What to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard?

what to feed squirrels in your backyard

Squirrel lovers around the world know how enjoyable and fun it can be to feed our furry friends and watch them enjoy our backyard treats. Unfortunately not all treats are healthy for squirrels, and can be bad for their little digestive systems. With that being said, you may be wondering what to feed squirrels in your backyard that will be healthy and good for them. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

You should only feed squirrels food that they could normally find in the wild on their own. These foods include: Nuts, Seeds, Vegetables, Fruits, and Insects.

While some foods are better than others, we can all agree that squirrels enjoy nuts. Not only is this a common stereotype, but it’s also pretty true. As it turns out, even if they do prefer nuts, squirrels are not picky eaters. They will eat pretty much anything you leave out for them.

Still, since they are wild animals, you should make sure you only feed them appropriate food that will be nutritious and delicious for them and not break the bank for you! So we’ve cooked an ultimate guide on the best squirrel food topped with homemade recipes and everything you need to know!

Table Of Contents

Should You Feed Squirrels?

Before we delve into the wild kingdom cuisine, it’s important to discuss whether or not you should be feeding squirrels at all. Let’s not forget that they are wild animals! As a consequence, there has always been a debate going on around this topic.

Of course, there are two sides to this, and we think that it’s best to consider both.

Normally, squirrels should be treated exactly as what they are – wild animals. That being said, feeding them could lead the animals to believe that there is a source of food available for them at all times, which will stop them from finding food on their own. Not only that, but they could alert their mates as well that this bounty exists.

This is also the reason why people are not encouraged to interact with squirrels even if they are feeding them. Any interaction could make them lose their fear of people which might turn them aggressive.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, the answer is somewhere in the middle. You can feed squirrels if you want to, but try to be neutral about it. For example, never use wood or plastic feeders, because the squirrels will simply tear them apart.

You should also place the feeders as high as possible or in a place that’s difficult for them to reach. This will make it seem like they have to work for the food, just like they do in the wild.

And, of course, do not interact with the squirrels! This means never feed them from your own hand, do not let your pets play with them, do not touch them in any way and don’t take selfies with them. Your Instagram account is fine as it is. It’s important to remember that squirrels are wild animals and they need to remain that way!

Tip – feeding squirrels in public parks is not legal!

Squirrels Favorite Foods

Let’s talk about what squirrels eat! Because yes, they eat a lot more than just nuts. As a species, squirrels are omnivores. Which means they are designed to eat pretty much anything, including meat. And they will do it since they are curious in nature and prepared to eat anything that comes their way.

Apart from that, squirrels and humans have been sharing the same habitat for a very long time now. This has resulted in squirrels trying even more fine dining dishes, so to say, that would not have normally been in their diets. Examples include vegetables, sugary sweets they find on the ground or in the garbage, cereal or even dog food. If you thought racoons will eat anything, you haven’t watched the squirrels in your backyard close enough!

But should you feed them all that? Of course not! And just what to feed young squirrels? Let’s talk about the best squirrel food you can offer and they should be eating.

Squirrel Foods List

  • Fruit – they eat any type of fruit such as pears, avocados, peaches, grapes, plums, and even citrus. They also love fruit that is not native to their geographical area such as cantaloupe, bananas, and cherries because the high sugar content gives them a boost. Plus, they’re delicious!
  • Berries – in the wild, squirrels will pick up berries such as strawberries, blueberries, mulberries, blackberries, etc.
  • Leafy greens – much to the chagrin of farmers – kale, lettuce, arugula or chard.
  • Vegetables – like beans, tomatoes, squash, corn, eggplant, okra, peas, etc. Just about anything really!
  • Cereals – even though it’s hard to believe, this includes sugary cereal just like the ones you have for breakfast. Of course, that would never be in their diet in the wild, but they love the sugary boost and they are not harmful!
  • Cheese – any kind available which provides fat they store for the winter.
  • Nuts – this is the food we most associate with squirrels because it’s the one they love the best. They mostly eat and store nuts in their tree holes.
  • Birdseed – if you’ve ever had a birdfeeder in your backyard, you will know that this is the best squirrel food. They will simply decimate it before any birds have the chance to get to it.
  • Insects – not their favorite thing on the menu, but squirrels will eat caterpillars, grasshoppers, and crickets if they’re easy to get and there is nothing else available.
  • Fungi and lichen – not only do they eat it, but they absolutely love mushrooms, have a taste for the expensive ones, and have developed a way to savor them! Squirrels adore truffles and oyster mushrooms and will leave them to dry before eating them. Fancy!
  • Eggs, meat, and dog food – even though squirrels don’t enjoy eggs that much they will eat them if there simply isn’t anything else. They will also eat small birds or snakes even though meat is definitely not the first thing they would have given a choice. Squirrels have also developed a taste for dog and cat food that people leave out for their pets. However, please note that it is not healthy for them. Which brings us to this.

What Not to Feed Squirrels

Knowing what these little cuties don’t eat is just as important as knowing what they like. And, believe it or not after that long gourmet list, there are a few things.

  • Raw onions and garlic – this is something they have in common with many animals.
  • Jalapenos, chilis, and anything spicy – what they don’t like and will harm them is the thing that makes the chillis spicy, called capsaicin.

But here’s an interesting thing. What they hate is very different from what you should or shouldn’t feed them. That is a topic we’ll get into right now!

What to Feed Squirrels in Your Backyard

We’ve now seen the long list of what foods squirrels enjoy eating. It goes from truffles to snakes and it has been quite a journey. But that doesn’t mean all the things they like to eat are good for them!

As mentioned earlier, their diet is a result of their curious nature mixed with the fact that they’ve been living with humans for far too long. Therefore, if you want to feed your squirrels, do it the healthy way. Here is the best squirrel food.

To put it as simply as possible, your feeders should only include what food a squirrel could find in the wild. This means the following:

  • Nuts – any kind you can think of. As mentioned earlier, not only do squirrels love nuts, but they store them for the winter, so you will be doing them a favor. When providing nuts, you make sure squirrels are getting healthy fats, fiber and proteins.
  • Seeds – any type or mix you want. This is what makes up the large volume of a squirrel’s diet. However, you will need to mix things up once in a while because only feeding squirrels seeds means depriving them of calcium and causing them to gain weight.
  • Vegetables – they are not able to find them in the wild, but squirrels will go foraging for vegetables all day long. Therefore, add sweet potatoes, corn, and some peas to the feeder to make the best food for squirrels.
  • Fruits – squirrels love to climb fruit trees as much as possible because the reward is delicious. Fruit is the best squirrel food. Go for apples, cantaloupe, and berries but only a few times and in limited quantities. Otherwise they risk getting diarrhea.
  • Insects – some people are against this practice because it teaches squirrels to stop hunting on their own. However, if you want, you can incorporate crickets and mealworms into the nuts and seeds in your birdfeeder for added protein.

Homemade Squirrel Food

If you want to be the Gordon Ramsey of squirrels, we have a few recipes for homemade squirrel food that will have all the squirrels dining at your feeder.

Delicious Squirrel Nut Balls

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of peanut butter – unsalted and organic
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 2 tsp flour

*please make sure not to replace any of the ingredients so as not to harm the squirrels.
**dehull all the seeds and only use the unsalted and organic kind.

Steps:

  1. Mix all your ingredients in a bowl.
  2. When the dough sticks together, start forming small balls the size of a nut.
  3. Place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake for 3 hours until they are hard and dry.
  5. If need be, let them dry for an additional 8 hours on your kitchen counter.

Crunchy Corn Quarters

Ingredients:

  • A few tbs of peanut butter
  • A few tbs of lard
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup peanuts – use unsalted ones
  • 1 cup whole corn kernels

Steps:

  1. Melt the lard and peanut butter in your microwave or on the stove mixing constantly.
  2. Add the rest of the dry ingredients.
  3. When the mixture is ready, spread it out onto a pan that you have previously lined with parchment paper.
  4. Press everything down with a spatula.
  5. Allow the mixture to cool off at room temperature until it’s completely hard.
  6. Cut it into quarters that will fit your feeder.

Budget Options – Cheap Squirrel Food

All of this sounds amazing and the little red furries in your backyard will love it. This is, after all, the best squirrel food. But what if you’re on a budget? What can I feed squirrels in my yard? There’s no need to worry because as it turns out, this is a win-win situation where you and the squirrels in your backyard can help each other out!

In other words, you can use the squirrels as a way to live waste-free. And feed them at the same time, of course! This means you can give them a vast array of healthy foods without actually spending money or putting aside any food for them.

For example, when you throw away things, sort it out first. Save your apple cores, leftover bread, granola, cereal from the breakfast table, toast, cucumber peels, and every organic bit and piece you would naturally throw away. What you can do instead is put it the feeder because your squirrels will adore it!

In this way, you won’t have to compost it, you won’t be wasting anything, and you won’t be spending any money for the best squirrel food!

Please remember that everything you save has to be organic and clean. The food must not be spicy, salty, processed or have added sugar!

Did you know? – squirrels feel emotions just like us! According to studies, squirrels can feel anger, happiness, frustration or curiosity!

Baby Grey Squirrel Food – What Do I Do Now?

If you find a baby squirrel on the ground you should only pick it up as a last resort. More often than not, baby squirrels are not abandoned, even if they are alone at that particular moment when you encountered it. The mother could be looking for food or it could be in the process of making a nest. Leave the baby where you found it for another 10-12 hours and monitor it so that nothing happens to it.

If the mother doesn’t come back, you can pick it up, but you still shouldn’t keep it. The best thing to do would be to find a vet willing to care for it or a sanctuary willing to take it in. Baby squirrels need three months of constant care before they can be released into the wild.

Taking the baby squirrel and caring for it yourself should only be your last resort! That should happen only if you notice it is dehydrated, injured or its mother has not returned.

What do you feed baby squirrels? In terms of nourishment, the best squirrel food for a baby will be formula, which you can make using puppy milk. Here are the feeding stages.

  • Add one part powder puppy milk to a mixture of salt and sugar water – 3 parts.
  • Add two parts puppy milk to two parts liquid.
  • Move on to three parts puppy milk to one part liquid as he becomes accustomed to the nourishment.
  • Use only puppy milk for the rest of the time.

Please understand that this is a temporary solution and that you cannot keep a squirrel as a pet!

Best Squirrel Food You Can Buy

Natural, organic food is the best because it replicates what squirrels can find in the wild. Homemade recipes are tasty and present the squirrels with a mixture of protein, calcium, sugars, and vitamins they need. But what about some store-bought squirrel food for the people who want to make sure they are giving their animal friends only the best? Here’s a great selection!

Audubon Park Critter Crunch Wild Bird and Critter Food

This gourmet option is made of a mix of black oil sunflower seeds, corn, whole peanuts, and peanuts. In other words, everything that squirrels love the most, as we’ve already seen.

Not only that, but this fine dining experience is custom made so that you can feed rabbits, chipmunks, deer, woodpeckers, quail, chickadees, and jays as well. Which means you can help all the wildlife around your area, not just the squirrels in your backyard!

Pros

  • Great for other types of animals as well
  • Made in America
  • All natural

Cons

  • High content of corn in the mixture

Kaytee Peanuts in Shell for Wild Birds

Don’t let the name fool you because once the squirrels in your backyard get a whiff of this, there won’t be anything left for the birds! And they won’t be the only ones. Kaytee Peanuts in Shell are perfect for chipmunks, woodpeckers, birds, bluejays, and more.

But what really makes it the best squirrel food is how healthy it is for wild animals. It has a high protein content that will promote growth as well a high fat content which will give them energy. The peanuts also have minerals and vitamins as well as a fantastic taste and a very rich texture.

Pros

  • A very healthy food choice
  • Perfect for other animals as well

Cons

  • The peanuts are raw

Check current price right here!

Wagner’s Cracked Corn

This is as close to nature or the wildlife as you will ever get when it comes to the best squirrel food! All you have to do is pour Wagner’s Cracked Corn into your feeder on its own or mix it with other nuts and seeds and watch how your animals friends feast on this wild squirrel food.

The best thing about it is that is has a friendly formula which can be approached by more than just squirrels. You can also feed rabbits, pheasants, grouse and ducks, and a whole array of wild birds.

Pros

  • Perfect for squirrels and wild birds
  • Natural food that can be found in the wild.

Cons

  • Some of the kernels might not be cracked.

Check current price right here!

What Squirrel Feeders Should I Use?

It ultimately depends on the type of food you’re planning on feeding to your squirrels. Even so, here are some examples that might inspire you.

Best Squirrel Food – FAQs

We’ve made it to everyone’s favorite place – the FAQ section where all your questions will be answered. Here are some of the most common ones!

Do squirrels eat meat?

Yes, they do. They can eat insects, small birds, and even snakes. But it’s not their favorite food and they don’t naturally go looking for it in the wild. They only reach for it as a last resort when they can’t find nuts, seeds or fruit. Therefore, please do not feed your squirrels meat!

Are squirrels herbivores?

No, they are omnivores, which means they eat everything from fungi and lichen to cheese and meat. Herbivore would mean they eat plants, which they do not. As a result, plants are not the best squirrel food.

Are squirrels primary consumers?

Yes, in the wild they are primary consumers given the fact that they eat nuts, seeds, and berries. However, since they have been living in close contact with humans they have turned into omnivores.

Are squirrels decomposers?

No, they are not. Decomposers are animals that eat dead plants or animals. Squirrels are not known to have such habits. Therefore, please do not feed anything of that nature to the squirrels in your backyard.

What smells do squirrels not like?

Smells that discourage squirrels include pepper, cayenne, and coffee grounds. Which is why they also make fantastic natural deterrents. However, this is true of most animals.

Is bread bad for squirrels?

No, bread is edible to squirrels as long as it’s organic and it doesn’t have a high sugar or salt content. However, make sure to check all the pieces of bread you leave out for your squirrels. If they are moldy, the squirrels can catch salmonella.

Conclusion

The fact that you want to feed the squirrels in your backyard or help a baby squirrel in need is absolutely fantastic! The fact that you only want to give them the best squirrel food is even better!

But always remember that squirrels are wild animals whose lifestyles you should not change. As beautiful, smart, and remarkable as they are, they need our help but also deserve to be in nature!