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Tips For Feeding Squirrels

By Edited Nov 26, 2016 1 5

Squirrels are often consider a nuisance and are looked down upon many, especially those who are trying to get a lot of birds to visit their feeders. However, feeding squirrels can be a lot of fun and many of them will learn to get really close with a few of them forming lasting relationships with those who feed them regularly. This can be a lot of fun and a great experience for kids of all ages. Feeding squirrels can be inexpensive and give you something to look forward to.

Friendly Squirrels.
Many squirrels have a fair amount of positive experience with people and as such they are friendly and likely to come close. Some will even eat right out of your hands. Over time they can form relationships with people who feed them in their "neighborhood". This can be a great discussion starter and if you have people who walk in your neighborhood it is even likely that they will stop to help you feed them and for some friendly conversation.

Mama Squirrel.
We fed a lot of neighborhood squirrels while I was growing up with varied degree of friendliness. Many of them enjoyed eating out of our hands and came back regularly. But none of them matched the relationship we built with Mama squirrel. Mama started out like other the others. We would toss her a peanut, she would get it, bury it, and come back for more. Over time she got closer and closer to us and we tossed the peanuts shorter and shorter distances. Finally the time came when she took a peanut right from our hands. But it didn't end there. Over the years she became our friend. She would let us pet her; she would eat on our lap; she would even let us touch her belly while she was pregnant (something she was a lot). Mama was so friendly and enjoyed getting fed so much that she would knock on the door when no one was available if there wasn't any food out for her. She would also sit in the tree and chatter until someone came to feed her. For three years she was our friend and we loved her. It was an unforgettable experience.

Feeding Squirrels.
While there is never a guarantee that you will find a "Mama squirrel" in your area, you will find squirrels that are friendly and you will find some of them come back again and again. Plus you could end up with one that will eat out of your hand or more.

What to Feed Them.
There are a lot of food options for feeding squirrels in your area. General food options can be seeds and nut mixes. You can get a wild life mix or a bird seed mix that has a variety of seeds and nuts. Choosing something with larger seeds is always a good idea. Seeds and nut mixes will allow you to leave food out for your furry friends, but won't allow you to feed them from your hand.

Other options include peanuts in or out of the shell (in the shell is a great way to go). This will allow you to feed them by tossing the nuts to them and getting them closer and closer. Eventually you should even be able to get some of them to take the nut from your hand. You can buy other types of nuts, but that can be expensive. If you have a walnut tree in your area you can collect the nuts from there and use those as well.

Finally you can use peanut butter. This can be a good option after the squirrel has had some time to get to know you and has started taking nuts from your hand. Use a spoon and put some peanut butter on it. Hold the far back of the handle and offer the spoon to them. Many who are used to getting close will take the peanut butter off of the spoon.

You can offer other types of food and some squirrels really enjoy popcorn and different types of bread. However nuts are your best option for getting them close, at least until they have gotten to know you and are willing to take food from your hand.

Getting Them Close.
Getting them close is the funnest part about feeding squirrels (and often other types of wildlife as well). It takes time and patience, but it can be often be done.

  1. Get nuts. Choose something in the shell and they will be more likely to bury it and run back for more. This is of great advantage to you.
  2. When a squirrel comes around you should head outside with your nuts. Toss one nut at a time toward them. Try to get them interested, but don't offer too many nuts (keep it to one if you can).
  3. Once they have taken a nut and either eaten it or buried it, offer another one. This time get it a little closer to you.
  4. Continue to offer nuts, one at a time, getting them closer and closer to you.
  5. If they will get about one or two feet in front of you, you can offer the next nut by outstretching your arm (get it as far from your body as you can).
  6. If they take the nut from your hand you have come a long way. If not then gently drop it in front of your outstretched hand, but leave your hand there and see if they will take it that way.
  7. Either continue on till you run out of nuts, they get bored and leave, or you run out of time.

Additional Tips.
  • Always move slowly. Don't make sudden moves, don't jerk back, and try to keep your movements smooth rather than jerky.
  • Be quiet. You can talk to them, but use a soft gentle voice.
  • Be patient. It will take time. Actually it will take a lot of time and may even take them visiting several times before they get close.

Forming Relationships.
If you become a dependable source for food then you will form relationships. It is that simple. It requires that you be patient and be willing to work at it. Buy your food sources in large quantities so that you always have some on hand. If you run out then get some in a short period of time. If you wait a long time, then the squirrels are more likely to move on in search of other food sources.

Having furry neighborhood friends is a lot of fun. Your kids are likely to enjoy it and as long as they are old enough to keep somewhat quiet (many squirrels will get used to them being a little loud, it will just take them longer to get close) then you can build friendships easily for a few dollars a week. Plus this gives you a great excuse to spend some time relaxing outside!



Oct 25, 2009 9:12am
A terrific piece on squirrels. There are squirrels in my area and one in particular that is very friendly. I can't quite bring myself to feed him/her out of my hand just yet though. I have to confess I'm afraid I'll get bitten. (Two other websites I've seen warn against feeding by hand.) Someday I'll have the courage. I like what you say about forming relationships with the animals. Thank you for the very interesting article. Best wishes.
Feb 23, 2010 10:32pm
For friendly squirrels(I have only done this with chipmunks), lie down on your back and put a peanut in your mouth. So cool!
Oct 24, 2010 11:40pm
I love squirrels and have had a lot of fun feeding them in a huge variety of ways. However, I would never recommend trying to get it near your face. I wouldn't recommend that with wild chipmunks either...
May 20, 2011 11:10am
It sounds like you had a wonderful experience with squirrels! The only thing I would suggest is feeding pecans and local nuts instead of peanuts-- it can seriously harm their digestive system, and peanut butter especially is bad for them. Also make sure the neighborhood you are in is low in predators-- often socialized squirrels will not learn to properly fear cats or hawks, or think a dog is a friend with a snack. It really seems like this was a memorable experience, though, you are very lucky!
Apr 2, 2013 3:38am
I love squirrels and I live right next to a common. I go there all the time. There are lots of squirrels there and i always feed by hand. It is quite easy to tame them as long as you're patient. I feed them bread most of the time because I feed the ducks and swans first. I always throw pieces first until it gets quite close and then I keep the bread in my hand and it will eventually take it. The good thing about going to places like commons is you get to make relationships with even the ducks and swans because one summer, the mother duck let me come really close to her ducklings while they were sleeping but then loads of young kid came over and started counting the really loudly so they went away. But you can tame squirrels really easily and I don't know why people hate them so much!!
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