What to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard. Safe Foods & Diet

what to feed squirrels

Squirrel watching, like bird watching, may be an enjoyable, relaxing, and very affordable activity. To get started, all you’ll need is a squirrel feeder and some squirrel food. Squirrels can eat almost everything you give them, but if you’re like most people, you might not know what to feed squirrels in your yard.

So, what should you feed the squirrels?

Squirrels eat various foods, including seeds, nuts, grain, fruit, leaves, fungus, and bark. Having a range of these foods on hand can help them receive a well-balanced diet. Most squirrels will be satisfied with only a few of these items, such as sunflower seeds and peanuts.

Some home and garden supply stores sell squirrel food in pre-packaged bags, which generally contain a combination of bigger nuts and seeds. To get an even better supply of nourishment, look for nuts and seeds local to your area. Hazelnuts, for example, are plentiful in northern regions and can provide a natural source of sustenance for squirrels.

We’ll go through the best and worst things to feed squirrels in this post so you can get started.

Why should you feed squirrels in your yard?

Some people are adamantly opposed to squirrel feeding and may even advise you against it. While hand-feeding wild squirrels might make them reliant on people, installing a squirrel feeder in your yard is a terrific way to help them! We’ll go over several solid reasons to feed backyard squirrels in the following sections.

1. Prevents them from eating from bird feeders.

If you already have a bird feeder, you’re aware that squirrels like to sneak up behind it and grab all of the bird food. Squirrels don’t always receive the finest nutrition from bird food, and if they eat it all, the birds don’t get any.

Not only that, but squirrels may often destroy the bird feeder, putting everyone’s enjoyment at risk. Giving squirrels their bird feeder is one technique to keep them away from the bird feeder.

Squirrels will eat from whichever feeder is nearest to them, which is why squirrel feeders are available. Your squirrel will have a healthier food source, and the birds in your yard will be able to enjoy a snack once more.

2. Ensures that they have easy access to water

Water may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about what to give squirrels, but they do require it to live a healthy existence. Squirrels, like people, need clean water, which isn’t always easy to come by.

Keep in mind that some squirrel feeders include a place to fill with clean water, so keep that in mind while making your selection. You could even put water in a heated birdbath for squirrels to use in the winter.

3. Assists squirrels in surviving the winter

As the time for hibernation approaches, squirrels must ensure that they have enough food to last them through the winter. Giving them food makes things a bit simpler for them, and it also offers them a safe place to go when they need something else.

Why shouldn’t you feed the squirrels in your backyard?

Many people consider little animals to be an annoyance. They’ll eat anything, including seeds from bird feeders and garden-fresh vegetables that were supposed to be for your meal.

They also have an insatiable need to chew on anything from nuts to wooden decks to playsets.

There are various moral and ethical considerations for avoiding feeding squirrels in addition to not having them in your yard. The US Department of Agriculture does not recommend feeding squirrels since it might disturb their natural diet and have ecological consequences in your region.

Squirrels will be less likely to graze on their natural foods if they are only fed from squirrel feeders and other garbage left by people.

Not only will their diets be affected, maybe in a negative way, but plant life will suffer as the natural seed spreaders will neglect their unintentional gardens.

There are times when there are too many squirrels.

If you have a lot of food on your property, squirrels will come from all over the neighborhood to eat it. This increases the chances of your property being damaged by the countless scratchy nails and teeth running around.

Having a significant number of squirrels in a compact space raises the risk of sickness and infection spreading.

Squirrels should never be hand-fed

People should never attempt to hand-feed wild animals, no matter how tempting it may seem. They should also not train squirrels to eat straight from their hands.

Animals can contain various bacteria, mites, fleas, and other pathogens that can readily be transmitted to people through intimate contacts, such as hand-feeding.

Squirrels may also lose their fear of humans if they are fed by hand. This can drive trusting squirrels into unsafe and troublesome circumstances, such as going into the rafters of a house or approaching cars.

Rather than buying a squirrel feeder, the best method to feed squirrels is to establish the trees and plants that yield the foods that squirrels prefer.

Squirrels are still wild animals, even though they dwell in our communities and backyards. Squirrels in the wild are incredibly competent at scavenging for food in their immediate surroundings.

Squirrels will consume whole fruits and vegetables, leaving the seeds behind in their leftovers or droppings.

Spreading plant life and ensuring that their food sources continue to thrive and produce are also important goals. Squirrels, being natural gardeners, get the maximum nutrition from these foods when they are eaten raw, right from the vine or tree.

What to feed squirrels in your backyard

So, if you have decided to feed the squirrels in your yard, there are many people that give them birdseed, grain, or table leftovers. While some of these items aren’t bad, they aren’t very nutritious. Fortunately, squirrels like a variety of meals that are both nutritious and tasty. Among them are the following:

Nuts

Squirrels are well-known for their fondness for nuts. If you already have a nut-producing tree in your yard, you’re already providing an excellent food source for the squirrels! Planting a few nut-producing trees in your yard is one technique to attract additional squirrels if you don’t already have any.

Nuts in their shells, whether directly off the tree or not, are the greatest meal you can feed a squirrel. It is especially beneficial to them if you supply a variety of nuts to receive the full advantages.

However, not all nuts are made equal. Some types can harm squirrels, so be cautious when picking what to give them. The finest and worst nuts to feed squirrels are described below.

Best nuts for squirrels:

  • Almonds
  • Butternuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Hickory Nuts
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • White Oak Acorns (Low Tannin)

Worst nuts for squirrels:

  • Raw Peanuts
  • Red Oak Acorns (High Tannin)

In moderation, squirrels can be fed roasted peanuts, peanut butter, and pistachios, although they aren’t the greatest nuts to offer them.

Fruits

Squirrels like a wide range of fruits. Squirrels like climbing around fruit trees, just like they do nut trees, and getting some sweet, delectable fruit. If you already have a fruit tree, you’ll probably want to keep the fruit for yourself rather than feeding it to the neighborhood squirrels. They prefer non-citrus fruits in general.

Fruits they love to eat include:

  • Apples
  • Cantaloupes
  • Grapes
  • Melons
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelons

All should be left out in tiny portions.

Vegetables

If you have a vegetable garden, you know that squirrels will devour just about every vegetable they can get their hands on. Squirrels adore fresh vegetables because they are a good source of nourishment.

The following are all excellent options:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Leafy greens
  • Peas
  • Yellow squash
  • Zucchini

Seeds

Squirrels are notorious for stealing from bird feeders, so they must enjoy seeds, right? They will consume seeds, and while they aren’t bad for them, they aren’t the ideal option.

However, feeding squirrels seeds in moderation is OK. After pumpkin carving, feel free to toss out any leftover pumpkin seeds. They’ll eat the pumpkin seeds and portions of the shell as well.

Other foods that squirrels like

Bones

Even though squirrels are primarily vegetarians, bones are an excellent source of calcium for them. Squirrels will eat animal bones or deer antlers in a variety of ways.

Even though squirrels like animal bones, you’ll need to think about whether or not that’s a good idea for your yard. It’s advisable to stick to the other recommendations in this post if you have pets who may choke on them.

Insects

If a squirrel cannot obtain nuts, fruits, or vegetables, tiny insects will suffice to meet their protein requirements. If they can get their hands on them, caterpillars, flying beetles, butterflies, and crickets are some creatures squirrels adore.

Fungi

Squirrels enjoy foraging in a variety of places, not only trees. There is a variety of fungus that squirrels enjoy eating, depending on the environment. You could plant some mushrooms beside the area where you feed the squirrels as a bonus for them if you’re up for it!

What to avoid when feeding squirrels in your backyard

Processed food or human junk food

We’re all aware that junk food isn’t particularly good for us nutritionally. Candy, chips, and other processed meals are poor in nutritional content and are therefore unsuitable for squirrels. Because squirrels have difficulty digesting cellulose, giving them bread or other cellulose-containing meals may make them ill.

Remember that if something doesn’t grow and exist in nature, it’s generally not the ideal choice for wildlife.

Peanuts

Peanuts, on the other hand, are a different issue. While most nuts are fine for squirrels, peanuts are a different story. Squirrels may be harmed by a fungus found in peanuts, mainly uncooked peanuts. Peanut butter or roasted peanuts are OK to offer on occasion, but they are not ideal.

Niger seeds

If you put out niger seeds, nothing terrible will happen, although squirrels dislike them.

Birds, on the other hand, adore niger seeds! So, if you have a bird feeder, throw in some niger seeds to keep squirrels from grabbing all of the food.

Corn

A squirrel’s favorite food may be corn on the cob, but it isn’t particularly nutritional for them. For squirrels, corn is essentially junk food. Squirrels can be fed maize in moderation if you make sure to offer them nutritional alternatives daily.

What food is poisonous to squirrels?

Squirrels don’t consume everything, even food that grows naturally in your region.

Squirrels, like any other animal, can be poisoned by foods that people tolerate or even prefer. Squirrels should not be fed the following things because they can hurt them:

  • Bell peppers
  • Chocolate
  • Dates
  • Dried fruits
  • Figs
  • Fresh corn
  • Pine Nuts
  • Raisins
  • Raw peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • White potatoes

Don’t worry if you have plants on your land that produce these items.

Natural impulses will keep a squirrel from consuming these things straight from the source. Their noses and taste senses will indicate that something is wrong with the meal they are going to consume.

These reflexes protect them against a wide range of potentially harmful dietary sources.

The foods used in a feeder or left out as leftovers in the yard, on the other hand, might pose a threat to your animal neighbors. Squirrels will consume everything that is placed in front of them. If given a chance, they are somewhat lazy. A sluggish or greedy squirrel may be unable to distinguish harmful goods from the rest of the feeder cuisine.

If prepared meals are left out for scraps, the change in look or scent created by cooking may obscure the possible threat posed by the squirrel eating the food. Suppose risky meals are baked into a new shape. In that case, a squirrel’s instincts may not pick up on the minor distinctions, or if dangerous foods are cooked or baked into a new form, a squirrel is unlikely to notice the danger.

If you choose to put out a squirrel feeder or leave leftovers in your yard, be especially careful with the food you provide. If you feed your squirrel pals the wrong things, you may unknowingly make them ill or worse. To avoid unintentional poisoning, be aware of the foods you use to fill up your squirrel feeder or the leftovers you leave out in the yard.

Do squirrels eat carrots?

Squirrels, like their long-eared, hopping backyard buddies, enjoy carrots and other root crops.

Humans consume the orange root portion of the carrot, which grows underground with a grassy-like stem extending above ground. Squirrels aren’t usually lured to carrots right away because of their development cycle. They are not grazers, meaning they do not consume grass like other rodents.

If you have carrots in your garden, squirrels are unlikely to destroy your crop because digging up the roots is not their instinct.

If you put entire carrots out in your backyard, especially with other squirrel favorites like apples and walnuts, your squirrels will devour them.

Carrots also provide a satisfying chewing experience for squirrels, which helps to keep their incisors in check. Squirrels’ teeth continue to develop throughout their lives. Suppose they do not chew and wear down their teeth regularly. In that case, their teeth will eventually outgrow their jaws, causing significant injury or incapacitating the squirrel.

Squirrels and rabbits in your backyard will like carrots if you leave them out. But be careful not to overdo it.

As previously said, supplying too much food for squirrels or any other wild animal might result in an overabundance of animals on your land, which can harm the animals’ normal metabolic processes.

What do baby squirrels eat?

Baby squirrels should be fed their mother’s milk for the first six weeks of their lives.

If you have to feed a baby squirrel less than six weeks old for whatever reason, a mixture of Pedialyte and powdered puppy milk will supply the critical vitamins and nutrition the squirrel need.

A baby squirrel can start eating the same diet as an adult squirrel after six weeks of age but in smaller amounts.

If a young squirrel has been cared after by humans for 12 weeks, it can be released back into the wild. Wild squirrels will begin to forage on their own and abandon their mother’s nest if this is not done.

Squirrel babies are lovely, and the prospect of rearing one might be appealing. You should, however, make every effort to ensure that newborn squirrels are well cared for by their moms. Before thinking that the squirrels have been abandoned or orphaned, keep a close eye on the nest for at least a day. Squirrel mothers give the finest nutrients to their young. Mother squirrels also provide essential lessons and abilities to their young, which they will need to live independently.

Suppose you feel a young squirrel has been orphaned for whatever reason. In that case, you should call an animal rescue organization to help the animal. These services will provide the squirrel with the most appropriate nutrition and feeding schedules. They’ll also be equipped with the information and abilities necessary to prepare the newborn squirrel for eventual release into a suitable environment.

Final thoughts

Squirrels are opportunistic eaters who would happily eat pie or cake all day if given the opportunity. They’ll eat almost everything you put in front of them. However, if you want to ensure they’re fed properly, you’ll need to know what to feed squirrels in your yard.

Fill a squirrel feeder with nuts, fruits, and veggies that they may eat or preserve later. Choosing a feeder with a water holder is especially beneficial for squirrels if you have the option.

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Emma Olsen
I’m a gardener and blogger with over 20 years of expertise writing about and cultivating fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. I have extensive experience in organic and sustainable gardening, perennials, annuals, and sustainable and urban farming. I’m a nature freak and I enjoy bird watching and swimming with sea creatures.