Many homeowners enjoy feeding backyard squirrels because they love watching them play and make acrobatic moves. However, when choosing commercial squirrel mix food, it’s essential to understand their dietary needs to ensure they get a balanced diet.
Squirrel mix food comes in various forms and contains nutrients, including proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, to ensure the rodents get a well-balanced diet. A well-formulated squirrel mix ensures that these furry critters receive all the essential nutrients for their growth, energy, and overall health.
Like us, squirrels require essential nutrients for their health and well-being. This article will discuss what to look for, their natural diet, common mistakes in purchasing squirrel food, and how to properly store it.
What Squirrels Eat
Squirrels are opportunistic feeders that eat almost anything. However, a squirrel’s diet consists primarily of nuts, seeds, fruits, plant material, insects, fungi, and bird eggs.
Due to deforestation, they have adapted their diets to include poisonous mushrooms, junk food, pet food, birdseed, trash, etc. That said, not all food is good for them.
Some of their favorite foods consist of acorns, peanuts, walnuts, and seeds from sunflower plants and pine trees. Homeowners consider them pests because they can damage trees and plants when foraging for food in yards and gardens.
They forage for food year-round and build caches throughout their territory for consumption during the winter when food becomes scarce. This behavior, known as caching, helps squirrels survive harsh conditions.
Squirrels can survive without human interaction; in some states, it is illegal to feed them. However, many people feed them commercial mix food because it’s easy and ready to feed without any effort on your part.
Why Squirrel Food Mix?
Wild squirrel food offers the animals and homeowners many benefits, which include:
Natural foraging behavior in squirrels: These rodents spend a large part of their life foraging for food to feed their babies and build caches for when food is in short supply. Providing them with food provides them with diverse nutrients and decreases the chances of malnutrition due to lack of food.
Helps maintain their dental and overall health: Nuts and seeds, the main ingredients in squirrel food, require chewing and grinding. This behavior helps keep their incisors from growing too long. Squirrels’ incisors continuously grow throughout their lives, and they need to chew on objects to prevent overgrowth.
Deforestation and loss of habitat: Squirrels and other animals are having challenges finding food, and according to The Wildlife Trusts, habitat loss is a major threat to red squirrels.
Essential Nutrients to Look for In Squirrel Food Mix
All mammals require a balanced diet of vitamins, minerals, fat, and protein. Wild squirrels acquire these nutrients from various sources, such as plants, trees, fruits, etc.
Whether you’re buying food for a pet squirrel or backyard squirrel, look for food that contains the following ingredients:
- Nuts: This is a staple food for squirrels and contains fatty acids, proteins, and minerals essential for healthy teeth and protective effects against heart disease. The most common nuts are unsalted and unroasted pecans, acorns, hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts.
- Seeds: Another crucial component of squirrel food that contains protein and fat. Some of the best seeds are pumpkin, poppy, and black and striped sunflower seeds.
- Fruits and vegetables: Most commercial foods won’t contain them, but you can add squash, berries, mushrooms, and other healthy vegetables to enhance the nutritional content.
- Dried insects: Insects provide natural animal proteins, which are complete proteins. They provide all the essential acids required for a healthy body. The most common dried insects added to squirrel food are crickets, mealworms, grubs, snails, and other insects squirrels love to eat.
Always read the labels before buying it. Unfortunately, the FDA does not regulate squirrel food, so make sure the packaging states it is safe for squirrels, chipmunks, and other small mammals.
Pay close attention to the ingredient list and ensure it contains no harmful additives or preservatives.
Also, stick to the most reputable squirrel food brands such as;
- Wild Delight – Crunch N’ Nut
- Exotic Nutrition Complete Squirrel Food
- Audubon Park Critter Crunch Plus
- Kaytee Squirrel and Critter Blend
I’ve written an in-depth article on some of the best wild squirrel foods to purchase and why, so check it out.
Things to Avoid When Feeding Squirrels
Shopping for squirrel food is no different than shopping for cat or dog food. We’ll discuss common mistakes people make when feeding wild squirrel foods and what to avoid.
Squirrels thrive on a natural diet, and processed foods can be harmful to their overall health. While not toxic to them, it can result in obesity and other serious health conditions. Some examples include pizza, sugary treats, and foods containing preservatives, artificial additives, and flavors.
If you want to feed your backyard squirrels, purchasing a wild squirrel blend is best to ensure you’re not harming them.
Unlike us, squirrels cannot properly digest lactose found in milk and dairy products. Feeding them too much can result in serious health issues.
How Often Should Squirrels Be Fed?
Avoid feeding wild squirrels every day. This will prevent them from becoming too dependent on humans for food and encourage them to naturally forage and maintain a natural diet.
A pet’s squirrel diet will vary depending on the age and weight. Here’s a sample diet of a pet squirrel for a 450 gram (1 pound) squirrel from Avian & Animal Hospital.
Growing or rehabilitating squirrels may require multiple daily feedings to meet their nutritional needs.
Most commercial squirrel blends will state the exact amounts and how often to feed them, so make sure you read the directions to make sure you’re not overfeeding them.
How to Store Wild Squirrel Food?
Store the food in a cool, dry place to maintain freshness and prevent spoilage. An airtight container works great because it preserves the food’s quality and taste.
These critters eat a lot daily, and a big bag of food won’t last long, especially if you’re feeding them often. So you won’t have to worry about it spoiling before they eat it.
You can buy premade squirrel food online or at local pet stores. Opt for foods from reputable brands, as these foods will contain the essential nutrients the small rodents require.
When making your own squirrel food at home, it’s important to understand the primary ingredients to ensure you care for your backyard and pet squirrels and provide them the essential nutrients and vitamins they need for a well-balanced diet.