How to help hedgehogs in your garden
Protect hedgehogs in Cambridge
The recent State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 report, published by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, show hedgehog numbers have fallen by about 50% over the last 20 years. The report found that there has been a severe decline in rural areas, but there are signs that populations in urban areas may be recovering.
If you make small changes to your outdoor areas and gardening habits, you can help create a ‘hedgehog haven’ and protect Britain’s national species. By encouraging hedgehogs to take up residence in your garden you will provide them with a safe home throughout the year and play a small part in encouraging their survival.
Responsible Cambridge citizens here’s what you can do to help our spiny friends thrive in your Cambridge garden.
Hedge not fence
Plant hedgerows instead of using fencing to encourage hedgehogs to socialise. However, if you must fence, cut a small hole 13cm x 13cm (the size of a CD) to connect your garden with others. As urban gardens are increasingly fenced in and cut off, hedgehogs are unable to move between gardens to find food and mates. Our local handymen can help here if you need it.
Leave a patch of garden naturally wild with overgrown corners and wildflowers to encourage hedgehogs. By recreating the hedgehogs’ natural habitat, they can use twigs and dead vegetation to build their nests. It also creates a habitat for the insects which hedgehogs eat.
Check for hedgehogs before using strimmers or mowers, particularly under hedges where animals may rest and hide. Beat the top of vegetation lightly to scare away hiding wildlife.
Take care when turning your compost with heavy equipment. Spread the heap before October/November ahead of hibernation. Empty your bin after April, once hibernation season is over. A good compost heap provides hedgehogs with a great hibernation and hunting environment.
Leave leaf litter & logs
Leave areas of the garden ‘wild’, with piles of leaf litter and logs. Damp leaves provide the perfect shelter for ground beetles, worms and other tasty bugs. Leaves also provide the perfect nesting material for hedgehogs, which can move their bed several times throughout winter. Log piles encourage a rich feast of earwigs, centipedes and woodlice, perfect food for ‘hogs! Woodpiles will also provide refuges for wildlife to hide in. Local supplier of logs.
Check sheds, patios and paving carefully for any sleeping critters before removing or relocating them. Hedgehogs and other wildlife may nest under these structures as their homes. You can also make a simple hedgehog home by placing a piece of board against a wall.
Use one of many “natural” alternatives to slug pellets, like sprinkling crushed eggshells or coffee grounds around the plants you need to protect. If you must use pellets, place them under a slate which is inaccessible to hedgehogs. But even so, hedgehogs can die after eating slugs which have the pellets inside them. If you want to get rid of slugs in an eco-friendly way, encourage wildlife into your garden which eats slugs: like hedgehogs! A gardener’s friend.
- Cover drains and holes and place bricks at the side of ponds to give hedgehogs an easy route out.
- Build bonfires as close to time of lighting as possible and check them thoroughly before lighting.
- Remove sports or fruit netting when not in use to prevent hedgehogs becoming entangled and getting injured.
Hedgehogs are greedy animals and can eat half their weight in just one day. The hedgehog’s natural diet mainly consists of slugs, ground beetles, caterpillars and worms. During cold or dry periods, these creepy-crawlies become much scarcer in gardens, so hedgehogs will benefit hugely from a shallow dish of water and supplementary feeding.
Hedgehogs will relish any combination of chicken or turkey flavoured dog or cat food in jelly (not fish or beef), hedgehog food, or cat biscuits. Place in a shallow dish and put in a sheltered area of your garden around sunset. Make a feeding station that is difficult for anything larger than a hedgehog to access to avoid the food you put out being eaten by pets or foxes.
Don’t feed hedgehogs cow’s milk or bread: they cannot digest the bread and cow’s milk gives them bad diarrhoea. Also don’t give them salty food like bacon and corned beef.
Did you know?
- The mating season for hedgehogs is from April until August, with up to two litters a year. The female makes a nest of grass, well hidden in the undergrowth, and has two to four hoglets that are born spikeless (you can guess why), with closed eyes. She suckles them and they grow quickly. They leave the nest after about three weeks and become independent.
- The hedgehog has about 16,000 prickles on its back. These normally lie flat but are raised by special muscles in times of danger. The head and legs are also tucked in, making the animal into a spiky ball, protecting it against most predators. Sadly, it is this same response which also results in so many hedgehogs being killed on our roads.
- As many as 10 different hedgehogs may visit a garden over several nights, which could mean ‘your hedgehog’ is a number of different individuals visiting at different times.
- Hedgehogs hibernate to bypass the cold months of the year when food becomes scarce. If the weather is warm (as it is increasingly) and food is put out for them every night, some hedgehogs do not feel the need to hibernate and will stay active all through the winter. Even so, hedgehogs do not hibernate continuously; they get up for a few days at a time throughout the winter to top up their reserves. Making hedgehog homes in the garden and providing food will help them get through the cold periods.
Find out a little more about the hedgehog