Some homeowners don’t like to see squirrels in their backyards – it’s as simple as that. Such folks aren’t that interested in attracting these critters, like many people do, and would rather keep them as far away from their gardens as possible.
These medium-sized rodents can and will strip the bark from trees, dig holes, and chew flower bulbs. However, if you decide to provide them with actual food for squirrels, you will be coaxing them away from things you’d like to protect, such as your beautiful flower beds or bird feeders. Feeding squirrels with the right foods means not having to worry about them destroying your prized possessions – you’ll be able to enjoy their acrobatic displays instead.
Fortunately, squirrels are animals with an exceptionally varied diet – they love eating all kinds of different foods. So, in case you’re looking for an answer to the question of what to feed squirrels in your backyard, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to learn all the important things one has to know about squirrel feeding.
How to Attract Squirrels to Your Backyard
As we already said, some people do like to see squirrels in their backyard. The sight of a little squirrel jumping from one branch to another can be really amusing, especially in the autumn when you’re watching these critters from the warmth and comfort of your home.
However, as the winter comes and the food becomes scarce, squirrels don’t go out as much. The reason for this is very simple – the food isn’t as available to them as it is during the other seasons. Is there a resident squirrel population in your neighborhood? If there is, attracting some of these wild animals to your garden shouldn’t prove to be too challenging.
After all, squirrels love to eat – people who provide these critters with the right foods are guaranteed to see them hanging around the backyard on a daily basis. In fact, homeowners with bird feeders in their gardens often have trouble with keeping squirrels away from the backyard.
The main reason because of which there are so many of these animals in suburbs all across the United States is that there are more than 200 species of them. According to ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System), these species are categorized into three categories: flying squirrels, ground squirrels, and tree squirrels. Each of these categories is then further broken down into dozens of different squirrel types, such as Arizona Gray Squirrel or Arctic Ground Squirrel.
In the wilderness, these animals aren’t that fussy about keeping their energy levels up. During the course of a single week, a typical squirrel will eat an amount of food whose weight equals that of their own body weight. In other words, that’s around a pound of food that the wild squirrels need to find somewhere – they will gladly eat any kind of food they can get their claws on.
The easiest way to attract some squirrels to your backyard is to simply purchase a pre-starter pack. These typically include some squirrel food, a squirrel food dish, some additional treats, a water bottle, as well as the nesting box and nesting material.
What to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard?
A lot of homeowners think that squirrels eat only things such as pine nuts and seeds, and they are right to think so. After all, nuts and nuts seeds are things we often see squirrels burying in the lawn (on that note, check out my How Often Should You Aerate Your Lawn? post). When it comes to foods that occur naturally, squirrels eat:
- Tree buds
- Tree flowers
It’s a well-known fact that a diet of a typical squirrel largely revolves around plant materials. But did you know that squirrels can also be carnivores? Certain species of squirrels, such as the Eastern Gray Squirrel, love to eat:
- Bird eggs
- Small insects
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean that those who like to feed squirrels have to keep some lizards and bugs around in order to feed these furry little critters. There are many other foods you can use to feed squirrels on your property.
While not every type of food we’ll list below is natural (such as peanut butter), keep in mind that the increasing interactions between squirrels and humans have significantly expanded the list of types of food squirrels can eat. Squirrels love to eat:
- Pumpkin (and pumpkin seeds)
- Peanut butter
What’s more, a typical squirrel will also love to tuck into certain kinds of biscuits. If you’d love to treat your furry little friends with some exquisite food, you may want to leave out some:
- Shelled nuts, including:
- Peanuts (you can buy both clean and raw peanuts in a bulk)
- Hickory nuts
Not only is food such as hickory nuts extremely tasty for the squirrels, but it’s something that these wild animals can gnaw on. You see, this prevents the squirrels from chewing the bark of your trees while also improving the health of their teeth.
If they could, squirrels would definitely feast on nuts and raw peanuts all day long, but what they actually need is a healthy and balanced diet. Therefore, the trick is in variety – squirrels are just like human children as they prefer carbs over vegetables. By feeding your backyard squirrels with the right kind of food, you’ll be keeping them healthy and happy.
In addition, try to provide squirrels with easy access to water. After all, these cute little critters need water to live a healthy life, and that’s not something they can always easily find in suburban areas. The best way to solve this problem is to simply purchase a squirrel feeder that has some sort of bowl you can fill with clean water.
What do Squirrels Eat?
Squirrels are just like the other common visitors to trees in people’s backyards – the birds – when it comes to food choices. Almost everything can be food for squirrels. You can’t go wrong by feeding squirrels with any type of food from the list below:
- Sunflower seeds
- Tree buds
- Tree flowers
- Pecan nuts
- Pistachio nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Small insects
- Peanut butter
- Leafy greens
- Macadamia nuts
- Cashew nuts
- Bird eggs
- Flower bulbs
All that you’ll need to feed squirrels with the foods listed above is a squirrel feeder. Similar to bird feeders in purpose but not in size, a squirrel feeder is a must for all homeowners who love to feed squirrels visiting the trees in their backyards.
What Not to Feed Squirrels
Now that we’ve determined that squirrels can and will eat almost anything – from corn to vegetables to sunflower seeds – we also have to take a look at all the food that you shouldn’t feed the squirrels with. As it turns out, squirrels are highly prone to metabolic bone disease, or MBD.
In other words, feeding squirrels with junk food is something you should avoid at all costs. Instead, try to feed the squirrels in your backyard with a good diet that consists of properly balanced phosphorus and calcium. In fact, a genuinely healthy diet will contain more calcium than phosphorus, or else the body of a squirrel will try to pull the necessary calcium from its bones and that can easily lead to death.
If there’s a certain squirrel in your garden that acts almost as if it was your pet, you are probably accustomed to having it eat from your hand. Maybe you’ve been feeding it with various fruits, vegetables, corn, various seeds, and even ice-cream. However, you should always make sure to avoid heavily-processed human food, especially junk food.
Even though squirrels enjoy eating peanuts and sunflower seeds in large quantities, don’t give them too much of these. Lots of people think that peanuts and sunflower seeds are the best food for squirrels, but their nutritional value isn’t that great.
In addition, peanuts can harbor dangerous molds – feeding squirrels with too much of these can be very harmful to their health. Almost any other kind of nuts (with the exception of chestnuts and Brazilian nuts) is a better choice to feed the squirrels with than your regular peanuts. Nuts such as pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds are a much better choice, especially when you give them to squirrels in their shells. Also, you may want to steer clear of salted nuts, as these have too much sodium.
In summary, try to look at this issue from a human perspective – people who eat too much food of any type quickly become ill of it. The key is in a varied diet. Just like in the case of backyard birds, you should feed your backyard squirrels by leaving food such as corn, fruits, vegetables, and all the other treats with high nutritional value in the squirrel feeders you have on your property. If your goal is to keep birds off your property, you have to try different methods.
How to Protect a Vegetable Garden From Squirrels
One of the best perks of being a homeowner with a garden is that you can add style and charm to your backyard, where you can plant and water anything you like – from veggies to fruit. Unfortunately, gardens and squirrels don’t get well together.
So, those with backyard gardens may want to protect their veggies and fruits from squirrels by using some netting (of good quality, if possible). However, the best way to protect fruits such as strawberries is to make a greenhouse. The more effort you put into building it, the more protection it will provide against these furry little beasts.
How to Keep Squirrels Away From Bird Feeders
If you’re someone who loves seeing animals in the backyard, you probably have a bird feeder or two on your property that can make your yard even more inviting. Birdies love eating from these and will always gladly come back to check if you’ve left some food in the bird feeder for them.
Since a feeder for birds is often filled with all types of seeds, it’s usually targeted by wild squirrels – they always enjoy a good meal and aren’t that picky about what they’ll eat. Fortunately, you can protect the seeds and fruits in your bird feeder in a number of different ways.
One of the easiest (and the best) ways to do this is to go and get something called a “baffle”. Looking just like your typical light shade, a baffle can be placed on the feeder, where it will provide sufficient protection for seeds, corn, and other goodies and keep the squirrels at bay.
Also, you may want to give something like a simple cage a try or even purchase a pre-made squirrel-proof bird feeder (or make one by yourself). These can be particularly convenient if the seeds, vegetables, or fruit you usually give to birds are expensive.
In case everything else fails, you may need to resort to coating the bird feeder in chili powder or hot sauce made specifically for birds. You can get these online or find a recipe and try to make some by yourself. The birdies won’t be able to taste it, but the squirrels surely will and won’t be coming back anytime soon.
What to Feed Squirrels In Backyard – The Conclusion
In summary, the best food you can lay out for your furry visitors are veggies, fruit, seeds, and nuts. Always keep in mind that critters are opportunistic eaters who are always ready to eat whatever they find – cake, pie, and even ice cream. For that matter, those who want the best for their squirrels should choose the correct types of food to feed them with.
Get a squirrel feeder and fill it with fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds for the critters to snack on or save for later. Getting a feeder with a holder for water, which we’ve mentioned above, is an even better idea and one of the best ways to attract these beauties to your backyard (and keep them away from your flowers).