Treadle feeders don't always work with squirrels, some customers claim they stopped the feed raids others had so many squirrels that they overwhelmed the feeder. With only full sized birds in the flock the treadle spring could be set stiff enough to stop one or two squirrels. Your best bet is to fence them out. Trapping will stop THAT squirrel, but as there is a constant fight over territory a new squirrel will move in shortly.
Squirrels used to constantly eat my feed. I’d go through a 50 pound bag of feed in three or four days. I tried pepper flakes and they didn’t really do anything so I made a spray that was so freaking strong the smell of it caused me to cry and choke up. I used some habanero pepper hot sauce, lots of cayenne pepper, cinnamon and some soap. I sprayed it around the area the feed was at and on the trees they frequently used and haven’t had a problem since then.
At what point have you spent more on peppers and time treating fifty pound bags of feed than you would just purchasing a good feeder? Plus you will still be losing food to birds knocking it on the ground, wild birds stealing feed, at some point the right machine just makes life easier and is cheaper.
I have a similar issue but not with squirrels - we have native (protected) ground birds called Weka. Much like squirrels they're sneaky, clever and p e r s I s t e n t!
Dosing your food with a deterrent only deters "todays" squirrel - you will end up having to regularly put the deterrent in to deal with transient and new "visitors".
Fencing your coop to exclude the squirrels would, in my opinion, be the best option but would be time consuming and likely costly to do it right. Squirrels, like weka, are pretty adept at finding ways in so you have to be prepared to make that coop like fort knox for it to be effective.
I have found that a treadle feeder works well for me to keep many opportunistic feeders away but I suspect your squirrels will soon figure a way to game the system.
If you take the suggestion of culling the most persistent raiders.. you will always end up with more.. sometimes that feels like an ineffective option really because all you do is clear the way for someone new to come into the territory.
That is some well explained advice. Treadle feeders work based upon two things, weight difference between a chicken and a squirrel, and the reach difference between a chicken and a squirrel. Which is why those wide treadle design feeders like the grandpa, feed o matic, and the clones of both usually fail miserably. That treadle HAS to be narrow and further back than a squirrel can reach. The weight difference has to be substantial, so no, banties and silkies are not going to be able to operate the treadle by themselves and have the action set stiff enough to stop a squirrel from sitting on the 1/8" thick metal treadle arm. A four pound difference is plenty, one pound squirrel, five pound chicken, Bob's your uncle.
Past that, having a counterweight backed up by a spring is needed to stop squirrels from just pushing a door open. The spring for initial resistance and to add to the force required. These wide platform treadle step feeders might have slight adjustments for smaller birds but there isn't a one of them that can prevent a squirrel or a large rat from simply pushing on the door. That said, the rats might not think about doing that IF you manage to starve them out before they figure things out. And that is why those guillotine style lids like the Grandpa are not the best, you have to leave the dang feeder open for weeks to train the birds or partially open and the rats/squirrels learn where the feed is. An inward swinging door prevents that and it is also why we stress over and over again to never, ever, block open one of our feeders. Chickens are not stupid, some times the flock owners are when they refuse to follow the directions.
I am working on a new mechanism that simply couldn't be pushed open but once I perfect it and test it with my flock I will have to produce the tooling and any extra machinery at my overseas shop, then train the workers on the new system, then invest tens of thousands of dollars to produce a container load of feeders and another $8000 to get them to the U.S.. About a year to pull all that off, once I am sure of the feasibility. The price is going to be higher. Maybe as expensive as the grandpa feeder clones, people might not want to spend the extra $30 or $40 for a squirrel proof feeder and partly for good reasons; my regular feeder will work most of the time. Why pay 50% more? In the end, there simply might not be a market for a true 100% squirrel proof feeder.
People kept asking for larger feeders so after six years of saying no, it wasn't possible or advisable I came up with a way to do it and per pound of feed stored the feeders were as inexpensive as our regular feeder even though they included soft close doors and a much more robust double counterweight system. After investing around $30,000 in a partial container load added to some heavier crates of cabinet parts I found out that they sell slowly, people wanted a larger feeder but they didn't want to pay any more for a larger feeder. So I am just doing prototypes and testing at this point, might have to make small quantities here in the U.S. and charge out the wahzoo for those few cases were one of my regular feeders can't stop the onslaught of a forest full of tree rats.