Chipmunks might be small, but they have quite a big appetite. They’re known for hoarding food, keeping it in their cheek pouches for transport.
Wondering what to feed a chipmunk? You’ve come to the right place!
In general, chipmunks enjoy unsalted nuts, seeds, and fruits. They also enjoy dried mealworms and insects.
Whether you’re feeding pet chipmunks or wild ones in your backyard, this article outlines all you need to know about their diet and what you can give them.
Before we get into the list of food items for chipmunks, let’s review their eating habits first.
Chipmunks are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they eat plants and animals, specifically insects, eggs, and small birds. Like many other omnivores, chipmunks have sharp teeth to aid in eating.
Because they belong to the Rodentia family, they have the characteristic paired incisors on their upper and lower jaws. They also have premolars and molars, but their incisors are their main tool for gnawing hard food items like nuts and wood.
In the wild, chipmunks hunt primarily on the ground but are also excellent tree climbers. They scuttle through shrubs and forested areas.
Instead of hunting for prey, they usually just eat what they can find. They forage from dawn and then sleep in their burrows at night.
You might be wondering, since wild chipmunks are foragers and aren’t likely to rely on humans for food, should you feed them? Is it safe to feed chipmunks that aren’t in captivity?
Feeding wild or backyard chipmunks isn’t forbidden, so you can feed them. However, in addition to watching what you feed them, you should also take extra precautions as this could become dangerous.
In general, wild chipmunks don’t scare easily. That said, most won’t enjoy any handling.
Even chipmunks in captivity take some training before they accept food by hand. You can try to offer your palm and see how they’ll react, but never force them to take any food from your bare hands.
You can also place food in the bird feeder since chipmunks usually take from these anyway.
While knowing what food items to give chipmunks is important, it’s also good to note how much.
Chipmunks are hoarders. They build burrows and create food stores for the cold season.
Among all the chipmunk species, only the Eastern chipmunk hibernates. However, all other species still fall into a deep sleep during the winter.
Instead of using their fat stores while they sleep, they wake up occasionally to eat food.
Because of their diverse omnivorous diet, chipmunks can survive in various environments. They can sustain themselves with nuts and plants if prey is scarce.
It’s hard to quantify how much food a chipmunk consumes, especially if they’re not raised in captivity and kept as pets. However, you should avoid giving them too much food, especially fatty foods.
Chipmunks, just like any other animal, need a balanced diet. They can get overweight or obese if given the wrong types of food.
Let’s preface this section by establishing that chipmunks will most likely eat what’s available. They’re by no means picky eaters.
That means pet owners are responsible for choosing safe and healthy foods for their critters. Here are some common examples:
You’ve probably seen many pictures of chipmunks with their cheek pouches chock-full of nuts. Well, these pictures don’t lie; chipmunks love nuts!
They’re a great source of fat and proteins. They’re also easy to stockpile for winter food stores because they don’t go bad quickly.
Some common nuts include almonds, acorns, pine nuts, and walnuts. If you’re giving nuts to your pet chipmunks, ensure they’re unsalted.
Chipmunks enjoy a variety of seeds, from dogwood to sweetgum. This is why chipmunks are common bird-feeder bandits!
Seeds are rich in nutrients like proteins, oils, and healthy fats.
While they enjoy most seeds, they aren’t particularly fond of thistle. On the other hand, sunflower seeds are a usual favorite.
As omnivores, fruits and veggies are also part of a chipmunk’s diet. You can wash and chop up an assortment of fruits and vegetables.
Avocados are a favorite, but only give them in moderation since they contain a lot of fat.
Insects, like crickets, grasshoppers, and mealworms, are another excellent source of protein for chipmunks.
Many food stores will have ready-to-eat dried mealworms, so these shouldn’t be hard to find.
A study found that urban chipmunks are overweight. They’re fatter than their counterparts in rural areas.
One of the primary reasons is because of the food that they’re eating. These are likely unhealthy foods found in garbage cans.
Below is a short list of foods to avoid to keep chipmunks healthy.
You might think they can eat anything because of their diverse diet, including chips and candies. However, it’s better to keep these items to yourselves.
Because chipmunks aren’t picky eaters, they will take what they can. If you give them gummy worms instead of mealworms, chances are, they’ll gladly accept!
However, this increases their risk of growing overweight, so we suggest sticking to the real worms.
Some gardeners plant daffodils and French marigolds because they’re known to repel chipmunks and squirrels. That said, avoid feeding them these plants.
While terpenes generally aren’t toxic or lethal, they produce a pungent smell that chipmunks dislike.
Chipmunks love bread, but owners should always give it to chipmunks in moderation. It has little nutritional value and can easily make chipmunks fat.
When giving bread, stick to plain loaves and cut them into smaller pieces. Other baked goods are high in sugar, and chipmunks may have difficulty digesting them.
Unfortunately, since chipmunks are opportunistic hoarders, they’re public enemy number one of gardeners and farmers. They can cause damage to ornamental plants and even dig up certain crops.
In addition, they can sometimes build burrows near house foundations and ground covers, potentially causing structural damage to houses. So, how do we keep them away?
According to the Humane Society of the United States, hiring wildlife control businesses to trap and kill chipmunks is unnecessary. Even if chipmunks have voracious appetites, their small bodies won’t be able to decimate entire gardens in one sitting.
There also hasn’t been any record of severe structural damage caused by their burrows. Instead of trapping and killing them, you can do the following:
- Putting wire mesh or screens over plants and crops. The openings should allow growth, but not big enough to let chipmunks dig through.
- Use footers around areas where you don’t want chipmunks to burrow in. Common places to have them installed are foundations and porches.
You can also use repellents. Most commercial products for repelling squirrels will work for chipmunks; just ensure that whichever you choose isn’t toxic to any other animal in your household.
To sum up, chipmunks are omnivorous forages and hoarders. They enjoy eating nuts, seeds, certain plants, fruits, and other small animals and insects.
I hope this article has been helpful for pet owners that are wondering what to feed a chipmunk or those who simply want to share their food items with these furry little creatures in their backyards.
Remember, despite their enormous appetites, most chipmunks won’t take feeding by hand well. That said, exercise caution when feeding them, and don’t try to handle them if you don’t have any experience.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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