The Unexpected Ingredient That'll Keep Squirrels Out Of Your Bird Feeder

If your local birds are attracted to the position of your bird feeder, the availability of nearby foliage to dart into to take cover, and the quality of seeds you're providing, you probably have some regular visitors. But they may not be the only ones. Your active buffet station is probably attracting squirrels as well. While we appreciate the storybook adorableness of your average squirrel in mid-snack, it's not fair that the birds' safe, risk-free food source is threatened by assertive neighbors. Luckily, you can simply add chili or cayenne powder to your birdseed to deter these pests. 

There's a secondary benefit to adding this ingredient to your feeder — squirrels like to chew through wire, plastic, and wood. In some cases, they also find ways to move into attics. They can do some serious damage to vegetable gardens too, though a sprinkle of garlic powder can take care of that. In the bird feeder, though, chili powder can do wonders, and it won't affect or harm the birds at all. 

How and why this works to protect your bird seed

As you're prepping the seeds for your feeder, go to your spice rack and grab your chili powder or cayenne pepper. Sprinkle this liberally onto the bird food, stir to coat the food, and place it into the feeder. That's all you need to do. Then, every time you change the seeds in your bird feeder, repeat this simple process. What gives chili powder and other spicy ingredients their heat is an ingredient called capsaicin. For humans, it's quite effective as part of an anti-inflammatory diet, and most of us seem to tolerate it pretty well. However, other mammals including squirrels dislike it and will refuse any food source that includes it.

Incredibly, birds are not put off by chili powder. In fact, some species actually like it — and yes, they can taste it. Capsaicin triggers a burning feeling that can be painful in mammals, not just in the mouth but also whenever touched, but that's not the case for birds. It is a tidy solution to reduce the number of squirrels that try to overrun your feeder.