What to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard?

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Don’t you find squirrels cute?

They’re adorable and fun-loving little creatures! And they can enchant almost anyone with their cuteness and charm.

Squirrels love climbing walls and trees. And you can often find them climbing on the trees in your garden.

Did you notice what they do if you get close to them?

They run away VERY quickly.

If you want to catch squirrels in your hands, let me tell you, it’s very tough!

Just imagine how fun it would be to watch squirrels in your backyard.

Now, do you know how you can attract squirrels to your yard?

Well, it’s quite a no-brainer that you can attract any animal by giving them the food they like. And there are certain foods that a squirrel likes. Do you know what those are?

In this post, I will tell you all about what to feed squirrels in your backyard.

Just know that similar to watching birds, watching squirrels can also be relaxing and fun at the same time. And for this hobby, you don’t need a lot of things. Only some squirrel food and a squirrel feeder – and you’re all set!

However, if you’re still not convinced to feed squirrels in your yard, here are some reasons to do so. Keep reading.

What to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard

Why Feed Squirrels in Your Garden or Backyard?

People out there might tell you that feeding squirrels are not a good idea, even if you want to. But, you know, you can have a squirrel feeder in your backyard instead of feeding them with your hands. So, why feed squirrels in your garden?

  • They can better survive winter

As they get closer to the months of winter, they desperately require storing quite a considerable amount of food. So, if you give them food in your garden, it will be easier for them to find and keep food for the months of winter. Also, this way, they get to know that this is the place they need to return to if they need some more food.

  • They can access water easily.

Well, when you decide to feed squirrels, water may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But, water is essential for them to lead a healthy life, just like us. Therefore, they need to drink clean water. However, finding clean water to drink is not an easy task for them most of the time. So, if you want to have a squirrel feeder in your backyard, know that some of them come with an area to fill with clean drinking water. In the winter months, you can even keep the water in a heated birdbath so that squirrels can use it.

  • They stay away from bird feeders.

Do you already have a bird feeder in your backyard?

Then you might already know that there are times when squirrels sneak up and steal all the food that you kept for birds. If squirrels eat bird food, they might not always get the nutrition from the food, as the food is meant for birds to eat. Also, if the squirrels take it all, what will the birds eat then?

Then there’s another thing. Squirrels can damage your bird feeder and ruin all the excitement and fun for all involved. So, if you don’t want that to happen, you can give them their own feeder.
Now, if there are two feeders in your backyard – one for squirrels and one for birds, the squirrels will eat from the one that is closer to them. This is why feeders are there for squirrels too. This way, the squirrels will have a good food choice. And the birds can have their part of snacks again. Sounds good?

What to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard?

What to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard

Most people feed corn, table food scraps, and birdseed to squirrels. Not all of these foods are bad for them, but they don’t provide the best nutrition. Now, several foods are not only healthy for squirrels but also are their favorites.

So, what are the favorites of squirrels?

#1. Nuts

Now, we all know that squirrels love nuts, right?

Do you have a nut tree in your backyard?

Then know that you’re already providing a great food option for squirrels in your backyard. Now, what if you don’t have a nut-producing tree in your backyard?

Well, you can plant one if you really want to feed squirrels.

It doesn’t matter if you’re offering nuts right from the tree or not. The absolute best food that you can offer a squirrel is nuts in its shells. So it would be best if you could arrange different types of nuts for them. This way, they can get all the benefits from the nuts.

Don’t feed squirrels all kinds of nuts that you come across.

Why?

Because not all nuts are beneficial for squirrels, some can even do more harm than good.

So, how will you know which are good and which are bad for squirrels?

Don’t worry. Have a look! We have listed them down.

The best nuts to feed squirrels:

  • White oak acorns
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Hickory nuts
  • Butternuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Almond
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds

The worst nuts to feed squirrels:

  • Red oak acorns
  • Raw peanuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Dried corn
  • Cashews

#2. Vegetables

Squirrels can get essential nutrients from vegetables. And it’s very important for them to have it in their diet.

Now, do you grow vegetables in your garden?

Then you will find it easy to attract squirrels to your yard.

However, if you don’t have a vegetable garden, well, it’s never too late to plant some healthy vegetables. After all, squirrels love to eat fresh veggies.

So, what vegetables are suitable for a squirrel’s diet?

Check this out!

Best veggies for squirrels:

  • Escarole
  • Dandelion greens
  • Green beans
  • Cabbage
  • Chicory
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber Belgian endive
  • Some beet greens
  • Tulip greens
  • Radishes
  • Radicchio
  • Parsley
  • Kale mustard spinach
  • Fennel
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Leafy greens
  • Watercress

Worst veggies for squirrels:

  • Yams
  • Sprouts
  • Turnips
  • Palm hearts
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Fresh corn
  • White potatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Dried vegetables
  • Eggplant

#3. Fruits

Squirrels love eating different types of fruits, just as they like nuts. They like climbing on fruit trees, grabbing some fruits, and enjoying their juices.

Do you already have some fruit trees?

Are you ready to share the fruits with squirrels?

Then you can leave out small chunks for them to eat in your backyard.

But wait, do you know which fruits are healthy for squirrels?

Best fruits for squirrels:

  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Pomegranates
  • Pineapple
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Papaya
  • Nectarines
  • Navel orange
  • Mangoes
  • Lime
  • Lemon
  • Kiwi
  • Honeydew
  • Grapefruit
  • Cranberries
  • Blueberries
  • Crabapples
  • Cherries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Blackberries
  • Apricot
  • Apple
  • Bananas

Worst fruits for squirrels:

  • Raisins
  • Prunes
  • Plums
  • Persimmons
  • Figs
  • Dried fruits
  • Dates

#4. Seeds

When you leave food for birds in a bird feeder, you find squirrels sneaking and stealing from it, right?

From this, you may get an idea that squirrels love to eat seeds too.

Seeds are not that bad for their health, but they are not that good too. So it’s okay when you feed them in moderation. For example, if you’re carving a pumpkin, you can leave the leftover pumpkin seeds out for squirrels. They will eat it along with some of its shell!

However, make sure to avoid giving them sunflower seeds.

#5. Rodent blocks

The rodent blocks are full of nutrients. They help the squirrels to take care of their health and maintain it.

Now, did I tell you that rodent blocks are the most balanced food for squirrels?

Well, yes! And this is why we highly recommend you feed this to squirrels.

Apart from these, squirrels can eat butterflies, insects, and eggs too.

Some Other Foods Squirrels Can Eat

Some Other Foods Squirrels Can Eat

Apart from the food mentioned above, here are some other foods that squirrels eat:

#1. Insects

What if a squirrel can’t get enough supply of fruits, veggies, or nuts?

Well, they can eat small insects. This will satisfy their requirement for protein.

So, what are the insects that squirrels like to eat? It includes crickets, butterflies, winged bugs, and caterpillars.

#2. Bones

Squirrels follow a vegetarian food habit. However, for wild squirrels, bones can provide a lot of calcium. There are different species of squirrels out there that nibble on deer antlers or animal bones.

Even if I say that squirrels eat animal bones, this is not the thing that you should go for first while feeding squirrels in your garden. This is mainly for people who have dogs or other pets in their homes. In case your dog eats the bone, it can be a choking hazard for them.

So, we suggest that you stick to the other squirrel feeding ideas mentioned in this post.

#3. Fungi

Foraging is something that squirrels love – and not just in trees. There are many fungi that squirrels love to have. But, of course, it depends a lot on the climate of the place. Want to feed squirrels? Go for mushrooms. You can choose to plant mushrooms in your backyard as a bit of a bonus for the squirrels.

What Not to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard?

What Not to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard

There are some foods that you should avoid feeding squirrels in your backyard.

What are they?

Have a look!

#1. Peanuts

Well, I have already told you that squirrels love eating nuts. But the case is not the same with peanuts.

Did you know that raw peanuts have a fungus in them that can harm squirrels?

You can feed roasted peanuts or peanut butter once in a while. But, if you can, stay away from providing these to squirrels.

#2. Processed Food or Human Junk Food

Junk food doesn’t do much good to us. I mean, nutritionally. The same is the case with squirrels. Chips, candy as well as other processed food are very low in nutritional value. Thus, they are not good for squirrels.

It is difficult for squirrels to digest cellulose. So, if you feed them foods that contain cellulose, such as bread, the chances are that they will fall sick.

Avoid feeding squirrel foods that don’t grow or exist in nature. These are not the best options for them.

#3. Corn

Do you know what a squirrel’s favorite snack apart from nuts is?

It’s corn on the cob.

However, if I talk about nutrition, this food doesn’t do much for squirrels. In fact, this can be regarded as junk food for them.

If you still want to feed squirrels corn, do that moderately. But make sure that you give them other nutritious food options regularly.

#4. Niger seeds

Well, niger seeds are not poisonous for squirrels. It’s just that they don’t like eating them.

On the contrary, birds love eating niger seeds.

So, in case you have a bird feeder, you can add niger seeds to it. This will prevent the squirrels from stealing it from the bird feeder.

Bonus Read: How to Keep Rabbits and Squirrels Out of Your Garden?

Things to Consider While Inviting Squirrels in Your Backyard

Things to Consider While Inviting Squirrels in Your Backyard

Now that you know what to feed squirrels in your backyard, remember the following things:

  • Place the squirrel feeders away from the bird feeders. The squirrels should have a separate corner to enjoy their food. This is to prevent them from stealing food from the bird feeders in your backyard.
  • Make sure to place the bird feeders away from the squirrels’ approach.
  • Did you know that squirrels eat birds’ eggs too? So make sure to take care of this issue first.
  • Make a proper arrangement of clean drinking water for squirrels in your backyard. This should be near their feeding area.
  • Give nuts to squirrels only, and when you see that they have already had their part of the healthy diet for the day.
  • Before giving nuts to squirrels, make sure that you know all about nuts. This is because there are some varieties of it that can actually harm squirrels.

Is Feeding Squirrels Safe?

Generally, squirrels can be considered safe. Therefore, it’s safe to feed them.

They are non-aggressive, quick, and smart. These attributes in them contribute to the fact that they are safe, even when you feed them.

However, remember, squirrels are wild animals, after all. So, while feeding them, there CAN be some inherent danger.

When you’re refilling the feeder, they might get super excited and jump on you. Also, they can carry mites, fleas, and other parasites. Now, if those bugs are still there on the feeder, they can get transferred to you. And if that happens, that would not be something you want.

Is Feeding Squirrels Legal?

There are a lot of municipalities and states that have laws about feeding squirrels. And according to that, you can’t feed squirrels intentionally. It is not legal.

These laws are there to prevent wildlife from becoming dependent on humans. In addition, these laws try to save human beings from getting bitten or attacked by some overzealous squirrel. Also, these rules aim at keeping the population of squirrels in check. Otherwise, they could turn into a public nuisance.

Remember to check the specific rules for your municipality and state.

There are some areas that have limited feeding squirrels on public properties but not on private properties. Have a conversation with the local officials, as they might help you understand how these laws apply to you.

Here’s a note of caution.

Don’t try to tame the squirrels. Because if you do so, they will get used to your presence. And this can lead them to become nuisances.

This happens if the squirrels realize that the outdoor nest in which they live is not comfortable enough. And they will want to move into your attic.

If they don’t fear you as their potential predator, the chances are that they will not think twice before moving into your space.

What Can You Use to Feed Squirrels?

Do you use a bird feeder as bait to keep squirrels away from your actual and primary bird feeder?

Why not get a different feeder made especially for squirrels?

The mesh line of feeders from the house of Perky-Pet® works excellent as both squirrel and bird feeders. They come with all-metal construction, and the squirrels can chew it through. Also, this metal-mesh design comes in handy in preventing squirrels from making the feeder empty in no time.

The hopper feeders can also be a good choice when it comes to feeding squirrels. They come with wide seed trays. This helps the squirrels in having quick access to the food inside the feeder. In order to provide the squirrels with other nutrients, some come with suet-cake bins too.

You can even install a seed table in order to feed the squirrels. Or, you can just scatter their favorite foods in a specific area near your primary bird feeder.

Here are some tips:

  • While placing the squirrel-friendly feeder, make sure that it is near a tree.
  • I suggest not using a feeder that has a weight-activated shut-off.
  • Place the squirrel feeder in such a place that it is easy for the squirrels to climb there.
  • Choose to provide the squirrels with food that they love.

Squirrel Food Facts

Here are some interesting facts about squirrel food:

Fact 1:- Squirrels are very clever. They plan on how to keep other animals away from their food supply or nests.

Fact 2:- They trust humans a lot. Compared to other animals, they are quicker in eating out of a human hand. In case you want to hand feed them, provide them with food that is healthy for them and not just any food that has the potential to harm them. However, I suggest not hand feed them. Instead, use a feeder.

Fact 3:- Squirrels can remember you. If you go to a park and take a pocket full of squirrel foods, they will associate eating time with you. So the next time they see you, they will show excitement.

Fact 4:- Squirrels don’t indulge in an overabundance of food. They don’t waste anything. This is why they are always in search of foods that can keep their supply intact. In case a squirrel dies, leaving a baby, the squirrels living close to them will adopt them. They keep their food supply uninterrupted so that they can feed not only the members of their family but also new additions, if any.

FAQ’s

Q1. Why do Squirrels Bury Their Food?

Ans. As mentioned earlier, squirrels are intelligent animals. And they very well too.
They store enough food throughout the year for their family to not face any scarcity of food during the cold months of winter.

As backups, they bury caches food in different places.

They dig them up when there is a need for more food supply. Then they haul it home.
Did you know that squirrels can find the food they buried even if it gets covered under huge layers of snow?

Well, yes. And they do it by smelling.

They dig a tunnel through the snow to retrieve their food stock.

As there’s no way that the squirrels can lock their caches up, they can get stolen by other animals.

About 25% of their buried food gets stolen by other animals.

Now, have you heard about deceptive caching?

This is when the clever squirrels pretend to bury their food in one place but bury it somewhere else. And they do so to trick the onlookers!

However, it is not always that the squirrels succeed in retrieving their nuts. Most of the time, the nuts take roots before the squirrels can retrieve them. This way, new trees grow and produce more nuts.

Q2. What Do Baby Squirrels Eat?

Ans. When a squirrel is born, they should be fed their mother’s milk for the first six weeks.
Now, what if you get the responsibility of feeding a baby squirrel that is still in its first six weeks on earth?

Well, in that case, you can give the combination of powdered puppy milk and Pedialyte. This will provide them with the essential nutrients and vitamins they need.

Once the baby squirrel becomes six weeks of age, it can start eating what an adult squirrel eats. BUT, the quantity must be smaller.

Once the baby squirrel turns twelve weeks, you can send it back to the wild.

Baby squirrels are cute, and you might find it exciting to raise one.

However, you should make sure that the baby squirrel is taken care of by their mother.

In order to be sure about the fact that the baby squirrel has been orphaned or abandoned, wait for a day or more and watch the nest very well.

The baby squirrels get the best nutrition from their mothers. In addition, their mothers teach them invaluable skills and life lessons that they need to survive throughout their lives.

If you think you can’t take proper care of a baby squirrel that has been orphaned, please contact a rescue service so that it can get appropriate care.

Q3. Can You Feed Carrots to Squirrels?

Ans. Just as their hoppy, long-eared backyard companions, squirrels love to eat carrots along with other root vegetables.

The orange part of the carrot that we eat grows underground. It has a grassy stalk that reaches above the surface. It is due to this growth pattern that the squirrels are not immediately drawn towards carrots.

Now don’t get worried if you have planted carrots in your backyard. As the squirrels are not naturally inclined to dig the roots up, they will not harm your crops.

But, in your backyard, if you leave whole carrots, then the squirrels will have it. And this is especially true for times when you keep carrots with other squirrel favorites such as walnuts and apples.

In order to keep the incisors in check, carrots offer them an excellent chewing activity. The teeth of squirrels keep growing. And this happens throughout their lifetime.

Squirrels need to chew continually and wear their teeth down. If they don’t do so, with time, their teeth can outgrow their mouths. This will incapacitate the squirrel or do serious harm to them.

The squirrels will get nourishment from the carrots in your backward. However, don’t feed them too many. Otherwise, it will do more harm than good.

Q4. What to Feed Squirrels in Winters?

Ans. In the months of winter, squirrels don’t hibernate.

In some cases, they are even more active. Why? Because during winters, their food sources become limited, and they still need a certain amount of calories every day. Wild squirrels find foods that have high levels of fats in them, for example, nuts. This is to keep them well-nourished throughout the months of winter.

In case there is a scarcity of nuts and other fat-containing foods, wild squirrels eat mushrooms, bugs, insects, and even animal bones.

Remember, winter doesn’t change a squirrel’s food habit. The cold only limits the availability of food. Squirrels don’t prefer mushrooms and insects. So, if you leave out anything for them, they will appreciate it.

As the availability is limited, if you want to feed squirrels, winter is the best time to do so. You can keep high-fat foods such as walnuts in squirrel feeders. This will help the squirrels to keep their body heat in check. And they will be able to withstand the cold winter months and cope well with the limited food they have.

During the winter season, other animals, especially birds, can raid your squirrel feeder. So, what you can do is install a feeder that is bird-proof. Then fill it with squirrel food. This way, you can help squirrels in your backyard get nutritious food throughout winter.

Also, feeding the squirrels in the winter months will ensure that their natural eating habits will not get disrupted. This is because; this is the time when they need the food the most.

So, what are you going to feed squirrels in your backyard?

Let us know in the comments below!

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