We’ve explored the best eco-friendly ways to dispose of your Halloween pumpkins, and one of the suggestions was to let wildlife or animals eat the leftovers.
If you have pets or keep livestock or chickens then this is a bit easier, but for those of us who don’t, we have to turn to our local wildlife.
Once the pumpkin starts rotting, throw it on the compost heap or bury it in some dirt to let it compost naturally. We don’t want to make our furry and feathery friends sick!
Are Halloween pumpkins safe for wildlife to eat?
RSPCA Cymru urged people in 2019 to leave out pumpkins for squirrels, foxes, badgers, and birds by chopping them up and putting them in dishes.
Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division also asks people to leave pumpkins out for raccoons and other wildlife neighbors.
Both remind people to remove candles or tea light holders and to check for rot.
Rotten pumpkin can harm wildlife, so make sure to pick it up if it starts rotting. The signs of a rotten pumpkin are:
- Soft or discolored spots on the outside
- Unpleasant odor, especially on the stem if still attached
- The pumpkin starts ‘melting’ or becoming flatter
- Black and white mold appears
It can take a few weeks for a pumpkin to start rotting. Once it does, you can compost the pumpkin or bury it under dirt.
By chopping the pumpkin up into chunks and burying them, you can feed minibeasts and creepy crawlies and be free of the stench! All kinds of insects and worms can benefit from the nutrients of pumpkins, and this can make the soil more fertile.
Just make sure you don’t bury any seeds by accident, or you might grow your own pumpkins by accident.
There are plenty of wildlife who can eat pumpkins, though we have to be mindful of how much to give them and what parts they can eat.
Are pumpkins safe for birds?
Birds love seeds, and that includes pumpkin too. Drying them out is preferable.
The Woodland Trust advises popping pumpkin seeds in the oven for ten minutes at 180C/gas mark 4 and breaking them up a bit. You can do this at the same time as toasting them for yourself, too.
Alternatively, leave the pumpkin seeds on a tray outside on a sunny day and keep them in direct sunlight for most daylight hours. Stirring or turning them every hour or two can dry them more easily.
Crushing the seeds with a rolling pin or ground with a food processor can compact them enough for smaller birds to eat. If you don’t have time or the means to do it, spread them through birdseed.
You can even spread pumpkin seeds loosely across your garden or in a tray or dish if you don’t have a bird feeder.
You can make a bird feeder out of the pumpkin yourself if you don’t have one already.
Take off the top of the pumpkin and clean it out, then put some holes in the sides and push sticks through it. Then the birds can perch on them while they eat. With a bit of string tied to the sticks, you can hang it on a branch or the corner of your shed or fence. Add some pumpkin seeds and ordinary birdseed and see if you get any visitors.
Here’s another way to make a pumpkin bird feeder with twine.
Remember to clean out the feeder, and don’t leave it up once the pumpkin starts rotting!
Is pumpkin healthy for birds?
Autumn is the season when birds need more energy, as many migrate, molt into their winter plumage, and store fat ahead of winter. Pumpkin seeds are very nutritious, and most seed-eating birds will eat at least some dried pumpkin seeds. Fruit-eating birds might eat fresh pumpkin seeds.
It’s best to check what birds are common to your area, but dry pumpkin seeds will mix better with other birdseed.
Bird feeders should ideally be cleaned every fortnight or at least once a month, so if you find that the pumpkin seeds aren’t being eaten you can find other ways to dispose of them.
Can you feed hedgehogs pumpkin?
While pumpkin isn’t toxic to hedgehogs, it isn’t very healthy for them. Hedgehogs are prone to diarrhea when they eat pumpkins thanks to the amount of fiber in them.
An upset stomach or diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can be seriously life-threatening for hedgehogs, especially in urban areas.
A small amount of pumpkin should be fine, but make sure to leave out water for the hedgehogs as well. You can mix some small chunks of pumpkin in with cat, dog, or hedgehog food.
If you still have a whole pumpkin to leave out, try to keep it out of reach of hedgehogs by putting it in a raised or hanging place.
Is pumpkin good for deer to eat?
Deer love pumpkins, especially the flesh inside. You can leave a pumpkin top off and let deer eat from it or you can even smash a pumpkin open and leave the bits in different places.
If you have pumpkin guts leftover from carving you can put them back inside for the deer to eat. They’ll even eat the seeds.
If you live near a forest, it would be a good idea to drop off the pumpkin in places where you have seen the deer frequent. This will keep them safe from any nearby roads. It will also stop them from eyeing up your other garden plants for food.
Pumpkin is healthy for deer, who make good use of the extra fiber.
Deer have even been seen to eat pumpkin leaves during summer before the fruit blossoms in autumn. Garden Tabs has a great collection of photos of deer eating pumpkins.
Is pumpkin poisonous to squirrels?
Pumpkin isn’t poisonous to squirrels – they actually love eating pumpkin and pumpkin seeds.
Unlike deer, squirrels can’t open pumpkins themselves, so you need to slice them up or make sure the hole is big enough for them to get in and out.
They will eat the rind if they feel like it too. Just don’t leave behind any painted or pen ink, as this could make them ill.
If you have a squirrel feeder, you can add slices or wedges of pumpkin into the feeder or put it in a dish nearby. You can also leave chunks of pumpkin near known squirrel nests.
How to leave pumpkins out for wildlife
Now that you know how safe pumpkins are for wildlife, you can prepare your leftover Halloween pumpkins for your local animals and birds. If you’re unsure what might visit your house, try asking local wildlife trusts or conservation centers in your area.
This advice isn’t from a vet, so if you’re harboring wild animals, especially young ones, contact the experts first! Unweaned baby wildlife should not be fed pumpkin.
When leaving pumpkins out for wildlife, always remember to remove any candles or accessories, especially small objects that could get lodged in an animal’s throat.
While you can leave a whole carved pumpkin out, it’s best to cut up the pumpkin once you’re done with it into smaller chunks for animals to eat easily.