Keep squirrels out of your garden and off your bird feeder

Squirrel puzzled by a sign on a bird feeder reading 'For Birds Only' in a modern UK garden.
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Why do squirrels like gardens?

Squirrels come into gardens in the UK for a variety of reasons, but mostly for food. They may be attracted to the food that is available like bulbs, vegetables or bird seed, or they may simply be looking for a place to shelter.

They are most active in late summer and autumn when they are gathering food for winter, that’s when you might notice the most damage. 

Common squirrel damages

Whilst Squirrels can cause a lot of damage in gardens, there’s no need to worry about them as they are generally not dangerous, rather can just be a nuisance. 

Squirrels are known to eat the leaves off of plants, dig up bulbs, and gnaw on tree bark. Squirrels are also famed for stealing bird and other small pets food. They can also carry diseases that can infect humans and other animals. 

Squirrels, like rats and mice, might make a home under your decking, in your shed or attic if there is a good source of food and shelter.

There are a number of ways to prevent squirrels from coming into your garden, we’ve tested the most effective ways for you here. 

5 best ways to stop squirrels from coming into your garden

  1. Surprise them.

    Squirrels are skittish animals and can be easily scared away. A very effective way of repelling squirrels and other pests is by using motion activated sprinklers

    Not only will this keep them out of your garden, but it will also keep your lawn and plants well watered! 
  1. Squirrel proof all food sources

    One of the main reasons squirrels are attracted to gardens is because they are abundant food sources, and often filled with foods that squirrels find irresistibly delicious like juicy tomatoes, flower bulbs and bird seeds. 

    When growing any fruits or flowers, cover them with a fine wire or mesh. Look for one with holes too small for squirrels to get through (they can squeeze through normal chicken wire).

    We suggest looking for something with 25mm holes or less, made of a chew-proof material like metal.

    Mesh and wire should be rooted into the ground so the squirrels can’t prie it up and get in underneath. 

    For plant pots, try aluminium foil with a few holes poked through for water and light – squirrels hate the reflectiveness.

    Unfortunately if the food source is a tree with lots of nuts that fall off into your garden, you will either need to be very vigilant about removing the nuts to another place like a park where squirrels can eat them instead or try another method as it’s difficult to remove or cover this food source. 
squirrel proof mesh for plants
  1. Use dogs hair
    Dogs are excellent squirrel-repellents.

    If you have a dog, let him out in the garden regularly and try leaving some of his hair around the soil after brushing him.

    Even if you don’t own a dog, you could ask a friend who does to save up some dog hair to scatter around your garden. The smell of the dog hair alone is often enough to repel squirrels.
  2. Add a predator (or a lookalike)
    Commercial squirrel and deer repellents usually contain the smells of their common predators – such as foxes. Applying these repellents around the garden is an effective way to keep squirrels away, but will need to be reapplied through late summer and autumn.

    Owls, hawks and snakes are also predators for squirrels – though not so easy to lure into your garden, and definitely don’t try to invite them in if you have any small pets in your garden as they will likely be prayed upon.

    Instead of a live owl or snake, adding a plastic imitation owl or a rubber snake and moving it around can scare away squirrels, though not as effectively as the smells above.
  3. Plant squirrel-repelling flowers
    Allium plants such as garlic and spring onions as well as flowers like daffodils, snowdrops and hyacinth produce a strong smell which squirrels dislike. Try planting these in your garden, whilst avoiding or covering species (especially bulbs) that attract them, such as tulips, rhododendron and hydrangea.
why you shouldn't use squirrel traps

Don’t bother with spices or traps
There is a lot of advice suggesting the use of spicy pepper or cayenne powder as a repellent. This might scare of the squirrels but it will likely hurt them. Spices will stick to their paws and will probably be licked off or rubbed into their eyes causing the little squirrels a lot of pain.

There are also squirrel traps out on the market, but these are often a waste of time and can do damage. Squirrels are so common that more will come if you trap a couple. 

Also, if you trap a mother that will leave her babies unfed and in danger, not to mention that trapped squirrels become very stressed and can do more damage as a result of being restrained in a trap. 

How to squirrel-proof a bird feeder 

Bird feeders are the most delicious food source for squirrels since they have the same taste as many birds. Squirrel proofing your feeder, if it’s the main food source, is a very effective way of reducing attraction to your garden.

Use a baffler 

Squirrel bafflers are inverted cones that can be hung over a bird feeder to prevent squirrels from being able to climb down wires. Enjoy watching them try! 

Distance the feeder from perches 

Feeders should be hung on a wire or on a pole at least 6 feet from the ground and 6 feet from any surrounding perches like tree branches or fences, from which squirrels can easily jump. 

Clean up fallen seed 

Be vigilant about cleaning up fallen seeds around the bottom and under the feeder, which are like a happy meal to squirrels especially in the autumn.

Use safflower bird seed

Safflower is a type of bird food that is tasty for birds but squirrels don’t like. Using this will reduce their attraction to the feeder. 

squirrel proof bird feeders

Ready made Squirrel-proof feeders
When looking for a bird feeder, look for features which will deter squirrels or prevent them from getting the feed.

Weight activated feeders have doors that will close when a heavy squirrel lands on the feeder, but that stay open for common birds to enjoy. Some weight activated feeders also spin or move to deter the squirrels.

Other feeders use a cage around the food so that only smaller birds can enter the cage, excluding squirrels (and larger birds.)

Lastly, some feeders have small openings that squirrels can’t reach through to take the food, but some squirrels are smart enough to get their little paws through anyway.

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