People have always had a weakness for feeding squirrels. Who can resist it when it comes to those tiny furballs? One of the myths surrounding squirrels is that they only eat nuts, but that is far from true. Unlike humans, squirrels are never picky when it comes to accepting food from us. But, do they eat cooked or human-made food? This brings us to the question.
Can squirrels eat bread? Yes, squirrels can eat bread. There are many videos available online showing squirrels enjoying the bread that people feed them. It is a great source of cellulose, as well as salt and sugar. Since squirrels are so tiny, it is important to be careful in what we feed them and how much we feed them.
Why should squirrels not be given bread?
Squirrels are omnivores, i.e., they can eat both meat and plants. We know squirrels eat seeds, fruits, nuts, and even small insects.
Even when we feed them, we make sure to include only nuts and fruits. Before we get into the details of feeding squirrels with bread, let’s quickly check the major reasons why we should try to avoid including bread on their diet.
So, continue reading to learn more about squirrels and what it implies to add bread to their diet.
Squirrels have a tine digestive system. Bread contains cellulose that their digestive systems cannot handle. Cellulose is a polysaccharide with chains of glucose monomers, i.e., it is essentially made up of 90% of the plant. This means they are low on dietary fiber, which is needed for better digestion.
In spite of having a mostly plant-based diet, squirrels cannot digest the high gluten and high carbohydrate foods that are low on dietary fiber. The squirrel’s stomach will expand and cause digestion issues.
It’s mainly due to these squirrels are known for eating nuts and seeds instead. While bread only contains a dietary fiber of 4.1 grams, nuts can intake dietary fiber as high as 10 grams.
High Salt or Sugar Content
As mentioned before, their tiny bodies are not designed to digest human foods like bread. Along with cellulose, bread comes with high sugar and salt content. Just like sugary or salty junk foods are bad for us, the same reasoning goes for squirrels.
But squirrels can experience much more turmoil if given too much bread. This is because they cannot filter the salt chlorides to keep their digestive process on track.
Myth buster – Why old, moldy bread is not good for squirrels?
A lot of people in neighborhoods tend to feed their old leftover bread to the squirrels. It may seem like a great way to use leftover food so that it isn’t wasted, but this can be extremely harmful to the squirrels.
Squirrels will jump on the chance to receive any food from us. But old leftover bread may have mold on it. This can contaminate the bread with “mycotoxins,” that can make the squirrels incredibly sick. Even just inhaling the moldy spots from the bread can be injurious to their health.
This is applicable to any animal feeding. Throw the bread away immediately if you think there is a smell or mold developing on it.
Squirrels and other tiny animals you may have in your backyard can dig through the trash to find food. So, make sure you properly wrap the moldy bread while throwing it away.
How to Feed Bread to the Squirrels
Bread is not particularly harmful if taken in very small doses. So, you can feed them bread from time to time, but make sure you do so cautiously. Making it a part of its daily diet can affect the squirrel’s digestive system.
As long as you feed them with care and concern, those furry animals can be a great pleasure to have in your backyard.
If you decide to feed bread to the squirrels in your backyard or park, we recommend that you go through the list below. Keep yourself informed of what precautions to ensure that you don’t risk hurting the tiny animals.
The bread should be soft
People tend to include toasted bread in feeding the squirrel. Contrary to some beliefs, toasting the bread will not make the bread easier to digest. Like the nuts’ hard shells, toasted bread crumbs are incredibly hard to digest for squirrels and can put a lot of pressure on their stomach.
Make sure that you are feeding them bread that is still soft and untoasted. Softer bread would be easier for the squirrel to chew and eat.
Do not feed them too much bread
Squirrels do not have weak digestion. So, they can eat bread from time to time. But it is important to not disrupt their well-balanced diet. So, keep the bread feeding to a bare minimum. Do not give them more than 10 grams of bread per day.
What breads to avoid
Just because your bread is “organic” does not imply that it will be healthy for squirrels too. Not everyone will know the exact sugar or salt content in the different bread types. But it is necessary to be aware, so you can determine what bread will be best for your furry friends.
Following is the list that mentions the different bread products you should avoid feeding them:
- Sourdough – high salt content of 1.6 grams
- Garlic Bread – high on sodium and sugar content (3.7 grams)
- White Bread – high sugar content of 5 grams
- Raisin Bread – Raisins have an incredibly high sugar content of 59 grams
- Whole Grain Bread – High on sodium
- Banana Bread – One slice of banana bread contains the total carbohydrates of four slices of normal bread
- Cinnamon Bread – Low intake of dietary fiber and incredibly high sugar content of 25 grams
- Rye Bread – Rich in carbohydrates
- Potato Bread – Has as much sugar as found in a Twizzler chocolate bar
Avoid feeding the squirrels daily
Squirrels are always willing to eat bread, and if you start feeding them daily, they can become dependent on it. You need to avoid over-populating your place with squirrels that may also want to be fed now. People who have ended up feeding the squirrels daily had known to be bitten by them when they forgot to feed them again.
So not only can this affect their diet, but they can become vicious and wild towards you if you miss on feeding them.
Keep the feeding clean
Squirrels can be messy when they try to take away the bread or any other food for that matter. This can leave a trail of bread around your house. Other animals and pets might come and eat in your backyard or balcony. Moreover, it will become a messy ordeal to maintain the cleanliness every time you feed them.
So, it is recommended that when you are trying to feed bread to the squirrel, you keep it on a plate and in small pieces that they can carry in their mouth without dropping it all over the place.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I feed bread to all squirrels?
Just like certain bread products are more harmful than others to squirrels, some squirrels cannot handle any bread at all. Baby squirrels are on a special diet for the first 12 weeks of their life. They can only have milk and no solids.
Eating bread for them can be as severe as life or death. If you see a baby squirrel that looks hungry, give them an electrolyte drink or call the wildlife emergency for proper care.
You can, however, feed bread to a grey or red squirrel. Both are common tree squirrels that can handle eating a small amount of bread.
What do I feed the squirrels if not bread?
There are plenty of other home foods that you can feed the squirrels. The most popular ones are nuts, seeds, and berries. They all have a high intake of dietary fiber, making it the perfect energy-rich food for their diet.
Can other animals eat leftover bread?
If there is no mold on the leftover, then yes. While squirrels and birds may not benefit from the bread, bigger animals like sheep and goats with a more advanced digestive system can handle leftover eating bread.
If the question was just, “Can Squirrels Eat Bread?” then you have a simple answer: yes, they can. But just because they can, does not mean they should.
Unlike what some might think, wild animals, including squirrels, do not require human feeding all the time.
According to The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “wild animals have specialized diets, and they can become malnourished or die if fed the wrong foods. Also, animals cannot distinguish food from wrappers or foil and can get sick eating these items”.
In months like during winter, feeding them some food can be a comfort source. But with little to no protein in bread, it is recommended to look at more viable options like seeds and nuts. It is especially well-received by the squirrels when you give them nuts that still have their shells – you get to see them go nuts on nuts!