Adult squirrels often visit our backyard for food, and they confidently devour foods remaining from our bird feeders. Some people are happy to extend their kindness to feeding these furballs and attract them to come more frequently.
My best friend is highly enthusiastic about squirrels. No single day passes without receiving more than ten squirrels in his yard, and he loves feeding them.
One day he got curious why he never saw baby squirrels but only adults and addressed this question to me. Many people have also asked me the same question.
Please stick around because I have a lot to share with you about baby squirrels leaving their nest. Thank me later!
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Linda. Read more about our knowledge control process here.
- When Do Baby Squirrels Leave the Nest?
- Baby Squirrel Growth Stages Before They Leave the Nest
- Basic Care for A Baby Squirrel
- Last Sentences
When Do Baby Squirrels Leave the Nest?
Baby squirrels are helpless creatures with no hair, teeth and are blind. They cannot walk or gather food for themselves and are therefore dependent on their mother in everything.
It is not unjust that grown-up squirrels and juveniles are the only ones going out to gather food. The babies don’t have that ability; they drink the mother’s milk for survival.
So then, seeing a baby squirrel leaving the nest is uncommon unless under some instances, e.g., when they’re grown-ups or in case of the nest disruption.
Case #1: Squirrel Nest is Disrupted
It’s a well-known fact that squirrels have a lot of enemies in the wild. Many animals prey on squirrels, e.g., hawks, owls, coyotes, snakes, weasels, dogs, and cats.
The baby squirrels are prone to predation because of their inability to defend themselves. Birds and cats, or even hungry adult squirrels, attack the baby squirrels and disrupt their nest.
Humans can also accidentally destroy a squirrel nest, but it’s recommended not to disunite the babies with the mother. A mother squirrel will always come back for her babies if situations allow.
Most mother squirrels, especially the red squirrels, have more than two nests for potential relocation. Following the disruption of the current nest, she carries the babies to another nest and abandons the previous one.
The mother fears that predators can come back anytime, forcing her to hide the babies in a more secure location unknown to the attackers.
Case #2: Baby Squirrels Develop to An Adult Stage
Mother squirrels perform excellently in protecting their young ones, and they all live in the same nest. The babies are under the mother’s protection until they become mature enough to live on their own.
Most young squirrels are weaned and ready to survive independently anywhere from 8-10 weeks of age.
From this time, the youngsters can leave the nest at any time, although they prefer to be near the mother for several weeks to learn more of the survival skills.
Eventually, these youngsters can find nests in distant places, and they usually don’t share a nest. Each squirrel finds its own nest and begins its adulthood life.
Baby Squirrel Growth Stages Before They Leave the Nest
A baby squirrel undergoes different stages of development before it actively leaves the nest. They usually remain indoors for about 12 weeks before the mother kicks them out.
I have explained the six stages of development a young squirrel goes through while in the nest below.
At Birth/ Day 1
The gestation period of squirrels varies significantly among species. The period ranges between 29-65 days, for example, is about 42 days for the grey squirrel after which birthing follows. The newborns are furless with a pink body.
They are pretty small, blind, toothless, deaf, have joined fingers, and are feeble to walk. Their ears are pinned back. These miniature creatures are about the size of a woman’s thumb and weigh approximately 10-15 grams.
In Two Weeks
A two-week-old squirrel has started to take the appearance of a typical squirrel. The skin begins to appear grey; some furs are evident around the mouth, nose, and body parts.
Although you have to be close and keen to notice the furs as they’re very few. Most babies at this stage have closed eyes, but a few begin to open them as early as two weeks old. You can identify them by seeing a small slit between the eyelids.
Moreover, this is where the whiskers and nails grow, and the ears start to draw away from the head. The babies show poor thermoregulation.
In the Fourth Week
In the fourth week, the baby squirrel’s ears begin to unfold, and a trace of lower front teeth is evident, especially when the baby yawns.
A smooth grey fur grows on the body, and the tail hair is a bit extended. The body fur is about 2mm long. Whitecoat begins to develop on the belly and legs.
The eyes are slightly open, and the baby can respond to sight and also sound. The babies tend to sleep excessively and lie down on all fours.
At the Sixth Week
The baby squirrel’s eyes are fully open, and the top front teeth start to erupt. It has a thicker and more dense fur coat, and the tail is a bit fluffy.
The squirrel can comfortably sit up with its bushy tail curling over the back, taking the typical pose of a squirrel. The baby is more active and tends to play a lot after feeding. They spend more hours playing and less time sleeping.
In the Eighth Week
The upper and lower front teeth are fully grown in, and the squirrel can eat solid foods. The tail is full and fluffy, and the claws are very sharp.
In this stage, the baby squirrel looks precisely like an adult squirrel but is somehow small in size. They are very curious as well as naughty. They become extraordinarily active and jumpy, going up the tree and hanging upturned.
In Week Twelve
The young squirrels begin to become independent when they’re about ten weeks old. At the age of twelve weeks, they are free and can survive by themselves.
There is great demand for space and freedom, and the young squirrels run and jump on trees. They acquire adult fur coats and look more like adults.
This is the time for complete weaning, and the mother is alone again. The babies inhabit different nests and go out to look for food.
Basic Care for A Baby Squirrel
The mother squirrel’s hard work and commitment in caring for her babies is to be commended.
Most abandoned baby squirrels are orphans, or the mother threw them away due to a body defect. Remember that a baby squirrel is independent until it is 12 weeks old.
Have you found a baby squirrel in your garden and need to know the basic knowledge to care for it? Please stick around because I have got you covered. But before that, I have something small to share with you.
You should only consider looking after a baby squirrel if the mother is unavailable and you can’t contact a wildlife rehabilitator.
Now you know the first actions to take if you find a baby squirrel. Let’s now see the basic steps of care for a baby squirrel:.
- Check for Injuries
- Bathing the Squirrel
- Help the Baby Empty its Bladder
- Warming the squirrel
- Rehydrate the baby using pedialyte or a sugar and salt solution
- Identify the age of the baby You can tell the baby’s age by observing its appearance, as we have discussed above on baby squirrel growth stages.
- Feeding the Baby Squirrel Puppy milk is perfect to use on baby squirrels. Always avoid cow’s milk, human formula, and milk substitutes. Esbilac powder milk replacer is available in pet food stores and veterinary offices. See the feeding regime for squirrels at different stages in this article.
- Monitor the Digestive Health A baby that digests the puppy milk properly excretes yellow-brown pellets, which is a sign of good health.
- Continued Feeding Ensure that the baby is doing well with the puppy milk, and continue monitoring its age. You can add plain yogurt to the milk to boost the fat content level. Introduce the baby to some solid foods as it continues to grow and have teeth to chew the food.
- Construct a suitable habitat for the squirrel
- Playing time: You’re the first teacher to these squirrels, and so it is necessary to stimulate, cuddle, and play with them as a way of helping them learn to play. Provide many playing toys in the cage for the babies to play with; use natural items such as feathers, sticks, nuts, leaves, pinecones, etc.
- Releasing the squirrel. When your friend is 12 weeks old, it’s time to make it explore the outside environment. Check with local authorities as some do not allow releasing into the wild.
Squirrels are among the leading wildlife species to win the attention of humans. They are adorable critters with a broad range of facts to learn. Below is a quick summary to help you easily remember the things we covered in the article.
- Adult squirrels are solitary rodents, hence live in separate habitats. The babies enjoy the company of their mother only when they’re young and eventually start to live on their own.
- On day one of life, baby squirrels are blind, naked, deaf, and weak. The mother nurses and protects them until they are 12 weeks old and then completely weans them.
- Baby squirrels can survive on puppy milk. However, you shouldn’t feed them with human formula and cow’s milk as they are quick killers for wild animals.
- Mother squirrels are extremely defensive towards their babies, and they do not abandon them.
- After leaving the nest, baby squirrels don’t live far from the mother’s nest. They observe her moves and continue learning how to survive on their own.
- Baby squirrels completely open their eyes at six weeks old and begin to climb as early as eight weeks old.