special about it: This feeder is made with 18 gauge steel
Measurements: 12.1 x 7.9 x 7.1 inches
2. Picnic Table Squirrel Feeder
Made out of freshly cut cedar wood that is naturally decay-resistant, this feeder is designed to resemble a picnic table so that when a squirrel takes a seat, it will appear to be dining out in the open.
A single two-inch long screw is placed in the center of the picnic table base and sticks out, which allows you to stick an ear of corn on it.
On the backside of this feeder are holes where you can place two screws in to safely mount this feeder against wooden surfaces.
This feeder is light in weight, meaning that it won’t store much food other than single corn on the cob. Make sure to mount this feeder firmly against a wooden surface because it is easy for squirrels and other animals to loosen its grip after they sit on it.
Depending on the size of the corn you use, you may need to replace the screw in the center of the table because it may not be strong enough to hold the corn. The cedar wood is also delicate and can split while you mount it against a wooden surface.
What we liked
- Easy to mount against a wooden surface
- Can also be used as a ground feeder
- You can stick a corn on the cob on the single screw on the picnic table
- Extremely easy to clean (no complicated process)
- Specifically for corn cobs
What we didn’t like
- Not suitable for storing a lot of food
- There is a chance you will have to replace the two inch screw with a stronger one
How much seed can fit: corn on the cob of 0.22 pounds/3.53 ounces
What special about it: The picnic table design makes for good photo-taking opportunities
Measurements: 6 x 6 x 8 inches
3. Accoutrements Horse Head Squirrel Feeder
By far the most hilarious option of a squirrel feeder but this horse head feeder, isn’t just for show.
Made out of hard and slightly flexible plastic, this feeder is designed to store all sorts of food inside the horse head.
This is a hanging feeder where you tie a knot at the end of a piece of string, and then you thread it through a previously drilled hole that is on the top of the head.
It is recommended to hang this feeder about 8 to 10” above a branch, deck railing, or any solid surface the squirrel may be standing on.
Though the label on the back of the box suggests you store peanut butter inside this feeder, customers suggest otherwise as squirrels have chewed big holes right through the horse head when trying to eat the peanut butter.
If you leave this horse head unfilled for long periods of time, squirrels will chew it up and destroy it.
What we liked
- Extremely easy to hang, fill and clean
- You can store all sorts of food inside this feeder
- No restrictions as to where to hang it
- High entertainment value
What we didn’t like
- Vulnerable to chewing damage
- You need to get your own string to hang this feeder
How much seed can fit: handfuls of peanuts and seeds
What special about it: This horse head provides a lot of hilarity once the squirrel puts it on
Measurements: 8.8 x 5.8 x 5.9 inches
4. Birds Choice Squirrel Jar Feeder
What makes this feeder unique is that you can store this large jar with a wide variety of food, including a combination of nuts, seeds and corn.
Squirrels will be able to easily access this jar by entering through the large holes on both sides of the base.
This feeder can be mounted on either a pole or up against a wooden surface like a tree trunk with the help of screws.
This feeder is made out of recycled plastic. However, this can also be a negative if you have squirrels that are really pesky.
Be careful when taking the large jar out of the base because depending on how high up you mount this feeder, the glass jar will break after a fall.
The large holes on the side of the base are also large enough for birds like blue jays to sneak in and steal food. If this happens the birds typically get stuck inside the jar and you will need to help them get out.
What we liked
- Can be mounted on a pole or wooden surface
- Made out of durable recycled plastic
- You can store a wide variety of food inside the 1 gallon jar
- The jar is easy to remove and put back on after filling
- Squirrels will have no problem accessing the feeder base
What we didn’t like
- If mishandled, the large glass jar can easily break
- Birds can also access this feeder and get stuck in the jar
How much seed can fit: 1 gallon of food
What special about it: You can have variety in the food you offer squirrels
Measurements: 19 x 7 x 16 inches
5. Woodlink Squirrel Diner Feeder
This unique feeder resembles the look of a lantern, and it is made out of steel.
It’s painted with a powder-coated green finish to discourage squirrels from chewing on the parts.
There are 7 small drain holes located at the bottom of the feeder, allowing rain to exit from the feeder.
There are two slotted holes in the back for screws which mount the feeder to a wall, fence post, tree, or any hard surface.
There is a large lid that looks like a baffle top of a bird feeder, but this lid is meant to be lifted by the squirrels so they can get their food. The lid does an amazing job of protecting the food from rain and snow.
While this feeder is bird proof, the lid won’t be able to protect squirrels from other animals like raccoons. There are also concerns that the lid could be too heavy for some squirrels to lift up.
What we liked
- Can store 4 pounds of squirrel food
- Easy to mount, fill and clean
- Can be mounted on various surfaces
- Squirrels only have to lift up the lid to take food
What we didn’t like
- There isn’t much sitting space at the bottom of the feeder
- This feeder is vulnerable to attacks from other animals
How much seed can fit: 4 pounds of corn, nuts and seed mix
What special about it: Mounting hardware for tree, deck or post are included
Measurements: 7.8 x 10 x 8 inches