What Kind of Squirrel House to Buy
We’ve built A LOT of squirrel houses, learning what works and what definitely doesn't.
This page describes what we have learned that can be applied to designing or selecting the most appropriate squirrel box for your climate, species of tree squirrel; along with suggestions for retrofitting an existing box to make it appropriate to your conditions.
Please note, we are constantly updating this information as we learn new and better techniques, so check back often.
Also, if you've learned of a better way to safely house your outdoor squirrels, please let us know!
Top 3 Features to Consider
1. Inner Ledge
An inner shelf makes it much harder for a predator to reach in, it shields the occupant from rain and wind, and provides a nice ledge to watch from before exiting the box.
2. Predator Guard
A barrier in front of the door makes it difficult for predators to get in a position to reach inside, Inhibits squatters from moving in, and protects the interior from weather.
3. Clean-Out Door
The ability to clean out the contents of the house will add years of useful life. Squirrels will abandon a house with a heavy parasite load, this allows you to ensure the house is always fresh. Another key feature is the screw to secure the door.
Common Squirrel House Pros and Cons
The Squirrel Condo - An overall good design, but....
This could be a great home for a squirrel in hot regions, but here in the pacific northwest, we call this a box of water hanging on a tree.
Pro(s): The back board makes this house easy to install. Roof slope is angled to allow rain to run off but gentle enough for comfortable perching on roof. Squirrels will enjoy sitting on the bottom ledge as well. Cedar discourages ectoparasites like fleas.
Con(s): The box is not designed for inclement weather and is not deep enough to protect the squirrel within from a raccoon. The lack of overhang over opening allows the elements (cold, rain, snow) to easily enter inside. The placement of the roof against the backboard (blue line) allows water to seep inside the box through the seam where the roof meets the backboard. Aromatic cedar is toxic for up to two years as it ‘airs out.’ Not the best choice for cold or wet climates, for nesting moms, or for young or debilitated squirrels sensitive to cedar fumes.
Fix(es): Affix a larger board to the top to overhang the opening and keep rain out and build a predator guard in front of the hole that will also serve to block wind or rain. Run waterproof sealant across the seam or even better, install flashing. Air out until cedar small is gone.
The Ejector Box - ideal for the mother with teenage squirrels
Pro(s): Multiple entry and exit points make it easy for a squirrel to make a quick escape. This box is really only appropriate for indoor use or in a protected area, like a pre-release enclosure .
Cons: The roof slope is too steep for squirrels to comfortably perch upon. The box is not deep enough to prevent predation (either length or depth (as indicated with red lines) must allow for 18 inches from door to squirrel, or a door guard or inner shelf must be present making the angle of reach impossible to grasp inhabitants). The positioning of the entrances allows babies to easily fall out of the box. The small overhang offers little protection from wind or rain.
Fix(es): Cover or screen the bottom (1/4 inch welded mesh would allow drainage) & place predator door guards at the front and side entrances.
The Risky Box - aka raccoon's lunchbox.
Pros: Drainage on the bottom is important as many boxes fill with water during heavy rains, and you want to ensure that the bedding can dry. The back opening facilitates cleaning the box periodically. The back board permits the box to be nailed to the tree. You would need additional hardware to attach the box at the top. The ventilation slot at the top makes this box a good choice for hotter climates where the box must be designed to allow heat to dissipate quickly. Squirrels will chew on the box, so select boxes with untreated wood to prevent ingestion of toxins. If you must paint, select a non-toxic finish.
Con(s): The placement of the opening makes much of the space unusable (yellow area). The mid-level door and makes it easy for predators to reach into the box . The bottom drain holes appear large enough for a raccoon to reach in and pull babies or limbs out - Yikes! Once the nesting materials are in, the squirrel will be inches below the opening making it hard to keep those babies that haven’t been eaten by raccoons from blindly wriggling out.
Fix(es) Cover or screen the bottom (1/4 inch welded mesh would allow drainage) & place a predator guard over front opening. Better yet, cover the ill placed door and drill one higher up.