Hedgehogs In Gardens: Tips On Attracting Hedgehogs To The Garden

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Hedgehogs have a large range and require access to at least 10 to 12 backyards to gather all their needs. This can be tough for the little mammals, as many yards are fenced today and they have no access to new hunting and nesting grounds. Attracting hedgehogs to the garden starts with access, but there are also a few dangers to eliminate and things you can do to make them feel more invited. What will attract hedgehogs? The same things that would attract any animal: food, shelter, security, and water.

What will Attract Hedgehogs?

There are 17 species of hedgehog, which can be found in Europe, Asia, and Africa natively and in New Zealand through introduction. These small spiny mammals are primarily nocturnal and eat small invertebrates and insects. They are potent allies in the garden where they help keep insect populations to normal levels. But how to attract hedgehogs to gardens? This is where you have to think like the animal and remove any potential booby traps and dangers as well as provide a safe habitat for the little mammals.

Hedgehogs need plentiful food and water but they also need nesting sites. Hedgehogs in gardens may nest under rocks, vegetation, and even inside an abandoned shed. They seek privacy and security, a place to safely sleep and perform an important ritual, anointing.

Good spaces in the garden are wild spaces, compost piles, and log piles. Most nests are built with old leaves, moss and other plant material. You can make a simple hedgehog nest in just a few minutes. Simply cut two air vents in the side of a cardboard box, along with a small entrance. Place clean, dry grass and leaves inside the box and close it. Position the opening to the south and place plastic or a tarp over the structure, disguising it with pine needles, leaves and other debris.

Dangers to Hedgehogs in Gardens

Dogs and even cats can pose a threat to hedgehog safety, but so can some other common garden items.

  • Mowers can injure resting hedgehogs, so always check the lawn before mowing.
  • Cars are another danger and driveways, especially those that may not be paved and slightly overgrown, need to be checked before you set out on errands.
  • Pesticide use is also a red flag in the hedgehog garden. Any insect or invertebrate that has the pesticide in it will transfer it to the hedgehog and make it sick.
  • You might think you need to feed the hedgehogs to attract them but this simply fattens mice and other rodents. If you have plenty of vegetation and access to the neighbor’s yards, the hedgehog will be fine. If you must feed it, avoid any cow’s milk, as it can make the animal sick.

How to Attract Hedgehogs to Gardens

Attracting hedgehogs to the garden relies upon more than food, shelter, and water. The animals need peace and quiet during the daytime when they are sleeping.

It is unlikely that a busy daycare will make a good hedgehog home, as curious children and the resulting noise will probably scare the animal away. Similarly, kenneled, noisy dogs can be a problem. Even if they can’t get at the hedgehog, their barking will drive away the tiny mammal. Construction zones, busy roadways, and business centers are not what will attract hedgehogs.

Rural, naturally landscaped properties with quiet, simple day-to-day life will invite these charming spiked animals to take up residence. Keeping it simple, safe and full of food and water options are surefire ways to bring hedgehogs into your garden.

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What do hedgehogs eat? And how to feed them

Are you lucky enough to have a hedgehog visiting your garden? These much-loved mammals are in trouble, with the UK population possibly falling by two-thirds in the last 25 years alone.

Evidence suggests this decline is most severe in rural areas and hedgehogs are actually faring better in our towns and villages than the countryside. This means gardens can be an important refuge for the species. One way you can help any visiting hogs is to provide some food. But what do hedgehogs eat and what should you feed them?

Do Hedgehogs Eat Even Slimy (Spanish) Slugs?

It is sometimes said that hedgehogs will not eat slugs as they taste too bitter (especially the Spanish slug ).

But this is not correct. Slugs are protein-rich and one of their preferred foods.

Hedgehogs catch and roll the slugs with their front legs until they lose most of their mucus and after that become digestible.

The following video shows this behavior.

Video: A hedgehog eating a slug

As seen in the video, the hedgehog first rolls the slug around and after eating it, immediately searches for more.

If you use slug pellets in your garden, they will also harm hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs that eat the pellets or poisoned slugs/snails could die.

If they only eat a few, they may survive, but will probably lose their appetite for slugs.

This is one of the reasons why the use of slug pellets is not a good idea.

Click on the link for more information: Why are slug pellets dangerous?

Safe slug control for your garden

Hedgehogs will help to contain a slug population boom from the minute it starts.

So, encourage hedgehogs into your garden and create favorable conditions and habitats for them to settle in.

Hedgehogs are not native to North America and they are in decline in the UK.

How to attract hedgehogs to your garden

I snout out the ways we can help the declining hedgehog populations in our gardens this summer and create local hog network!

One of the most enduring memories of childhood has to be the ritual of hedgehog feeding. Out we’d go into the night with a shallow saucer of cat food (or, before we knew better, bread and milk). We’d place it strategically near a shrub or hedge, before tiptoeing back indoors to catch a glimpse of our nighttime visitors.

On most occasions we’d be rewarded. First with those tell-tale grunting, snorting and puffing noises. Then, with shuffling spines and a snuffling snout as hedgehogs emerged to take a dip in our midnight feast.

But when homeowners began to deck over gardens, smother lawns with artificial grass and put up impermeable boundaries to keep out the neighbours – they kept out the hedgehogs too.

According to a State of Britain’s Hedgehogs report and ongoing surveys by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), there has been a steep population decline in the last decade. Half of rural hedgehogs and a third of urban ones are disappearing.

“Hedgehogs now appear to be declining in the UK at the same rate as tigers are globally – at around five per cent a year,” says Henry Johnson, ‘Hedgehog Officer’ at Hedgehog Street, a joint campaign between wildlife charities the PTES and The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) (who also has one of the UK’s best job titles!)

“We all get dewy eyed about the loss of these magnificent beasts but often overlook what is, or isn’t, in our own backyards.”

Access all areas

So, is there a way to stem the tide? Henry and other hedgehog experts believe the problem is not about what is in our gardens, but more about getting into them.

“Hedgehogs thrive in gardens because of the diverse range of habitats they provide,” says Henry. “But fences and walls stop them in their tracks, and the single most important thing we can do is give them access to roam.”

The main focus of the Hedgehog Street campaign, therefore, is to get homeowners to create ‘hedgehog highways’. These are small 13cm by 13cm holes or gaps in garden boundaries so the animals can travel into and between gardens.

Evidence from radio tracking studies shows hedgehogs snuffle their way through more than one kilometers of gardens every night in search of food. A sustainable hedgehog population needs at least 90 hectares of connected land to survive.

Scrape a hole underneath the fence and make a mud tunnel, or buy fence panels with pre-cut holes. If you’re having a wall built, add a ‘smoot’ (traditionally a hole to let lambs move from one field to another) that’s just large enough for a hedgehog. Then, add your hedgehog hole to the Big Hedgehog Map.

Provide a hogitat

In July, hedgehogs will be breeding so it’s the perfect time to leave out some nesting materials. Create a log pile hibernacula (a hog house) in a quiet undisturbed corner, or add a compost heap or leaf pile to encourage more insect prey.

Ponds are an often-overlooked hedgehog friendly feature. Hedgehogs benefit greatly from a year-round water supply and are great swimmers. Ensure the sides are gently sloping so they can get in and out easily.

“Consider planting perennials that attract pollinators too rather than mass produced bedding plants,” says Henry. “Plant hedges, create lawns for worms and beetles and grow herbs such as thyme and marjoram between paving stones.”

If you’d like to feed them, put out bowls of mealworms, crushed unsalted nuts, meat-based cat and dog food or sunflower hearts. Avoiding bread and milk and add a saucer of water if it’s dry. To stop cats and other garden visitors pinching the food, you can make a feeding station out of an old wooden crate or plastic box. Cut a hedgehog-sized hole in it, and the other animals won’t get in!

Once you’ve attracted your hedgehogs – shout about it. No single garden is large enough for a hedgehog population, so think of your garden as part of a local hog network.

Got a hog?

  • Find tracks. Create a footprint tunnel to detect them, try this diy kit.
  • Look for droppings. Generally dark brown-grey or black, firm and typically packed with the exoskeletons of invertebrates, such as beetles. Roughly cylindrical, they can be 15 to 50mm long.
  • Log your hog. Note hedgehog sightings and become one of 43,000 ‘Hedgehog Champions’.

Hedgehog facts

  • There are 17 species of hedgehog across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. The West-European hedgehog is Britain’s native.
  • Most of us live within a mile or two of the nearest wild hedgehog population – even in large cities. In the breeding season, male hedgehogs can cover up to 3km in one night in search of females.
  • How do hedgehogs mate? Carefully, of course! Males attempt to woo females in lengthy encounters that involve much circling and rhythmic snorting and puffing. Once wooed, the female adopts a special body position with her spines flattened. Breeding occurs between April and September with most hoglets born in June/July.
  • During hibernation, from October to April, hedgehogs drop their body temperature to match their surroundings and enter a state of torpor. However, they can move nesting sites and, during mild winters, will remain active into December.
  • It’s a myth hedgehogs should be fed bread and milk. They are in fact lactose intolerant so should not be given milk. Bread is so low in energy, it’s almost worthless to them.
  • Slug pellets are the most well-known chemical hazard to hedgehogs. Other pesticides can also affect hedgehogs as they lead to a decrease in the number of earthworms and other invertebrates available.
  • Wood preservers can also be harmful to hedgehogs, as they will often lick freshly treated fences. Try to use a water-based environmentally friendly treatments.

Like this? How about learning how to save water? Or read more about my eco campaigns to help curb climate change.

1. Grow wild

Let nature take its course to create a more attractive environment for all things wild. You don’t have to leave your plot to develop into a small jungle – wildlife will thank you for just a small corner, border or planter.

Native wildflowers are ideal as they’re easy to grow and look after, and provide a pretty display too. Plants like forget-me-not, red campion, foxglove and chamomile are a great nectar source for bees and butterflies. By choosing the right species, you can even grow flowers that attract insects as a food source for birds or bats.

Consider growing wild when it comes to your lawn too. An overly-manicured space leaves little room for wildlife, so mow less frequently, or keep a small patch uncut. Avoid chemicals too, as they're a recipe for low biodiversity. This will allow plants like daisies, clover and buttercups to grow. Though some consider them weeds, they offer food, shelter and breeding ground for insects that in turn provide food for birds and small mammals like hedgehogs.

How to attract hedgehogs into your garden – Hedgehog Awareness Week

Hedgehog Awareness week runs from the 3rd – 9th May 2020 to raise awareness of these gorgeous creatures which are sadly in decline. Help to attract hedgehogs into your garden so they continue to survive and thrive in our countryside and urban areas. how to attract hedgehogs into your garden

Rescued Hedgehog by the London Colney Hedgehog Rescue

We know that nature and wildlife has been proven to have a profound effect on our health, well being as well as keeping our ecosystem healthy even more so now than ever. Hedgehogs are such an iconic and important part of British wildlife but are sadly now in decline due to an increase in traffic, agriculture, the way we are now designing gardens with decking and paving and the reduction of plants, crucial undergrowth and the use of pesticides and poisons. how to attract hedgehogs into your garden

To help protect hedgehogs below are some top tips on how you could help the hedgehogs and encourage them into your garden. Let’s keep hedgehogs happy and thriving in our countryside for now and future generations to come. how to protect and attract hedgehogs into your garden

Top tips to help the hedgehogs

  • Create a wild corner in your garden which will offer shelter, protection and food for hedgehogs and other wildlife.
  • Avoid using pesticides and slug pellets in your garden. Not only do these harm the hedgehogs but also damage the food chain.
  • Provide a shallow dish of fresh water and food such as meat based cat or dog food or chopped unsalted peanuts, especially during long dry spells.
  • Make or buy a hedgehog home, it may be used as a hibernation site for the winter months or as a nesting box for a mummy hedgehog and her hoglets in the warmer months.
  • Make sure hedgehogs have easy access in and out of your garden by having a 13cm x 13cm gap in your boundary wall or fence allowing hedgehogs to pass through.
  • Check for hedgehogs before strimming or mowing.
  • Dispose of litter. Every year hedgehogs get injured or trapped in rubbish.
  • Check bonfires before they are lit as these are a perfect home for a hedgehog and other wildlife.
  • Hedgehogs are good swimmers but can get trapped in ponds or pools with sheer sides. Keep water levels up and provide a gently sloping edge or place half submerged rocks in the water.
  • Take care on roads, hedgehogs are nocturnal so are often seen at night. A hedgehogs natural defence is to roll up into a ball – this is no match for a motor vehicle!

With busy lives and technology taking over it is easy to forget the beauty of the outside world and appreciate the importance of nature is for us and for future generations to enjoy, protect and cherish. how to attract hedgehogs inhow to protect and attract hedgehogs into your gardento your garden

For more information on hedgehogs head over to The British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Help support The London Colney Hedgehog Rescue

Esther Chant – founder of the London Colney Hedgehog Rescue

The London Colney Hedgehog Rescue was founded in 2012 by Esther Chant who has dedicated her life to help rehabilitate injured, sick or orphaned hedgehogs and it is one of our local hedgehog rescue centres.

The rescue centre is self-funded and relies on donations from the public but since the outbreak of the Corona virus this has had a devastating impact on the charity as half of the annual income to help pay for the hedgehogs vet bills and medicines will be lost as all the events and fayres where a lot of the vital funds are raised have now been cancelled.

To donate or find out ways to help the hedgehog rescue please click here. Thank you.

cute hedgehog rescued by the London Colney Hedgehog Rescue

Take care

To make sure your garden is a safe and secure space for hedgehogs, there are a few things you can do:

• If you have a pond, ensure there is a gentle slope to allow hedgehogs to get in and out, they’ll love the water and the amphibians and insects that the pond attracts.

• Check areas very carefully before mowing and strimming.

• Cover any drains or deep holes so hedgehogs don’t fall.

• Check your compost heap before digging the fork in to turn or take out compost.

• Avoid letting you dog into the garden at night on their own.

• If you see a hedgehog during the day, it may be distress, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for advice.

• Avoid the use of chemicals in the garden as this has a impact on your garden’s natural food chain and hedgehogs may accidentally eat something that will do it a mischief.

• Ensure there is no litter around your garden. Hedgehogs are inquisitive and some waste can trap a hedgehog which leaves them vulnerable or can cause injury.

Encourage these creatures into your garden and they will repay you by creating harmony with insects. By creating hedgehog friendly spaces and encouraging your neighbours to do that same, they’ll keep coming back and our native numbers will flourish.

Watch the video: How to help your garden hedgehogs

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