Housing for Squirrels
Squirrel Refuge fits the cage to the squirrel. This means taking into consideration the size, developmental stage, disability and number of squirrels you are housing.
Read through the various squirrel stages below to see what type of habitat your rehabilitated squirrel needs. Make sure to revisit this page as your squirrel moves through its developmental stages, so you can be sure it has the healthiest environment for its age.
Once you determine the appropriate housing for your squirrel, click the additional links at the bottom of this page for recommendations on purchasing or building your own housing.
All baby squirrels can start out in a small ‘incubator’ that may be nothing more than a plastic tub with several large air holes drilled in the lid sitting half on and half off a heating pad set on low. This is usually sufficient until the squirrel becomes mobile, usually when the eyes open at about four or five weeks of age.
Eyes Opened Babies
Once the eyes open and the baby is fully furred, its no longer needs supplemental heat but now requires increasingly more room as the baby starts to explore and develop new abilities.
At this stage a cage sufficient for a guinea pig, rabbit or ferret will do nicely until they are about 8 weeks old. After that they either need a larger cage or supervised playtime out side of the cage for at least a few hours per day.
Once weaned, squirrels are usually ready to transition outside. They are NOT ready for release, but can begin the process of acclamation to outside conditions.
At squirrel refuge, we start by opening the windows to the nursery so that the room temperature is close to the outside temperature and place a squirrel box in the cage with them.
This box will have their scent on it and they will naturally return to the box at bedtime.
At about 12 weeks we place the squirrels (box and all) in a covered area within the Squirrelarium that protects them from wind, rain and snow but exposes them to outside sounds and smells.
If you don’t have a large pre-release enclosure on hand, you can accomplish this gentle acclamation by first opening the window fully for a week or two before moving the cage outside. Make sure your window is screened to keep escaping squirrels in and squirrel biting cats out.
Once you are ready to move the squirrels outside, you must place the squirrel box you plan to use for release, into the box with them. This will provide a place where the squirrel can retreat for protection from the neighborhood cats or raccoons who are sure to be attracted by this seemingly ‘easy to be had’ dinner.
The cage must be predator proof with doors locked or wired shut against raccoons before you can leave a squirrel out overnight.
From 12 to 16 weeks the squirrels need to be in an area where they are protected, can get exercise, have plenty of food, but have very, very little exposure to you. If you can, someone else should take over the care of the squirrels. They will have a natural leeriness of people they don’t know. By this time their box will have their scent on it and they will naturally return to their box to sleep.
If you live in an area where the squirrels can be directly released from the enclosure, releasing them at between 16 and 20 weeks is simply a matter of opening the door. They will return at night until they have established a dray or den elsewhere.
‘According to the Minimum Standards for Wildlife Rehabilitation (NWRA & IWRC, 2000), the minimum cage size for squirrels in rehabilitative care must meet the recommendations below. These recommendations are not intended for permanent housing of squirrels. Obviously, the longer a squirrel is in care, the more extensive its housing requirements are. Click the link above to download the standards and review chapters 3 and 5 for housing requirements.
Keep in mind though that Regular chicken wire will not work for squirrels as squirrels can get out through very small spaces and predators will attempt to get in! The ideal mesh will by 1/2 x 1/2 inch or smaller to prevent raccoons or other animals from catching a small arm or leg through the wire. Consider modifying one of many designs available on the Internet for erecting a walk-in chicken coop.
You must lay hardware cloth a few inches below the soil to keep tree squirrels in and predators from digging under.
If you can't build in a ‘double door entry’ hang a curtain in front of the door to block escapes. If a squirrel does escape, leave the door open. They should return to their next box at night when you can return to close the cage.