How To Keep Squirrels Out Of Your Attic by Gregg Bassett
There are basically two groups of people that can benefit from the information in this article: squirrel lovers who enjoy attracting squirrels to their yards and feeding them but don’t want them getting inside their house. Since each group has its own needs, this article is divided into two parts.
For Squirrel Lovers
Squirrel lovers who enjoy attracting squirrels to our yards and feeding them have to use extra precautions to keep our squirrels from doing damage to our houses.
After all, squirrels like all rodents, must continue to chew on objects in order to grind down their continuously growing teeth. This means that they sometimes chew on your house. Typically, the damage occurs on wood siding, louvers, soffits, or any place there is an edge they can get their teeth into. They have even been known to chew wooden stairs.
Keeping your squirrels well supplied with “hard” food like hard shell nuts, peanuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and field corn will give them less need to chew other things. And don’t shell or crack the nuts for them. They need to do all that work themselves to keep their teeth ground down.
I know some you even let squirrels come into your house to eat sometimes. I’ve let them walk into my house too. This is a controlled situation where you know where the squirrel is and what he’s doing until he goes back out again. The squirrels probably never do any damage as a result. Mine never have. However, when a squirrel enters your house by chewing through your eaves or finding an opening other than your front or back door and gets up in your attic, down in your basement or inside your walls, you now have a problem. Squirrels will do damage to your home. Here are some methods of preventing those problems.
If you have trees or bushes near your house, trim limbs and trees to 6 to 8 feet away from your house to prevent squirrels from jumping onto the roof. Keep bushes and trees from overhanging the eaves at least 4 feet from the roof line. Squirrels will always climb a tree first to access your house before they will climb the downspouts or electrical wires.
If you have isolated trees or electrical poles less than 6 feet from your house, you can prevent squirrels from climbing them to your roof by encircling them with a 2 foot wide collar of metal 6 feet off the ground. Attach metal using encircling wires held together with springs to allow for tree growth.
To keep squirrels from getting in your house, close openings to attics and other parts of the house, but make sure not to lock squirrels inside. They may cause a great deal of damage in their efforts to chew their way out. Place Havahart traps inside as a precaution after openings are closed. A squirrel excluder can be improvised by mounting an 18-inch section of 4-inch plastic pipe over an opening. The pipe should point down at a 45 degree angle. A one-way door can also be used over an opening to let squirrels out and prevent them from returning.
Close openings to your house with heavy ½ inch wire mesh or make other suitable repairs. Do not fill holes chewed through wood with more wood. The squirrels will only chew through it again. Use the wire mesh or heavy duty sheet metal.
Screen every attic vent with ¼ inch galvanized hardware cloth so that it is positioned toward the exterior of the mosquito netting. This way the hardware cloth protects the mosquito netting from being damaged by squirrel claws.
If your house is vinyl sided, make sure caps are installed at the base of the corner pieces.
Screen dryer/bathroom vents. Caution: use care in screening your dryer vents. Failure to screen properly can result in lint clogging the vent, causing the temperature gauge to burn out or cause a fire.
One of the most dangerous traps for squirrels is your chimney. Contrary to public belief, only raccoons, chimney swifts, and bats can extricate themselves from a chimney flue. This means that chimneys are a death trap for all other animals. Countless birds, squirrels, and other wildlife die an agonizing death from falling into chimneys. When animals fall into your chimney, it is dangerous for you too. An animal’s body can block your chimney and cause carbon monoxide to back up into your house. Protect squirrels and yourself by capping your chimney!
Chimney caps also protect your chimney’s crown from rain damage.
Can you still use your chimney? Absolutely! Capping still allows carbon monoxide and other dangerous gasses to escape.
Cap all chimney flues with stainless steel caps and don’t think that, because you capped your chimney years ago, it is still protected. Stainless steel caps are a relatively recent invention. For years, they were made of galvanized steel, which rusts away with time.
Caution: chimneys may have more than one flue. Be sure that all flues are properly screened with a professionally manufactured chimney cap.
Do not cover chimney flues with hardware cloth. Hardware cloth not only rusts, but it runs the risk of catching snow which could block the upward movement of gasses and thereby force the gasses back into your house. This is especially true for gas furnaces. Gas furnaces throw off a great deal of water vapor which could freeze on the mesh and force the carbon monoxide back into the house.
Squirrels can also be kept away from some areas of your house with repellents that have an odor squirrels object to. The three most common are: moth balls, dried blood, and fox urine. Remember, however, that using these products in areas where you and other people spend time will subject you to the same odors that turn the squirrels off. Moth balls smell like dry cleaning fluid, dried blood smells like a dead animal, and fox urine smells like a skunk. Use these with discretion.
You can also use sticky substances like honey (not glue) in areas where you don’t want squirrels climbing. Squirrels, like most mammals, don’t like getting their hair gooey.
For Everybody Else
All of the techniques recommended for squirrel lovers do apply to everybody else. Since you’re probably not interested in keeping squirrels around and feeding them, there are a few more techniques that apply to you.
One is that you should not feed birds. Bird feeders attract squirrels like magnets attract nails; and when it comes to making a bird feeder 100% squirrel proof, despite the claims of some, I personally believe it's not possible. I've gotten to know squirrels too well to believe any different. However, if you insist on feeding birds, there are some things you can do to reduce the amount of squirrel traffic to your bird feeder.
Put a decent baffle on the pole both above and below the actual feeding area and keep the feeder at least ten feet from any trees or other objects that a squirrel could leap to it from. Also, make sure there are no tree branches directly over the feeder. Forget the idea of hanging the feeder from a thin wire instead of putting it on a pole. Squirrels are fantastic tight rope walkers on the thinnest of wires.
Feed your birds seeds that squirrels don’t like such as thistle or safflower seeds.
Don’t buy mixed bird seed. Many birds will pick out the seeds they like and throw the rest on the ground, which will attract the squirrels.
Modify your feeder so that spilled food gets caught in a tray below the feeder instead of falling on the ground.
Consider installing a squirrel feeder as an alternative food source for the squirrels in a part of your yard that is as far away from your house as possible.
Another trick for those of you who are not squirrel lovers is to pick food from the garden as soon as it is ripe. Squirrels like fresh, ripe fruit too.
Just remember it’s always better to keep squirrels from getting in your house in the first place than to have to figure out how to remove them without harming them.