Why You Should Hang A Candy Cane On Your Bird Feeder

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When the holiday season rolls around, candy canes pull double duty as both a delicious treat and a festive decoration. While you can decorate your Christmas tree with this much-loved staple, you can also hang some on your bird feeder to dissuade squirrels from wreaking havoc. That's right: While humans love the striped holiday candies, squirrels aren't quite as enamored. One of the best ways to keep squirrels from breaking into your bird feeder is by using the ingredients they hate, which includes peppermint. As it happens, good old-fashioned candy canes, which are known for their peppermint flavor, are the yuletide treats that are a perfect option for anyone hoping to rid their feeders of pesky squirrels. 

So, grab a box of peppermint sticks (we'll get to specifics in a second), and let's get to it. You'll also want some zip ties, and a roll of tape or some string to keep the candy cane anchored. Your squirrel-busting efforts are about to look a whole lot more festive. 

The kind of candy cane you use is very important

First thing's first — it's time to do some candy shopping. While candy canes come in a variety of flavors, the key thing to remember is that squirrels hate the smell of peppermint, in particular. Leave the strawberry-scented ones for the kids and opt for the mintiest option available. Brach's Candy uses actual peppermint oil in their candy canes, which are available in a variety of sizes on Amazon, starting at around $6. 

Once you've got the peppermint sticks, it's time to start securing them to your feeder. How you'll go about this depends on the type of feeder you have in your garden, as well as the specific modus operandi employed by the squirrels. You can zip-tie them to the top of the feeder, play around with string to have them hanging down from the top, or tape them to the sides. The key, though, is to ensure that the candy can be smelled, so if you are planning on taping it to a cylindrical feeder, for instance, don't cover the entire candy cane and undermine all your efforts. At your wits end, and desperate to see how this hack fares? You can also secure several candy canes to your feeder at once. Just be sure to leave spaces for the birds to get in and out. 

There are some drawbacks to the candy cane hack

While the candy cane method should do the trick and keep those squirrels away — especially if you're using candy with real peppermint oil in it — it does bear mentioning that this isn't always a fool-proof solution. In fact, before trying it out, there are several things to keep in mind. 

For starters, back in 2013, The Scotsman reported that there had been sightings of squirrels nibbling candy canes in a Glasgow park around the holidays. Sure, they may have been flavored with something other than peppermint or contained peppermint flavor, rather than real peppermint oil. Even so, it is worth keeping an eye out to ensure you aren't unwittingly attracting more candy-loving squirrels to your yard! 

It's also important to keep an eye on candy canes to see if they are being eaten, for humane reasons. While the ingredients of candy canes aren't typically dangerous to animals, as anyone who's had a candy cane will know, if broken, these treats can become sharp, quick. Squirrels or birds might end up hurting themselves if they do attempt to eat the candies, so if you notice any evidence of them being snacked on, opt for another method to keep your bird feeder squirrel-free, instead.