Monday, March 17, 2014

DIY squirrel baffle solves birdfeeder problem

What do you get when you combine a shepherd’s hook meant for hanging plants with a short length of shiny stovepipe, a one-gallon plastic pot, a small metal hose clamp and a foot-long piece of wire?

Thanks to my clever husband, the answer is an inexpensive, effective do-it-yourself way to stop squirrels from eating food meant for birds.

My husband's DIY squirrel baffle

Birdfeeders entice a wide range of birds to the yard, but unfortunately, they also attract seed-devouring squirrels. Unlike birds that fly in, eat a few seeds, then fly away, squirrels are greedy. Once they discover a well-stocked feeder, they settle in for the long haul, consuming seed at an alarming rate.

A squirrel making himself at home in a feeder meant for the birds

At first, their presence can be entertaining. These one-pound relatives to rats and rabbits are bold, agile and skillful acrobats. To reach a feeder, they’ll climb high and leap long distances. Eastern gray squirrels can jump about four feet up from the ground and about nine feet horizontally. They’re right at home on tree branches, roofs and exterior walls and almost equally adept on wires and ropes.

Over the years, I’ve tried my best to outwit the nimble nibblers. I’ve laced birdseed with a red pepper compound advertised to repel rodents but not bother birds. It became ineffective after the first rain. 

Hanging shiny objects by the feeders didn’t work nor did suspending the feeding stations from nylon fishing line in the hope that the strong but clear filament would be too thin for them to climb. A smart squirrel thwarted that plan by simply chewing through the nylon, which caused the feeder to drop, break and spew seed all over the ground. A squirrel smorgasbord ensued.

I’ve purchased my share of feeders advertised as “squirrel-proof.” Unfortunately, the main thing each proved was how willing I was to exchange money for the hope of a successful design.

One of many 'squirrel proof' feeders that didn't work.  In this one, the squirrel bypassed the wire to chew through the plastic for easy access to the seed inside.

Enter my husband and our extensive junk pile.

“I wish there was a way to keep the squirrels out of the feeder,” I muttered after watching a squirrel conquer yet another supposed squirrel-deterring purchase.

I went off to do errands in town and when I came back, Ralph had something to show me. After perusing his treasured stash of too-good-to-throw-out-we-might-need-it-someday items, he had gathered the tools to overcome my squirrel problem once and for all.

One small section of my husband's treasured junk pile

“I can make a baffle out of the stovepipe with an inverted pot inside that should keep the squirrels away,” he said. I’m ashamed to say I doubted him.

My birdfeeder hangs from a shepherd’s hook. In less than fifteen minutes, my inventive spouse had secured a metal hose clamp onto the pole and slipped a 17-inch-long section of 8-inch diameter stovepipe over the shepherd’s hook and just below the clamp. He then did the same thing with an upside-down black plastic one-gallon flowerpot. The flowerpot fit loosely within the larger diameter metal pipe. He wove the wire through holes in the pipe and pot, twisting them above the clamp around the pole. When done, the shiny homemade metal baffle hung three-feet above the ground and about four inches below the birdfeeder.

Four inexpensive items - a clamp, wire, plastic pot and stovepipe section - made a simple fix to a perplexing problem

Ralph made the baffle in the afternoon. I refilled the feeder and within a few hours, a squirrel was already checking it out.

Checking things out...something's different...but what?

Instead of climbing the pole as it usually did, the squirrel eyed it curiously. Something was different, but what? The curious critter jumped onto a nearby platform and arched toward the feeder but didn’t leap onto it. 

"Maybe if I lean in and look just a little closer I'll figure out how to reach the feeder... "

Instead, it jumped back to the ground, stood on its hind legs and turned toward the house where it saw us watching through the window. With its cute little furry face, it gazed longingly at the feeder before looking at us beseechingly. What it didn’t do, however, was figure out how to bypass the baffle to regain a place at the feeding station.

Thanks to my clever husband, birds like this chipping sparrow can now enjoy birdseed without interference from squirrels

The definition of baffle is to totally bewilder or perplex. I’m sure the little gray freeloader that had been enjoying sunflower seeds at our expense was indeed baffled by my husband’s inventive creation, but I had no idea that I, too, would feel so perplexed. How could I have let such a simple solution elude me for so many years? Most importantly, why do I continually criticize Ralph’s sprawling junk pile when the materials it contains enable him to fix so many problems?

I have a squirrelly suspicion some questions are best left unanswered.


  1. thank you, for this idea. another cool way of keeping them out is taking old glass bottles. I find them along the river and after I had a good night of wine and more wine. ;-) I hang them up and around the pole my feeder sits on like wind-chimes. The little fuzzy bas**rds freak out when they try to get around them. Good luck and keep up the good work.

    1. That's an original solution, Adam. Thanks for suggesting it. If you have a picture and would like to send it, I'd love to see how it looks.