Especially in winter or at the beginning of the year, when the trees are still quite bare, you will discover round constructions high up in the treetops. These can be bird nests or squirrel nests. In this article, I’d like to go into more detail about squirrel nests and answer some common questions.
The squirrel nest is also called a goblet and has several functions during the year. It serves the squirrel as a place to sleep and retreat, as a shelter from rain, cold and storms, and as protection against attackers such as martens or birds of prey. In addition, the nest is a home for the offspring. Squirrels do not have only one nest but they build 2-8 nests, so they have a “residence” at any time.
The squirrel’s nest: the functions
The squirrel’s nest is the center of its life and, as already mentioned, it fulfills various functions. In addition to the main gable, the squirrel has other secondary nests, because the small rodents want to ensure that they never have to go without a dwelling. Therefore, they build up to 8 hawks in different places. So provision is made in case a nest is suddenly no longer usable or sufficiently safe.
If necessary, the squirrel can change its main home or its main burrow at any time. In general, squirrels are constantly moving and using their different nests in parallel to prevent parasites from spreading as much as possible. The secondary nests are also called shade nests, they are simpler in their construction than the main nests and serve the squirrel more as a shelter than as a sleeping place.
The hutch is the squirrel’s sleeping place. There they spend the nights snuggled up. But they also retreat there for their afternoon nap. During the day and at night, however, different nests are used. The daily resting phases are held in the shade Kobeln, while for the night other “sleep Kobel” are used.
The kobel also serves as protection for the squirrel from natural enemies. In the event of an attack by a bird of prey, the squirrel can quickly take refuge in its burrow. By building the squirrel nest high up in the trees, the small rodents are also protected from cats or martens.
However, the nest not only serves as protection from natural enemies, but also provides the squirrel with a place to retreat in the rain, wind and cold. Especially in winter, a hutch is essential for survival. Squirrels do not hibernate but they are so-called “hibernators” and spend most of their time in their warm nest. In winter they sleep a lot to save energy and a well-padded warm hutch is indispensable. So that they do not get cold, they snuggle up in their bushy tail.
In the spring, of course, the squirrel nest still serves as a place for raising baby squirrels, because the rodents have their offspring already from February. The young animals are born in the main nest and raised there.
Usually squirrels live alone. Only during the mating season, when the female squirrel is pregnant, may the male squirrel move into the nest with her. Once the young are born, the squirrel’s nest is the female’s center of life for three months before she leaves the young and moves to another nest. Occasionally, rodents may live socially outside of the reproductive season, with several animals using the same nest. It could also be observed that squirrels take care of sick conspecifics.
When a squirrel’s burrow is no longer usable:
There are several reasons why a squirrel may not want to return to its hutch:
- The rookery has been destroyed by a storm
- An enemy has broken the nest or is in the immediate vicinity, making it impossible for the squirrel to return to its nest
- The nest has been polluted from birth
- There is a parasite infestation in the nest
- The nest has fallen from the tree
What does a squirrel’s burrow look like?
A squirrel’s nest is spherical and has a diameter of about 30-50 cm. Inside it is slightly smaller, about 15-20 cm. The small rodents build the burrow in such a way that it is waterproof and provides them with optimal protection from the cold in winter. In addition, the nest has two or more exits that are about 9 cm. This has the sense that in case of danger the rear exit, or the escape hole can be taken. For example, if the main entrance is besieged by a predator, the rodents can escape through the rear exit, which is always oriented downward.
The basic structure of the squirrel nest consists of brushwood and twigs, as well as needles and leaves. In the process, the squirrel puts a lot of effort, gnawing, pulling and plucking. From the inside, the goblet is well padded with soft materials. For this, the squirrel uses moss, feathers, bark and grass. This provides comfort and keeps out the cold and wet.
However, it can also happen that the little climber helps himself to fabrics and pieces of clothing from the clothesline and furnishes his nest with them. If this is the case, you can also provide the squirrel with old fabric scraps in a basket.
Where does the squirrel build its nest?
Squirrels build their nests in high branches or on branches near the main trunk of a tree. Usually the nest is 6 to 15 meters above the ground. It takes a squirrel about 3-5 days to build a gobble.
However, squirrels also like to take abandoned magpie or hawk nests and then adapt them to their liking. Squirrels also like to take gobels that are built and provided by people, also called nest boxes. So this is a great way to attract squirrels to your yard. You can read more about this below.
Here you can find the best squirrel feeding stations and gobblers for your garden or balcony.
The squirrel’s natural habitat is the forest. Here the nests are built high up in the treetops. In urban areas, however, there are fewer and fewer trees, so the choice of a suitable place for a nest is not very large. It is not uncommon for squirrels to build their nests on balconies, windowsills or attics out of necessity. So, of course, it can also happen that the squirrel gives birth to its young here. If this happens to you, please do not disturb the mother and her young, but wait until they move to a new nest on their own.
How long do baby squirrels stay in the nest?
After a gestation period of 38 days, females give birth to two to six young in the main nest starting in February. The little rodents are born completely naked and blind and are dependent on their mother. After 8 weeks they are ready to leave the nest. However, they then remain with the mother and their siblings for up to four months.
It is quite common that the nest is infested with parasites. Therefore, the mothers move more frequently, so that their two to eight nests are used almost simultaneously. In case of danger, the females react very quickly. They carry their young away in the so-called carrying rigidity to bring them to a safe alternative nest.
Baby squirrel found, what to do?
It is not uncommon for a baby squirrel to fall to the ground during its first attempts to climb. But sometimes it happens that the whole nest falls from the tree due to a storm. Usually the mother takes care of her offspring and brings them back to the safe nest.
If you find a baby squirrel that may have fallen out of the nest, the first thing to do is to stay calm. Check briefly to see if the baby is injured. If not, try to put it back in its nest. If you do not succeed, wrap the baby in a towel so that it does not cool down and wait from a distance until the mother rushes to help. If she does not do this, there may be several reasons and your help is needed.
Here’s what to do if you find a baby squirrel.
Provide squirrel burrow
In urban areas nowadays, there are often not enough trees where squirrels can build their nests. So it happens that they sometimes build their roosts on a balcony.
If you want to offer squirrels a nesting place yourself, you can easily do so by providing them with a box in your garden or on your balcony. As you now know, squirrels use several nests in parallel. So there is nothing against placing several hawks in your garden.
Usually squirrels gratefully accept the wooden boxes provided. The upholstery of the boxes then but the squirrels themselves. However, you can provide them with filling material. Suitable nesting materials include moss, wood wool, straw, cotton, sheep wool and feathers. The material used should of course be free of any chemicals. This is especially true for wood wool.
Squirrels like airy heights where they are largely safe from predators. So pay attention to where you place the hutch, the lower the dwelling hangs, the greater the risk of cats or martens raiding the nest.
- Choose an unpainted hutch made of untreated material.
- Natural wood such as maple, beech or pine is the best choice for this. It can breathe and automatically ensures that moisture can escape.
- The hutch should not be impregnated
- The base area should not be smaller than 26 x 26 cm
- The height should not be less than 30 cm
- The roof overhangs the floor by a few centimeters, so that it does not rain in
- At least 2 entrances / exits with approx. 9 cm size, so that also a pregnant squirrel lady fits through.
- A flat roof is more suitable, as squirrels like to use it as a viewing platform.
Hanging the squirrel nest properly
The best time to hang the rook in your yard is before mating season. This is in January/February and June/July. The nest must also be placed at a sufficient height on a tree, five to six meters is optimal. A branch fork provides best support and easy access for the animals. The rear/bottom hole should face the main trunk so that the squirrel can easily escape in an emergency. Also, make sure that you mount the hutch at a slight forward angle so that the water can drain off better. You can use weatherproof cords and straps to secure it.
I can also recommend that you mount the house in such a way that you can easily reach it yourself to take it down for cleaning.
Provide squirrel feeder
Why would you provide a bird feeder too? Well, squirrels never use their houses to store food in. Instead, the little rodents love to collect nuts, seeds, corn kernels, raisins, and other food and bury it in various places in your yard.
In urban areas, however, squirrels have a hard time finding enough food in the fall and accumulating enough winter food. To help the animals, in addition to a hutch, you can also provide a bird feeder in your yard.
Unlike the squirrel nest, the feeder doesn’t have to be placed so high up in the tree. It is enough to attach the feeding station to the tree trunk with a nail, so that you can easily reach it yourself to refill the food.
You can find out what squirrels like to eat in this article: The Best Food for Squirrels.
Squirrels are increasingly dependent on human help. This is true for helping them build their nests as well as creating food stores during the winter. Providing squirrel cobs and squirrel feeders is a great way to help these cute rodents through the winter and attract them to your yard.