How Do I Keep Squirrels Off My Shepherd’s Hook?

Keep Squirrels Off Shepherd's Hook

If there is a champion thief in the animal kingdom, it is the squirrel.

Being small in size, nimble in the trees, and seemingly hungry all the time, the squirrel is hard-wired for investigating, discovering, and ultimately stealing sources of food such as the seeds from bird feeders.

For those who have taken steps to keep squirrels away from their bird feeders, the sight of a squirrel on the shepherd’s hook with seeds in their mouths is enough to frustrate even the calmest of souls.

It is why the search for the squirrel-proof bird feeder has been sought-after for a long time.

Before starting on the path towards finding the bird feeder that keeps all squirrels out, you should know that none have been found.

This is because squirrels are highly determined creatures that do not give up until they get what they want.

However, there are steps you can take to minimize their stealing efforts.

This means that your bird feeder on the shepherd’s hook may be safe most of the time.

What follows are the steps you need to take to maximize the chances of squirrels not stealing the bird food.

1- Location, Location, Location

Location is not just important when buying real estate, it is also vital to keeping squirrels away from your bird feeder.

Before you make your purchase, find a place in your yard that squirrels will have a difficult, if not impossible place to reach.

That may seem unlikely at first glance, but here is what you need to know.

  • At least five feet off the ground
  • At least seven feet away from a tree or other object from where they can jump
  • At least nine feet of clearance above the feeder itself.

You can start by finding a place at least ten feet away from a tree, wall, or other platform from where a squirrel can jump on the feeder, so you rule out trees right away.

Next, purchase a shepherd’s hook that is at least five feet tall and preferably six to keep them from jumping from the ground directly onto the feeder.

Finally, squirrels do not like to jump down more than nine feet, so be sure that you have that amount of clearance above the feeder itself.

Distance is your ally when trying to make your bird feeder squirrel-proof, use it to your advantage.

2- Clear Away the Area

While squirrels are pretty sharp, their sense of sight and smell are good, but nothing extraordinary.

This means that when you select the right area to plant the pole or shepherd’s hook, there should not be anything that might attract the squirrel to that location.

There will most likely not be anything at first on the ground to attract the squirrels.

But after a time, birdseed from the feeder will fall on the ground and that will start to get their attention.

Every so often you should check the area under the bird feeder and clear away the seed.

This is important because old, rotted seeds will do harm to the birds if they consume them off the ground.

Plus, old bird seed will attract more than just the squirrels.

You may expect rats and raccoons to show up and they present a bigger issue.

3- Get a Pooch

If there is one natural deterrent to squirrels, it is a dog.

Dogs love to chase squirrels.

And while squirrels are normally more than quick enough to get away, they will often stay away from the area.

That means your bird feeder will be protected in large part by the dog.

Birds and bird feeders generally do not interest dogs, although they might like to sit and watch the birds fly around.

You do not have to worry about dogs trying to consume the bird seed.

4- Slick Up the Shepherd’s Hook

Named a shepherd’s hook for its similar shape to a shepherd’s staff, this type of pole is quite good for hanging bird feeders.

The reasons start with not being a part of a tree which is like a highway for squirrels to get to the feeder itself.

The shepherd’s pole can be from four to six or more feet in length.

You plant it securely in the ground and hang the feeder from the hook.

However, while the pole is smooth, it is not impossible for the squirrels to get a good grip.

So, you should apply grease or oil to the pole starting at the bottom and going up near the top.

You’ll want to avoid petroleum-based products and instead focus on natural ones such as mustard oil.

This will provide plenty of slickness and will do no harm to the squirrels if ingested.

5- Find the Right Bird Feeder

Keep in mind it is not so much the shepherd’s hook, but the bird feeder itself that is so important.

After all, if the squirrel cannot find entry into the bird feeder, then whether they are still on the shepherd’s hook or not doesn’t matter.

Weight Activate:

This is one of the best types of squirrel-proof bird feeders as the weight of the squirrel itself prevents them from getting at the food.

Since birds weigh very little, it does not press down on the landing which in turn would close the door to the bird feeder.

Once the squirrel leaves the port, the feeder opens again.

You can hang these bird feeders from your shepherd’s hook or from tree branches if you desire.

The shepherd’s hook is a good place because squirrels find it more difficult to climb and grasp the pole, although not impossible.

Caged:

This is another excellent bird feeder that squirrels find difficult to overcome.

The openings of the cage are large enough for the beaks of birds to easily get through, but not large enough for the squirrel.

The cages themselves are strong enough to be chew-proof, so you do not have to worry about that.

However, caged bird feeders tend to be much heavier compared to weight activated bird feeders.

Your shepherd’s hook should be good enough to work but be sure it is securely attached and driven far enough into the ground to prevent the squirrel from tipping it over.  

6- Create a Decoy Feeder

Perhaps the best way to keep the squirrels away from your bird feeder is to create a squirrel feeder.

The concept is simple enough, although it will cost you more money as you must fill it to feed the squirrels.

You simply fill the feeder with food that they enjoy and place it on the side of a tree high enough, so the squirrels are safe from predators on the ground.

While you still need to place the bird feeder in a safe place, having the squirrel feeder easier to access means incidents with your bird feeder become few and far between.

That is until the squirrel feeder runs out and you have yet to refill it.

7- Try Bird Food that Squirrels Do Not Like

Despite their hungry nature, squirrels have a limited diet.

This means that there are certain foods that birds like, but squirrels do not.

Such seeds include Nyjer which are devoured by Goldfinches, but not appetizing to squirrels.

What may be more interesting is that sunflower seeds are not for squirrels either. But they are enjoyed by a wide range of bird species.

Another is Proso Millet which is so small that squirrels do not seem interested in them.

However, you’ll find that juncos, sparrows, and doves really enjoy them.

If you are not interested in purchasing a specific type of bird seed, then you can mix hot peppers into the bird seed itself.

This is because peppers contain capsaicin which creates the hot sensation when you put them in your mouth.

Squirrels will feel the heat as well, but not the birds as they have a different mouth structure.

This means that they can eat seed mixed with capsaicin all day and not feel a thing.

But the squirrels may quickly get away from it. 

8- Baffle the Squirrels with Baffles

A baffle is a cone-shaped piece of metal that is attached to the pole below the feeder.

The top of the cone is the narrow part while the wide part at the bottom may be up to 18” in diameter or more.

This means that a squirrel trying to climb the pole must reach or jump to the sides of the wide part of the cone and somehow work their way up which is virtually impossible.

You can place the baffle high enough on the shepherd’s hook to prevent the squirrel from jumping over the top.

About the only downside is keeping the baffles in place, so you will need to check on them from time to time.

Stopping squirrels from making a home on your shepherd’s hook and feeding off the bird seed you provide is not simple.

But if you use a combination of preventative measures, then you can minimize the damage that the squirrels may cause.

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