Can Squirrels Eat Conkers – Discover The Secret Answer Now

Squirrels are notorious for getting into everything; they seem just as intrigued by conkers as the rest of us. So can squirrels eat conkers? The answer is yes, but there’s a catch – they shouldn’t eat too many!

can squirrels eat conkers -squirrel eating a chestnut

Disclaimer – Conkers ( horse chestnuts) are NOT the same as Chestnuts!

Conkers are an excellent source of protein for squirrels, but they also contain tannins which can be harmful in large quantities. So, give your furry friend a few conkers to snack on, but make sure they don’t overdo it!

can squirrels eat conkers -squirrel eating a chestnut

Can Squirrels Eat Conkers?

Conkers are a popular food for squirrels; they are an excellent source of protein and have a high fat content. However, can squirrels eat conkers? The answer is yes, but they should be eaten in moderation.

Conkers contain tannins which can be harmful in large quantities, so it’s best to give your furry friend a few nuts to snack on rather than a whole lot.

If you have a lot of conkers, you can always roast them first to remove the tannins. Roasting them will also make them more enjoyable for your squirrel friend!

What are Conkers?

Conkers are a type of horse chestnut typically larger and have a darker shell than regular horse chestnuts.

Disclaimer – Conkers (horse chestnuts) are NOT the same as Chestnuts!

What is Another Name for Conkers?

Conkers are also called horse chestnuts! They are the fruit of the horse-chestnut tree.

How Do Squirrels Eat Conkers?

The answer may surprise you!

Squirrels are known to be able to crack open hard nuts with their powerful teeth. So, it stands to reason that they can also eat conkers. However, there is a bit of a secret to how they do it.

You see, squirrels have unique teeth. Their front teeth, that continually grown are sharp and used for cutting and biting. But they also have many back teeth that are much bigger and stronger.

So, when a squirrel wants to eat a conker, they first bite it with its front teeth to get started. Then, they continue to chip away at the shell with their front teeth and use their back teeth to crush the conker into smaller pieces.

After that, it’s just a matter of eating the conker like they would any other food.

So, there you have it! Now you know the secret to how squirrels can eat conkers.

What Does a Conker Look Like?

Each flower grows into a glossy red-brown conker inside a spiky green husk, which falls to the ground in autumn.

a photo of conkers inside a spiny green casing
conker (also called a horse chestnut)

What Do Experts Say About Squirrels and Conkers?

In fact, some squirrel experts believe that the tannins and other compounds in conkers can be beneficial for squirrels.

These substances can help to protect against parasites and diseases. So, while you might not want to feed your squirrel friend a whole bunch of conkers, there’s no harm in giving them a little taste now and then!

Where do Horse Chestnut Trees Grow?

Horse chestnut trees are found throughout Europe, Asia, and North America, but they are native to the Balkan Peninsula in Europe. They were first introduced to the UK from Turkey in the late 16th century. English colonists brought them to the United States.

can squirrels eat conkers - horse chestnut tree
horse chestnut Tree

They make excellent shade trees; and they grow up to 40 feet tall (12 m.).

Common name: horse chestnut

Scientific name: Aesculus hippocastanum

Family: Hippocastanaceae

How Long do Horse Chestnut Trees Live?

Horse chestnut trees can live for up to 300 years. However, they may only produce conkers for around 80 of those years. The tree has beautiful white or pink spike flowers growing in clusters up to a foot long (3.5 cm.).

can squirrels eat conkers - horse chestnut tree flower
horse chestnut tree flowers

Are Horse Chestnuts Poisonous to Humans?

Horse chestnuts can cause severe gastrointestinal problems when eaten raw and, for some people, can be dangerous.

Chestnuts, not to be CONFUSED with horse chestnuts (they are not the same), are more traditionally eaten when roasted and are especially popular around the holidays. The raw and bitter flavor is replaced with a sweetened one when the chestnuts are roasted. Around the holidays, roasted chestnuts are a tradition for many families.

There is a famous song written by Bob Wells and initially sung by Mel Torme called The Christmas Song, but the song title is also known as Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. The squirrels here at Kitty City Squirrels prefer the Nat King Cole version.

Are Conkers Poisonous to Most Animals?

Yes, they are! Cattle, horses, sheep, and chickens can’t eat conkers or the young shoots or flowers of the tree. Animals get a terrible case of colic, vomiting, and abdominal pain after eating horse chestnuts. There are documented cases where honeybees feeding on horse chestnut nectar and sap have died.

However, squirrels and deer seem immune to conkers without any side effects.

can squirrels eat conkers - horse chestnut tree fruit
(left) horse chestnut tree fruit (right) conker inside the tree fruit

What Foods are Poisonous to Squirrels?

These are poisonous to squirrels and should be completely avoided.

  • Avocado skin/pits
  • Fruit pits/seeds
  • Chocolate in large amounts


Unhealthy foods won’t necessarily cause any harm to squirrels but should still be limited because they don’t provide nutritional value and can cause stomach upset.

  • High-sugar foods (candy, cookies, granola, sweetened breakfast cereals)
  • High-starch foods (pasta, bread, rice, potatoes)
  • Salty foods
  • Human junk food
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Dried corn
  • Pine nuts

Better nut options include acorns, pumpkin seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, and peanuts (unsalted).

What is a Squirrels’ Favorite Food?

There are many different types of squirrels, each with its own favorite food. For instance, some squirrels love acorns, while others prefer other kinds of nuts or seeds. But honestly, squirrels will eat almost anything.

can squirrels eat conkers - red squirrel eating a chestnut
red squirrel eating a conker (horse chestnut)

What Other Foods Do Squirrels Enjoy?

In addition to nuts, squirrels also enjoy fruits, vegetables, and insects. Fruits and vegetables that are commonly eaten by squirrels include apples, berries, and corn. Insects that are popular with squirrels include beetles, caterpillars, and crickets. Squirrels will also eat birds’ eggs.

can squirrels eat conkers - grey squirrel eating a chestnut (1)
grey squirrel eating a conker (horse chestnut)

Squirrels generally eat what is most abundant and easiest to find in their environment. In urban areas, where there are fewer trees and more trash cans, squirrels have been known to eat fast food, garbage, and even bird seed.

In some cases, they will also eat pet food that has been left outside which is not healthy for them. Learn more about what squirrels like to eat or what solid foods to introduce to a baby squirrel.

Can Squirrels Eat Conkers – Conclusion

It’s time to put an end to the debate – yes, squirrels can eat conkers! In fact, they quite enjoy them. But that’s not all these little critters are fond of. If you feed squirrels in the park or your backyard, it’s important to know what their favorite foods are so you can keep them healthy and happy.

When feeding squirrels in the park or your backyard, it is important to know what their favorite foods are so you can keep them healthy and happy. Some other top snacks for squirrels include almonds, pecans, walnuts, seeds, berries, fruits, and vegetables.

What do you like to feed your furry friends? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. ?? Great article! The last time I got some conkers, I roasted some and put a few out for my squillys, but only one was picked up by Chloé. The rest were ignored ? ?

    1. Were they horse chestnuts (conkers) or regular chestnuts? They come from different trees. 🙂 Thank you so much, Cynthia, for consistently supporting the website and always leaving comments on the articles. You are appreciated. 🙂

  2. You mean Sticky balls! My husband grew up with them in his backyard. I wish I knew now what I didn’t know then!

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