We have a lot of fun feeding squirrels at our house. If you are just starting to feed squirrels then here is a strong chance you are trying to figure out inexpensive foods that they will love.
One common question I see about feeding squirrels concerns their choice of food, specifically people want to know, “Do Squirrels Eat Corn?”
Do Squirrels Eat Corn?
The answer is, “Yes. Squirrels love to eat corn, either fresh or dried. Squirrels will typically eat the germ portion of the kernel and discard the bran.”
What Kind of Corn do Squirrels Eat
Squirrels are not picky eaters and will eat just about any type of corn that you put in front of them. I have seen squirrels eat:
- Dried Earn Corn
- Fresh Sweet Corn on the Cob
- Kernels of Processed Canned Sweet Corn
The one type of corn that I have never been able to get my squirrels to eat is old fashioned “Indian Corn”.
If you are feeding the squirrels in your backyard then dried corn is the most affordable food choice. You can also feed the squirrels corn on the cob with one of our Picnic Table Squirrel Feeders or feed them loose corn with a box feeder.
Dried corn is incredibly inexpensive IF you can purchase it from a farm supply store. These stores are selling corn as feed to cattle, pig and horse farmers who need inexpensive food for their livestock.
Dried corn gets considerably more expensive if you buy it from a Big Box store that has it packaged as pet food.
Is Corn Good for Squirrels?
Whether or not corn is good or bad for squirrels is a question that sets off an interesting debate.
When a squirrel eats a kernel of corn it will eat the nutrient dense germ and throw away the starch laden bran (source). The germ is composed primarily of oils and a variety of proteins (source).
The issue is whether or not it is healthy for a squirrel to eat such a nutrient dense food.
Why Some People Say Corn is Bad for Squirrels
On one hand the argument is that if a squirrel’s diet is composed primarily of nutrient dense foods then it will end up overweight and unhealthy. While I can appreciate the logic of the argument it is not particularly compelling as the argument projects human behavior onto squirrels.
That is, if squirrels spent their day binge eating the germ from corn kernels and streaming Netflix then they would end up fat as pigs. But that isn’t what squirrels do. Squirrels eat until they are not hungry and are highly active throughout the day.
Why I Say Corn is Good for Squirrels
The reality is that squirrels lead a hard life.
Most squirrels never live past their first year due to two main factors:
- Eaten by Predators
- Lack of Food
I have covered the topic of squirrel predators elsewhere and want to focus on the impact of food availability upon squirrel mortality.
One of the key factors that determines whether a squirrel survives a winter is the availability of food. Squirrels spend most of the autumn gathering and stashing nuts, fungi and other food sources in various caches so they will have a winter food source.
Squirrels will also gorge on available food in autumn in an effort to create internal fat stores. The fat stores serve both as an energy source and a layer of internal insulation.
Feeding squirrels corn can help them bulk up and add the needed fat layer. The corn can also serve as a supplemental food source that allows squirrels to stash more of their natural food sources for winter consumption.
Given that squirrels are highly likely to get killed by predators, or starve to death during the winter, I am not concerned that they might eat too many corn kernels and get a little chubby.
Special Considerations Regarding Corn For Squirrels
There are two cases where I readily acknowledge that feeding corn to squirrels can be harmful.
- Molded Corn
- Canned Corn
Molded Dried Corn Can Be Deadly To Squirrels
Corn that is not fully dried (moisture content in the 20% range), or dried corn that has been stored under conditions of high humidity, can become moldy and are a source of mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are toxic to most animals.
If your corn is moldy then do NOT feed it to squirrels.
Canned Corn Can Be Too Salty For Our Squirrel Friends
Canned sweet corn is typically processed with a high level of salt. I do not know the level at which a high amount of salt is bad for a squirrel but, given the wide array of other foods you can feed squirrels I do not see a reason to feed them something loaded in salt.
Other Snacks Squirrels Like
Besides corn, backyard squirrels enjoy a wide array of foods and snacks.
Favorite squirrel foods:
Fruits: apples, grapes, broccoli, watermelon, peas, strawberries
Vegetables: carrots, cabbage, potatoes, avocados, kale
Nuts: walnuts, hickory nuts, white oak acorns, peanuts, pecans, pistachios