Hedgehog highways – Turning your garden into a hedgehog haven
The start of spring is a natural alarm clock for hedgehogs and as they don’t have a snooze button to hit, it’s not long until they’ll be making frequent appearances in our gardens – well that’s what we hope for anyway! But if your garden doesn’t seem to be very popular with the hedgehog population, there are plenty of things you can do to change that!
For us, a home is a place to eat, find shelter and spend quality time with family, and it’s the same for hedgehogs.
Your garden is a natural buffet for hedgehogs as they love feasting on a variety of insects including worms, slugs and beetles. You can increase the creepy crawly population in your garden with open air composting, and give your hedgehogs more to choose from.
Hedgehogs normally hibernate between November and March when the temperatures are coldest and food is scarce. Leading up to the hibernation period it’s a good idea to leave additional food in your garden, as hedgehogs need to put on weight to help them stay warm. You can leave food out during spring and summer too as any extra food supplies are helpful to hedgehogs, especially when they first wake up.
Hedgehog’s are not fussy eaters and will appreciate any of the following:
- Cat or dog food
- Unsalted peanuts (make sure they’re chopped or crushed)
- Dried meal worms
- Chopped boiled eggs
- Specialist bought hedgehog food
Always leave a shallow dish of water out too, to help thirsty hedgehogs.
When supplying hedgehogs with tasty treats, never give them milk – hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and it can make them ill. Another thing to avoid is the use of slug pellets in your garden, as hedgehog’s can mistake these for food and become poisoned. Always use natural or organic methods to rid your garden of these pests; our slug blog can help.
There’s a number of places in your garden that hedgehogs would be happy to hibernate and nest in, including at the bottom of a hedge; under your shed; in your compost heap and in large leaf piles and, as they are not territorial, they often move between nesting sites.
As they can be found hiding and foraging for bedding material in compost heaps and leaf piles, always check before turning them with a fork – you wouldn’t want to spike a hidden hog!
Another way to make sure the hedgehogs visiting your garden have a place to nest is with the help of an artificial hedgehog home. You can either make your own hedgehog home or purchase one; there’s plenty of good options online (the RSPB offer a Hogitat hedgehog shelter).
Use a quiet, shady part of your garden to build your hedgehog house and create a tunnelled entrance to prevent predators from reaching inside the shelter.
Installing a wildlife shelter is a great way to help local hedgehogs, but remember, first and foremost hedgehogs need to be able to actually gain access to your garden, otherwise all your efforts will go unnoticed and uninhabited.
Although creating a food supply and shelter in your garden is a massive help to hedgehogs, one garden is not enough to give them everything they need; it’s just part of a local network of gardens that together meet the basic needs of a hedgehog. Therefore, it’s important to ensure there is a way in and out of your garden, such as a clearing at the bottom of a hedgerow boundary or a small gap in a fence or gate. These ‘doors’ allow access to natural corridors along hedges and shrubs, giving hedgehogs the freedom to visit your neighbours’ gardens too and see what they have to offer.
If you have any questions about how else you can help hedgehogs, or anything else relating to your garden, please tweet me @best4hedging and I’ll be happy to help.