So, you need to stop chipmunks from eating your sunflowers.
You’re sick of seeing partially eaten petals, destroyed buds, and scattered seeds.
Chipmunks are prevalent and can be anything from a simple annoyance to an extreme frustration.
In this article, we’ll talk about:
- Why chipmunks are eating your sunflowers
- Various ways to get rid of them
- How to stop chipmunks from coming back to your yard
- Ways to prevent them from being attracted
- And more
By the end of this article, you should have everything you need to know to control, manange, and repel these rodents for good.
If you have any questions, drop a comment and let me know.
Bookmark this page, because it’s quite detailed and you’ll want to refer back to it a few times on your quest to rid these critters.
Sound good? Let’s get started.
Common types of chipmunks seen in the garden
There are a few different types of chipmunks that are commonly found in gardens.
They thrive with humans because of the various plants we provide, plus our homes are excellent areas to nest.
This is a tiny chipmunk. It’s very small compared to the eastern chipmunk and is found in the midwest regions of the US.
At max weight, the least chipmunk weighs about 2 ounces (⅛ of a pound!) and 4” in length.
You can identify it and tell it apart from the eastern variant by the gray and black stripes that run from its face down its back.
The stripes also are seen past the tail base- all the way to the very end of its tail. It also has a straight tail rather than a bushy one like the eastern counterpart.
The eastern chipmunk is most active in the eastern half of the US- everywhere but the southern states.
They do well in the humid regions and rural areas even in both hot and cold weather. Eastern chipmunks are about 6” in length and have noticeable black and tan stripes on the face.
There are always two tan ones and five black ones on both sides of the face. The tail is about 4” in length and is mainly straight, rather than busy.
The longitudinal lines that extend down its back end at the tail’s base. This particular species is extremely common near homes and will cause damage to property by their extensive burrowing networks.
Do chipmunks eat sunflowers?
Yes, chipmunks are famous for their notoriety of eating seeds- sunflowers especially.
These small and pesky rodents will gather nuts, seeds, and other edibles all year long until the winter when they stay out of the cold and feast on their year-long harvest.
If you notice piles of your sunflower seeds gathering slowly somewhere in your garage, basement, shed, or anywhere else on your property, this is likely the work of a chipmunk or squirrel infestation.
Chipmunks store their prized possessions in flower pots, under appliances, or on the lawn, depending on where their nest is.
What else do they eat?
Chipmunks are scavengers and will gather all sorts of foods such as berries, nuts, bugs, mushrooms, seeds, bird eggs, flower bulbs, seedlings, bird seeds, and plant matter.
If your yard has any of these food sources, don’t be surprised if you find chipmunks here and there. Sunflower seeds are just ONE thing they eat.
They hunt for sunflower plants, seedlings, seeds, and more. It’s a nutritious food for them providing an assortment of essential nutrients they need to sustain themselves over the winter.
When are chipmunks active?
They’re most active on hot and sunny days throughout the spring and rarely seen on cold days during the rainy season.
They’re also diurnal, so they come out to forage, dig, and do their chipmunk activities during the day and hide during the night.
If you have a minimal infestation, you may not even notice until they do extensive damage to your sunflower plants or make a mess on your property.
Structural damage will also be difficult to assess unless you have a good eye.
Can they damage my sunflower plants?
If you have a severe chipmunk problem, they can harm or even destroy your sunflowers- especially if you have younger plants that aren’t established yet.
Chipmunks are very good burrowers and will dig out complex tunnels and holes under the soil. They can burrow under sunflowers and kill them from below by destroying their sensitive root systems and also uprooting them in the process.
If you have a ton of sunflower plants in your yard (like a field), they can easily destroy them systematically and you’ll see a pattern of their damage above the soil.
Chipmunks and structural damage
Not only are they harmful to plants, but chipmunks can also damage your property.
Because of their nasty habit of digging under the soil, they can burrow under your house and cause structural damage.
This can result in structural integrity issues for walls, foundations, stairs, and more. For homes that are poorly maintained or have severe chipmunk infestations, this can be a hazard.
You should consult a professional for chipmunk control and a home contractor to assess and repair any damage as most people don’t have the necessary knowledge/skill set to DIY this kind of disrepair.
Because they hide their burrows near hidden areas, a homeowner may not suspect any damage until it’s too late.
Each burrow ranges up to 30 feet in length and has a food stash and nesting area. There are also escape tunnels so they can leave if under attack (which is why smoke traps don’t work well) and other areas to hide.
The burrows aren’t obvious either at the entry points- they’re often hidden with dirt and don’t stick out from the environment
Their activity can damage your decks, patios, retention walls, slabs, foundational walls, and more. This can be expensive to repair.
Do they hibernate?
Chipmunks don’t hibernate. They simply enter an inactive state during the winter and eat the food that they gathered all year long.
Warmer days may result in chipmunks surfacing to forage for food. But cold days will force them to hide in their tunnel, caves, or holes.
They can also hide in outhouses, sheds, garages, basements, and under your home’s foundation!
Should I get rid of chipmunks?
Yes, chipmunks aren’t that beneficial to have scurrying around the home as they destroy your foliage and can cause structural damage to your home.
They’re not good for anything other than a bit of pruning for you.
Other than that, you can expect them to eat your plants and leave tunnels under your property. So get rid of them, unless you enjoy having their company.
How do you get rid of chipmunks naturally?
Here are some different techniques to get rid of them from your yard.
Try a few out and see what works for you. I suggest using them in a combination for efficiency.
Exclusion is key
The best way by far to keep your sunflowers protected from chipmunks is to exclude them.
This means keeping them out of your yard by the use of natural repellents or artificial barriers. There are two main approaches to this method.
Keeping your home well maintained against damage can do wonders to keep chipmunks away.
Do a complete evaluation of your home and check for all possible entry points that they’re using to trespass on your property.
Some common actions to take:
- Fill any cracks or holes in your home’s foundation
- Caulk any crevices or visible openings
- Seal holes with mesh hardware cloth that you can’t caulk
- Block off crawl spaces
- Seal up door gaps
- Disallow entry into wall voids
- Fix fencing damage
- Block off your garage door from chipmunks
For distressed homes, doing some maintenance will help protect it from more rodents than JUST chipmunks.
You’ll find that you’ll be shielded from common backyard annoyances like skunks, raccoons, opossums, and more.
Depending on the state of your home, this may be a significant investment. Assess the situation and see if it’s right for you.
Cover your plants
The next barrier you can use is to shield your flower beds and other concentrated areas of plants from chipmunks.
Use artificial fencing or barriers to block off access to your annual flower beds. You can use sturdy hardware cloth or mesh which can effectively block them from getting to your plants.
Row covers or wire can also work. Build a perimeter of at least a foot over the edges of your flower beds for the best effect.
Note that this doesn’t work if they burrow under unless you dig deep enough.
However, it should block them from eating sunflowers on the surface, which will shield the majority of your seeds and foliage from destruction.
But there is a solution if you want to make it completely protected: replant the entire plant bed.
This means completely digging out the soil and then line the entire plant bed with a study hardware cloth.
This should be fine enough so that chipmunks can’t put their mouth around it and chew proof. Line the bed with cloth, then transplanted flowers back into place, and put the soil back.
You can also use a layer of wire or cloth until the sprouts come out in spring. This will reduce digging.
Adding some stones or shells to further discourage chipmunk activity also helps. It just takes a strong liner and some stones, so the cost is minimal.
Check your local hardware store for bulk deals if you have a lot of plants or coverage.
Plant only in the center of your yard
Keep your flower beds away from the edges, where most chipmunks will first detect a food source.
This may prevent them from discovering your cherished flower bed of food or discourage them if the bed is in the open.
When chipmunks don’t have coverage from the elements, they feel exposed and are less likely to roam around and forage for food in your garden.
Get rid of clutter
Clutter is the basis of transportation for chipmunks.
They’ll travel from one point to another through the various junk and debris scattered around your garden.
Since they’re naturally “flight” rather than “fight” based responders, they’ll run away when they sense danger.
This means all the junk you have lying around the yard provides cover for them to hide in and keep them safe. The more junk you have, the safer they feel. And the more inclined they are to nest in your garden.
So keeping it clean and tidy isn’t a choice- it’s a necessity if you want to get rid of them and stop them from eating your sunflower seedlings.
Take a weekend and clean up your entire yard. Everything. This will make it less favorable of an environment for them to nestle in and you’ll reduce the chances of further chipmunk infestations in the future.
Clean up your yard:
- Trim down overgrown plants, flower beds, bushes, etc.
- Remove dead plants
- Remove all leaf litter
- Mow your lawn
- Pick up plant clippings
- Rake leaves
- Toss out useless junk storage
- Cover or protect your patio furniture from bugs
- Ensure all waterways are draining
- Remove plants you don’t need
- Get rid of plants that touch your home (trellises, windowsills, etc.)
- Maintain water features
Doing this will help keep your yard tidy and offer less “travel paths” for chipmunks entirely. Sure, it takes time.
Maybe you can consider hiring a professional gardener once or twice.
After the first purge, it’s just a matter of upkeep and keeping it clean over time.
You can also help control the amount of chipmunk damage by not grouping materials that are prone to being nest sites.
Chipmunks travel on chosen material that often shields or protects them, so that’s why they only selectively nest in these sites.
Look for hiding places in your woodpiles, furniture sets, wooded areas, debris, dense foliage, garden beds, vegetation, plantings, grass, weeds, and other heavy or dense plants.
They travel with coverage so they feel safe. Removing this coverage eliminates their activity on your property.
You can effectively control them from all over your garden by taking away their safety and nesting protection.
Chipmunks will travel using these materials. Taking it away is like destroying a road or highway they use to get around your yard.
Keeping your yard clean and tidy will do more than you think.
Get rid of bird feeders
So this one’s a biggie.
Chipmunks will find some pretty inventive ways to get to bird feeds and extract the seeds, like this guy:
Spilled bird seed from birds eating them, wind, or just seed storage are all primary attractants for chipmunks.
You should switch to squirrel-free feeders or just get rid of them entirely- at least until the chipmunks are gone.
You can also consider placing them at least 30 feet from your home and yard, so there’s less of a chance they’ll infest your garden even if they’re attracted to the seeds.
Place them out in the open so the chipmunks have no protection and will feel less inclined to feed on it. You can use those bird feeders that sit on a stake for this purpose.
Little coverage from plants makes the thought of stealing seeds from your feeders a past thought.
Chipmunks won’t risk it given their aversive nature.
Remove food sources
Pests like chipmunks often feed on more than just a singular food source.
They’ll forage your garden from sunflowers, seeds, fruit, berries, or nuts. If you have one food that attracts them, chances are that they’ll seek out other ones as well.
So you should exclude all possible food sources by blocking them off with hardware cloth or copper mesh at least 6-8” deep OR remove them entirely.
That berry bush you’ve been neglecting?
Get rid of it.
Those overripe fruits that are attracting bugs?
Harvest and dispose of them.
The sunflowers are just one food they’ll be looking for.
Even if you block off entry/access to the seedlings, they can sustain themselves with the other fruits and veggies on your property.
You just may be changing their food source rather than getting rid of them completely.
So it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for WHAT they’re eating over time and act accordingly.
Don’t forget to clean up any fallen or ripe fruits, veggies, and nuts on your property.
Plant natural chipmunk repellent plants
Some plants naturally repel chipmunks by taste.
When they eat it, they’ll hate it, so they won’t want any more of it.
If your yard is filled with these plants, they may leave on their own.
Some of these plants are:
- Pungent plants and herbs
Pretty much anything that smells spicy will help naturally repel and deter them from your garden. Daffodils have been proven to be toxic to chipmunks, which can be a good trap plant.
Or use synthetic taste repellents
There are also store-bought repellents that you sprinkle or spray on plants that chipmunks don’t like.
It has a nasty taste which makes it inedible to them so they leave. Most hardware stores should carry some kind of taste repellent you can buy, but most of them aren’t organic or natural.
So be careful if you plan to use this on your edible plants. Use as directed.
Paint your plants with spices
Chipmunks hate spice.
Some people have had decent success by painting their sunflowers with some spicy flavors like pepper or chili. You can easily buy some chilis and blend them with water and a few drops of dish soap.
The soap will help the mixture stick to the sunflower.
And you don’t need to be precise with the recipe. Just use one or two chilis of your choice and cut them up. Add a cup of water. And then a few drops of dish soap. Mix well.
Pour into a spray bottle and start spraying.
You can also “paint” them on there with a brush if you want. The point is to cover up some of the sunflowers and other plants they eat so that they’ll be repelled by it. If one chili doesn’t work, try another.
Or up the chili concentration. If you notice that your plants seem to be harmed by it, stop using it.
Test it on a single plant first before you apply it to all of them.
Make a DIY chipmunk repellent
You can mix your own repellent at home with some basic ingredients.
Chipmunks hate the spicy flavor, so you can use a few different types of peppers to create your concoction. Here’s a simple recipe:
What you’ll need:
- Some cayenne pepper, jalapenos, ghost pepper, chili powder, etc.
- Olive oil (3 tablespoons)
- Water (1 quart)
How to make it:
- Mix the water and the pepper powder of your choice and stir well.
- Add the olive oil and stir again.
- Pour into a spray bottle.
How to use it:
- Spray the mixture directly onto your sunflower plants. This will make it untasteful for the chipmunks and will keep them away naturally.
- If they don’t care for it, use a stronger pepper.
- Always test it on a single plant first to see how it reacts. If it burns, use more water or a different pepper.
- You can also set up sunflower traps by dipping a sunflower in this mixture and then making it easily accessible to them.
Set up chipmunk traps
Traps are an easy and passive way to trap chipmunks.
Once set, you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled and adjust as necessary. Chipmunks rarely go for a trap’s bait in the first setup.
It requires some bait and patience until they finally can’t resist the urge and trap themselves. There are a few different types of traps you can use.
Here’s a brief overview.
There are dozens of trap designs made exclusively for trapping chipmunks. And they work.
Of course, you have your choice of snap traps which will kill the rodent.
Or you can use a human catch and release the trap, though this requires you to go far away for release so they don’t find their way back into your home.
Trapping is very effective if you just have a small infestation. You can find traps that go over their burrows to ones that lie flat on the flower plots.
Whatever your choice, read some reviews and see what works for you. Use as directed. And be careful about accidentally trapping other wildlife in the area- or other people and pets!
You’ll have to zone it off to prevent unwanted victims from being trapped in the area.
Chipmunks are small so they can fit through fencing. You can consider using wire fencing to zone off a trap and keep other animals out.
Catch and release
If you plan to use a passive trap that catches chipmunks and doesn’t kill them, you’ll have to release them far away.
Some states ban this practice (relocating wildlife), so you need to check your local ordinances.
Note that even if you move them away from your property, the new area you release them in can then suffer from a chipmunk outbreak. So you’re not fixing the problem.
You may also need permission to release them in a new place. These creatures adapt to a variety of environments so you may just be part of the problem rather than the solution.
Humane euthanization is a possible solution. It all depends on your local environment. If you plan to release near a residential area, you NEED the landowner’s permission. Do NOT release chipmunks willy nilly.
What to use for chipmunk bait
Trapping a chipmunk will require some kind of bait to lure the rodent into it. It’s not going to just waltz in there and trap itself, right?
Some of the most effective and irresistible baits are seeds, raisins, peanut butter, grains, or other breakfast foods.
Place them sparingly leading up to the trap and use a bunch inside it.
Chipmunks are smart and will avoid the trap at first if it seems threatening until a few days have passed.
They need to get used to it. The bait you place may help them overcome this fear and get them into it.
Here’s a video demonstrating the process:
Use hair clippings
Chipmunks are afraid of humans, so anything that smells like a human is around will naturally scare them away- humanely.
You can use hair clippings and sprinkle them around your yard to keep them out.
Human hair also acts beneficial to your plant because of the excess nitrogen content, which is pretty cool.
Place the hair around the soil of your sunflower bed and this may deter chipmunk activity- depending on the residual scent and number of clumps you can find.
Check your shower drain or get a haircut at home.
Install a fence or net
You can use a small metal mesh wire or a metallic horizontal net around your sunflowers to protect them.
Again, a barrier proves to be an effective means of exclusion for chipmunks. Some are extremely persistent and will even dig up all the sunflower seeds you JUST planted.
If you have this level of a chipmunk problem, you’ll want to check out using a fence to block off your sunflowers from being attacked.
The installation process varies, but typically you’ll want to dig down deep enough so you block them off from burrowing underground tunnels to your plants.
They can bypass the fence if it’s not to the right depth- which is around 6-8 inches all around the sunflowers.
Try ultrasonic repellers
These are those devices you buy at hardware stores that emit sounds humans can’t hear, but other pests and rodents can.
The sound drives them away by sending out annoying sounds that repel chipmunks, deer, rabbits, squirrels, and more.
They’re a simple solution because all they need is a consistent power source (or batteries) and they don’t need any setup or leave behind poisonous residues on your plants.
The only catch? They don’t always work.
You can try buying a highly rated one (with a good return policy) and see how it goes for you. If it gets rid of chipmunks from your sunflowers, then you’re good to go!
Hire a chipmunk exterminator
If you had your wit’s end with these critters and can’t seem to get them under control, consider hiring a professional pest control company to help.
If you don’t have the time or energy to deal with these guys, there’s always a professional willing to do so.
There are many that offer chipmunk control and also back it with a guarantee (where they keep trying until the chipmunks are eliminated).
Consider hiring a local business. Read some reviews and do you due diligence.
See if they offer organic or natural control methods.
This is especially important if you’re growing fruits or veggies in your yard. The last thing you want after your sunflowers being eaten by rodents are nasty residues hanging around your edibles!
So shop around and see what quotes you can get
Family-owned companies are an excellent start.
They may charge a bit more, but their work is often backed by a solid guarantee since they’re trying to get more customers through all means (including word of mouth).
Other common DIY home remedies
These are either hit or miss. Feel free to give them a try if you have the materials lying around.
You just may end up saving yourself some cash from the previous methods listed above.
Will coffee grounds keep chipmunks away?
Coffee grounds may work because of their bitter flavor.
You can sprinkle used coffee grounds around your flower beds directly into the soil and around the stems.
Chipmunks are extremely close to the soil surface, so they’re forced to touch and smell the coffee that emits that familiar powerful aroma. This may help deter chipmunks from your garden.
Does vinegar keep chipmunks away?
Vinegar hasn’t been shown to effectively repel chipmunks.
Some people recommend pouring vinegar (or urine) into their burrows as a deterrent. I couldn’t find any proof online that this works.
Will mothballs get rid of chipmunks?
Mothballs and ammonia are both toxic to chipmunks.
You can toss a few mothballs into each chipmunk burrow you come across for a quick deterrent.
While they may not be as effective as exclusion, they can still release a scent that they hate.
Does baking soda kill chipmunks?
Mixing vinegar and baking soda will produce that fuzzy reaction which may be effective in getting them to leave.
Pour the mixture directly into their burrows that you can find and repeat it daily for 2 weeks. It’s said to scare off chipmunks and will work if you pour it consistently until they’re tired of it.
Both of these ingredients are cheap and can be bought in bulk, so why not?
Will bleach kill chipmunks?
Bleach will kill chipmunks if they ingest it. Note that some areas may deem harming chipmunks as illegal, so you’ll need to check first.
The problem with bleach is that it’s hard to make them drink any of it or ingest it.
Unless you can bait them into eating bread soaked with bleach, it’s likely not effective for ridding them.
Plus, you can’t use it around your sunflowers either because it’ll destroy the plant. Avoid it if possible.
Will Irish Spring soap keep chipmunks away?
There’s speculation that the soap brand Irish Spring, but not other brands, can keep chipmunks out of your garden, along with mice, rabbits, and deer.
It’s pretty crazy, but there are lots of people who found this to work. You buy a pack of bar soap and slice it into small pieces.
Then you sprinkle it around the chipmunk burrows and your sunflowers on a plate or some kind of container so it doesn’t mix with the soil.
The scent from the soap gets rid of chipmunks and helps reduce the attack rate on your sunflower seedlings.
While it may not completely work, it can help steer them to another area for damage control.
Do dryer sheets repel chipmunks?
Some people say scented dryer sheets may repel chipmunks.
It’s an urban legend at this point since I couldn’t find factual proof online.
But if you have dryer sheets that have been in the wash, try hanging them around your sunflowers and see what happens.
It’s said to repel mice, birds, rodents, and even larger animals like coyotes.
Here are some additional references you may find helpful:
- Chipmunks – Penn State
- Eastern Chipmunk – Adirondack Ecological Center
- Best way to get rid of chipmunks? – Reddit
Did you protect your sunflowers from chipmunks?
By now you should have a good foundation of knowledge to get rid of those chipmunks in your yard and raise your sunflowers to their full glory.
If you have any questions, post a comment down below and I’ll try to get back to you ASAP.
For those that have had chipmunks before, please share your experiences and help out other readers.
Or if you found this guide somewhat helpful (or have any feedback for improvements), please let me know as well!
Consider telling a friend or neighbor who may find it beneficial. Chances are they’re dealing with the same rodent if you’re next door.
Thanks for reading!
Currently an active researcher in the pest control industry for the past 8 years- with a focus on using natural and organic methods to eliminate pest problems.
I share handy DIY pest techniques I come across here to help out others (and possibly save them from a mental breakdown).
Fight nature with nature.