If you’re a squirrel lover like me, no doubt you enjoy the amazing antics of these little creatures. Watching their death-defying leaps from branch to branch is a fun way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon with the kids.
However, there can be times when they’re a real nuisance — especially if I’m trying to keep the squirrels away from a place they want to be.
I once watched a squirrel inch across a branch that was far too narrow to support its weight, and then dangle from its hind legs and drop at least a foot onto a second-story windowsill bird feeder. I have no idea how it got back down after enjoying its feast, but I had to respect the effort.
Faced with crazy skills like this, a lot of homeowners either tear their hair out and give up, or they consider going the chemical extermination route. But you don’t have to kill your rodent adversaries to protect your home and garden. Here are a few good squirrel repellents that actually work:
What is a Squirrel Repellent
A squirrel repellent is anything that keeps squirrels away from a certain area (such as your yard, attic, garden, or bird feeder) without killing or harming the squirrel.
The goal of squirrel repellent is to protect your property without completely eliminating the pest.
Generally speaking, there are four types of squirrel repellents:
- Physical prevention methods
- Plant-based and natural repellents
- Predator urine or other scents
- Electronic devices
Different repellents work in different ways to keep squirrels away — some scare the squirrels by making them think there’s a predator nearby while others emit an unpleasant odor, taste, or sound.
Physical Prevention Methods
Most physical deterrents work by creating some kind of barrier between the squirrel and the object of its desire, though some work by providing a lure to another area, by scaring the squirrel away, or by frustrating attempts to climb. Physical deterrents tend to be more permanent and less invasive than other repelling methods, and for this reason they are often the first line of defense against unwanted squirrels.
Fencing or Netting. Put up lightweight, close-gauge chicken wire or staple netting to a frame around raised bed gardens.
Distance. One of the best ways to keep squirrels out of your bird feeder or your attic is to create enough distance. Trim branches at least 5 to 6 feet away from your home so squirrels can’t leap onto your roof and place bird feeders at least 18 inches from the nearest accessible perch.
Sprinklers. Installing motion-activated sprinklers around your garden (facing outward!) can be an excellent squirrel deterrent.
Metal Sheeting. If squirrels are getting into your fruit or nut trees, or damaging any tree that you care about, a simple metal collar around the tree will discourage even the best climbers. Tree collars should be at least 2 feet wide, and you should install them about 6 feet up the tree trunk.
Alternative Food Sources. Squirrels are the ultimate opportunistic feeders. They’ll eat whatever is available, even if it’s not their favorite or isn’t that good for them. If they’re chewing up your trees and shrubs or attacking your bird feeders, it’s because there’s nothing better available. Trust me — they don’t love bark and leaves! Scattering some cheap cracked corn on the ground or installing a squirrel feeder away from your bird feeders or garden is a great way to lure them away from these areas.
Cats and Dogs. If you have a dog or a cat in the house (and you have a fenced yard and/or a safe neighborhood), consider letting them out to play for a few hours a day. Seeing and smelling potential predators will keep the squirrel population in check.
Solid Shortening. A lot of homeowners swear by the Crisco trick. Simply coat the base of your trees or shrubs, or the pole of your bird feeder, with some Crisco. Squirrels are neat freaks that hate to get their hands dirty, and the slippery texture will make it more difficult to climb. You’ll have to reapply weekly, though. Birds will eat the Crisco and rain will eventually wash it away.
Plant-Based, Natural Repellents
Natural, plant-based repellents work either by creating an unpleasant taste or by acting as an irritant to squirrels. Homeowners tend to like these solutions because they’re affordable, convenient, and easy to apply. There are also many cost-effective DIY options. The one downside of plant-based sprays, granules, and powders is that they aren’t as permanent as physical barriers and need frequent reapplication — often 2 to 3 times a week or after rain.
Exterminators Choice Rodent Defense Spray. This is a wonderful, non-toxic, all-natural spray repellent made from garlic, peppermint, and rosemary essential oils as well as white pepper. The mix irritates squirrels and other rodents, particularly on the sensitive skin of their hands, feet, and bellies, preventing them from scratching, digging, and destroying plants, insulation, or wood in your home.
It’s not recommended that you spray the mix directly on your plants. Instead, spray it on the ground surrounding the plants or on barriers surrounding the plants. You can use the spray liberally in attics, garages, basements, and sheds. You can also spray directly on bird feeders as the mix doesn’t deter birds and is non-harmful to them.
Pure Mint Sprays. There are a number of pure peppermint oil sprays on the market that effectively deter squirrels. You can use these in the same manner as the Exterminators Choice spray.
DIY Spray Repellents. There are too many recipes for DIY squirrel repellent sprays to list them all here, but they all tend to have common ingredients: garlic, onion, red capsaicin pepper, jalapeno, peppermint and rosemary oils, oil soap, dish soap, and other known squirrel irritants. It’s fairly simple to find a recipe that uses ingredients you already have in your pantry and whip up a quick squirrel spray. Use the same way you would use a store-bought spray.
DIY Dry Repellents. You can also make effective squirrel repellents by sprinkling dry ingredients directly onto the areas you want to protect against squirrels. Mix cayenne pepper and a bit of natural laundry detergent into your garden soil. Or sprinkle some cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes into your bird feeder with the seeds. Squirrels hate the taste, but birds don’t mind it one bit!
Predator Urine and Other Scents
As you might imagine, predator urine works by making squirrels think there’s a natural predator in the area. However, there are other scents squirrels can’t stand, including moth balls and putrescent egg. These scent granules and sprays tend to last longer than natural irritant sprays and only need reapplication every 30 days or after a heavy rain.
Shake Away Fox Urine Granules. Shake Away is one of the most trusted names in animal repellents, and their fox urine granules work particularly well on squirrels. Apply the granules at the base of plants you want to protect and in your yard to repel squirrels. Rodents can detect this scent for miles and will avoid your home.
Ortho Animal B Gon Animal Repellent Granules. Also available as a spray, this product repels by scent. Place at the base of your plants to make them less attractive to squirrels.
Moth Balls. If you like seeing squirrels in your yard but don’t want them in your home, moth balls can be a good, semi-permanent option for you. They don’t work well outdoors because the scent is too dissipated. However, hanging bags of moth balls in enclosed spaces like closets, sheds, and attics will keep squirrels and other rodents away. Replace when the scent weakens.
Electronic devices repel by sound, sight, and fear. While these methods may seem permanent, they can lose effectiveness as the squirrels become used to the device. For best results, move scarecrow devices around from time to time and turn sonic devices off for a day or two before turning them back on.
Scarecrow Devices. There are a number of sonic devices shaped like owls or eagles that are effective at keeping squirrels away from a certain area. I particularly like the Hoont Garden Scarecrow Eagle or the Hausse Solar Powered Fake Owl Decoy. Both products are solar-powered. The owl has red glowing eyes while the eagle is motion-activated to shriek and flash a light when an animal is within range. While these devices are great for gardens or for the home, you wouldn’t want to use them around your bird feeders for obvious reasons.
Sonic Devices. These devices emit high-pitched tones that are inaudible to humans but intolerable for squirrels and other rodents. Look for a device specifically for indoor or outdoor use, as the range and durability varies. One of my favorites for outdoor use is the Aspectek Yard Sentinel, which covers 5,000 square feet and has multiple channels to repel specific animals.
Final Thoughts: How to Use Squirrel Repellents Effectively
Squirrels are incredibly wily and crafty critters.
Just when you think you’ve gotten them beat for good, they’ll come up with an ingenious way around your repellent. Even worse, all repellents become ineffective when a squirrel is really hungry. They’ll brave hot pepper soil, greased poles, and terrifying sights and smells if their tummy is empty.
For optimal results, you should consider combining and rotating different squirrel repellent methods to keep your squirrel population on its toes. Even better, provide an attractive, squirrel-friendly area with an alternate food source or a squirrel feeder in an area where you don’t mind seeing their friendly faces. The best way to keep squirrels out of your feeders or garden is to give them a better option!