It’s no secret hedgehogs are declining at a rapid rate, so it’s important now more than ever to make your garden an environment these creatures can thrive in. Hedgehogs are very good at running, climbing and swimming. They will go into hibernation in cold winter weather, only emerging when conditions are warmer.
Their nests may be large, usually made of mosses, grass, leaves and other garden debris. They can be found at the base of thick hedges, under thick bramble bushes, in garden sheds or in piles of rubbish. It’s time to do your bit and make a desirable home for our hedgehog friends!
If you want hedgehogs, make your garden accessible for them! Cutting a hole in your fence on either side allows wildlife to roam freely in your garden, this way they can wander from neighbour to neighbour or even make a home in your garden. You should also make sure they have lots of thick dense undergrowth and a variety of lengths of grass to hide and nest in. You can also make your garden a hot spot for the slugs, snails and bugs that hedgehogs like to munch on (if you don’t care about your plants!)
If you want to leave out food for hedgehogs, avoid milk and bread, as hedgehogs cannot digest them. Leave hedgehog food, complete cat biscuits or meaty cat or dog food.
Building boxes, growing wildlife-friendly gardens and providing food go a long way towards helping hedgehog numbers, but there are other ways that we can help to protect these prickly mammals:
- Avoid using chemicals like slug pellets. Instead, use beer or obstacles around the plants you’re trying to protect.
- Use natural non-toxic preservatives, as hedgehogs often lick new smells and surfaces.
- Always check bonfires, piles of leaves, grass cuttings, compost heaps and bags of rubbish before burning, mowing, forking or disposing of any of them.
- If you have a pond, make sure you provide platforms and sloped routes out of the water. Hedgehogs like to drink from ponds and can sometimes fall in. Although they’re good swimmers, it can be dangerous not to have a quick exit.
- Keep an eye on curious dogs in the garden late at night. Neither dog nor hedgehog will come off well from an encounter with each other!
- If you accidentally disturb an active hedgehog nest, carefully replace the material. The hedgehog will soon move the nest elsewhere. If there are young still in the nest, avoid touching them.
- If you come across a hibernating adult, try not to wake it. If you do, leave some food and water nearby until it hibernates again.
Build a hedgehog home
An alternative way to give hedgehogs a home in your garden is with a hedgehog home. If you want to build your hedgehog house from scratch, make sure you have the right amount of timber and follow this handy guide from the RSPB!
Once you’ve got your box and you’re ready to find a place for it in your garden, here are a few things to think about:
- Place the box out of direct sunlight, with the entrance facing away from prevailing winds.
- Put it in cover, under thick vegetation for example, or under the garden shed.
- If you know where a hedgehog has built its own nest in the past, consider putting your new one there, or in a similar environment.
- Resist the temptation to keep removing the lid to check if the box is being used. It’s always best not to disturb any potential hedgehog residents.
It may take a year for a hedgehog to take up home in your box, or it may not happen at all. This is nothing to worry about, as it could mean that they’ve found suitable natural nesting sites in your or the surrounding gardens.
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