Our favourite spiky critters, hedgehogs, and how to help them

Hedgehogs are very cute, very loveable, clumsy and well loved. A lot of people think of them as being almost symbolic of British wildlife, perhaps along with robins and red squirrels. They are certainly amongst the wildlife that we have the most sympathy for. Unfortunately their numbers have decreased by 30% in the last ten years. This most likely is down to the loss of their habitat across the UK, road deaths and the high number of fenced gardens- blocking the path that hedgehogs need to be able to travel to find food, shelter and a mate. The poor little chaps face not only these difficulties but also struggle to find somewhere safe to hide and hibernate due to obsessive clearing of our garden leaves, cat and dog attacks and also people not checking bonfires for hedgehogs before you lighting them. Imagine how attractive that pile of logs and leaves looks to a hedgehog who is seeking somewhere sheltered to settle down for the winter.

Many people have never seen a live hedgehog, although this varies depending on where you live- I see a few where I am- but that doesn’t mean that you never will. You can help them wherever you are- there are even hedgehogs in London! So what can you do for these little guys? Well there are a number of things you can do..

  1. You can’t help a hedgehog who can’t even get into your garden…so let them in! Garden fences have put barriers up that mean that hedgehogs cannot travel through them and end up being forced into roads. This doesn’t mean you have to go knocking fences down- we need them for our privacy- but you can make hedgehog sized holes at the bottom of the fence to allow them to pass through. You can do this in a subtle place, hedgehogs generally walk against fences of curbs until they find a dip or a gap, so as long as it’s accessible they will find it. This isn’t advisable if you have dogs or cats that may attack the hedgehog, or other pets that will use the gap to escape. But if you don’t, a hole in the fence is very helpful to the hogs an if you let them in they will clear away your slugs- so don’t use slug pellets!
  2. Now they can access your garden, you need to know what to feed them! For a long time people have been leaving bread, milk, dog and cat food out for them. Out of these, dog and cat food are suitable, providing they are not fish based, but bread and milk are unsuitable and milk will give them diarrhoea. You can offer feeding insects i.e crickets, locusts, waxworms and mealworms, but only in moderation. Chopped boiled eggs are also good and you can purchase special hedgehog food from bird food suppliers
  3. But where to leave the food? Cats get into everyone’s gardens and they will not be complaining about food left out, but if you want to feed the hedgehogs, this is something you need to prevent. You can do this by making a box in which to feed the hedgehog. You need a storage container, which are cheap and easy to purchase and to cut a hedgehog sized hole in the side of the box, meaning their food is kept safe and dry. In here you can place your hedgehog food and fresh water for them.
  4. If they want to stay longer and you are happy to have them, you can purchase hedgehog houses for them and fill these with bedding such as crumpled newspaper, hay, straw, old material and fallen leaves. Ensure that these are somewhere safe from predators. If you leave part of your garden wild for them, this will encourage them to hunt and forage and they will most likely find the home you have so kindly kept for them. Alternatively they will hibernate beneath old leaves that you may have left in a pile somewhere in your garden. There are many benefits to keeping your fallen leaves- see my article regarding this 🙂
  5. What else can you do? You can check your grass before getting the lawnmower out to ensure you don’t hurt any, check bonfires before lighting them, take them to a rescue centre if they are out in the daylight and raise awareness of how to help them to others.

For more information, visit https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/


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