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The first thing you'll need to do to keep squirrels away from your bird feeder is to make sure that your bird feeder isn't mounted on a tree or tree branch. Squirrels use trees to live in, to find food, and also to move around, so anything food-based hanging on or near a tree is going to be a very bad idea.
If you have a pole, you can mount the feeder on a pole, but you must make sure that the feeder is high enough to be kept out of a squirrel’s reach. You could also look at hanging the feeder on wire between two branches, but there is a chance that the squirrel could shimmy along the wire or rope (or whatever you have used) to gain access, or to chew through the material entirely, causing the feeder to drop to the floor.
You shouldn’t underestimate the determination of these wild critters, that’s for sure.
If you have an area on the outskirts of your garden or land, you could consider placing some food there — seeds and nuts from the bird feeder. It might encourage the squirrels to stay in their “own lane,” and not take any food from what is meant to be for the birds. Sadly, any kind of feeding activity is probably going to encourage the animal to come closer still, and we still don’t advise feeding squirrels, even on the very edge of your land.
There are a number of substances that you could try to repel squirrels, but still let in the birds, but these will sometimes have quite a negative reaction on the birds too. Anything that is sticky or gooey, such as petroleum jelly, should be avoided. This can get in birds’ feathers, rendering them unable to fly. Chili sauces and powder can also be very unpleasant for birds, as can anything that smells or tastes of menthol, and also zesty citrus fruits. You will need to be careful that you're not repelling both the birds and the squirrels. If that's the case, you might as well move your bird feeder indoors and not feed the birds at all.
Making your garden less attractive to squirrels is the best way to keep your bird feeder safe from them, and that means making it really difficult to get to whatever they want to eat.
Go back to the Squirrel Removal page, or learn tips to do it yourself with my How to Get Rid of Squirrels guide.