The UK hedgehog population is in decline, sadly due to lack of habitat and food, busy roads, and the use of pesticides that reduce the availability of their natural diet of slugs, snails and insects.
Thankfully, there’s lots of things you can do to make your garden a place of respite, comfort and tasty treats for our prickly friends. And not only will this help out the endangered species, but it will also be beneficial to your garden, as hedgehogs like to eat common garden pests.
Leave out food and water
Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so do not leave out milk for them! Leave out a saucer of fresh water instead. It is also a common assumption that hedgehogs like pumpkin flesh, but this is actually a natural laxative for them and can cause dehydration and weight loss in the crucial months when they are preparing for hibernation.
According to the Woodland Trust, the best foods to provide for these prickly pals is meat-based cat and dog food and cat biscuits. You can also buy specially made hedgehog food which can be found in most good pet shops and garden centres. Minced meat and chopped up boiled eggs are said to be good hedgehog food as well.
Make your garden easily accessible
Cut a 12cm by 12cm hole in the bottom of your fence to allow hedgehogs to come and go as they please.
Make a pond ladder
Hedgehogs love a swim, but are not very good at climbing out of the water! If you have a pond, be sure to build a pond ladder, ramp, or place a few rocks at the waters edge to allow the hedgehogs to take a dip and go for a daily swim without getting stuck.
Find a natural alternative to slug pellets
Slug pellets remove slugs and snails, a crucial part of the hedgehog’s diet, from the food chain. Not only that, but conventional slug pellets are extremely harmful to our prickly pals. Rather than using toxic chemicals to remove slimy creatures, why not encourage more hedgehogs into your garden so they can do the job for you?
However, if you really do need to get rid of slugs and snails, Countryfile suggests placing a container in the ground, with a few inches poking above the surface, and half-filling the container with beer for a chemical-free remedy to trap your unwanted garden guests – without unwillingly harming any other creatures.
Check grass before mowing or strimming
Before you neaten up your garden by mowing and strimming, check any long grass for hiding hedgehogs.
Leave an untidy patch in your garden
Though aesthetically pleasing to humans, a tidy garden is not appealing to hedgehogs. Be careful when tidying up your garden and always break up piles of sticks gently, keeping an eye out for sleeping hedgehogs. Leave sticks, leaves, twigs and compost in a quiet corner of your garden for hedgehogs to nest in. Whilst providing an excellent hibernation spot, Gardeners’ World suggests that this untidy environment also attracts hedgehog food, such as slugs, beetles and centipedes.
Check your recycling
Crush cans and cut up plastic rings or any waste that a small mammal could get caught in. Make sure your recycling is kept in a secure place and is never overflowing to avoid escaping pieces of hazardous plastic.
Be extremely careful with bonfires
If you are planning on having a bonfire, be sure not to build it until you are just about to light it. If it must be left out for a while, make sure you move it just before lighting in case any critters have mistaken your bonfire for a worthy hibernation spot. Check it for hedgehogs whenever it has been unattended for a while.
If you see a hedgehog in need, call Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue service on 01344 623106 for advice.
Have you got any baby hedgehogs in your back garden? Check out this great article from our friends at Prospect Estate Agency to find out what to do if you find a baby hedgehog.