Why You Should Never Use Vaseline To Keep Pests Out Of Your Bird Feeders

bird feeder can feel like an invitation to freeloaders: before you know it, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, and other creatures are helping themselves. If you want to keep your bird feeder "birds-only," you'll need to take some measures to keep pesky thieves away. Unfortunately, Vaseline isn't a good choice for this task.

Some people put petroleum jelly, such as name-brand Vaseline, on the outside of bird feeders, so it'll be too slippery for non-flying wildlife to reach. However, wildlife professionals say Vaseline can harm birds by coating their feathers, so they can't fly. Vaseline can also cause problems for birds and other animals if they accidentally eat it. Though it's not considered toxic, it can cause digestive issues and irritation if eaten in large quantities. For a small creature like a bird or a chipmunk, it takes a relatively small amount of Vaseline to cause these harmful effects.

Knowing this, it may be tempting to try other lubricants, such as coconut oil. Still, any lubricant can coat birds' feathers and interfere with their flight, so it's best to avoid this tactic altogether.

Safer alternatives to Vaseline

Luckily, there are bird-friendly ways to keep uninvited guests like squirrels out of that feeder. First, you could try adding hot peppers to your seed mix. Birds willingly eat hot peppers: scientists believe they can't taste the heat well enough to care. But other animals, like squirrels and raccoons, don't like spicy peppers. Because they won't eat it, it won't harm them but will keep them away. There are pre-made bird feed mixes that contain capsaicin (the "hot" part of hot peppers) for this very reason.

Alternatively, if you're open to visually changing your feeder design, consider adding a squirrel baffle: a type of guard that goes above or below your bird feeder. You could even upgrade to a squirrel-deterring feeder design if you're not attached to the one you already have. 

Though squirrels, raccoons, and other critters might not be invited to your bird feeder, they're also valuable members of wild ecosystems. By avoiding Vaseline on your bird feeders, you can help keep the birds and other wild things that visit your yard safe and happy.