I find bird feeders as an indispensable source of beauty for my property. They invite the presence of vibrant birds without the need to cage the creatures. Unfortunately, bird feeders don’t only attract birds. All over the United States, chipmunks forage for any source of food, including bird feeders. And they don’t just grab the food.
My Experiences with Chipmunks
Although chipmunks are extremely similar to their squirrel cousins, it takes a lot more to get these pesky rodents away from bird feeders. In my experience, chipmunks do a lot more than take the food out of the bird feeders.
Chipmunks have powerful jaws. They can chew through wood and light plastics. If your bird feeders are made of these materials, a chipmunk can easily destroy them to get to the treasures within.
Additionally, chipmunks need to perpetually gnaw, nibble, and chew on anything they can get their paws on. Their teeth don’t stop growing. And if they don’t chew on anything, their teeth grow beyond control. Chewing on wood or other materials keeps their teeth worn down. Without proper safety measures, these rodents choose bird feeders as the solution to their dental problems.
How I Keep Chipmunks Out of My Bird Feeders
1. Maintain cleanliness around the feeder
Chipmunks forage. They search for any potential source of food. If any of the feed from the feeder falls to the ground, it may attract chipmunks.
The chipmunk smells the nuts or seeds on the ground. It follows the smell. It sees the piece of food. Then it figures out that the food comes from a much bigger supply. It will just take a few moments for the little critter to realize that the food comes from above. It will find a way to get to the feeder.
I’ve found a couple of methods effective in keeping the area around my bird feeders clean.
- Install a tray underneath the feeders. Some of the birds I encounter are EXTREMELY picky eaters. They dig around the feeders looking for seeds or nuts they want. They end up throwing or blowing some of the food out of the feeder. A tray catches these wayward bird feed.
- Use only shelled sunflower seeds. When birds dig through the feeders looking for what they want to eat, they’re looking for sunflower seeds most of the time. Sunflower seed is a favorite among birds. To make sure that no bird feed is thrown to the ground, it’s smart to just use shelled sunflower seeds. This way, there are no shells thrown to the ground for the chipmunks.
2. Prevent access to the feeder
There are a few ways you can prevent chipmunks from reaching the bird feeders. One method I find effective is mounting the feeders using thing metal poles. Chipmunks are adept at climbing wood posts. But thin, smooth metals are a challenge to climb for them.
Another measure I find useful is using tight-fitting baffles. A baffle is meant to thwart squirrels from jumping onto the feeder. However, chipmunks can squeeze through the small gaps between the baffle and post. A tight-fitting baffle prevents this problem.
If you’d rather hang the feeder from a ledge or a tree, I suggest you use a strong fishing line. Chipmunks don’t have the same climbing athleticism as squirrels. They can’t jump vertically or horizontally. And they can’t navigate down a thin fishing line. It might be near impossible for them to get to the feeder.
3. Utilize spice as a defense system
I enjoy a good spicy meal now and then. The heat of spicy food is due to something called capsaicin, which makes peppers hot and irritating to eat. However, only mammals feel the effects of capsaicin.
What does this have to do with keeping chipmunks out of bird feeders? Chipmunks are mammals. They are irritated by the smell and taste of capsaicin. But birds are not. By adding peppers or spice into the feed, chipmunks are effectively thwarted off.
Using spiced seeds works at preventing all mammals from wanting to get into the bird feeder – including chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, or even bears. But spiced food does not affect the birds.
4. Store seeds in rodent-proof containers
Chipmunks can chew through light plastic. But they can’t chew through metals or thick rounded plastic. If the chipmunks can’t get to the feeders, then they might try to raid the birdseed containers.
5. Trim under shrubs and bushes
Unlike squirrels, chipmunks don’t normally live in trees. They burrow under the ground. Trimming under shrubs and bushes around your area exposes their homes. If chipmunks feel exposed and in danger, they will try to look for a safer location to call home. I find this to be a more permanent way to get rid of these rodents.
6. Trap the chipmunks
It’s easy enough to buy traps for small rodents such as chipmunks. I just put the traps on the ground near the feeder. I put a few sunflower seeds inside the trap. Then sooner or later I find a chipmunk or some other pest trapped inside.
Whenever I trap a chipmunk, I just drive to a nearby park with a bit of woods for the animal to live in. I NEVER hurt the animal when it’s trapped.
Also, I try to avoid trapping and relocating chipmunks during the warmer half of the year. They may have burrows with babies. By relocating the mamma chipmunk, I may have sentenced baby chipmunks to slow and painful starvation to death.
Trapping is more of a temporary solution. I suggest taking the other measures I mentioned here. They are more effective and long-term.
7. Have a different feeder for chipmunks and other ground-feeding animals
This goes against everything I mentioned here. But having a separate feeder for chipmunks and other interested animals protects the bird feeders and allows me to enjoy more of nature’s beauty. When chipmunks have another source of “unlimited” food, I find that they don’t even bother doing the extra work of climbing a bird feeder.
Never Hurt the Chipmunks
The methods I explained above are safe for both chipmunks and birds. These are methods that effectively deter and repel the rodents from raiding bird feeders without hurting the little creatures.
Some people resort to using glue, petroleum jelly, grease on the bird feeder post. Others go as far as releasing their cats after the chipmunks or shooting the poor animals. That is terrible and frankly hypocritical. They want to appreciate the beauty of nature by observing birds and yet try to hurt little chipmunks.
By learning how to keep chipmunks out of bird feeders safely, you can enjoy the beauty of nature guilt-free.