Squirrels, Poles and Baffles

Bird Feeders and Baffle on Pole
Bird Feeders and Baffle on Pole

Over the summer I thought I had come to terms with the squirrels in my yard. During these warm months they would come to the feeders for maybe an hour or so in the morning and then only occasionally during the rest of the day. The birds got plenty of feeder time so I didn’t begrudge the squirrels a little food.

But once the acorn crop was finished in the fall, the squirrel activity changed. The squirrels started hunkering down on various feeders, one squirrel per feeder, for hours. Chase them away and they come right back. In most cases, squirrels are the top of the backyard critter hierarchy, so the birds were being crowded out.

The hanging platform feeder in particular had been taken over by the squirrels when it hung in a tree with a dome type baffle above it. The only way to keep them out of it was to switch over to filling it with safflower seed instead of sunflower hearts, although if a squirrel is hungry enough they’ll eat that too! What to do?

Squirrel inBird Feeder
Squirrel in Bird Feeder

I had already set up two squirrel feeding areas in another part of the yard which works to distract several squirrels at a time and reduces the crazy squirrel activity near the feeders that spooks the birds. But with fourteen squirrels and counting in my yard, one solution wasn’t enough.

So to get the squirrels out of the hanging platform feeder, I purchased a pole and a can baffle and moved the feeder to it. For several weeks, the pole and baffle thwarted the squirrels. I would watch them easily climb the thin metal pole only to get stopped up inside the baffle which is hollow and open at the bottom. They would then slide down fireman style, peer up at the feeder and try a few more times before moving on. I will admit to an uncharitable feeling of glee on my part that I was able (apparently) to defeat them.

Bird Feeder Pole
Bird Feeder Pole

But then one day one of the squirrels figured out how to get around the baffle. Why the change? It was because of the baffle placement. The day before I had heard a thump outside and I looked out to see that the baffle had slid down to the ground. This baffle is held in place by a metal ring that you secure to the pole using supplied flat bottomed screws. The screws don’t actually go into the square-sided pole; they are just tightened snugly up against it on four sides. This ring had come loose (probably because it had been hand-tightened when we first put up the pole) and it slid down, with the can baffle right behind it. (I don’t know if a squirrel was in the can baffle when it went down but I suspect one very surprised squirrel took a ride to the ground in it.)

When that happened, I took the feeders off the pole, took off its arms, slid the baffle off over the top of the pole and reattached the metal ring, tightening the screws down with a screwdriver this time. Then I put it all back together again. When I did this, I unintentionally put the ring about two inches higher on the pole than it had originally had been, making the baffle hang that much higher. It was such a small difference, who would have thought it would matter really? But now the clever squirrel could climb the pole to the point just below the baffle and jump up almost vertically to grab the edge of the platform feeder and then scramble inside.

Once I saw this acrobatic trick the next day, I went back out, took the whole thing apart again, realized the problem and lowered the baffle to where it had been previously. I also took off the short hook that I was using to let the platform feeder hang a few inches lower. Now the baffle extends about two inches lower and the platform feeder hangs about three inches higher. So far, so good. No squirrels in the hanging feeder on the pole!

The pole I have is an Erva double pole with two arms. It is made from galvanized steel so it’s very sturdy. The can baffle (also made from galvanized steel) was purchased separately at the same time from my local bird store, Mother Nature’s. It seems to me that poles are the kind of thing that, being awkward to ship, you’ll probably purchase locally. Erva’s website has a store locator if you want to find their products in your local area. If you want to purchase a pole to be shipped, Amazon does have poles on their site, although I don’t see the specific pole I have there, so I can’t give you an opinion on them: Amazon Bird Feeder Pole page.

Where Arms Slide into Feed Feeder Pole
Where Arms Slide into Feed Feeder Pole

The pole I have comes in three pieces: the central pole with an attached horizontal footer bar at the bottom to hold it level in the ground and two separate arms that slide into slots on the top section of the pole (see photo above.) This set-up allows you to slide can-type baffles over the top of the pole when the arms are off. (Some poles have curved tops and an anchor piece on the bottom that would not allow this type of baffle to slide onto the pole at all.) As you can see, the pole and arms are squared-off four-sided lengths of metal.

The Numbers: The two arms are actually the same size; the slots for them are on two levels however, so the result is that one hangs higher than the other. When this particular pole is stuck in the ground, the hook end of the higher arm winds up being roughly 82” off the ground while the hook end of the lower pole is about 74” off the ground. (There is an additional length of pole at the bottom beyond the horizontal stabilizing bard that is underground.)

The bottom of the hanging platform feeder is 62” off the ground, while the lowest point of the suet/nut block feeder is 58” off the ground. I was advised at the store to be sure to place the pole 8-10 feet horizontally from anything a squirrel could use as a base to jump to the feeders, in that way bypassing the pole and baffle. Erva’s website says that squirrels can jump 4 feet vertically.

The baffle is about 14 1/4” tall. Right now, I’ve got the bottom of the baffle positioned to be about 44” off the ground so the top is 58 1/2” off the ground. (Note: I do see on Erva’s website that they actually do make even longer baffles, some of which are also intended to deter racoons, as well as baffles that will fit on a 4” x 4” post.) This height is currently working for the feeders I’m using, although if I were to put a taller feeder on the lower arm, I think I would experiment with lowering the baffle to provide more space between the bottom of the baffle and the bottom of that feeder.

I think if you get this type of pole, you need to first think about exactly what you want to hang on it. Measure that feeder’s height, including any additional height for any hooks or weather guard you’ll be using. Then make sure that with all this that the feeder will be far enough off the ground to deter the squirrels. The pole I have from Erva is galvanized steel with a baked on finish (and apparently made in the United States from auto industry scrap which is kind of cool.) While I’ve only had it for a month or so, it shouldn’t rust and ought to hold up well over the years.

And definitely get some type of baffle with the pole because squirrels can easily climb them. You will find that some poles are round, while others are square, so make sure that the baffle you get is designed to work with the type and diameter of pole that you have. If you have a pole that would not allow a baffle to slide over the top or bottom, look instead for the type of baffle that is attached by wrapping it around the pole. If you get a disk type baffle instead of a can baffle, choose a really wide one that the squirrels will have trouble getting around.

Baffling squirrels is part of backyard bird feeding. If you put out food in your yard, you have to be realistic; other critters will come to the party too. Setting up your feeders thoughtfully can save you a lot of money on bird seed as well as a lot of aggravation!

Birds and Bird Feeders in a Snowy Yard
Birds and Bird Feeders in a Snowy Yard


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