Are you suffering from unwanted visitors to your garden in the form of squirrels stealing food from your bird feeders? While it’s true that squirrels need to eat just as much as birds do, why do they need to steal the food from the birds you enjoy watching?
Are there ways you can stop this from happening?
However, if you are on a tight budget, there are other great options and one that you may have already heard of is cayenne pepper. How does it work as a deterrent? Why is it not harmful to birds to eat cayenne pepper?
If you are wondering the answer to these questions, you’ve come to the right place as we are going to look at the use of cayenne pepper as a squirrel deterrent in greater detail.
How Does It Actually Work as a Squirrel Deterrent?
Let’s start with a little bit of food science, as this will help us understand why cayenne pepper is so good at deterring squirrels. The heat sensation a cayenne pepper creates in your mouth is caused by the active ingredient called Capsaicin. The general rule of thumb is, the greater the percentage of capsaicin present in a pepper, the hotter it is and in cayenne peppers, there is a lot of it.
Just as we, human beings, are affected by the heat capsaicin and cayenne peppers cause, so too are other mammals. And that includes, you’ve guessed it, squirrels. They obviously don’t like the sensation and will actively avoid knowingly eating cayenne peppers because of it.
Interestingly, birds are not affected in the slightest by the capsaicin and can eat it in great quantities never suffering from ill effects.
Why Are Birds Able to Eat Capsaicin and Cayenne Peppers?
This is where things get more fascinating because it is just mammals that are affected by capsaicin. The reason why birds can eat chili peppers concerns germination and digestion. There was a study conducted in Arizona that found birds were able to feast on hot chilies while mice and rats avoided them.
During the study, those conducting it observed that birds were able to pass the seeds quickly and easily, and that, surprisingly, they were almost completely intact. Whereas seeds eaten by rats, mice and other rodents tested passed through broken down by their digestive acids.
Why does this happen? Birds have short-length and quicker digestive systems, whereas the whole process takes longer for mammals and works differently. Birds play an important role in spreading seeds that can germinate, while other mammals don’t.
Does Capsaicin and Cayenne Peppers Harm Squirrels?
You may be looking to get rid of squirrels or, at the very least, keep them away from the bird food you put out for your feathered friends. We find it unlikely (well we would hope) that you would want to hurt the squirrels.
The good news is that there appears to be no long-lasting pain or discomfort that cayenne pepper and capsaicin causes squirrels. If you are still not sure about using this kind of deterrent, however, you always have the option of squirrel-proof bird feeders.
Alternatives to Cayenne Peppers
Even if you do want to use a chemical/food form of squirrel deterrent but are not sure you want to spend out on cayenne pepper that regularly, there are other alternatives you can use. Chili powder, for instance, is great. It doesn’t really matter what kind of chili peppers are used; the important thing is that it’s hot.
Some birders have even used chili flakes. Whereas others swear using hot chili oil. Whereas chili flakes are loose and don’t stick to other seeds meaning they can be shoved to one side easily, if you coat your bird seed in hot chili oil, however, squirrels are going to have a harder task avoiding the heat.
Ultimately, you want to deter squirrels, and not hurt them. So, always be careful when using any form of chemical deterrent. The use of cayenne pepper, chili powder, and chili flakes are all very common though and unlikely to cause lasting harm while helping to ensure birds continue to visit your garden.