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What to Feed Squirrels in Backyard

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Are you wondering what to feed squirrels in backyard? We have several squirrels around our house so we wondered what would be good to feed them. In this article, I’ll share what to feed squirrels in backyard, but if you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer.

You can safely feed squirrels nuts and veggies.

Living in Florida, we have squirrels everywhere and rarely have to worry about what to feed them because they can find so much abundantly available from our yard. We have acorns, shrubs, and strawberries that they snack on (much to our dismay).

But if your area isn’t as full of things for them to eat, there are a few things you can make sure you have in your backyard for them.

Callosciurus caniceps caniceps - Kaeng Krachan.jpg
By JJ Harrison (jjharrison89@facebook.com) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

What do squirrels like to eat most?

Nuts

Nuts, especially nuts still in their shell are the best for these critters. Squirrels like nuts and adapt to eating whatever nut falls in their area. We have a lot of acorns in Florida, so the squirrels are super busy in the fall gathering them up and stashing some away for the lean months ahead.

When you see a squirrel digging in the ground, she’s either burying food for later, or is going back to her stash to find the buried food that she stashed before.

Fruits and Veggies

Anyone growing a garden will tell you that squirrels like lots of different veggies and fruits.

If they are eating from your garden, then they will eat pretty much any vegetable that you grow. I know that I have a hard time growing strawberries because they like to eat them before I have a chance to really grow any.

We did a quick and easy project of growing strawberries and placed the planter on our new half fence and the squirrels are loving that new location

squirrels like strawberries

Squirrels are like humans, in that they are omnivores. That means they eat plants and meat. They are fine with eating nuts, fungi, seeds, and will eat some eggs, small insects or even small snakes.

In the wild, they aren’t picky eaters and will eat whatever they can find. A squirrel will eat its weight every week. For most of them, that averages out to about a pound a week of food that it needs to find. Squirrels like any kind of nuts in the area. In Florida, our squirrels love the acorns that fall.

They will also gnaw on timber, deer antlers, twigs, and leaves to help with their mineral intake balance since they can suffer from metabolic bone disease. MBD is a disease where the squirrels bones weaken over time.

Nut Square/Ball

what do squirrels eat?
Photo by Kylli Kittus on Unsplash

If you’re wanting to go an extra step, you can make a batch of nut squares that are specifically made for squirrels. Here is the basic recipe.

First take the rodent chow, and crush it up into a powder or tiny chunks. You can use a hammer to do this.

Put the following ingredients into a large bowl and stir:

  • The crushed rodent block
  • Small hazelnut, pecan, or walnut pieces, and a handful of sunflower seeds.
  • Some hazelnut or walnut oil (optional)
  • A bit of cornmeal (optional)
  • Soft, plain suet
  • Mix in some peanut butter for taste – you have to judge how much… If you can’t smell peanut butter, they probably won’t eat it.
  • Next, add a bit of flour to get a sticky dough consistency. That’s what will hold the ingredients together.
  • Mix or knead well.
  • Roll the dough into small balls about the size of a walnut, or into a cookie form.
  • Roll into some nuts or sunflower seeds.
  • Freeze well.

Here’s another recipe for you to follow if you prefer.

Water

Squirrels need a lot of water. If you have a bird bath, they’ll use that. If you can try to offer a fresh source of some kind, not too close to your house. You don’t want them getting too comfortable being close to you.

Squirrel Feeders

Why Feed Squirrels

Some people choose to feed the squirrels as an attempt to keep them from eating other things in the backyard that they don’t want.

For instance, many people try to feed the squirrels away from their bird feeder or from their gardens. Sometimes people just like to watch the squirrels in their backyard. They can also keep other unwanted animals out of your backyard, like songbirds.

If you also like feeding birds in your backyard, be sure to find some squirrel proof bird feeders, with weight activated perchs. Then get ready to enjoy watching the determined squirrels try to figure out how to foil the feeder.

What Food Not to Feed Squirrels

Peanuts – Be careful about feeding them any peanuts, especially raw peanuts. Peanuts are legumes and the shells can get a mold that’s toxic for the squirrels. This was pretty surprising since most people say to feed them peanuts. They can have some, but make sure the nuts are roasted if you do throw some out for the critters.

Corn on the Cob – People like to feed corn to the squirrels, and the squirrels do like them. Unfortunately, the don’t give the squirrels any real nutritional benefit and are low on the minerals needed for their diet.

Sunflower Seeds – Same problem with sunflower seeds. This is pretty much junkfood for the squirrels. So if you do feed them these ites, make sure to limit them.

Is it Safe to Feed Squirrels

I’d say it’s pretty safe to feed the squirrels indirectly. I wouldn’t try to hand feed them or anything, but you can add feeders and areas to your backyard where the squirrels can get the food.

Our best friend watched a baby squirrel drop out of a tree and nursed it back to health. It was fine for a while. But they are very feral, and the last time she tried to handle the squirrel, it bit her hand to get away.

They also carry their own types of parasites and fleas, so show caution when replenishing the feeders. You could set up a place in your backyard for the squirrels to eat so that you can keep your distance, here we go over five of the best squirrel feeders!

Is It Illegal to Feed Squirrels

Many ask what to feed squirrels and if it’s safe, but you’ll also want to check with your municipality to see if it’s legal.

There are many reasons that they don’t want humans to feed squirrels. They don’t want squirrels to become dependent on humans. If the squirrel species is not native to the area, then it could cause problems with the local wildlife and vegetation. Overpopulation can happen.

Check with your local area to see if feeding squirrels on purpose is illegal.

Conclusion

So there are the basics of what to feed squirrels. The squirrels will love you for putting some of these items in your backyard for them to feast on. Especially during the winter months if they failed to properly stash enough away.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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20 Comments

  1. I found this to be very informative. We were feeding our squirrels roasted peanuts in the shell but recently our neighbor asked us to stop as her small child has a severe peanut allergy and was picking up the peanut &/or shells and having a reaction. We will find other alternatives thanks to your article. We also feed the birds all year round. Thanks.Li

  2. Interesting note about not feeding squirrels peanuts.
    I have put out a variety of nuts and seeds and the squirrels in my neighborhood definitely prefer raw peanuts in the shell. I mixed in some shelled peanuts and they do not care for that much. And blanched peanuts they will not eat. I will mix in some roasted peanuts and see how they like that in my next batch.
    They absolutely will not eat dried corn. I tried some of the Audubon Park Critter crunch and they will eat most everything in the bag but not the corn.

    1. Well our squirrels in CA eat shelled peanuts and the middle part of corn kernels, dried & raw. The LOVE to steal our avocados as well. And they love the large sunflower seeds. Maybe it’s a geographical thing.

      N.

  3. I have 3 squirrel feeders in my yard. We feed peanuts in shell and corn on cob. Can hardly keep up putting out food. We love to watch their antics. and, they do not bother the birds at their feeders.

  4. I had a pet squirrel for 7yrs. I trained her by putting nuts farthest out on my deck. Then just kept bringing them closer & closer to my slider door.

    Do not want to make this to lengthily – so I will just give you the end result.

    Eventually she did come into our FL room. She sat on our laps, we fed her petted her & she really trusted us.

    I could call her name & she would come running out of the woods. She never left our FL room to wander in house.

    One time I called her & she jumped on the railing on the deck & I was petting her & I felt a tick. I said Petie wait here, went in got boiling water & tweezers & pulled 7 ticks off of her & she never budged – she just sat there & let me do it.

    I am not suggesting that anybody else do this as I do know they are feral, but she made 7 happy yrs for my husband & I. We really loved her.

    1. The squirrels that I have been feeding peanuts to are adorable.I understand that peanuts are not good for them so I will stop.Also my neighbor does not like them burying them in his garden!So what can I do?What can I feed them?what will they eat and not bury?They all have different personalities!Spending a lot of time in my apartment getting to know creatures.How do I wean them off peanuts?thank you,h

  5. I have an abundance of roasted walnuts and pecans (in the shell) leftover from the start of the year. Are they safe to feed to the squirrels in my back yard?

  6. I Feed the Squirrel’s in our area. Hve to that will take the peanuts from my hand. they show up every morning. one stands by the door. and whenI have come home from the store one will follow me back and forth from the car to retrive groceries, they are not scared and they are not dependent on me for there food.

  7. I just wish people would stop saying peanuts and corn are bad for squirrels, I’ve being feeding them for years and years a mixture that I make myself, mix nuts, corn, wild bird seed , peanuts in shells that humans eat, corn that chickens and pigs eat , bought at co op – the yellow whole corn , not crushed, and they love it! Every spring they start preparing their nests, have 2 squirrel nests I made, they will have 2 litters every year, both nests will be used, they will not overeat on corn and peanuts, at night a racoon will take the left over corn and peanuts, they all will eat while I am in the garden, one will follow me, but I do not approached them, I ignore them, they would run away for my wife and kid, if I am late with food, or did not feed for 2 /3 days they would all sit and watch the living room window, after a while they would just go play and look for food elsewhere,

  8. Yes, squirrels can eat bread. That being said, you should avoid feeding them bread, as some bread contain more sugar than candy and is not a good diet for them. They are NOT picky eaters, however, cellulose is found in most bread and squirrels have a hard time digesting this dietary fiber.

  9. LOVE watching and feeding our grey squirrels here in Long Beach, CA. Had a feeder on my tree for years. The kind with the lid they had to lift to get the nuts. Until one day the city came to my door. Unfortunately, they made me take it down. A neighbor had complained. (I think the squirrels were burying nuts in his garden pots) Here in Long Beach, I was told, it’s illegal to feed the squirrels because they are considered wildlife. But I was also told I can feed the birds all day. So now we changed the feeder and everybody is happy!

  10. My husband and I take our apple cores out and put them on the top of our wooden swing set. We also keep a bowl of water that we regularly change with fresh water. We’ve seen the squirrels eating the apple cores and drinking water from the bowl so we know they like it.

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