Do you love these clever rodents? Do you hate how they steal your birds' seeds, but feel sorry for them when they're frustrated by the baffle you put up? Try adding a dedicated squirrel feeder! A squirrel feeder that's easier to access and full of food they love will help keep your bird feeders available for your birds, as well as provide you daily entertainment.
How to set up your squirrel feeder:
First, reverse everything you know about keeping the squirrels off your feeders. Don't use a baffle. Set up your feeder close to a tree, on a pole, or less than four feet from the ground. Use a feeder with a large platform or easy to grip surface, like a screen feeder. Squirrels are fantastic chewers, so if the food is difficult to remove and your feeder is made of wood or plastic, they will quickly destroy it. Lastly, try to make it a little bit of a challenge to get at the food, or limit how much you put out each day, or you'll just have the little gluttons camping out. Not much fun to watch!
What to feed your squirrels:
Squirrels are mostly nut and fruit eaters, though they'll happily take an Oreo from you. Don't feed them Oreos! The most common foods fed to squirrels are peanuts, corn, and sunflower seeds. None of these are great for squirrels (low nutritional value), especially if that's all they're eating. It's important to give them a variety of food. The best food you can provide for them is the same food they seek out in their natural environment- tree nuts in the shell. Walnuts, hickory nuts, white oak acorns, beechnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans. Providing them in their shells is great for the squirrel's teeth and jaw, though it may be difficult to buy such nuts. If you're able to collect them yourself, great! If they're shelled, that's okay. You're still providing them the best nutrition. And yes, you can still feed them peanuts (roasted, NOT raw), corn, and sunflower seeds in moderation. Think of them as snacks. A water supply is also very welcome!
- GOOD: Tree nuts (esp. in shell) such as walnuts, beechnuts, hickory nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, and white oak acorns. Also fruits and vegetables such as apples, grapes, strawberries, broccoli, or squash. Fresh water.
- OKAY: (in moderation) Sunflower seeds, corn, roasted peanuts, pumpkin seeds.
- BAD: Cashews, bread, raw peanuts (may contain a dangerous fungus. Also, raw peanuts contain trypsin inhibitors which cause severe malnutrition in squirrels when they are a large portion of their diet), and any junk food.
Some Tips for Squirrel Feeding:
- Keep squirrel feeders away from windows! Squirrels can chew through a screen in no time, and now you have a squirrel in your house.
- Keep squirrel feeders away from bird feeders, especially if you don't have baffles on them yet, or if the bird feeders are near your windows.
- Don't let the squirrels know where the rest of the food is stored! If they can see or smell the food inside your house, they will chew through a screen to get it. And once they know screens can be chewed through...let's just say some of us don't have screens on our windows anymore.
- After feeding them for a while, you may notice they start to approach you when you go outside. Fun! Soon they come sit on your steps and look at you, waiting for their handout. So cute. Then you notice they surround your car when you want to leave, so you start keeping a container of seeds in your car so they'll let you go to work. Squirrels are good at training humans.
How to Keep Squirrels Off Your Feeders
Alright, now that we've explained in detail how to feed your rodents properly, we can discuss how to keep them away from your bird feeders. The very first thing you need to do is hang your feeder on a pole away from buildings and (especially) trees. Squirrels can leap horizontally up to 8 feet, so they'll happily scale your gutters to fling themselves at that feeder you put right next to your window. If you hang a feeder from a tree, your squirrels will empty it. A squirrel or raccoon baffle is your second line of defense. Attach it to your pole so that the top of the baffle is at least four feet above the ground to prevent them from leaping over it. And that's about it. If they're still getting in, try moving your feeders, raising your baffle, or offering them their own designated easy-to-access squirrel feeder.