There are many great reasons for encouraging hedgehogs into your garden.

The Gardener’s Friend

Hedgehogs are the gardener’s friend as they particularly enjoy eating beetles, earthworms and slugs and therefore should be a regular guest in most UK gardens. Whilst they do roam far and wide in search of food, they will naturally return to an area that provides richer pickings.

There are fourteen different species of hedgehog around the world and the UK is home to the European hedgehog, found across Western Europe and Scandinavia. Although some hedgehogs have lived as long as ten years, their average lifespan is more normally between two and five years and a fully grown adult can have up to 7,000 spines… Ouch!

The Hedgehog Is Struggling

Sadly, however, the hedgehog is struggling.

In fact, over only the last ten years, their numbers have dwindled by 30% and there are now less than a million remaining across the UK. This is largely to do with loss of habitat, as our needs for housing and development steadily increase, but there are things we can do to help our spikey friends.

An Ideal Habitat

Our domestic gardens are an ideal habitat for hedgehogs with bushes and hedges providing the perfect day-time getaway with our insect-rich flowerbeds and lawns making fine-dining hedgehog restaurants around dusk. However, they do need access to and exits from our gardens as they naturally need to wander in search of food, mates and potential nesting sites. Ideally, cut a 5 inch hole in your fence or build a similar-sized hedgehog tunnel underneath so they can wander from garden to garden.

Growing a wide variety of different plants will help and, ideally, leaving some areas a little wilder. Leaf litter and longer grasses will attract hedgehog prey and give them a natural meal. Incorporating a diverse range of garden features from ponds, log piles, hedges, and a wide range of plant types will also assist.

Hedgehog Food

Whilst most organisations recommend leaving out a shallow bowl of fresh clean water, if you are tempted to add to their diet, it is now generally recognised that you should NOT feed them on bread and milk. They cannot digest the bread and cow’s milk can cause bad diarrhoea, and this poor diet can be fatal.

Instead, you can leave out foods like minced meat, tinned dog or cat food (NB not fish-based), crushed cat biscuits, or chopped boiled eggs. Specialist hedgehog food can also be bought from wild bird food suppliers. Also, as they naturally love slugs and snails, do avoid using poisonous slug pellets when hedgehogs are in residence.

Sick Or Injured Hedgehogs

If you think you may have found a hedgehog in trouble then there is some excellent advice from the experts at The Little Silver Hedgehog and also at St Tiggywinkles.

HedgehogImage courtesy of The Little Silver Hedgehog

Our brief overview is as follows: Hedgehogs are usually nocturnal – they sleep during daylight hours and forage for food from dusk and late evening through to early mornings. So if you do find one during the day, lying on a path for example, there is probably a problem and they may be ill. Similarly, tiny baby hogs will only leave the nest if there is a problem and therefore will require urgent treatment.

Traffic accidents, obvious wounds, or signs that the hedgehog has difficulty walking are all good reasons to take the hog to a wildlife hospital ASAP and St Tiggywinkles in Haddenham near Aylesbury are experts with hedgehog broken legs. Do handle the hedgehog very carefully to avoid further injury. If a hedgehog is badly caught in netting, don’t try to release it yourself as you may cause more injury, but cut the netting around the animal and take them to your nearest wildlife hospital.

Additionally, there is a lot of information about hedgehogs on the RSPB website as well. So, for the avoidance of any doubt, please do consult these experts referenced above.

Water Features

Hedgehogs are great swimmers so add a beautiful water feature to your garden. However, they do need an easy way to scramble out again so ensure there are some shallow areas.

Water feature

In a pond you could submerge a discrete ramp; some wood wrapped in chicken wire will provide the necessary grip so they can escape the waters.

Build A Hedgehog House

Piles of logs and sheltered leafy areas within the hedgerow are great places for hedgehogs to create their nest. Alternatively, you could provide a purpose-built hedgehog house for them. Whilst there are plenty to buy on the market, from the RSPB for example, making one is simple and could also be a fun family project.

Essentially, you need a wooden or plastic container with about the same dimensions as a shoebox. Remove any lids and turn it upside down. Cut a five inch hole in the front to act as an entrance and exit and also cut some narrow air vents in the side for ventilation. Make sure any freshly cut edges are sanded down or softened to prevent any accidentally cuts or injuries to your new guest.

Hedgehog house

Place the box near a hedge and then position it so the entrance faces to the south. Create the perfect flooring by placing some leaf litter inside with clean, dry grass or straw sitting on top. Then cover the outside of the box with twigs, dry grasses and leaves taking care not to block the air vents. You could also put a little minced meat at the entrance to help your hedgehog discover its new house for the first time.

Hedgehog house

Large ceramics or pottery can work just as well!

Finally, please take care – hedgehogs love hidden areas so always check for any errant hedgehogs before lighting bonfires, or strimming and mowing your lawns.

With 15 million gardens across in the UK, we can make a real difference to the future of our natural wildlife and to hedgehogs, in particular. In fact, most of our projects incorporate a wild and natural area – ideal for attracting and feeding hedgehogs. So, for any advice on helping hedgehogs, please feel free to contact us!

Please contact Jo or George on 01491 280447 or email info@greenart.co.uk.