Hedgehogs are in trouble. It’s estimated that the UK population has declined by a third in ten years. There are practical ways that we can all help these endearing creatures, such as leaving leaf piles in gardens, fitting escape ramps to cattle grids and steep-sided ponds, providing 13cm x 13cm (compact disc-sized) access holes in fences to connect gardens, and giving them a safe haven for hibernation and nursing females.
Hedgehog houses should be placed in a quiet part of the garden with some weather protection, avoiding areas that flood, such as against a wall or under an outbuilding, and will offer a refuge for hibernation and may also be used as a nursery area in the spring or summer.
Our hedgehog houses have lots of internal space for the hedgehogs to build warm hibernation nests, provide a snug, secure space for females to give birth and nurse their young, and the houses look good, too!
Hedgehogs are insectivores and their preferred diet includes beetles, slugs, caterpillars and earthworms. Our Hedgehog Food is an excellent substitute should supplies of these insects be insufficient. They can also be tempted by saucers of meat-based cat or dog food, but at all times of the year, particularly during the summer, it is important to ensure a bowl of clean water is available. A hedgehog feeding house will let them feed undisturbed and keep the food away from cats, dogs and foxes.
Encourage hedgehogs into your garden
There are lots of different ways that hedgehogs can be helped, and if you’re already gardening with wildlife in mind you are probably doing most of them.
A “wild area” is a good start. This needn’t be rank dereliction and nettles – some unmown grass, a nice selection of native plants and shrubs, perhaps a wildlife pond with sloping sides to allow creatures in and out will all help to encourage any passing hedgehog to stake a claim to your garden. Discrete piles of leaves, prunings and general garden refuse can help to provide nest materials or even nest and hibernation sites.
A lot of hedgehog casualties occur because our gardens can, despite the best intentions, be quite hostile places. Steep sided ponds or cattle grids can literally be death traps for any hedgehog that falls in, unless there is some form of escape route such as a gently sloping plank. Soft netting around fruit can entangle hedgehogs, sometimes causing horrible injuries, while the dangers posed by machinery such as strimmers is obvious.
A lot of hedgehog casualties are caused by grass cutting, particularly when people trim back areas of long grass with a strimmer. Be extremely careful when strimming long grass and, if you can, give it a “top cut” first to reduce the height, then rake up the mowings and return later for a second cut down to the desired height.
Hedgehogs don’t appreciate the distinction between a pile of hedgehog-friendly prunings and a bonfire so it’s good practice to move any combustible materials to one side before you reach for the matches, just in case. Obviously if you do find a ball of leaves in the base, replace some of the materials over the hedgehog’s winter nest and leave it in peace until the spring.
Providing food is an obvious way to welcome guests, with the added bonus in this case that hedgehogs love to eat pests such as slugs and snails. You don’t need to encourage these (there should be plenty in your garden already!) but avoid using slug pellets if at all possible to avoid the chances of hedgehogs eating poisoned molluscs.
Our specially developed food for hedgehogs can be put out every night as a supplement which will be particularly appreciated by nursing females and small hedgehogs trying to gain weight before hibernation. Clean, fresh water in a shallow dish is also a good idea, but avoid putting out saucers of milk for your hedgehogs as most experts agree that this does more good than harm.
For further information please visit the British Hedgehog Preservation Society - www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk