Like bird watching, squirrel watching can become a fun, relaxing, and pretty inexpensive hobby. All you need is a squirrel feeder and a little squirrel food to get started! Squirrels will eat just about anything you give them, but like many people, you may not know what exactly to feed squirrels in your backyard.
In this article, we’re going to go over the best and worst foods to feed squirrels so you can get started.
Why Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard?
Some people are really against feeding squirrels and may even tell you it’s a bad idea. While hand-feeding wild squirrels can cause them to depend on humans, having a squirrel feeder in your backyard is a great thing to do for them! In the next few sections, we’ll be going over some good reasons to feed backyard squirrels!
1. Keeps Them Away From Bird Feeders
If you have a bird feeder already, then you know squirrels like to sneak up and steal all of the bird food. Some bird foods don’t have the best nutritional value for squirrels, and obviously, if they take it all, the birds don’t get any.
Not only that, but squirrels can often damage the bird feeder and ruin the fun for everyone involved. One way to keep squirrels out of the bird feeder is to give them their own.
Squirrels will settle for eating at whichever feeder is closest, which is why there are feeders made for squirrels. Your squirrel will have a better food option, and the birds in your backyard can enjoy having a snack again.
2. Gives Them Easy Access to Water
While water may not be the first idea that comes to mind when deciding what to provide squirrels, they need water to live a healthy life. Just like humans, squirrels need access to clean water and can’t always find it easily.
Some squirrel feeders have an area to fill with clean water, so keep that in mind when choosing a squirrel feeder. In winter, you could even put water in a heated birdbath for squirrels to use.
3. Helps Squirrels Better Survive Winter
As hibernation inches closer and closer, squirrels desperately need to make sure that they have a decent amount of food stored away. Giving them access to food makes this a little easier on them, and also gives them a comfortable place to return to when they need more.
What to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard
Many people will feed squirrels birdseed, corn, or table food scraps. While some of these foods aren’t horrible, they aren’t the best nutritionally, either. Luckily, there are lots of foods that squirrels love to eat and are healthy for them. These include…
It’s no secret that squirrels love to eat nuts. If you already have a tree that produces nuts, you’re already providing the squirrels in your backyard with a great food option! If you don’t have any and want more squirrels in your yard, planting a few nut-producing trees is one way to do it.
Directly from the tree or not, nuts in their shells are the absolute best food you can give a squirrel. It is especially good for them if you provide them with a variety of nuts so they can reap all of the benefits.
Not all nuts are created equal, however. Some varieties can even cause harm to the squirrel, so be careful when choosing what to feed them. We’ve listed the best and worst nuts to feed squirrels below.
Best nuts for squirrels:
- Hickory Nuts
- White Oak Acorns (Low Tannin)
Worst nuts for squirrels:
- Raw Peanuts
- Red Oak Acorns (High Tannin)
You can also feed squirrels roasted peanuts, peanut butter, and pistachios in moderation, but they aren’t the best nuts to give them.
Squirrels love to eat a variety of fruits. Similarly to nut trees, squirrels thoroughly enjoy climbing around fruit trees and grabbing some sweet, delicious fruit. If you already have a fruit tree, you probably want the fruit for yourself rather than give it all to the hungry little squirrels in your yard.
Leave out small chunks of fruits such as apples, cantaloupes, grapes, strawberries, or watermelon. Typically, they prefer non-citrus fruits.
If you have a vegetable garden, it probably doesn’t surprise you that squirrels will eat just about any veggie they can get their paws on. Fresh veggies are a great source of nutrition for squirrels, and they love to eat them. Offer them leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, peas, zucchini, or yellow squash.
Squirrels are always acting sneaky and stealing from your bird feeder, so they must love seeds, right? Well, while they will eat seeds and they aren’t awful for them, they also aren’t the best option.
Feeding squirrels seeds in moderation are okay, though. Feel free to leave out your leftover pumpkin seeds after pumpkin carving. They’ll eat the pumpkin seeds as well as some of the shell, too!
What to Avoid Feeding Squirrels in Your Backyard
Human Junk Food or Processed Food
As humans, we are all pretty aware that junk food doesn’t do much for us nutritionally. Things like candy, chips, and other processed foods have low nutritional value and aren’t suitable for squirrels. Squirrels have a hard time digesting cellulose, so feeding them bread or other foods containing cellulose could make them sick.
Remember, if it doesn’t grow and exist in nature, it probably isn’t the best option for wildlife.
While most nuts are more than okay for squirrels, peanuts are a different story. Peanuts, specifically raw peanuts, may contain a fungus that can hurt squirrels. Peanut butter or roasted peanuts are okay to feed them here and there but are still not the best option for them.
Nothing terrible will happen if you put out niger seeds, but squirrels simply don’t like them.
On the plus side, however, birds love niger seeds! So, if you have a bird feeder, add some niger seeds into the mix to prevent squirrels from stealing all of the bird food.
Corn on the cob may be a squirrels favorite snack, but it doesn’t do much for them nutritionally. Corn is basically junk food for squirrels. Feeding squirrels corn in moderation is fine, especially if you’re making sure to provide them nutritious options daily.
Other Foods Squirrels Eat
Although squirrels mainly have a vegetarian lifestyle, bones are a great source of calcium for wild squirrels. Many species of squirrels will nibble on animal bones or deer antlers.
Even though squirrels would enjoy animal bones, you’ll need to consider whether or not that works for your backyard. If you have dogs who could choke on them, it’s best to stick to the other ideas in this article.
If a squirrel can’t get ahold of any nuts, fruits, or veggies, eating small insects will satisfy their need for protein. Some insects squirrels enjoy include caterpillars, winged bugs, butterflies, and crickets, if they can get ahold of them.
Squirrels love foraging, and not necessarily just in trees. Depending on the climate, there are a lot of fungi squirrels like to munch on. If you’re up for it, plant some mushrooms near where you’ll be feeding the squirrels as a little bonus for them!
Squirrels are opportunistic eaters, and would gladly eat pie or cake all day. They’ll eat just about anything you leave for them. However, if you want to make sure they are taken care of, correctly choosing what to feed squirrels in your backyard is essential.
Get a squirrel feeder and fill it with lots of nuts, fruits, and vegetables for them to snack on or save for later. If you’re able to, choosing a feeder with a holder for water is extra helpful for squirrels.