The Best Squirrel Feeder and Other Squirrel Questions

Some love squirrels, other hate them.  We here at small animal planet realize that, yes squirrels are rodents.  But how cute are they?  Birds and squirrels are part of our environment (or we’re part of theirs). Not everyone necessarily needs to have out a bird or squirrel feeder. But we should know how to interact with our animal neighbors.  Below are some popular squirrel related questions and answers.

Can Squirrels Eat Bread?

Tree squirrels and chipmunks are opportunistic foragers and eat a variety of food including acorns, tree buds, berries, leaves, twigs, insects, fungi, and eggs. However, seeds and nuts are their main food source.

In the wild, squirrels eat seeds, fruits, nuts and some roots and natural grains. They don’t eat many grains in the wild so they will eat bread, although it’s not the best food for them. And if you have a pet squirrel or feed your neighborhood squirrels then you should limit the bread you give them and concentrate on healthier foods.

And you really shouldn’t put bread out any where birds can eat it.  Bread isn’t great for squirrels.  But isn’t definitely harmful to birds.

Other Foods to Avoid Giving Squirrels

  • Packaged “squirrel food,” “pet treats,” or seed mixes.
  • Starchy foods: pasta, bread, grains, seeds, rice, potatoes.
  • Sugary foods: candy, cookies, dried fruit, banana chips, soda, fruit juices, sweetened yogurt, granola, sweetened breakfast cereals.
  • Junk food: french fries, potato chips, pretzels, crackers, anything salted.
  • Legumes: beans (kidney beans, lentils, etc.), peas, and soybeans; except for green beans and sugar snap peas in the pod.
  • Artificial sweeteners like Nutra-Sweet or aspartame.

The Best Squirrel Feeder

What is the Best Food for Wild Squirrels?

Just like us, squirrels will gobble up junk food if it’s offered in abundance. And just like us, a diet deficient in healthy nutrients can result in long term health problems in squirrels. Squirrels get good nutrition from a balance of natural foods they eat, such as bark, fungi, leaves, some fruit, corn (in moderation), seeds, and nuts. Supplementing this natural food is fine, but try to add some nuts and other things they would normally find in nature.

What is the Best Squirrel Feeder?

A squirrel feeder is a way to attract more wildlife to your backyard or private garden. They’re cheap and once a squirrel finds it, they will bring their squirrel friends. Not only will it attract these adorable creatures, it will keep them from going after the birds in your bird feeders.

Some squirrel feeders can be pretty intricate.  We like the cheap ones that are simple. The squirrels do enough entertaining for us.


Planting Trees for Squirrel Food

In a squirrel feeder, you can give them shelled nuts, but they also love various fruits and some veggies.

The Best Squirrel FeederHere are some non-nut treats that they will like as much as they like nuts: They are crazy for ripe avocado, but they cannot eat the peel or pit as these are toxic to rodents, only the flesh. They also love fresh coconut chunks. They like raw corn on the cob, and can be cut into rounds for them. Most of them like fresh grapes, especially the red kind. I’ve never seen a squirrel turn down chunks of fresh mango. Pomegranate is a very popular fruit. Almost all of them seem to love it. They like cranberries, too, and in fact they go for all the bitter flavored fruits. They also like apples, oranges, peaches, cherries, etc.

They won’t bury those things as they know they’ll rot. They usually only bury airtight shelled nuts, but they may bury unshelled peanuts and almonds as these keep for a few days in the dirt. That is why having a decent squirrel feeder is important. Soft nuts like pecans or walnuts won’t get buried when given without a shell. They may stash them, but not deeply in the dirt.

Planting an Oak for SquirrelsThe Best Squirrel Feeder

For trees you can plant a native oak. They will seed the neighboring forest with more oak seedlings for years to come. The fastest nut trees to fruit are the dwarf filbert trees, but you must plant at least two since they are not self pollinating. It takes them 3 years to produce a good crop of nuts.

Best Fruit Tree for Squirrels

There is no such thing as a bad fruit tree for squirrels.  They will consume as much fruit off your tress as you let them.

There are numerous varieties of squirrels throughout the United States and North America. Most of them are not considered pests but some find nesting, feeding and playing in your fruit trees utterly irresistible.

Pretty much any dwarf tree will be fast to fruit. Same with the dwarf cherry trees, etc.

Best Nut Trees for Squirrels

But if you plant a nut tree then you give the squirrels more ability to exhibit natural behavior, plus it’s a lot cheaper than filling squirrel feeders.  It’s a gift that will give for years. Granted with a squirrel feeder you get instant gratification. Trees will take a good amount of time to grown and to start producing.

Oaks For Squirrels

If you plant a native white or red oak tree you may be your neighborhood’s squirrels’ best friend. They are ludicrously productive trees, and the squirrels will seed them everywhere when they bury them. They can remember about 70% of their caches. The rest have a shot at becoming trees.

Hazzlenuts For Squirrels

One shrub that is often overlooked in this area is the common hazelnut. Wild hazelnuts grow fast and produce nuts within about 6 years or so. Hazelnuts are the most important nut for foragers because of their quick growth, high yields and the fact that they grow wild anywhere where they’ve been used for hedging or coppicing. That’s practically everywhere. If you’d like to grow some, they mature quickly and can tolerate most soils, although they don’t like to be waterlogged.

The Best Squirrel FeederCan Squirrels Eat Peanuts?

No, they’re not supposed to have raw peanuts. As it turns out, peanuts are not really a type of nut. In fact, they’re known as legumes. Most squirrels do not regularly eat peanuts because they’re a type of food that has poor nutritional content.

Squirrels Will Eat Bones

Squirrels gnaw on animal bones and deer antlers for calcium in the wild.

Squirrels will almost always gnaw on any bone they can find for the extra calcium it provides. Mama squirrels will do this frequently during baby season. Bones can be purchased at a pet store.  But also discarded bones can be a fun treat for them.

Why do squirrels bury their nuts?

Squirrels and chipmunks cache food items that they later dig up and eat when food resources are low. Some species such as gray squirrels scatter their caches, while others like chipmunks and red squirrels cache their bounty in a more centralized location and protect it. They’ll do this even with continued access to a squirrel feeder. Gray squirrels have a highly developed spatial memory and will recover 40 to 80 percent of their caches. The seeds and nuts they do not dig up germinate in the spring and become trees, aiding in forest regeneration.

Squirrels do not hibernate, but they often remain in their nests in cold or stormy weather, venturing out when they need to find food, which they often have cached near their nests. Chipmunks, however, do hibernate and slowly feed on their cached food supply during the winter.

Hoarding is done either on a long-term basis – cached on a seasonal cycle, with food to be consumed months down the line – or on a short term basis, in which case the food will be consumed over a period of one or several days.

Do Squirrels Make Good Pets?

Squirrels almost never make good pets. They can’t be domesticated. It’s not that they are the dumbest animals.  They just don’t seem to care. They chew on everything they can. The are impossible to house train.  Yes it might be just a little urine. But taking them out of their cage almost guarantees you have to clean up something.

The main thing is that, even when they love you, they scratch and bite you every day. Every time you handle them. For example: Their greatest sign of affection is latching on to your face and biting you. It is through sheer luck that he is smart enough to stop doing that because he knows it hurts me.

Phil from Phoenix has kept a house squirrel for many years.  He says, “I’ve talked to a lot of professionals in my research on how to best care for him, and every single one of them is absolutely dumbfounded by our relationship. MOST squirrels are terrible housemates.”

What Do I feed my Pet Squirrel?

Avianda pet hospital has the perfect answer.

Your squirrel needs a balanced diet containing protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals, including lots of calcium. Feed a variety of foods from each category in the amounts indicated. Note: Amounts are for a 450-gram (1 pound) squirrel, and should be adjusted as necessary depending on your squirrel’s weight. For squirrels that are older, overweight, or less active, you should limit foods that are high in sugars, starches, or fat.

2. High-Calcium Vegetables—5-7 thumb-sized pieces per day. Arugula, beet greens, Belgian endive, chicory, chinese cabbage (bok choy), cilantro (fresh), collard greens, dandelion greens, escarole, fennel, kale, mustard spinach, parsley (fresh), purslane, radicchio, radishes, romaine lettuce, squash (butternut; raw or cooked), swiss chard, turnip greens, watercress.

3. Other Healthy Veggies—2-3 pieces per day. Asparagus, artichokes, avocado**, bell peppers (green, red, or yellow), broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carnations, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, mushrooms (1 per week), okra, pumpkin, squash (all types; raw or cooked), sugar snap peas, sweet potato (raw or cooked), zucchini.
*Somewhat higher in sugars/starches
**High in fat; also the skin and pit are toxic
Avoid: Dried vegetables, fresh corn, garlic, onion, palm hearts, potatoes, sprouts, yams

4. Wild Foods—Unlimited while in season. Magnolia cones, pine cones, pine branches and bark, branch tips of nontoxic trees, roses from your garden, wild rose hips, purslane, plaintain, lambs quarters, and dandelion greens can be gathered fresh daily. Look to see what the wild squirrels are eating in your area. Make sure the area wasn’t sprayed, fertilized, or treated with any chemicals.

5. Animal Protein. Live or dried mealworms, crickets, or live moths (2 per day). Another option is eggs (hard-boiled or scrambled, with the shell), cheese, or plain yogurt mashed with some fruit (1 tsp. per day). Mealworms are available live or canned from pet stores and online at http://www.exoticnutrition.com/Treat-Department.htm

6. Fruit—2 slices per day. Apple, apricot, bananas,* blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries* (sweet), cherries (sour), crabapples,* cranberries, grapefruit, grapes,* honeydew, kiwi, kumquats, lemon, lime, mangos,* navel oranges, nectarines, papaya, passion fruit,* peaches, pears, pineapple, pomegranates,* raspberries, strawberries, watermelon.
*Somewhat higher in sugars/starches
Note: Pits and seeds can be toxic, except for berries.
Avoid: Dates, dried fruit of any kind, figs, fruit juice, persimmons, plums, prunes, raisins.

7. Nuts/Seeds—Two per day, preferably in the shell. Acorns, whole roasted pumpkin seeds, and almonds are the healthiest, followed by hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, English walnuts, pecans, pistachios, and peanuts, in that order.
Avoid: Cashews, sunflower seeds, dried corn, pine nuts (will cause severe calcium loss).

8. Something to Chew On. Antlers, tree branches, sea shells, or a walnut-sized rock from outdoors provide trace minerals and keep teeth from overgrowing. A cuttlebone or other calcium/mineral block should be hung on the side of the cage.

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