Mission impossible: How do you stop squirrels eating all your bird food?


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The Independent Online

I'm starting to question whether the words "bird feeder" and "squirrel-proof" should ever appear in the same sentence. I mean, I don't want to involve trading standards, but on the other hand, wouldn't it be more accurate if somewhere in there, you came across the word "relatively"?

It's all very well claiming that a bird feeder is specially designed to resist the incursions of the grey, furry-tailed garden rodents. Designers have certainly put a lot of thought into the problem. There are bird feeders which snap shut if more than a specified weight lands on them. There are bird feeders where the feeding windows are protected by an iron cage. There are all sorts of devious blueprints.

It's just that the world is also full of even more devious squirrels.

At this time of year, those devious squirrels also happen to be hungry; and they're stockpiling; and they seem to be able to devise new ways of getting round our bird feeders with each passing week.

I suppose we should feel amused. It's just that we are getting through what feels like bags and bags of bird food essentially to nourish four fat rodents that clearly don't really need it.

We've tried a number of options. First there was the window-mounted "squirrel-proof" bird feeder. This was devised on the principle that if you stick something to the middle of a flat wall with suction, there's no way for a squirrel to get up or down. Great. Well, it was until the Baumgartner-worthy jump from the redcurrant bush pioneered by one brave squirrel soul this spring. The jump wasn't the end of it – it was followed by a heavy footed stamping, aiming to bring the feeder to earth. It turns out that if you can't eat out of it, you can shake it until it falls down and then just collect the contents off the ground. Simple.

At that point we acquired a heavy duty reinforced-iron-cage bird feeder which claimed absolute squirrel-proofness. And it was indeed squirrel-proof. For a while. To the designers' credit, it took at least four months for the experimentally minded rodents to work out a solution. Here again it involved shaking. (Beginning to see a theme here?) If the squirrels pattered sufficiently up and down the branch holding the feeder, the contents started to fall earthwards, again emptying the food reservoir.

A quick survey of gardening colleagues reveals that I am not alone. There are people whose squirrels can, somehow, open the top of their squirrel-proof bird feeders, turning them into an all-you-can-eat squirrel buffet. People whose squirrels wobbled the protective bird-table baffle until they could use it as a feeding platform, and then sat under it snaffling grub while now conveniently sheltered from the wind and rain. There are even people whose squirrels (and this is hardcore) just bit through the wire cages until they got to delicious fat cake.

So let's get to work on those marketing slogans, guys. "A bit squirrel-proof"? Now that's more like it.

Catch us if you can

The most squirrel-proof feeder I've tried

Squirrels seem to be able to shake a bit of seed out of the Nuttery Squirrel-Proof Globe, but it's mostly pretty good. On the downside, it's trickier to clean than some other bird feeders. £19.99

For those still seeing the funny side

Check out Bill Adler's Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Stratagems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Birdfeeder by Squirrels. The perfect gift at £9.50

For the truly Desperate

The Big Cheese squirrel traps cost £7.39. But be warned: they're not at all suitable for vegetarians.

All available from amazon.co.uk