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Pepper Suet to Repel Squirrels from Feeders

December 17, 2009

Keeping the squirrels out of your bird feeders is a tough assignment.  There are many squirrel proof feeders available these days, but most of them work by limiting the physical access squirrels have to the feeder.  Hot pepper suet feeders take a different approach that works surprisingly well.

Wintertime can be the toughest months for many local birds. Many of the sources of food consumed in the summer time are not to be found in the winter months. Many bushes have ceased berry production, the insects that feed so many birds are gone for now, and what little food is left is often covered with snow or ice. So, to help our avian friends we try to find a way to feed them the right foods in the winter, and a favorite choice are suet feeders.

Bird suet is a high energy food, and with it’s high calorie count it’s a great food for those cold winter months. The suet is made by rendering the fat from mutton or beef products, and is often mixed with other high energy foods like peanuts to create a high fat, high protein product that stands up well to the cold temperatures. The rendered form of natural suet can go bad at warmer temperatures so many people use it only as a food in the winter. These days you can find find artificially rendered suet products that will tolerate the summer heat in many areas, so you can hang a suet feeder almost all year if you like.  You simply put it in a suet bird feeder and the birds love it.

The problem with suet is that many pests like squirrels find it just as attractive as the birds to, and the challenge is keeping them out of the feeder. There are a number of different squirrel proof feeders that have a some type of mechanical parts like moving doors or spinning tubes that are meant to physically block the squirrels.

Nature has provided its own ingenious solution. Over the course of thousands of years, peppers have evolved to have capsaicin, which is the chemical that gives pepper their “heat”. But the birds have no ill effects from it, and will consume it with reckless abandon. But the heat of these pepper really affect mammals, especially squirrels.

This would lead us to try adding pepper to our suet to repel the ever present squirrels and rodents away from the suet feeder. With hot pepper suet the birds are unaffected, but the feeder pests can’t tolerate it. Get rid of the squirrels without the expense of rotating feeders or big baffled poles.

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