Many people take great pleasure in creating feeding spots for local bird life. Be it sprinkling seeds and crumbs, having a dedicated bird feeder, or hanging fat balls. Unfortunately, the buffet you leave out for the birds will inevitably attract squirrels. You may be wondering if the fat balls, in particular, are safe for them to consume.
Fat balls consist of vegetable oil, lard, or suet, mixed with various nuts, grains, seeds, and sometimes dried mealworms. These are part of a squirrel’s dietary intake, making fat balls safe and beneficial for squirrel consumption, provided they are not contained in a plastic mesh covering.
Caring for and feeding local birds or squirrels is an admirable undertaking. However, putting food out for one will most certainly attract the other.
But is the food you leave out safe for a squirrel?
There are, in fact, several kinds of food that birds consume that may not be ideal for their bushy-tailed friends.
Which Animals Are Fat Balls Aimed Towards?
Birdie balls are a treat used to feed birds. They are often hung up in trees or bird feeders. Although that might be the aim, your bird feeders will attract squirrels, mice, and possibly rats.
There are no rules regarding your garden wildlife and feeding habits. Every animal takes what it can get when food sources are scarce. And if you are a regular feeder, your local bords and squirrels may have become accustomed to depending on the food you leave out for them.
What Are Fat Balls Made Out Of?
Fat balls or suet balls consist of millet, wheat seeds, or other grains bound together by suet or fat. Store-bought fat balls may have a slightly less varied grain selection, whereas homemade fat balls can contain pretty much any grain, seed, and nut of your choosing.
The fat or suet is the hard raw fat found around the kidneys of cows and sheep. You can opt for vegetable shortening if you prefer a fat not derived from an animal.
That being said, it’s not safe to put just any old thing into your homemade fat balls, especially if you intend to have squirrels nibbling at them.
What Does A Squirrels Diet Consist Of?
Before making your own fat balls, it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the dietary habits of your furry friends.
Don’t be fooled by the cartoons depicting squirrels as animals only forage for nuts and seeds. Squirrels are, in fact, omnivores which allows for them to eat both plants and meat. In the right environment, they have a very well-rounded diet and are not known to be fickle eaters.
Seeds and nuts are a large part of their food intake, as well as fungi, berries, fruits, flowers, bulbs, vegetables (except onions, garlic, bell peppers, and chilies), tree plants, eggs, insects, and some even eat small snakes.
Squirrels are also known to consume up to a pound of food each week. So you better keep an eye on your feeders!
Because squirrels are pretty quick and agile, it’s easy for them to get their tiny paws on any available food source and make off with it.
Squirrels may not be discerning when it comes to the food they scurry off with, especially as the weather begins to get colder. Certain foods are not the best for squirrels; some are just toxic.
If you intend on feeding your garden buddies or have other food sources that may be easily accessible, look at the list below to give yourself a better idea of what is safe and what is not.
Foods That Are Not Ideal For Squirrel Consumption
Keep these items in mind the next time you feed squirrels or if you may be prone to having exposed foods in the vicinity.
- Foods with a high processed sugar content
- Foods containing sodium
- Dried corn kernels
- Pine nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Cashew nuts
- Starchy foods (i.e., potatoes, rice, pasta, bread)
- Dog or cat food
- Foodstuffs from your trash can
- Avocado skin or pit
- Fruit pits or seeds
- Wild mushrooms
- Sour or moldy corn
Important Things To Note With Homemade Fat Balls
You will find an endless variety of online recipes and videos for suet balls; however, many of these will contain things mentioned on the list above.
Homemade fat balls are also often contained in a mesh-like covering (similar to those used for citrus fruits). This covering is intended to deter squirrels as the openings are large enough for a bird’s beak. But as we know- squirrels will find a way to get to the food.
Given that they have sharp claws and strong teeth, this plastic covering won’t hinder them but instead pose a health risk (or choking hazard) to the squirrels. So instead, place your fat balls in a squirrel feeder.
The Benefits Of Fat Balls For Squirrels
Fat balls will be incredibly beneficial to squirrels all year round, especially in the winter when specific naturally occurring food sources may be scarce.
With the fat content and other ingredients, fat balls will contain a high-calorie count that will see them through the cold and provide them with enough energy to maintain body heat.
People are cautioned against leaving fat balls out during the hotter months as the heat could cause the balls to rot and become toxic.
Store-bought fat balls may contain a few ingredients that aren’t the healthiest options when consumed in large quantities but shouldn’t pose a significant health risk.
If you would rather not have squirrels nibbling at the fat balls, place them in a squirrel-proof feeder. Otherwise, you can make your own suet balls that are safe for both squirrels and birds.
Putting them in individual feeders would further ensure that both animals reap the benefits.
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