Feed the Squirrels, Save the Bird Feeders!
If you can't beat 'em, feed 'em!
We put up bird feeders to attract and feed the wild birds in our backyard, but invariably we end up feeding the squirrels too. They love the seeds that we put in a couple of our bird feeders, and they are very persistent in their attempts to get to the goodies. When they're successful, they can go through the seed cakes, peanuts and sunflower seeds in no time. It's exasperating, but still these squirrels are very cute and entertaining to watch.
There's a good chance that you have this same problem if you put up bird feeders and also have squirrels in your yard. So what are you going to do about it?
My philosophy has now become "Feed the squirrels, but from their own feeders." And I have found some fun feeders to let the squirrels dine from.
You might enjoy feeding and watching the squirrels from one of these fun feeders as well.
The Funniest Feeder - Horse Head Squirrel Feeder
The horse head squirrel feeder is by far the funniest and most absurd feeder I've come across! It's a pint-sized version of the horse head masks you can find for Halloween fun, and since it's made of vinyl, it will do well outdoors. You position it to hang within a squirrel's reach (8 - 10 inches) from the ground , a branch, or your deck -- basically wherever you usually see your squirrels and where you'd like to feed them.
You fill the head with goodies such as peanuts, sunflower seeds, or corn. You can also spread some peanut butter around the rim of the mask so the seeds don't fall out quickly, and also so the squirrels stick (a pun...) around for longer underneath this silly-looking horse head.
Image below, by Jim Zielinski.
Horse Head Squirrel Feeder on Amazon
Horse Head Squirrel Feeder
Home-made pumpkin head feeder
A more natural variation of the horse head squirrel feeder is this pumpkin head feeder.
This particular photo is from a series of images by British nature photographer Max Ellis. He had hung a small carved pumpkin to scare his kids on Halloween, but a curious squirrel got into the act.
You can carve your own mini-pumpkin head, re-fill it with pumpkin seeds, hang it, and watch the fun!
Seat the squirrels comfortably
Another fun idea for feeding your squirrels is to give them their own mini-lawn chair or porch swing so they can sit and dine in comfort. Here are a couple fun options.
The first one is my favorite of the two shown here (probably because of the cute squirrel demonstrating how well this works) - a miniature metal "lawn" chair that can be nailed or screwed onto a tree or post, and has a screw corncob holder. This is sold at Lowes.
Squirrel Porch Swing from Duncraft
This second one is cute too -- the squirrel has it's own Porch Swing with places for three yummy, crunchy corncobs. It's made of heavy-duty metal, and will hold up well to the elements. You can attach it to a shepherd's crook bird feeder holder, or hang from a branch.
If I were a squirrel, I'd be happy to dine from either of these chairs, and stay away from the bird feeders!
Sturdy and Attractive Feeder
Metal Squirrel Feeder on Amazon
This attractive house-shaped feeder looks like a bird feeder re-designed to accommodate squirrels, with a large sturdy platform in front of the food container. Any type of favorite squirrel food can be put inside.
A roof keeps the elements out, but as you can see from the photo, squirrels will easily figure out how to lift the roof to get to their treats. One customer said it was sturdy enough to support a raccoon that had stopped by for a snack!
This feeder is made from durable metal, so it will last for years, unlike a wood or plastic feeder that could be chewed by the squirrels. It's easy to attach to a tree or wide post, and comes with the required mounting plate and screws.
Simple and Fun to Watch
Bungee Jumping for Squirrels from Duncraft
Here's a simple and fun way to let the squirrels work for their meal while you watch with amusement. Two ears of corn fit on this bungee cord apparatus, which you position low enough so they can reach it, but perhaps high enough so they have to jump to get on.
There's a small bell attached, that rings when the squirrels hit the feeder, so you'll know that they're around when you hear it.
You and your neighbors will laugh at the squirrels in action, swinging and bouncing and swaying while they get their corn. They won't care that you laugh though -- they'll be too busy chowing down. Luckily, squirrels don't seem to get motion sickness!
You can see this bungee feeder in action in the video below. The squirrels don't hang on too long with this particular set-up, but they keep on trying.
Bungee Feeder in Action
You Can Keep It Simple
Of course you don't really need a special set-up to feed the squirrels in your yard. The feeders that I've shown here are for your amusement -- the squirrels are just interested in the food! But it is fun to watch them up close and in action on these fun feeders.
If you do decide to feed the squirrels in your yard, you can keep it as simple as putting out a tray of a variety of food such as corn (on the cob, or kernels), sunflower seeds, nuts, and even fruits. If you don't want to attract other animals such as skunks, raccoons, or coyotes, only put out what the squirrels will eat within a short time.
Also don't put the food too close to your house, and don't let the squirrels see you putting out the food, since they will start to associate you and the house with food, and may become aggressive if they don't see "their" food nearby.
I learned this the hard way! A big fox squirrel in our yard would come right up to me if he didn't find the peanuts or sunflower seeds that I'd put out for him, and he'd expect me to give him more. Even though I'm much bigger, it is still alarming for one of these big squirrels to come up within inches of my feet when I'm relaxing on the deck!
If you'd prefer not to put out food, but still want to have a squirrel-friendly (or bird-friendly) yard, you can plant native bushes and shrubs that provide berries and seeds for the local wildlife.
Our Neighborhood Squirrels
- Squirrels in our Michigan Backyard
We have three kinds of squirrels that we see everyday in our Michigan backyard, and there is maybe a fourth kind that is nocturnal.
Do You Feed the Squirrels in Your Yard?
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on July 02, 2015:
I love the squirrels and the birds. Wonderful photos.
Karen (author) from U.S. on March 01, 2015:
I like your method of feeding the squirrels in your backyard -- it's a simple and elegant solution to keeping them away from the feeders for the birds! Our squirrels love black oil sunflower seeds as well.
BarbaraCasey on February 26, 2015:
It's a tossup between the horse head and lawn chair. For our backyard squirrels, we're just using a second bird feeder placed a distance away from the "real" birdfeeder. We fill it with black oil sunflower seeds, which the squirrels like better than the wild bird seed on the other feeder (which hangs from a 91-inch pole this time). They gravitate toward the feeder that's easier to get to, so the birds no longer have to share their feeder with furry critters.
Karen (author) from U.S. on January 28, 2015:
The horse head feeder is my favorite too, peachpurple. I laugh every time I see it in use :-)
peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 28, 2015:
i like the horse head feeder, that squirrel looks funny!
Karen (author) from U.S. on November 10, 2014:
It sounds like you have a good system to keep the squirrels from getting the bird seed, Ann. I bet they'll love ears of corn if you put them out next year.
Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on November 10, 2014:
I put out a bird feeder this year and watched a squirrel try to get to it for about 15 minutes. It's on a cord and hanging from a crosspiece of lumber from the tree. He figured out how to get to the board on the top of the feeder, but then he couldn't figure out how to get to the seeds underneath. He finally gave up.
Next year, I think I'll try putting out ears of corn for the squirrels. They are really fun to watch.
Karen (author) from U.S. on November 06, 2014:
I agree, favored, that the horse head feeder is hilarious! I bet it was fun to watch the squirrel in your yard deciding that the grape was not what it wanted.
Fay Favored from USA on November 05, 2014:
I'm with you, the horse head feeder is the best. I'd love to put one in our yard. We feed the birds and squirrels. Yesterday it was funny watching one pick up grapes and spit them out thinking they were something else. The video made me smile.
Karen (author) from U.S. on November 04, 2014:
Thanks so much, Susie, for your comment. It sounds like you have a very bird and mammal friendly place, where they are getting plenty to eat. They're all so much fun to watch. And thanks for your thoughts about the quality of my page :-) I appreciate it.
Susie Lehto from Minnesota on November 04, 2014:
I let the deer, squirrels and chipmunks eat the droppings on the ground from the bird feeders. I like feeding the birds, and love bird watching. The Ruffed Gross, Crows, Blue Jays and Ravens are too big to use the feeders, so I throw plenty of feed out for them. Seems Raccoon and other animals like the seeds when they can get them too. There is plenty for everyone. But, the feeders are designed for the smaller birds like, Red-breasted Nuthatches (and Whites), Black-caped Chickadees, and Gold Finches, etc. The Woodpeckers love the suit feeders. It's a 3 ring circus in the backyard all year around, the winter months more so.
I love your hub, I learned a few things that I am excited to experiment with in the months ahead with the natural feeders.
Thank you, Karen, this is interesting, usefully information and funny. It would make a great hub of the day, nominate for Editor's Choice.
Karen (author) from U.S. on November 03, 2014:
Thanks, catgypsy! Feeding the squirrels may not be necessary of course, but it's fun, and the feeders might as well be fun also!
catgypsy from the South on November 02, 2014:
Wow, some of those are so funny! I love feeding the squirrels and the info you provided is helpful too. Nice hub!
Karen (author) from U.S. on November 02, 2014:
Thanks, I thought they were fun too :-) I like the idea of having sunflowers to provide food for the squirrels (and entertainment for the watchers!).
Karen (author) from U.S. on November 02, 2014:
Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it :-) I have seen the squirrel feeders that have three spokes with a corn cob on each spoke, and those spin. Are those the ones you mean? Yes, the horse head feeder is just insanely funny, I think :-) There's a text link to the Amazon page, but I also just added an Amazon module...
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on November 02, 2014:
What fun squirrel feeders! This summer the squirrels discovered our sunflowers and provided hours of entertainment as they worked to be able to reach the good parts. So funny to watch! I'm going to have to distract them this winter from the bird feeders, so I appreciate these ideas.
SmartAndFun from Texas on November 02, 2014:
What a fun topic for an article! I wish I had thought of it. These are so cute. Have you ever seen the squirrel feeders that spin? Those are funny, too. I have never made a habit of feeding squirrels but after seeing that horse head, I just might have to break down and get one of those and give it a try. Amazon links are the only thing missing! :)
Karen (author) from U.S. on November 02, 2014:
Thanks, Jerzimom. They still get into our bird feeders occasionally now too, but it's easier for them to get to the squirrel feeder :-)
Cheryl Fay Mikesell from Mondovi, WI on November 02, 2014:
These are really cool! Squirrels are always getting into my bird feeders.