3. How to Feed a Baby Squirrel
Once your baby squirrel is warm and hydrated, you are ready to start feeding him. What do baby squirrels eat? Formula, also called “milk replacer.” If you don't have the correct formula on hand and must wait for it to be shipped, you can make a temporary formula for any age baby squirrel:
Homemade Goat Milk Formula (GMF)*: 3 parts goat milk, 3 parts plain yogurt, 2 parts heavy cream. You can boost the nutrition by adding one egg yolk and 1000 mg of calcium to every 1 cup of formula.
You can buy goats milk at health food stores, grocery stores, and some Walmarts. If you can't find fresh goat milk, you can used canned or powdered. You'll need to reconstitute it (according to label directions) before mixing it with the other ingredients.
*Do not use homemade GMF for more than 2 weeks, as it is not fortified with vitamins, minerals and protein.
Formula Options. Different rehabbers use different formulas and combinations with success. Generally, hairless babies do well on homemade GMF. Options for 2-4 weeks include Fox Valley 32/40 or fortified GMF. We recommend all babies be switched to Fox Valley 20/50 by 4 weeks old, as it provides optimal growth and nutrition for older babies.
Baby squirrels younger than 4 weeks can have problems tolerating any formula. If the formula you are using is causing diarrhea, bloat, or severe constipation that is not due to overfeeding or dehydration (which can cause constipation), immediately switch to one of the other choices.
Note: All formula transitions should be made gradually, over at least 4 feedings, except in the case of severe diarrhea/constipation. In that case, switch immediately to homemade GMF.
Formula intolerance is a quick killer. Be alert for bloating, diarrhea or constipation, and take immediate action. Call us at 321-626-1897 or go to The Squirrel Board for help. The baby's life depends on it.
Note: If the baby is badly dehydrated, you need to rehydrate for several hours first. Then you may start with formula watered down slightly for a couple of feedings (3 parts water to 1 part powder, instead of the normal 2 parts water to 1 part powder). Then go to full-strength formula. You can continue giving fluids IN BETWEEN FORMULA FEEDINGS if the baby needs more rehydration, or if he becomes dehydrated again.
Mixing, Feeding and Storing Formula
- Every evening, mix up the amount of formula you will need the next day. Use warm water, stir well, and place in the refrigerator.
- In the morning, stir the formula and draw up enough syringes of cold formula for your first feeding of the day.
- Microwave a coffee mug of water until it is hot (but not boiling). Then dunk the filled syringes in the hot water. They will take around 30 to 60 seconds to heat up.
- Take one syringe out, tilt it to mix the formula within the syringe, and test it on your wrist before feeding.
- If the formula in your syringe gets too cool while feeding, re-dunk it and pull out another syringe, and repeat step 4.
5-7% Feeding Rule:
You can figure the amount to feed using the 5-7% feeding rule. Weigh the baby on a gram scale; multiply that number by 5%; and that will be the number of cc's (or ml's) to feed per feeding. You can go up to 7% (weight in grams x .07) for most babies after a few feedings. Do not overfeed! Baby squirrels will overeat if you let them and get diarrhea or bloating, which can be fatal. Weigh the baby every day at the same time to determine if they are gaining or losing weight.
A baby squirrel less than 5 weeks old will need to be stimulated to poop and pee. Use a warm, wet cotton ball, Q-tip, the corner of a Kleenex, or your finger, and flick lightly across the genital area. You are simulating the mother squirrel's tongue. Some babies may need stimulation before and after feeding. A few may eat better if you potty them in the middle of a feeding.
DO NOT USE:
- KMR (kitten formula)
- Liquid Esbilac
- Human baby formula
- Hartz or GNC formula
- Pet Lac formula
- "scalded milk"
- Plain cows milk
Remember when feeding a baby squirrel: GO SLOW and DO NOT OVERFEED!
5% Feeding Rule
- Squirrel weighs 50 grams
- 50 x 5% = 2.5 (Using a calculator, it's 50 x .05 = 2.5)
- So you feed 2.5 cc's per feeding