When wild squirrels forage tree nuts or fallen nuts, it’s a good thing. When we feed squirrels nuts, it can range from being a fine activity, to downright dangerous.
Obviously, no one looking to feed squirrels for a fun time would purposely harm a squirrel or cause young squirrels to lose their bone mass and become paralyzed.
But it can happen when squirrels eat too many nuts that are high in phosphorus and low in calcium.
An acceptable Calcium to phosphorus ratio for a squirrel is at least one-to-one.
We have created this free resource where we rank nuts by nutritional value as it pertains to squirrels. In just a few moments, you’ll learn why certain nuts are extremely dangerous for squirrels, while others are ok.
And if you LOVE feeding squirrels like we do, we’ll lead you to better options.
Table of Contents - Click to Open
- Best Nuts for Squirrel Feeding
- Why are roasted almonds better for a squirrel than raw?
- Most Dangerous Nuts for Squirrels
- 30 Nuts for Squirrels – Ranked Worst to Best for Nutrition
- 30 Nuts Plotted on a Graph
- Tips for Feeding Nuts to Squirrels (that help keep them healthy)
- Healthiest Way to Feed Nuts to Squirrels on a Budget
- Rancid Nuts for Squirrels – Do Not Feed
Best Nuts for Squirrel Feeding
The best nut to feed squirrels would be blanched or roasted almonds. Hazelnuts are a close second, followed by raw almonds and acorns. These nuts give squirrels the best chances for maintaining healthy calcium levels.
This image shows nutritional data of the top nuts for feeding squirrels. If we look at just the ratio, they are all really closely matched.
It’s also worth having a look at the actual mg per 100g data. As you can see, the European Chestnut and Acorn have much less overall. This can make it easy to make up calcium with other foods or supplements.
Why are roasted almonds better for a squirrel than raw?
It’s because almonds become more nutritionally balanced for squirrels after roasting or blanching. As you can see from the chart, roasting raw almonds gives them an increase of 27mg of calcium and a reduction of 18mg phosphorus.
That is much closer to the ideal balance of 1 to 1 for nuts. The best balance for squirrels (overall) is 2 to 1, but that’s just not possible in nuts.
Almonds & Oxalates
Almonds are also high in oxalates which are considered “anti-nutrients” because they bind to good nutrients, rendering them unavailable.
One of the nutrients they bind to is calcium, so that’s a problem for squirrels.
However, almonds lose a lot of these oxalates during the blanching or roasting process. (1).
Most Dangerous Nuts for Squirrels
Pine Nuts, Cashews, Dry Roasted Peanuts, Hickory, Raw Valencia and Chinese Chestnuts are among the worst nuts you could feed a squirrel if you’re trying to keep it healthy.
As you can see from the graphic, these 5 nuts are really bad for squirrels. That doesn’t mean squirrels won’t eat them.
They will devour them (kind of like how we devour cookies) and therein lies the problem.
When these bad nuts are fed in abundance to squirrels, especially store-bought pine nuts, it’s hard to correct the imbalance.
30 Nuts for Squirrels – Ranked Worst to Best for Nutrition
Now let’s have a look at the most common nuts available for feeding. We came up with 30 familiar nuts that people like to feed squirrels and we ranked all 30 in a list and plotted them on a graph.
In order from BAD to GOOD
- Pine Nuts
- Peanut Butter
- Dry Roasted Peanuts
- Hickory Nut
- Valencia Peanut – Raw
- Chestnut – Chinese Roasted
- Chestnut – Chinese Raw
- Chestnut – Chinese Dry
- Pistachio – Raw
- Brazil Nut
- Pistachio – Dry Roasted
- Pinon Nut
- Virginia Peanut – Raw
- Chestnut – European Roasted
- Chestnut, – European Raw Unpeeled
- Chestnut – Japanese Dry
- Chestnut, – Japanese Raw
- Chestnut – European Dry Peeled
- Chestnut – European Raw Peeled
- Acorn Dry
- Acorn Raw
- Almonds Raw
- Hazelnuts AKA: Filberts
- Almonds Roasted
30 Nuts Plotted on a Graph
If you’re more of a visual person, here are the 30 nuts plotted on a chart.
This chart also includes the nutritional data you’ll want to know when feeding squirrels.
Tips for Feeding Nuts to Squirrels (that help keep them healthy)
Wild squirrels are less likely to have calcium deficiency problems, but it can creep in when humans repeatedly feed large quantities of bad nuts.
To offset any ill-effects, here are some tips that will help tip the scales toward being nutritious:
- Offer nuts with some cabbage, arugula, papaya or orange sections
- Choose nuts that are ranked higher for squirrels
- Offer nuts still in the shells
Offering nuts in the shells will slow down consumption and will also help to prevent tooth overgrowth. It also limits how many nuts a squirrel can carry at one time.
Captive & Pet Squirrels
Malnutrition is a common problem with pet squirrels and squirrels in temporary captivity (like wildlife rehab).
Here are some tips for preventing problems:
- Pick the best nuts possible
- Until you know the squirrel, limit nut intake to 1 per day
- Offer high calcium foods before feeding nuts
- Watch closely for lethargy or lack of interest
- Use calcium supplements as needed
Healthiest Way to Feed Nuts to Squirrels on a Budget
The best way to feed squirrels nutritious nuts, without breaking the bank ,is to get the bags of mixed nuts, still in the shells.
In most areas, these bags of nuts are just about everywhere and contain a good mix of walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts and brazil nuts…you know the bag.
Keep these around for winter squirrel feeding and you’ll be giving the squirrels better nuts and with the added benefit of a much needed tooth file.
Rancid Nuts for Squirrels – Do Not Feed
The final thing to watch for is feeding squirrels nuts that have gone bad.
Because nuts are loaded with precious fats and oils, nuts do go bad rather quickly, compared to other foods.
Before feeding squirrels, go ahead and try the nuts yourself. Our palettes are highly sensitive to rancid oils and you’ll be able to tell if they’ve turned.
If so, skip it. Rancid nuts are going through oxidation, which leads to peroxidation and that’s all bad news for squirrels.
Feeding nuts to squirrels can be as rewarding as it is entertaining.
Think of squirrels like toddlers. They will eat candy all night long if you let them.
That means it’s up to us to provide a balanced meal whenever possible.
If you’ve come this far, I applaud your commitment to feeding squirrels better nuts! Even though they can’t thank you for the nutrition, they will be better equipped to handle their daily adventures.
For that, I do, thank you!
We invite you back to our homepage for more resources about squirrels.