Tips on Protecting Your Windows From Rodent Damage
Squirrels ate my screens. Under the category of “Things That Like to Eat My Home,” add: Squirrels.
Not that squirrels enjoy dining on building materials. Squirrels, however, are rodents and rodents have to chew. Literally. Chewing is how they keep their fast-growing (up to six inches per year) front teeth useable. Without chewing, squirrels’ incisors would get so long so quickly that they could no longer eat, and would starve.
So Have Teeth, Will Gnaw, if you’re a squirrel. This means the next time Ms. Sciurus carolinensis tries to chew a hole in your siding, it’s not personal. It’s dental. Or, she’s looking for a snack or a place to live.
Lately, I’ve been hearing reports of squirrels eating window screens. I don’t like anyone disrespecting windows, but I wasn’t quite as surprised once I learned about all the things squirrels do chew through regularly—shingles, wood siding, metal vents, heavy plastic trashcans, electrical wiring, PVC pipes, insulation, and more. In fact, it’s been suggested that squirrels are responsible for 10-20% of all power outages in the U.S.,  including briefly knocking out trading at NASDAQ in 1987 and 1994. 
Enough! Time to draw a line in the lawn. Here are ways to fight back.
Tip #1: Stop Being a Squirrel Magnet
Problems with squirrels start when they find your property attractive and begin hanging around. If you have trees and shrubs and keep food in your home—Bingo! You qualify.
Don’t cut down all your trees or stop buying groceries, though. A few tricks will make your home less compelling. Squirrels have sharp senses of smell and taste. That makes food a #1 attractant. I know you think your bird feeder is for birds, but squirrels think otherwise. Consider locating all birdfeeders at least 20 feet from your house, and squirrel-proof them with a pole guard so the little buggers can’t clamber up. Garbage cans are another lure, and plastic cans are no match for a determined squirrel. If your community allows it, try replacing plastic garbage cans with metal; squirrels are less likely to chomp down on a metal can.
This brings us to window screens, metal and otherwise. If the only thing standing between your food and a squirrel is a screen, it’s not going to go well for the screen. That’s something to keep in mind if you like to eat on a screened-in porch, or if you open kitchen windows to catch the breeze. Go ahead and enjoy the season; just don’t leave food lying around unsupervised for long stretches. You could attract some serious attention from the furry kind.
Tip #2: Use Repellants to Send Squirrels Running
Good news: You can use the squirrel’s keen sense of smell against him. Local home goods stores often carry animal repellents that you can spray around windows, the base of your screened-in-porch, and any other place you want to protect. Some products contain coyote urine, which will really make squirrels think twice about loitering.
Squirrels also hate capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper. Brew up your own DIY batch of repellent with this recipe:
- One bottle of cayenne pepper sauce
- One gallon of water
- 1 teaspoon mild liquid dishwashing detergent
Mix the ingredients together. Spray or brush the repellent on areas where squirrels are active. Reapply periodically, especially after it rains. 
Got mothballs? Try putting some in a sock and placing loaded socks in strategic spots to discourage exploration. Mothballs get their pungent order from naphthalene, which irritates a squirrel’s lungs. If you’re short on mothballs, try using ammonia-soaked rags instead.
Our friends at Tip Bulletin also have some tips and recipes for “Keeping Squirrels Away – 7 Homemade Squirrel Repellent Tips and Recipes.” Here’s the link – https://www.tipsbulletin.com/homemade-squirrel-repellent/
Hands Up and Step Away From the Squirrel
You may be surprised to learn that squirrels are protected by law in Illinois. It’s true; the Illinois Wildlife Code prohibits taking matters into your own hands if you feel particularly unkind toward a squirrel who’s given your home some unwanted attention. (Or maybe if you are a former NASDAQ trader.) The rules seem to vary by community and species of squirrel, though. It’s wise to do a little research online before taking action, even if that bad boy just ate your window screens.
After all, he’s simply doing what comes naturally to him. And, in case you were wondering, Squirrel Appreciation Day is January 21.
Your home is your castle, and we’re here to help you take great care of it. At McCann Window & Exteriors, we love hearing from our customers about their plans and concerns. Please give us a call if you have questions about restoring, repairing, or replacing your windows and home exterior. Just call (847) 892-4071, or schedule a free consultation.
Here’s to Mother Nature!
1. Katherine Shaver, “The bushy-tailed, nut-loving menace coming after America’s power grid.” The Washington Post, Dec. 25, 2015. Accessed July 9, 2019: www.washingtonpost.com/local/the-bushy-tailed-nut-loving-menace-coming-after-americas-power-grid/2015/12/25/d4b4c2b6-a8db-11e5-9b92-dea7cd4b1a4d_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.cc6b78656f79
2. Bonnie Brodnick, “Squirrel Appreciation Day: Don’t Miss Celebrating!” HuffPost, Oct. 6, 2014. Accessed July 10, 2019: www.huffpost.com/entry/squirrel-appreciation-day_b_2496591
3. Danny Lipford, “How to Keep Squirrels From Damaging Your Home,” Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford: www.todayshomeowner.com/how-to-keep-squirrels-from-damaging-your-home/