Friday, May 15, 2009

I may have to get rid of the bird feeder (sob!)

I had thought we might have a problem with squirrels, but since I hadn't seen any in our yard, I decided not to worry about it. Instead, we now have a bigger problem. Two nights ago, we had guests over, and my husband took them out to our back porch, which has a great view of Puget Sound. While they were out there, they stood in amazement as they watched a raccoon climb the tree where the bird feeder was placed, yank it down, and run off with it!

When I came home from work yesterday, I looked for the feeder and found it in the bushes. Surprisingly, it wasn't broken, except for the hook which was used to hang it, which can be easily replaced. I brought it in the house to clean it, and then looked online for information about how to protect bird feeders from raccoons.

There are many great devices out there to protect feeders from squirrels but the advice for raccoons seems to be, fence in your yard (which we can't do), or place it in a really high tree (none of our trees are tall enough). More troubling, several sites indicate that bird feeders, young children and raccoons are a very bad mix. Raccoons carry all kinds of diseases, including rabies and round worms (which kids can get if they come in contact with their feces when playing in the grass or dirt). Plus, the raccoons often knock the seeds all over the ground (which is exactly what this raccoon did; seeds are everywhere now), and that can attract mice and rats.

I posted about this on another forum, asking for advice, and got these as the results:


Cayenne pepper turns off the raccoons but doesn't bother the birds taste-wise; however, it can get in the birds' eyes.


If you shoot at the raccoons with paintballs, they're smart enough to go away and stay away. However, if you end up attracting bears (!!), that won't work.


I highly recommend window bird feeders. They are small, easy to refill, your children would be able to watch the birds from inside the house, and sticking to a window makes it more difficult for raccoons, squirrels and chipmunks to get to them since there's nothing to climb but slippery glass.

Here's a few so you can see what I'm talking about: Window bird feeders


And then there was this response:

We have pretty much every critter you can imagine (bears, raccoons, grey squirrels, red squirrels, chipmunks) after our feeder. We've had all our other set-ups destroyed one way or another before. What we have now hasn't suffered any major disasters for 3 years. It's all about placement - and a good baffle.

So, the key is, you have to hang it at least 8 feet off the ground, at least 8 feet out from any trunk or branch of significant size (bears and squirrels won't generally jump up or out that far), and at least 3-4 feet down from the branch in question. To hang it, use a thin chain or wire (can't be gnawed through), with a baffle about a foot above the top of the feeder.

This isn't 100% against squirrels, especially the red ones. They shimmy down the chain and then make their best effort to get around the baffle. But they have enough unsuccessful attempts to get to the goodies before they are ever successful. And watching them struggle with the baffle is pretty amusing in and of itself.

Of course, I have a million trees, so this easy for me to say, I guess. I know some people with smaller yards won't have the appropriate limb. It does require dragging out a ladder to fill the thing too. This is one reason why we have such a big one. We actually drape lots of extra chain over the limb and then secure it back at the tree, so that we can lower the feeder that way at first. Also, this eliminates weak hooking points that bears and raccoons can make easy work of.

This year has been a very good year for our birds. We have a nesting pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks for the first time.


(Back to me) Great information, but I'm not sure I want to do that much work, and our trees are really too small. The window feeder isn't a great option, either. As I've written before, our house is built into the side of a hill, so on three sides, we have very small windows. On the north side, which faces out from the hill and toward the Puget Sound, we have huge bay windows, with a long porch in front. So a window feeder means the birds have to fly onto our porch... and possibly leave droppings.

So the bird feeder may have to go. {{sigh!}}


  1. Birds & Blooms magazine has some really good resources and might be able to help you find a good solution.

    As for raccoons... well, let's just say I grew up with them. They lived in the attic. We lived in a 1920s carriage house in Orlando, and I guess we'd given up trying to 'pest-proof' it. Also, my mom would put out cat food for stray cats and I'd see them eating the food some evenings. Sometimes I'd stand about 3 feet away just to watch them, and they'd just look at me.

    We had a HUGE yard that was actually another lot that happened to come with the house, and a big back yard too, and I played outside constantly and never came in contact with any poop that I know of. My personal thought is that the risk not as high as some might make it sound.

  2. P.S.