As a poultry farmer, you’ve probably gone through several bags of chicken feed lately, concerned about whether your chickens are the only ones enjoying it. Or maybe you’re a new chicken farm owner with squirrels as backyard visitors. Will squirrels eat chicken feed? How do you prevent it?
Chicken owners can lose up to 50% of their chicken feed to wastage and other creatures. Chicken feed is attractive to several other animals, including squirrels that eat almost everything. Unfortunately, squirrels will eat your chicken feed, steal chicken eggs, and then destroy feeders and feed storage containers.
Do Squirrels Eat Chicken Feed?
Yes, squirrels eat chicken feed. Organic chicken feed typically contains organic wheat, corn, fish meal, barley, flaxseed meal, peas, sesame oil, soybeans, and much more. Although most of these ingredients are far from what they consume in their natural surroundings (hard nuts, vegetables, fruits, seeds, etc.), they are tasty to the squirrels since they can eat almost anything.
Even with security measures on your farm or back yard, if squirrels are hungry enough, they will stop at nothing to devour your chicken feed. These cute, gluttonous mammals are known to dig, chew, and claw their way through wooden and plastic coops, storage sheds, bins, and feeders to get to the prize feed.
Chicken farmers lose a lot of money running through more bags of chicken feed than usual because of feeding their chickens and unintentionally squirrels. They must come up with practical ways to prevent squirrels from eating the feed.
How Do I Keep Squirrels Out of My Chicken Feed?
The primary reason squirrels keep coming back to eat your chicken feed is that they are sure of an existing supply. You might have bits of food all over the yard, or they can easily access your coop and storage containers. The ultimate solution to keeping squirrels out is making sure there’s no sign of the chicken feed anywhere when they show up. You can do this in the following ways:
Don’t Store Feed In Bags
Chicken feed typically comes in 50-pound sacks. These large bags are made from a material that may seem sturdy and reliable. Unfortunately, these bags are no challenge to squirrels, nor are any other bags you may transfer the feed to. If squirrels can destroy wood and plastic, the bags won’t survive.
A squirrel’s sharp teeth can easily rip a huge supply of feed. Storing chicken feed in bags is like throwing away money. When you get the feed, transfer it immediately into containers that squirrels will have a hard time destroying.
Use Metal Containers With Lids
When you buy your chicken feed, ensure that you store it in a galvanized metal, airtight container that can withstand a squirrels’ sharp, gnawing teeth. Like most poultry farmers, you can use metal trash cans. Any other metal containers can work for this.
Beware of garbage cans’ lids that do not close securely enough on the can. Squirrels will easily knock them off. Ensure that the lid can lock securely.
While some poultry farmers may opt for plastic containers, it’s not a good idea. These will only work temporarily as squirrels will eventually chew holes into them.
Pick Up Any Spilled Food
Any food debris in your yard or coop is an open dinner invitation to squirrels. Ensure that you keep the coop and food storage clean from the chicken feed at all times. Be careful not to spill any feed on the floor or surrounding area while scooping out your chicken’s daily portion. If any feed spills, sweep it up immediately.
Once the squirrels know where and when the feed is stored, they will make a habit of visiting. If they come around and realize there’s nothing for them, they’ll stop showing up after a few more tries.
Squirrels don’t give up easily. They’ll keep coming around to check. Your consistency with cleanliness will force them to look for other food sources elsewhere.
Put The Feed In A Building
Storing the feed in a building not only keeps it safe from contamination and spoilage but hungry squirrels too. If you don’t have a designated storage building, you may need to build a shed with extra protection against squirrels. Ensure that it is cool and dry, and there are no holes, however small they may seem.
The shed door must be able to close securely so they can’t squeeze through. If you’re storing the feed in your home or barn, inspect the building’s exterior to ensure there are no possible entry points.
Use the Right Type of Chicken Feeder
A treadle-style feeder is a great choice to keep the squirrels away from your chicken feed. This automatic feeder is made from galvanized steel and requires a chicken’s weight on a pedal to open it so they can access the feed in a trough. When the chickens step off the pedal, the steel door shuts, preventing squirrels from getting into the food.
This feeder works best for full-grown chickens because baby chicks can quickly get stuck when the bigger chicken step off the pedal. The feeder limits the possibility of spilled feed, so the squirrels aren’t attracted to your yard or coop to steal feed.
This feeder also keeps the feed covered at night. You will need to train your chickens on using the feeder as it is noisy when in use, but most chickens learn quickly.
Remove Chicken Feed from Coop at Night
Never leave the feed in the coop overnight. After all, chickens are only awake and active during the day. They don’t need food or water at night as they are asleep.
It might be an inconvenience to move the feed into the coop every day, but it’s a bad idea to leave it in the coop. It attracts hungry squirrels that will stop at nothing to get into the coop. When they get in, they won’t only eat the food but destroy the coop and attack your chickens.
Squirrel Proof Your Chicken Feeder
Sometimes, your efforts to deter squirrels from your yard, farm, or coop may fail. We’re talking about tenacious creatures that don’t easily give up when they are hungry. In this case, you should have a squirrel-proof chicken feeder.
You can squirrel-proof your chicken feeder by adding chicken wire to the base and around the feeder. Wiring, such as plastic bird netting, hardware cloth, or chicken wire, can keep squirrels out of your chicken feeder.
Ensure that you bury the wire deep enough so the squirrels can’t dig under it. The wires should be close together to keep them from squeezing through it.
You can also mix the chicken feed with cayenne pepper or garlic as a deterrent. Squirrels hate the smell and taste of pepper and garlic. You have to be consistent with mixing the feed.
You can’t take for granted that they won’t come back after smelling the mixture the first time. If you are consistent, they will eventually give up and stay away. Don’t worry. The cayenne pepper and garlic won’t affect your chickens as their taste buds aren’t sensitive.
Depending on what kind of chicken feeder you have, you can modify it to keep the squirrels from taking feed out. It would be easier to purchase a new efficient feeder, but if you’re able, find a way to attach a galvanized steel cover to protect the feed when the chickens aren’t feeding. Squirrels can gnaw through materials like plastic and wood but not steel.
Squirrels love eating chicken feed, especially when they can’t find sufficient natural food like nuts and vegetables. They are usually attracted to the chicken feed because of the debris in and around your coop. Poultry farmers make it easy for squirrels by using unsecured storage methods like feed bags and sheds with holes where they can easily squeeze through.
At the slightest indication of chicken feed, these ravenous creatures will not spare anything to get to the bulk of the food and eat to their fill. The best way to prevent this is to remove any signs of the feed around your coop by cleaning, secure storage, using the right feeder, and taking the feed out of the coop overnight. Some poultry farmers use methods like trapping the squirrels, but this is not effective as others will keep coming.