Feeding squirrels and using nest boxes

Grey squirrels can either be considered cute or a problem, with some people liking them in their garden and others seeing squirrels as a nuisance.

If you'd like to encourage squirrels to your garden, here's how to create an environment that's suitable for them.

Creating a good habitat for squirrels

You can make your garden more suitable for squirrels by:

  • Planting trees in your garden, such as oak, beech, sweet chestnut and hazel,  which provide habitat and food for squirrels
  • Not chopping down tree branches, which might affect active squirrel nests and hurt squirrels and their infants
  • Ensuring bird feeders are 'squirrel-safe' and that squirrels can't get trapped inside
  • Taking extra care to tidy up any litter or netting, which could entrap wildlife

Is it OK to feed squirrels?

Before feeding squirrels, think about whether it's likely to cause problems for them, for you or for your neighbours at a later date. In many cases, it's better to let them find their own food, and there should already be plenty of it if there are squirrels living in your area. A better way to encourage and enjoy wildlife in your garden is by planting suitable trees and leaving wild areas alone.

It's also important to remember that giving squirrels food could put them in danger, for example:

  • Encouraging them to cross a road, where they could be run over
  • Eating from feeders that make them vulnerable to cats.

If you start feeding squirrels, they could also become reliant on artificial food sources. Providing extra food could also increase the local squirrel population beyond its natural capacity. An increase in the number of squirrels will lead to an increase in the demand for food and shelter, which could cause issues for other people around you.

What to feed squirrels

If you do want to feed your local squirrels, give them unsweetened and unsalted nuts such as:

  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts (that are aflatoxin-free)

You can also give them some fruit and veg, including:

  • Chopped apple
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Green beans
  • Bean sprouts
  • Celery
  • Shredding food can prevent issues with squirrels burying food in your garden for later.

Remember to clean feeders and feeding stations regularly and replace the food to reduce disease risks.

Hand-feeding squirrels

It's not a good idea to attempt to tame grey squirrels by hand-feeding them or handling their young. This will make it difficult for them to survive in the wild. Enjoy wildlife from a distance to see them behaving naturally.

Squirrel nest boxes

Providing nest boxes can increase the number of grey squirrels in your area, which will lead to an increase in the demand for food and shelter. This could be a problem for you and other people in the area. It's best to let squirrels choose the most suitable area to build their own nests.

If you do decide to provide a wooden nest box as a potential winter nesting site for squirrels, it needs to be a larger version of a bird nesting box with a hinged sloping roof. The dimensions should be around:

  • Back height: 60cm
  • Front height: 50cm
  • Width: 28cm
  • Depth: 25cm

Provide an entrance hole, approximately 7cm square, in the top back corner of a side panel rather than in the front of the box. Securely place the nest box high up in a tree, at least 6m off the ground.

Follow the links below to learn more about helping the squirrels and other wildlife in your local area.

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