Birth and Childhood of Rodents
Immediately after birth, a baby squirrel is neither fluffy nor particularly cute. Only after a few weeks do the rodents turn into lovely balls of fur, which shortly thereafter are agile in climbing around.
Mother raises baby squirrels alone – Shutterstock/BLFootage
The mating season for squirrels begins at the end of January. If the food supply is good, after a gestation period of almost 40 days, the first young are born in March and April. A second litter follows in May and June. There are usually two to five baby squirrels in each nest.
Squirrels are altricial
The squirrel babies weigh just five to eight grams at birth and are naked, deaf and blind. They can only take care of themselves after three months. In the time before that, they are absolutely dependent on help.
The coat of hair does not develop until the age of about three weeks. They now weigh about 30 to 50 grams. The eyes open slowly from the fourth or fifth week of life and the auditory canals are only free from the sixth week of life. In the meantime, the squirrel babies have fed themselves a weight of around 100 grams.
Squirrel babies look like flying squirrels
At birth, baby squirrels have a membrane connecting the front legs and hind legs. While this fine skin in squirrels recedes in the first few weeks of life, in flying squirrels it is expanded to form the flight membranes.
At 5 weeks, baby squirrels become agile and fluffy
Even if the fur is still quite short at five weeks, the babies are recognizable as squirrels at first glance. Over the next two weeks, they become more agile and stay awake longer.
The upper incisors now also appear: the squirrel babies are weaned from their mother’s milk and nibble more solid food. At around eight weeks they crack open the first sunflower seeds.
Eighth week of life: Playful mini squirrels
At the age of two months, they are still significantly smaller than their parents, but otherwise they already look like finished squirrels. They play more and more with their siblings and try out survival skills.
Between 10 and 12 weeks they have all developed their teeth and are no longer real babies. By the time they are three months old, they have become self-sufficient and can survive on their own. They now weigh about 200 to 300 grams and are about 75 percent of their final size.
After four months, the mother leaves the nest
The young do not leave the nursery, but the mother leaves the nest after about four months – the males have no part in the rearing of the squirrel babies anyway, but are chased away at the latest after birth.
After the mother has gone, the siblings stay together for a short time before they look for their own territories in the vicinity. Already in the next year the females of the litter can give birth themselves.
You might also be interested in these animal themes:
Baby Squirrel Clinging: Emergency Rescue!
Myth: Do squirrels forget their nut hiding spots?
Keeping squirrels as pets: is that allowed?