Pepper Bird Seed: Does Cayenne Pepper Deter Squirrels?



Cayenne Pepper Bird Seed

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If you’re an avid bird watcher, you know how frustrating it can be to have squirrels constantly raiding your bird feeders. One solution that has been suggested is to use pepper bird seed as a squirrel deterrent. But is it safe for birds? And does it actually work?

Yes, peppered bird seed can help keep squirrels away from bird seeds. Squirrels are sensitive to the heat of capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers their heat, and will typically avoid food treated with it. However, birds, lacking capsaicin receptors, are unaffected by the heat and can eat the pepper-treated seeds without any issues. Always ensure to use food-grade cayenne pepper to avoid any potential harm to the birds.

Key Takeaways

  • Cayenne pepper, due to its active ingredient capsaicin, is effective at deterring squirrels, as it creates a strong burning sensation that squirrels find unpleasant.
  • This natural deterrent method is non-toxic and doesn’t harm squirrels physically but encourages them to seek food sources elsewhere.
  • Cayenne pepper can be used in various forms like powder sprinkled on plants or bird seeds, or a spray applied around bird feeders and gardens.
  • While cayenne pepper doesn’t pose a long-term harm to squirrels, it’s recommended to use it judiciously and as a last resort, considering it may cause temporary discomfort to these creatures.

Understanding Pepper Bird Seed

Hot pepper bird seed or pepper-coated birdseed is a type of bird seed that contains hot pepper, such as cayenne pepper or chili powder. The idea behind it is to create a spicy taste that squirrels and other critters don’t like, while birds are immune to the heat and can still enjoy the seed.

The main active ingredient in hot pepper is capsaicin, which is a chemical that gives peppers their heat. Capsaicin is not harmful to birds, but it can irritate the eyes and skin of humans and other mammals.

When using hot pepper bird seed, it’s important to handle it with care and wash your hands thoroughly afterward. If you have sensitive skin or allergies, you might want to wear gloves or avoid using it altogether.

Hot pepper bird seed is often mixed with other types of bird seed, such as safflower seed or corn. Safflower seed is a popular choice among bird enthusiasts because it is high in protein and fat, which are essential for birds’ health. It’s also a good option for people who want to attract specific types of birds, such as cardinals and chickadees.

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  • Using the highest quality grains, Wagner’s ensures a wholesome meal for your feathery visitors.
  • Found in many gourmet mixes, Wagner’s Safflower Seed adds an exceptional value to your bird food mix.
  • With its unique bitter taste that most squirrels dislike, this seed helps to keep pesky squirrels at bay, ensuring more food for your avian guests.

Why Cayenne Pepper Deters Squirrels

Cayenne pepper is often used as a deterrent for squirrels because it contains a compound called capsaicin. This substance is what gives peppers their heat. While capsaicin doesn’t harm squirrels, it does irritate their mouths, noses, and eyes.

This unpleasant sensation makes squirrels associate the discomfort with the food source, leading them to avoid it in the future. Humans and birds, on the other hand, are not affected by capsaicin in the same way, making it an effective solution for those looking to keep squirrels away from bird feeders or gardens without causing harm to other wildlife.

Another way to deter squirrels is to use baffles. Baffles are devices that can be placed on bird feeders or poles to prevent squirrels from climbing up and accessing the food. There are different types of baffles available, including cone-shaped, dome-shaped, and tube-shaped. Make sure to choose the right baffle for your feeder and pole size.

Will Cayenne Pepper Hurt Squirrels?

Cayenne pepper will not harm squirrels physically, but it will cause them a significant amount of discomfort. The active ingredient in cayenne pepper, capsaicin, triggers a burning sensation when it comes into contact with a mammal’s skin or is ingested.

It’s important to note that birds don’t react to capsaicin the same way mammals do, which is why it’s often used in bird food to deter squirrels. Although squirrels might experience temporary discomfort if they consume food treated with cayenne pepper, it will not cause any long-term harm or injury.

However, consideration for the welfare of all wildlife is paramount, and any method used should aim to deter rather than cause discomfort or harm.

Benefits for Birds

Hot pepper bird seed is safe for birds to eat. In fact, capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers, can be beneficial for birds. Eating hot peppers can enhance the quality, color, and sheen of birds’ feathers.

However, it is important to note that loose pepper on bird seed could blow around in the wind, potentially getting in birds’ eyes. To prevent this, you can mix the hot pepper with birdseed or use a feeder that is specifically designed for hot pepper bird seed.

Another alternative is to use a large plastic dome called a baffle to block squirrel access to feeders. Pets that root around in the fallen seed may also be negatively affected by the hot pepper.

How to Make Hot Pepper Bird Seed

Making hot pepper bird seed is a simple and effective way to keep squirrels away from your bird feeder. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Gather your supplies: You will need bird seed, hot peppers, and a container to mix everything in.
  2. Empty the bird seed into the container.
  3. Measure out three tablespoons of cayenne pepper powder. Add it to the bird seed mix in the bowl or bucket.
  4. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the cayenne pepper, bird seed, and cracked corn are well-mixed. It’s important to make sure that the cayenne pepper is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
  5. Store the hot pepper bird seed in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it.

When you’re ready to use it, simply sprinkle the hot pepper bird seed on top of your regular bird seed. The birds will love the extra flavor and heat, while the squirrels will be deterred by the spicy taste.

Hot Pepper Spray

Creating a hot pepper spray is an effective way to deter squirrels from your garden or bird feeder. Here’s a simple DIY recipe:


  • 2 tablespoons of crushed hot pepper (cayenne pepper works well)
  • 1 quart of water
  • Dish soap


  1. Boil the water in a pot. Once it has reached a boil, add the crushed hot pepper.
  2. Allow the mixture to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. This will help to extract the capsaicin, the active ingredient in hot peppers that repels squirrels.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
  4. After cooling, strain the mixture to remove the pepper flakes.
  5. Mix in a few drops of dish soap. This helps the spray stick to surfaces.
  6. Pour the solution into a spray bottle for easy application.

To use the hot pepper spray, apply it to the areas where you’ve noticed squirrel activity. This could be your garden, the base of a bird feeder, or around tree trunks. Reapply every few days and after heavy rain. Always test a small amount of the spray on plants first to make sure it won’t harm them. Be careful not to spray it into your eyes or breathe it in. Also, remember it may cause squirrels some discomfort, so use it sparingly and as a last resort.

How to Use Pepper Bird Seed

If you’re looking to keep squirrels, raccoons, and other unwanted critters away from your bird feeders, using pepper bird seed can be an effective solution. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Choose the right type of pepper: Cayenne pepper is the most commonly used type of pepper for bird seed. You can find it at most grocery stores or online. Make sure to use ground cayenne pepper, not chili powder or other spicy blends.
  2. Mix the pepper with the bird seed: In a large bowl or bucket, mix 3 tablespoons of ground cayenne pepper with 5 pounds of bird seed. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the pepper is evenly distributed throughout the seed.
  3. Fill your bird feeder: Once you’ve mixed the pepper and seed, fill your bird feeder as you normally would. Make sure to clean your feeder regularly to prevent mold and bacteria buildup.
  4. Monitor bird activity: While pepper bird seed is safe for birds to eat, some birds may be deterred by the spicy taste. Keep an eye on your feeder to see if bird activity decreases after using pepper bird seed.
  5. Use caution when handling: Pepper can irritate your skin and eyes, so be sure to wear gloves and avoid touching your face while handling the seed mixture.

FAQS on cayenne pepper squirrel repellent

Can Birds Taste Cayenne Pepper?

Interestingly, birds cannot taste cayenne pepper. Birds lack the specific receptors (known as capsaicin receptors) that mammals have, which are responsible for the burning sensation when consuming spicy foods.

Can you put pepper in bird seed?

Yes, you can put pepper, specifically cayenne pepper, in bird seed. The capsaicin in the pepper deters mammals like squirrels, but it does not affect birds, making it an effective way to squirrel-proof your bird feeders.

What pepper mix for bird seed?

You can use a mix of food-grade cayenne pepper and your regular bird seed. The exact ratio can vary, but a common recommendation is about one tablespoon of cayenne pepper per pound of bird seed.

How much pepper do I add to bird seed?

Generally, you can add approximately one tablespoon of cayenne pepper to one pound of bird seed. This should be enough to deter squirrels but will not affect the birds.

Does cayenne pepper deter squirrels?

Yes, hot pepper birdseed, which is bird seed mixed with capsaicin (cayenne powder), effectively deters squirrels. Squirrels are sensitive to capsaicin and will usually avoid the seeds, while birds, which do not have capsaicin receptors, are unaffected. You can use this as a hot sauce spray, or put red pepper flakes in the feed to repel squirrels.

Can you put too much cayenne pepper in bird seed?

It’s unlikely to harm the birds if you put “too much” cayenne pepper in bird seed, as birds cannot taste or feel the heat from it. However, using a large amount might be unnecessary for deterring squirrels and could potentially cause eye irritation if it becomes airborne and contacts the eyes of humans or pets. When mixing cayenne pepper to make hot bird seeds to discourage squirrels, just use enough. Trial and error will ensure that you get the perfect measurement when serving hot pepper birdseed.

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