How to attract hedgehogs to your garden
Autumn’s the time of year when hedgehogs most need our help. The little creatures are busy fattening themselves up for their winter hibernation, which usually begins in early November. They like to stay close to a good food supply so now’s a great time to attract them to your garden.
Give hedgehogs a helping hand
Make your garden a safe haven
If your garden is fenced all round you’ll need to cut a gap the size of a CD case, or dig a hedgehog-sized tunnel underneath, so they can get in. Don’t use slug pellets as they’re poisonous to hedgehogs. They can also fall into ponds and drown because they can’t get out, so pile up some stones at the side to give them an exit route. Be extra careful when clearing up piles of leaves and other garden rubbish as a hedgehog may be hiding there and get thrown away too!
Provide a square meal
Hedgehogs mostly live on insects, but you can supplement their diet by putting out some tinned cat or dog food (not fish-based), crushed cat biscuits, chopped boiled eggs, or special hedgehog food you can buy from pet shops. To make sure cats and foxes don’t steal the food, put it in a plastic box measuring at least 30x40cm. Cut a hedgehog-sized hole and place the food at the opposite end so other animals can’t stick their paws in and get it. Put a heavy stone on top of the box. Also, put out some water in a shallow dish.
Never give hedgehogs milk or bread as these can make them very ill.
Look out for hedgehog babies
Hedgehogs usually give birth twice a year – in the spring and late summer – and the late babies often struggle to put on enough weight before hibernation time. A hedgehog needs to weigh at least 450g, and ideally more like 600g, before it hibernates. If you see one that looks too small, pick it up using gardening gloves or a towel and weigh it – they don’t mind being handled. If it’s underweight, get in touch with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (01584 890 801) for advice on how best to help it.
Create a hibernation home
Hedgehogs love to hibernate in piles of dead leaves, stacks of logs, or compost heaps. But you can make a special house too. You will need:
- a big box made of strong cardboard or plastic
- a Stanley knife
- some dry leaves or straw
- a sheet of plastic big enough to cover the top – an opened up carrier bag is perfect
- some long twigs.
Cut a hedgehog-sized entrance, and two ventilation holes of 15x5cm, using the Stanley knife – be sure to ask an adult to help you with this. Put some leaves or straw inside, and over the top of the box, and place it next to a hedge or fence. Put the sheet of plastic on top and then arrange the long twigs over it to make an arch – a bit like making a mini den – and cover it with leaves and dry grass.