We generally want to keep animals out of lawns and gardens. But some of them are actually entertaining and fun to watch. Among them, we’ll find squirrels.
You can explain squirrels as a combination of a monkey and a rodent.
They’re playful, intelligent, super-squishy, and extremely shy (most of the time). Most people don’t see them like a plague or something to get rid of. Instead, people actually like them.
But most people also think they only eat nuts and seeds. And that would be wrong.
Squirrels eat tons of different things. And they like some foods more than others.
Here, we’ll show you what foods to feed squirrels in your garden without causing harm while keeping them happy. So keep reading!
Should You Feed Squirrels At All?
First of all, is it safe to feed squirrels?
They’re wild animals. And they’re also pretty smart. So they may not only become addicted to whatever you’re feeding them (which makes them dependent on you), but may even find a way to steal your food if you let them.
They may also become aggressive with their feeding habits (jump on you while feeding them), or may even harm other animals in search of food.
Apart from that, they often carry mites and fleas, tons of other parasites, and bugs that may infect you. And in some cases, they may even decide your house is a better nest than a tree, especially if you’re over-feeding them and the population starts to grow too fast.
It is also essential to know that some states also prohibit feeding squirrels, so they don’t become dependent on humans or become a public pest.
It would be wise to check these laws before going any further.
Overall, though, you can prevent this by learning about their habits. So it is generally safe, as long as you do it properly.
Also Read: Do Squirrels Eat Bird Eggs and Baby Birds?
What Foods Do Squirrels Eat?
Now that you’ve learned whether feeding squirrels is not wrong, let’s go right into the nitty-gritty.
First, understand that squirrels adapt to their habitat or environment.
So they may eat a lot of different things according to the season or area they’re living in. And second, they are among the best foragers out there, so they may look for food anywhere as long as they think there’s something.
Below, you’ll find a list of foods, classified by type, which you may want to consider as safe and nutritious foods for the animals. Take a look:
#1. Seeds to Feed Squirrels
Yes, squirrels love seeds. This is not a misconception.
It is actually the first and most important type of nutrition item in their diets.
In fact, they probably eat over 50% of their diet in seeds, as long as it’s possible. Among the seeds they eat, you can find:
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Safflower seeds
- Bird seeds
The nutritional content and amount of calories squirrels get from seeds is supreme. So if you want to feed them something, seeds should be your first choice.
#2. Vegetables to Feed Squirrels
Even when seeds are the most significant part of squirrels’ diets, they’re not enough.
Squirrels who only eat seeds eventually have calcium deficits and may even put on too much weight on their bodies.
That’s why vegetables are the second-best type of food to use. These include:
- Sweet potato
- Leafy greens
Everything that seeds don’t offer, vegetables do.
From the vitamins and minerals to their water content, vegetables are an excellent choice for feeding squirrels.
#3. Nuts & Cereals to Feed Squirrels
Similar to seeds, nuts also provide tons of nutritional value.
But be aware that nuts are not their primary or their secondary food choices. That’s a huge misconception. But they still like them.
Among these nuts, we can find:
- Corn flakes
- Beech nuts
- Pine nuts
- Pistachio nuts
Most squirrels love nuts for the process of taking them out of their shells.
This helps them sharpen their teeth and may even relax them.
But overall, nuts are not the most nutritionally-rich food to give them. So they should only be a small part of a squirrel diet.
#4. Legumes for Feeding Squirrels
Guess where some squirrels get their protein? Yes, you guessed it right – legumes.
They don’t necessarily love their flavor, but they get a lot from this type of food more than they do from nuts.
Here are some of them to consider:
- Black and red beans
These are also calories-heavy. So legumes should also be a small part of their diet.
If you feed them too many legumes, they may get overweight and overfed.
#5. Fruits to Feed Squirrels
Even though it’s rare to see squirrels eating fruits, they may still do it.
It’s also completely safe and may give them an extra boost of energy with carbs and sugars that other foods don’t have.
Here are some fruits to consider:
- Small insects
Be aware that they may not be fans of some of these fruits.
If they don’t eat them, it’s probably because they just prefer something else.
Simultaneously, too much fruit may cause diarrhea, so be sure to give them fruit sparingly.
#6. Others Foods for Feeding Squirrels
You may think squirrels don’t eat much more than what we already mentioned, but they do.
From worms and crickets to mushrooms and even toads or eggs – they eat tons of these things without repercussions.
Also, roots, bulbs, and bark may be part of their diet (if necessary).
Here’s a more detailed list:
- Bird eggs
- Tree buds
- Tree flowers
- Small insects
- Peanut butter
These are not necessarily the most nutritious foods for squirrels, but they are safe as long as they’re only a small part of their diet.
So don’t hesitate to let them have one of these from time to time.
Is There Special Food for Squirrels?
Yes, you may also get food specially produced for squirrels.
These are not easy to come by in physical pet shops, but you may find them on the internet. These include:
1. Squirrel Food Bags
These bags come with an assorted array of foods, including dried fruits, nuts, seeds, oats, maize, and so on.
2. Formulated Pellets
These usually contain nuts, veggies, seeds, and other foods. The purpose is to provide a nutritionally-rich pellet that has minerals, vitamins, and all kinds of nutrients squirrels need.
Even though most of the foods above can meet squirrels’ nutritional needs well enough, you may still want to include supplements like vitamin D3 and calcium to prevent any deficiency.
What Foods to Avoid Feeding to Squirrels
If you give a squirrel a potentially dangerous food, it will probably don’t know and eat it nonetheless. That’s why you should be careful about what foods you give them, or you may end up harming them.
The following section includes types of foods you should avoid with their respective reasons:
1. Heavily-Processed Foods
Anything with too much sugar, salt, gluten, and chemicals can be dangerous to any rodent, especially squirrels. So keep them away from those.
2. Dairy & Junk Foods
People love feeding squirrels with cookies, chocolate, and even milk. But these also fall under heavily-processed foods not made for rodents. Don’t feed them any of these.
3. Spicy or Acidic Foods
Not only do they hate these foods, but they may also get sick from eating them. This includes onions, garlic, chili, mint, and anything in-between.
Do all Squirrel Species Eat the Same?
The two species of squirrel you’re likely to find are either the Eastern Greys or the American Red. And sure enough, they eat almost the same things.
You should still be careful about their surroundings. It’s always wise to complement their diets instead of adding to the nutrients they’re already eating.
What to Feed a Baby Squirrel?
Most adult squirrels will eat whatever they find. But baby squirrels, just like babies of any species, won’t do that.
So if you find an orphaned little squirrel, you may want to prepare a special mixture that prevents them from starving.
- Look for puppy milk replacers like Esbilac or Pedialyte. Don’t use cow mil or human formula.
- Now prepare two parts of the replacement with two parts of water.
- Mix part of the puppy milk replacement with two parts of salt and sugar.
- Then add three more parts of puppy milk and mix.
- Try feeding the baby squirrel using a syringe.
You should feed baby squirrels every 3 hours max. If you need to feed them at night, do it.
It is not easy to do this, and the chances of the squirrel surviving are low without its parents. But it’s possible if you do it consistently and with the right formula.
What to Use to Feed Squirrels?
There are tons of different ways to feed squirrels.
They’re not picky about it. But it’s still worth thinking about a convenient and safe way to do so.
Here are some ideas:
- Special squirrel feeders – they’re easy to set up, super-safe, and last a lifetime (similar to bird feeders)
- Bird feeders – if you don’t find squirrel feeders, then a bird option should suffice (just be sure the squirrels can reach it)
- Hoppers – can you place the food on a tray or bin and let the squirrels feed themselves? Then that’s worth trying
Just remember to make it easy for the squirrel to reach the place and that it is close to a tree. And sure enough, avoid feeding them from your hand. That should be enough to do it safely.
You May Also Read: How to Keep Rabbits and Squirrels Out of Your Garden?
So, did you learn what to feed squirrels in your garden? It’s not rocket science, but it is not as easy as it seems.
Just remember that they’re wild animals, not your pets.
Feeding squirrels should always be done with care without further intentions. Otherwise, you may regret it. So be careful!