My parents had a handful of bird feeders when I was growing up and with feeders come squirrels. When my dad would see a squirrel, he would open the back door and shout, clap his hands and stomp his feet until the offender ran off. It worked, for a little while.
One of the boys’ favorite books is called Those Darn Squirrels. It is about an old man who loves his birds and comes up with elaborate ways to keep the squirrels away from the feeders. Not wanting to continually open the window all winter and fancying myself as resourceful and frugal when it comes to things like this, I decided I would come up with a way to keep the squirrels off of our feeders using what I could find around the house.
Of the six squirrels that materialize out of the woods every time I fill the bird feeders there are three that are more determined to get an easy meal and continually come back after all the seed on the ground has been eaten: Spot, who has a patch of missing fur on his right hind leg; Tiny, who is the skinniest of all the squirrels, though skinny is a relative term; and Bully, who chases off all the other squirrels if they get anywhere near the feeders when he is eating.
Between two slender ash trees that we can easily see from our living room window I stretched a cheap red rope with blue speckles, the kind you find at your local hardware store. From the middle of the taut rope I hung our three bird feeders, two with seeds and one with suet. I hoped that the feeders being four or so feet away from the trees would deter the squirrels. It worked for about an hour. I had some PVC pipe lying around so I took down the rope and ran it through the pipe. My hope was that the pipe would turn and the squirrel would fall to the ground. This worked for about a day until they realized that if they ran fast enough they would not fall off.
My extensive observations of squirrels’ eating habits have shown me that they are not picky animals, but they do have their favorite feeders, mostly due to ease of access. The three stooges’ feeder of choice is the wooden one that is shaped like a house. They climb down the rope that the feeder is hanging from, grip the triangular wire that comes out of the top of the feeder with their back legs, drape their fat furry bodies down across the roof and hang their heads over the side and proceed to gorge themselves. To try to thwart these marathon binges I placed some PVC pipe on the vertical rope and found a handful of random sized screws and screwed them into the bottom side along the lower edges of the feeder’s roof, so that their points stuck through the wood into the air, much like the bird spikes you see on the sides of buildings in the city. I rehung the feeder and the boys and I watched with anticipation for the first squirrel to climb onto the feeder and lie down and then quickly jump off. Soon Spot made his way up the tree across the PVC pipe and down onto the feeder. He lay down oblivious to the screws and began to fill his belly. Squirrels 4, humans 0.
Not satisfied with eating all of the bird seed and most of the suet, one day Tiny climbed up to our wind chimes, hanging on a different tree some distance away, and chewed off one of the chimes. He watched it fall to the ground and then scampered off. He returned a short time later and repeated the process. He did this throughout the day until the wind chimes hung lopsided and useless from the tree. I had mistakenly thought that the chimes were attached by small hooks but soon realized that Tiny had systematically chewed through the tiny ropes that held them. Apparently he disliked the sound the wind chimes made.
I finally broke down and purchased a couple of those plastic disks to hang above the feeders that contain the seeds. I took down the house-shaped feeder and put up a tall cylindrical one that we have. The plastic disks worked until the squirrels figured out they could weight the rope enough so that all the feeders slid together. Now they just climb down to the suet feeder and eat the suet or they climb from the suet feeder over to one of the other feeders and eat the seeds. It seems I’ve been bested by the squirrels, just as the old man was in the story. I guess I’ll just go back to sticking my head out of the window and whooping, and clapping my hands, continuing the family tradition.