A squirrel baffle is a guard designed to deny squirrels access to a bird feeder. Most of them are wide so the squirrel can't climb over it, or curved so a squirrel landing on it can't keep its balance. Commercial baffles made of heavy metal or plastic are available, but a simple homemade baffle can be fashioned from household products. The drawback is squirrels will figure out most baffles, so simple designs are likely short-term solutions.
Before you create any squirrel baffle, move the bird feeder to a place the squirrels can't jump onto it. If the feeder is within 2.4 metres (8 feet) of a tree branch or roof, the squirrels can jump directly onto the feeder. Squirrels can also jump about 1.5 m (5 feet) into the air, so feeders need to be at least 1.8 m (6 feet) above the ground. It also won't hurt to place a second feeder with cheap food on the ground below the main feeder. The squirrels won't make the extra effort to get past a baffle if they're satisfied with the food on the ground.
Hang the feeder with strong wire or long shooks. Hang a large metal or plastic bowl about 30 cm (1 foot) above the feeder. Thread a thin shook through the hole, and fasten wire to each side to hang the feeder. If you can't find a large bowl, you can use vinyl records, pizza pans, 2-litre fizzy drink bottles and stove pipes. The baffle should be at least 45 cm (18 inches) in diameter and tilt downward.
Covering poles or fence post with smooth PVC or metal pipe will prevent most squirrels from reaching the feeder. However, determined squirrels can overcome those obstacles if they get enough momentum for a long jump. A large baffle on top of the surface can further discourage the squirrel. The baffle material can be an aluminium pie plate, a pizza pan, or half of a 2-litre soda bottle with a hole cut in the flat end. Use duct tape to secure the pipe and the baffle together.
Things to avoid
As annoying as squirrels can be, you don't want to use anything that might cause serious harm to them or birds. Don't use nylon monofilament to hang the bird feeder. While squirrels can't climb it, birds are often injured because they can't see it. Don't coat wires or poles with petroleum jelly, grease, oil, glycerine or any other lubricant. These get on fur and feathers and cause them to mat, which could cause the animal to freeze to death.
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology: What can you do about squirrels?
- Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Down the garden path
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Dealing with predators and pests in your yard
- Rutgers Cooperative Research Extension: Backyard birdfeeders
- Bird Watcher's Digest: How to make your own predator baffle
- University of Minnesota: Squirrels