Hedgehogs used to be a common sight in many UK gardens. However, they are now in decline, so it is more important than ever to give our spiky friends a hand. Typically, hedgehogs hibernate from November to April, depending upon temperature and their size. Hibernation allows them to find an area to survive the cold by turning off mechanisms and so save their energy and then awake when the weather becomes warmer.
Housing for hedgehogs
Hedgehogs like dry covered areas such as under a hedge, in a compost heap or even under a pile of leaves. Always double check these areas before tidying or removing them. You could create a suitable area in your garden or buy a commercial hedgehog house and tuck it away in a corner.
There are lots of websites showing how to make hedgehog houses yourself if you are feeling crafty. This will give them protection and shelter. A compost heap is also a great source of food for hedgehogs as it encourages lots of insects. Providing suitable housing also encourages other wildlife into your garden and you could consider having a wildlife area.
Having lots of insects will encourage hedgehogs into the garden, so ideally use plants and flowers to draw them in. Damp areas under logs will provide great sources of bugs too.
Leave any small gaps in your fencing or hedges as this will allow hedgehogs to access your garden, whereas a sealed area means they cannot enter or leave.
What can you feed your visitors?
A Hedgehog’s diet consists of bugs such as worms, beetles, slugs and caterpillars that they root out using their nose. They have a good sense of smell and hearing to help them find their food. This hearing also helps them to hide from potential danger. Without a source of food, the numbers will continue to decline, so it is vital to encourage bugs into your garden.
You can also use shop-bought food, either a meat-based cat or dog food placed into a shallow dish. You can even buy hedgehog specific dry food from some retailers. Also providing a small dish of water for them to drink, make sure this is a shallow dish to allow them to drink from it easily. You can put food out for when they come out of hibernation to provide them with some energy.
Please do not feed them milk, it can make them very unwell as they cannot digest the lactose properly. We do not advise feeding scraps such as bread either as it does not contain the nutrients required.
What to do if you find a sick or injured hedgehog
If you find a hedgehog out during daylight hours or with any signs of injury such as unable to walk or bleeding then please contact your vet for advice. Sadly, they can easily be attacked by other animals and are prone to certain diseases. Never bring a hedgehog inside without first contacting your vet as it may do more harm than good.
Hedgehogs will often have fleas and ticks on them so please be aware if you touch them these can pass across to other pets – or to humans. There are a number of wildlife rescues within the UK that help to rehabilitate injured or unwell hedgehogs and your vet will be able to contact them for assistance in rehabilitating them.
Hedgehogs are a lovely wildlife sight in our gardens, but sadly if we do not start to help them the numbers will continue to decline and they may not be around for future generations. Simple things such as those above can make a big impact, so why not try making a hedgehog friendly area in your garden.