Hedgehogs are a gardener’s best friend. In fact, I regard them as one of the best garden bouncers, keeping out unwanted garden visitors like slugs and snails.
You can play a massive part in helping out these distinctive mammals to ensure their population grows and flourishes.
From 3rd to 9th May, it is Hedgehog Awareness Week and I wanted to share some easy ways to help our spiky friends and invite them to the safety of our gardens.
House a hedgehog
Typically seeking out a secure place to shelter and breed, a pile of logs is the perfect spot for hedgehogs to hibernate.
Start by collecting wood and choose a quiet and undisturbed section of your garden to set it up. Log piles or piles of leaf litter are great for shelter but also they’re a great source for food as plenty of insects will find them appealing places to shelter too.
Create new habitats by leaving piles of leaves and other vegetation in secluded parts of the garden in autumn. Good spots include underneath hedges and by ponds (remember to have an escape ramp) or other water where they like to drink. You can also rest a small board against a sheltered wall and fill the gap with dry leaves.
Cutting a 13 x 13cm (5.1 x 5.1 inches) hole in the bottom of your fence and encouraging your neighbours to do the same will allow hedgehogs to move freely between gardens as a larger network.
Did you know as many as ten hedgehogs visit a garden in the night? It isn’t just one ‘resident’ hedgehog, but many! One single garden won’t provide everything that hedgehogs need so your garden is part of their wider network.
Download and cut out the template to measure out the right size for your hedgehog hole.
You can supplement a hedgehog’s natural diet to give them a helping hand. This is doubly as important in autumn when they need to accumulate fat before they go into hibernation.
Try putting out a bowl of good quality cat or dog food, but make sure it doesn’t contain any fish or comes in a gravy, as too much salt is not good for them. You can buy specialist hedgehog food, which is available from garden retailers and pet shops.
Remember to clean up any uneaten food daily and wash up the dish it was placed in.
Please do not feed them milk or give them bread as this can upset their stomach. Stick to plain, fresh water, in a shallow dish near the food and clean and change this regularly.
Remember that this will only ever be supplemental: a hedgehog’s natural diet consists of bugs, slugs, snails, beetles, caterpillars and earthworms. So, all being well they will have plenty of food to choose from in your garden and will continue to forage for themselves as well eat you put out food for them.
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.