Some people don’t want squirrels in their garden full-stop. You might not be looking for how to attract squirrels, but rather how to keep squirrels away. Squirrels can chew away at flower bulbs, dig holes, and strip the bark from trees. But if you provide food for them, you can coax them away from your prized flowerbeds and enjoy their acrobatic displays instead of worrying about how to keep squirrels out of pots, or away from bird feeders.
Fortunately, the grey squirrel has such a varied diet that they’ll eat a whole bunch of different foods. So, if you’re wondering what to feed squirrels in the backyard, look no further; we’ve got you covered with some ideas below.
Squirrels in the Backyard
I love watching the squirrels bounce from branch to branch in my backyard, especially in the fall when the leaves droop and you can watch the display from your windows. But if food is becoming scarce, then you might not see them around all that much. And this is a common problem in the winter when food is less readily available for them.
If you have a resident squirrel population in your area, then attracting squirrels to your backyard should prove too difficult. They love to eat, and providing the right kind of foods is a surefire way to invite them over for a picnic. In fact, if you’ve got a bird feeder set up in your garden, chances are you’re already seeing visits from these furry friends.
Out in the wild, squirrels are not fussy about keeping their energy levels up. They’ll routinely gobble up around their own body weight in food each and every week. That’s about 1 lb of food that these critters are going to need to source, meaning they’re not shy about eating anything they can get their hands on.
What to Feed Squirrels in Backyard
You’d be forgiven for thinking that squirrels only eat natural nuts and seeds, after all, that’s what you’ll routinely see them burying in the lawn. In terms of naturally-occuring foods, they’ll also hoover up tree flowers, tree buds, cedar, hackberry, elm, mulberry, pine, and spruce, among other things.
While a large part of their diet does revolve around plant materials, they are also known to be carnivores. The Eastern Gray Squirrel will tuck into small insects, bird eggs, and even amphibians. But don’t worry, we don’t expect you to keep small lizards around for when squirrels get hungry. Thankfully, there are a whole bunch of other foods you can feed squirrels in the backyard.
Though some of these foods may not be natural, the increasing interaction between humans and squirrels means that the little critters get treated to even more foods than ever before. You can lay down peanut butter, corn, squash, pumpkin, strawberries, carrots, and zucchini, to name but a few. They’ll even munch their way through certain types of biscuits – the nuttier the better!
But if you really want to dole out the treats, you should consider leaving out some shelled nuts, such as walnuts, acorns, beechnuts, and hickory nuts. Not only are they tasty, but they also give them something useful to gnaw on. This both improves their tooth health, while preventing them from chewing on something you find valuable or destroying your trees’ bark.
What Do Squirrels Eat?
- Bird eggs
- Bird seed
- Cashew nuts
- Flower bulbs
- Kiwi Fruit
- Leafy greens
- Macadamia nuts
- Peanut butter
- Pecan nuts
- Pine nuts
- Pistachio nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Small insects
- Sunflower seed
- Tree buds
- Tree flowers
What NOT to Feed Squirrels
I know, I know; we’ve already established that squirrels are ready to eat pretty much anything, so why are there foods that we shouldn’t feed these little guys? Well, this species is prone to something called MBD, or Metabolic Bone Disease. If they feast on too much junk food, they could be put at risk of health complications – perhaps they’re more similar to us than we think!
Honestly, you could probably hold out an ice cream cone and they’d probably lick the cream from your hand, but you should absolutely steer clear of heavily-processed human foods. Also, you’ll want to avoid overdoing the sunflower seeds and peanuts. Many people think these are great for squirrels, but the truth is that they have poor nutritional value, plus peanuts can harbor poisonous mold that is bad for squirrels.
Protect Your Vegetable Gardens From Squirrels
As we’ve alluded to above, squirrels have no reservations about eating their way through a stash of vegetables. And of course, these little beasts have the power to dig through the ground, which is why you’ll often see them storing food under the surface in winter. So, if you’ve got a budding vegetable garden, be sure to protect it with netting – just remember that squirrels are some of the most adept climbers around!
I’ve had a real tough time trying to grow strawberries, as the squirrels in my backyard love destroying them before they’ve ever had a chance to grow. To be honest, the best way I’ve found to protect my vegetables is to house everything inside one of those greenhouses you can put together yourself on a budget. You can grow our ‘5 must-grow vegetables for a self-sufficient garden‘ and keep them safe!
How To Keep Squirrels out of bird feeders
Unfortunately, those squirrels aren’t too picky about what they eat and they’ll happily dive into your bird feeders. If you want to know how to keep squirrels out of bird feeders, you can protect your bird feeders in a bunch of different ways.
You can pick up something called a ‘baffle‘, which is a little like a light shade that fits over the feeder and prevents squirrels from breaking in. Cages work just as well, or you can just go all-out and buy a purpose-build, squirrel-proof bird feeder.
If all else fails, then try coating your bird feed in hot sauce or chilli powder – it’s also a cheaper solution. While birds can’t taste these things, your squirrels won’t be coming back for a free meal in a hurry.
Storing Food For Squirrels
Squirrels are cheekier and more intelligent than you might give them credit for. They’re completely capable of busting into your food stores through doors, windows, or gaps in the roof if you don’t properly seal the store. So, you should be careful about where you keep your squirrel feed and make sure all gaps and spaces are filled in.
So, in a nutshell – get it? – you should aim to lay out vegetables and nuts for your furry visitors, especially the shelled kinds. But steer clear of processed human foods or too many sunflower seeds and peanuts. And make sure that you’re securely storing away all your food.
Also, consider a squirrel-proof bird feeder that won’t be routinely raided by the squirrels if you want to ensure that your birds stop paying a visit. In the meantime, if you’ve thought of any novel ways to protect your bird feed or vegetable patch, or you make your own squirrel food, drop us a comment below!