Feeding squirrels and using nest boxes

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

If you would like to encourage squirrels to your garden, create an environment suitable for them.

Feeding squirrels

Before feeding squirrels consider if it could cause problems for them, you or your neighbours at a later date.

Providing food for squirrels could put them in danger, for example:

  • encouraging them to cross roads resulting in them being run over
  • or eating from feeders that make them vulnerable to cats.

Potential population issues

They could also become reliant on artificial food sources, and providing extra food in the area could increase the local population beyond its natural capacity. An increase in the number of squirrels will lead to an increase in the demand for suitable sources of food and shelter and could cause issues for other people around you.

Squirrels are good at finding their own food

In many cases, it's better to let them find their own food. Areas you find squirrels around should have a sufficient natural food supply. A better way to encourage and enjoy wildlife in your garden is by planting suitable trees and leaving wild areas alone.

What you can feed squirrels

If you want to feed squirrels go for unsweetened and unsalted nuts such as:

  • hazelnuts
  • walnuts
  • almonds
  • peanuts (that are aflatoxin-free)

You can also give them some fruit and veg:

  • chopped apple
  • carrots
  • spinach
  • green beans
  • bean sprouts
  • celery

Shredding food can also prevent issues with squirrels burying food in your garden for later.

Feeders and feeding stations need to be cleaned and have the food replaced regularly to reduce disease risks.

Hand-feeding squirrels

Attempting to tame grey squirrels by hand feeding them or handling their young will make it difficult for them to survive in the wild, so it's always best to avoid doing this. Enjoy wildlife from a distance to see them exhibit their natural behaviours.

Create a habitat for squirrels instead

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

Nest boxes increase squirrel numbers

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

If you want to use a nest box

If you do decide to provide a wooden nest box as a potential winter nesting site, it needs to be a larger version of a birds nest box with a hinged sloping roof.

Dimensions (approximately):

  • 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.

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