Grit Blogs > News From The Nest In Rural Pennsylvania

Saving Squirrel Babies: Unexpected Additions

Lori DunnIt was a normal Friday afternoon at our house. My husband, Jim, had gotten home from work around 4:00. We usually have a Friday ritual of going to the bank and the grocery store to pick up any items we might need, and sometimes go out to eat. Hubby was on the phone, so I decided to go collect the eggs awhile. That way, when he was off the phone, we could leave. I grabbed the egg basket and away I went.

We have to check for eggs late in the afternoon because about half of our hens are late layers. I stepped into the chicken house and was gathering eggs when I realized I was hearing a noise. It sounded kinda like a high pitched squeal or whistle. My first thought was, “Oh, there is a nest of baby birds close by.” I dismissed it as that, and started back about my business. In a couple minutes, the noise got louder and more demanding. I listened again, giving it more of my attention now and I realized this was not baby birds but something else. I looked out the door that the chickens use to go in and out of the chicken house, and I saw all of our ducks and chickens with their faces pointing the same direction, intently staring directly on the other side of the fence. I knew that whatever was making the noise also had the attention of our poultry. I finished gathering the eggs and walked around the back of the fence. There, on the ground, squealing their little heads off were three baby squirrels that had obviously fallen from the nest. It was very windy, cool, and raining. I’m not sure if the wind blew them out of the nest or if they crawled out and fell, but it really didn’t matter. As soon as I saw them, I scooped the poor little darlings up and brought them in the house to show my husband and to warm them up. They were still pretty small. They did have some hair on them, but not completely covered, and their eyes and ears were stilled closed.

The New Baby Squirrels

We are not strangers to taking care of baby squirrels. About three years ago, my husband found a single baby squirrel that had fallen out of the nest not far from the same place these three did. We decided then we were going to try to save that one too. We got online and looked up info on how to determine the age of the baby squirrel, and how and what to feed them. The info was not difficult to find. We were to use a syringe, remove the needle of course, and fill that with the formula to feed the baby squirrel. We needed to get puppy milk replacer, available at our local pet store. That squirrel we named Spunky. It was very easy to teach him to drink from the syringe, and he did very well. We fed him the recommended amounts, and after a few weeks, we started to wean him on to solid food. He ate things like seeds and dried fruits and nuts.

Spunky the Squirrel

I have to say here that I do NOT recommend keeping wild animals as pets. It was and is our intention to raise these babies up, re-introduce them to the wild, and set them free. When Spunky was big enough, we started taking him outside every day.

Spunky the squirril in the hyacinth

My husband built a squirrel box for him and attached it to one of our trees. He took to the box, and eventually he started staying out all the time. He would still come to us for peanuts, but he was doing fine on his own. Spunky was a success. He still comes to our bird feeders, three years later.

Spunky the squirrel in his squirrel box

Now back to our new babies. As I said, we were familiar with what we needed to do, but these babies were a bit smaller than Spunky was, and there are three of them instead of one. We went to the pet store and got the milk replacer. Once again, it was very easy to teach the babies to drink from the syringe. So far, these babies are doing fine. If they continue to progress the way they have been, I have high hopes that they will be just as successful as Spunky was.

It is, however, more of a challenge trying to deal with three baby squirrels as opposed to one. They are adorable and getting more rambunctious every day! On advice from my niece, Jordan, we have named the squirrels Alvin, Simon, and Theodore! Those names fit them very well! Now if we can just convince our cat Belle, who is not happy with the situation, that these babies are just temporary residents…. No worries, the squirrels are completely safe from Her Highness!

lori
8/10/2009 9:02:15 PM

Martin, I've sent you an email. Go to this site, http://www.squirrels.org/t_raising.html .It will tell you what you need to know! Good luck with your baby, and keep me updated!


martin_2
8/10/2009 8:14:12 PM

A newborn squirrel just appeared on the ground this morning and was being consumed by maggots. We cleaned it up and have gotten to take milk from a rubber ear srynge. Now that I read your description will go out and get some formula. It's got practically no hair and has not opened it's eyes. What are the chances of survival? I need to prepare my twin 5 year olds for whatever comes next.


lori
6/16/2009 10:49:00 AM

Hi Nebraska Dave! My "kids" are doing wonderful! They are all outside residents now, just as you guessed. They still come to us, and we spoil them a little with some corn and sunflower seeds, but they are doing good at foraging for themselves too! It has been very busy around here lately. I intend to do another blog entry very soon. I'm sure you will not be dissapointed with the pressure canner! I have a Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook that has a few recipes in it you might want to try for the tomato jelly. I haven't made these yet, but everything else I've made from this cookbook has been really good! Green Tomato Jam 8 cups green tomatoes 4 cups sugar 2 lemons 1/4 cup vinegar 1 tablespoon cinnamon or ginger Wash tomatoes. Cover with boiling water and let stand 5 minutes. Drain and slice into thin pieces. Add layers of sliced lemon and sugar. Add vinegar and sprinkle with spice. Let stand overnight. In the morning, cook rapidly until tomatoes are clear and the liquid is like syrup. Pour into hot jars and seal! The other recipe is very similar. Yellow Tomato Preserves 1 pound yellow tomatoes peeled and sliced 3/4 pound sugar 1/2 lemon peel tomatoes and cut into thin pieces. Add sugar and let stand 1 hour. Add thinly sliced lemon and rind. Cook until tomatoes are clear and syrup is thickened. Pour into jars and seal! If you decide to try these, let me know how they turn out!


nebraska dave
6/14/2009 12:32:00 PM

Lori, how are the kids? You know Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. I expect that by now they are enjoying the out doors as young squirrels should. It must be very gratifying to bring young helpless creatures back to their natural way of life. I still haven't killed any plants and that’s really a record. I have one tomato plant on my poor man’s living patio that is five foot high on a home made support and climbing 7 to 8 inches a week. That miracle grow fertilizer really does work. I just couldn’t take it any more and ordered up a 21 quart pressure canner. I happened to acquire more canning jars by helping to clean a friend’s house gutters. Our conversation came around to gardening and preserving. She does house cleaning for a living and said that one of her clients had given her some jars and I was welcome to have them if I would give her some of the bounty. I will start the process of bringing up those memories of how to can by starting with easy tomato processing. People keep asking about tomato jelly. I have never heard about tomato jelly but I expect that I’ll have to give it a try. I’m sure there’s a recipe out on the internet somewhere. I want to experiment with canning bean soup. This whole gardening thing as opened up my creative side much more than I could ever imagine. A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. ~James Dent


lori
5/25/2009 9:00:51 PM

Hi Nebraska Dave! The squirrels are doing very well. They are no longer on milk replacer, and eating all kinds of seeds and grains. I have been taking them outside every day, and my husband has built two more squirrel boxes that he placed in trees right around the house. Alvin has already found one! Just a couple days ago, Theodore decided he liked it better in the great outdoors. He stays out now. I believe the other two will also decide they like it better outside within the next couple of days. It is so rewarding to have them do so well and be able to easily make the transition to outside. My garden is doing great! I have everything moved from the greenhouse to the vegetable garden except for the peppers. They will be moved in the next couple of days. I have tomatoes and sugar peas in blossom, and little zucchini and cucumbers hanging on the vine! I have frilly topped carrots coming along nicely, and onions and cabbage that are really putting some size on. My green and wax beans are coming right along too! I hope you have luck with finding those canning jars. We are into the yard sale season here, so it is a great time to find them! The pressure canner too, which will make things go a lot quicker at harvest time!


nebraska dave
5/24/2009 11:18:21 PM

Lori, How are Alvin, Simon, and Theodore? Have they graduated from the syringe yet? I haven't been bothered by squirrels so much this year. Rabbits have been a little nuisance but planting in containers have really cut down on the plant loss due to animals thinking my plants to be the buffet of the neighborhood. It's been a thrill to be able to watch and appreciate the rabbits and squirrels without worrying about their munching on my precious foliage. Now that I have the automatic watering system in place and the time release fertilizer worked into the soil, I can kick back relax and enjoy the fruits of all my labor. At least that what I hope to gain from this years endeavors. By now you should be busy moving plants from the green house out into the real world to grow up and fill the winter pantry. I have planted my meager three tomato and three green pepper plants. I expect great things from the little 4 X 8 garden plot this year. I'm still on the hunt for cheap canning jars and hope to even find a deal on a pressure canner. May all your growing turn out better than you expected for this season.


cindy murphy
5/1/2009 5:57:34 PM

Glad to hear the babies are doing well and growing stronger, (and rounder, I bet), every day, Lori. Our squirrels ended up in my sweet peas too. I use a tee-pee trellis for support, and planted them all around the outside perimeter of the tee-pee. Another few rows went on the other side of the garden. Most of the peas came up no where near the outside of trellis, and my nice neat rows are all crooked. I KNOW I can plant in at least a semi-straight line. It was the squirrels of course, digging in the garden who replanted them in a hodge-podge pattern....with a little help from Quetta pup who chased them out of the garden by running THROUGH the garden. Lettuce and mustard greens are coming up intermixed with the peas. Ah, well...it's a tossed salad of a garden.


lori
4/30/2009 4:50:56 PM

Nebraska Dave, Wow, the squirrels actually terrorize the dogs in your neighborhood!? They must be very brave, and used to people too. Our Spunky will still come and take a peanut from our hand. We know it is him, because he is the only squirrel that doesn't take off on a run when we open the door. He has definitely become more wild then tame now. He used to run right up our pant legs to sit on our shoulder, and he would never do that anymore. That was our goal though, to re-introduce him to the wild. The new babies are getting bigger every day, and so are their appetites! In another couple weeks we will be able to introduce them to solid foods and wean them from the formula. We have started taking them outside a little at a time. It is fun to see all the squirrel mannerisms as they develop! Their tails are fluffy now, and they started moving them around in motions that are common squirrel communications!


lori
4/30/2009 4:30:21 PM

Cindy, I get angry at the squirrels too! Especially when they decide to dig in my garden beds, and end up digging out sugar pea seeds I've already planted! They are also hard on our bird feeding bill! They can empty out the feeders in know time flat! There is just no way I could let them lay there in the cold, blowing rain to starve or freeze, even if they do eat us out of house and home later! We have red,gray,fox,and flying squirrels here. Although there are no black squirrels right in this area, they are in the upper part of the state, and there has been an occasional white squirrel spotted here and there. It is fun to watch their antics, and the little ones are adorable!


nebraska dave
4/29/2009 7:04:03 PM

Lori, I’m not too much into saving the squirrels. However, I must admit they have zest for life that is hard not to recognize. They just seem to enjoy life and have the greatest time romping and chasing each other. I suppose I could learn something from the pesky little rascals about living life to the fullest. They sure can try my patience when they dig up the flower bulbs, rob the bird feeders, or terrorize the neighborhood dogs. I have learned to live and let live as long as they don’t get too far out of hand. Cindy mentioned the different colors of squirrels. The most interesting squirrels I’ve ever encountered happened when I was in Minneapolis Minnesota going to a school for work. I was sitting in a park just enjoying the scenery when I noticed squirrels playing in the trees. As I continued to watch I saw a pure white squirrel. Then I saw another and another. There was a whole family of about 20 squirrels that were pure white. I’ve never seen white squirrels since and often wonder about that white squirrel family. Across the river in Iowa laws protect the black squirrel. No one can kill or even harass a black squirrel. They rule in Iowa. Here, at old Nebraska Dave’s yard, I’ve had to cut down trees because of their old age and there’s no dog to tease so the squirrels have pretty much moved on to better yards for their mischievous antics. Many years ago when my wife was alive, we did have a cute young squirrel would come up to the back sliding door and take peanuts from my wife’s hand. She would crack the door just enough to put her hand out with a peanut and the little imp would run up, grab the nut, and scamper off. It surely was amusing to watch the two of them interacting with each other. I hope your saved squirrels live a long and care free life.


cindy murphy
4/28/2009 6:22:28 AM

Awwww, aren't they adorable! A few weeks ago, I was walking into town and found one of my neighbors who lives around the corner walking through the neighborhood calling for her dog. At least I thought she was looking for her dog; I didn't know she had one. Turns out "Chippy" was a squirrel she saved as a baby squirrel that had fallen from its nest a couple of years ago. She and her husband had just gotten back from a trip to Florida, and she hadn't seen Chippy at her feeder since their return. Just like you, Lori, she took it in and raised it until it was old enough to let loose. Chippy still makes regular visits to her yard. (I saw her the other day - she let me know Chippy is alive and well, and eating from her feeder again.) I have a love/hate relationship with the squirrels in my yard. I've got gray squirrels, black squirrels, and patchwork squirrels that are a combination of the two. There's also the little red squirrel that lives in our woodpile; he's my favorite. I enjoy watching them - their crazy antics make me laugh....unless their antics turn destructive, which they often do! How can something so cute be so hell-bent on destroying all my hard work in the gardens!