Many people, all around the world, appreciate being able to make the lives of their backyard animals a little bit better. This is why people choose to invest in bird feeders, plant flower gardens to attract pollinating insects, and even add birdhouses to their yards.
What a lot of people do not realize is that you can do more than just cater to the birds. For example, if you are interested in offering a comfortable home for the squirrels in your yard, you may want to build a squirrel house. To do this though, you will first want to understand what goes into a squirrel’s choice in habitat.
What Types of Environments Do Squirrels Live in?
The first step you will want to take when wanting to develop squirrel house plans is to get a good understanding of what squirrels value when they are looking for places to call a home. More often than not, squirrels will make themselves nests high in the crevices of tree branches.
In most environments where there are trees, squirrels will prefer to live in hollowed-out sides of trees, where they do not have to do a lot of work and they are naturally sheltered from wind, rain, and snow. If there are no hollowed-out trees available, squirrels will then opt to build a nest out of leaves at the top of the tallest trees around, where they can watch for predators.
During mating seasons, most squirrels will want to try to find a home inside a tree rather than the leaf nests. Leaf nests are suitable for adult squirrels, but their fragility and openness to the elements makes them dangerous for raising young. This is important to consider if you want to create an appealing squirrel house.
What Goes Into a Squirrel’s Natural Nest?
When squirrels are planning to make their nests in the wild, there are a few things they consider. One of the most important elements of this is protection from the elements. Whether this is the shell of a tree shielding the squirrel from all weather or if it is a pile of clutter in an attic where the squirrel doesn’t belong, one of the driving factors squirrels have for nests is protection from the elements.
Squirrels will also want to have their homes off the ground and somewhat elevated. Different breeds of squirrel will have different desires for height, but most squirrels prefer to be 20 to 30 feet above the ground. To the squirrel, this keeps them away from ground-based predators such as cats and dogs.
Lastly, some squirrels prefer to have their homes placed inside wooded areas, close to branches, while other squirrels prefer to be on the edge of wooded areas. Grey squirrels prefer to have their homes at least 50 yards inside a wooded area, if that’s possible. Fox squirrels, on the other hand, prefer to have their homes at the edge of the woods. Knowing what species of squirrel you are catering to is important.
How Can You Create a Squirrel House for Your Backyard?
Now that you have a good sense of what squirrels value when searching for a new place to nest, you will want to think about what you can do to make a comfortable house for your backyard friends. There are a couple different routes that you can take besides opting for the tried-and-true method of crafting a simple box that attaches to a tree.
You could also consider making a squirrel home that caters toward nesting and raising young. These homes will be similar to the standard squirrel den, although there will be more openings so that there is enough ventilation. These houses also have nesting material added inside, rather than requiring the mother squirrel to prepare it. They also often have places for young squirrels to perch as they grow older.
You can also consider combining squirrel feeders with a standard nesting box. While it may take some time for a squirrel to be interested in the obviously manmade box, mother squirrels tend to prefer these set-ups as it means that the mother won’t have to travel far to get food for her young. These can be a little bit more complicated to set up, but it can be worth it.
What Materials Will You Need?
Once you have determined the type of squirrel house you want to create, you are then going to want to think about the materials you will need. At minimum, a squirrel house should be about 16 inches tall and a little over nine inches wide. This allows for enough space inside the box for the squirrels and babies to move around.
You will want to start with inch-thick lumber that has not been sanded down. You should also invest in a support bar and nails to secure the box to whichever tree you choose. For a basic squirrel den, you will want six panels of wood: a back and front, a floor and roof, and two side pieces. If you wish to decorate the box a little bit more, you should consider getting more wood for the decoration.
For nesting boxes, you will want to expand this a little bit more and offer more options for entrances and ventilation, meaning you may need to make use of woodcutting tools. You will also want to invest in nesting materials including leaves, small twigs, and any moss if you can find it. You can also add cloth material (that you do not mind getting stained), standard paper or cotton rodent bedding, or similar material to make it more enticing.
Important Notes to Cover
Do not be discouraged if squirrels do not take to the box right away. Chances are that the noise of attaching it to the tree and the smell of humans will make squirrels wary of the box at first. You should not hover near the box where squirrels can see you, or they will not think it is safe. Instead, let the squirrels take interest in the box at their own pace. For many squirrels, it is simply a matter of realizing that nothing bad will happen when they investigate the box.
When setting up the house, you should always take special care to make sure that it is securely attached to the tree. Squirrels are not heavy animals, but a poorly-attached den can fall in bad weather. You should also make sure that the box is facing southward, as this is the direction least affected by weather patterns.
Finally, squirrel boxes need to be cleaned out every few years. Squirrels will soil the box, especially if they birth their young in it and raise them there. When you take down the box to clean it, you will likely scare away the squirrels for a while, but you should not fret too much about this, as the squirrels will come back once they see that it is safe.
Ultimately, building a squirrel den is incredibly similar to setting up a birdhouse in your yard. You will want to think about the type of den you want to create and then find a suitable spot for it. You will then want to get the materials necessary, with unfinished and unsanded wood being the best choice.
From here, as long as you are patient and are not visibly hovering over the box, you can expect that the squirrels will take interest in it and call it their new home. You might be surprised by how many different types of house plans there are for squirrel dens.