Make a Hedgehog Friendly Garden
Hedgehogs steadfastly remain one of our favourite British wildlife visitors to our gardens. Many of us delight in witnessing them emerge from hibernation each spring, and listening to their snuffles in our back gardens during warm summer evenings. (Or accidentally stepping in their distinctly black poo the next morning!) Lots of us in Britain have taken to feeding or providing water for hedgehogs in our gardens, in the hope that they will be regular visitors. Whilst we must remember that hedgehogs are wild animals, there are a number of efforts we can make to encourage them into our gardens and help them.
Hedgehogs numbers are showing small signs of improvement in urban areas and it is thought this could be down to the work households are doing in their gardens. At the start of May each year, we celebrate Hedgehog Awareness Week and this year is very special because it's also the Hedgehog Preservation Society's 40th birthday. Their Chief Executive, Fay Vass, says: “Hedgehogs are struggling and mostly that’s due to human activity. Small actions can help a great deal, a little effort from each of us could make life a lot easier for hedgehogs! If you don’t have a garden yourself, you can still help by contacting public space managers, neighbours, family and friends to ensure they are doing their bit.” Here's how you can help:
Hedgehogs need to be able to roam around at night. In fact, many hedgehogs will travel up to 2km each night time, looking for food, water and mates. If they can't get into, or out of, your garden then this hampers their chances. Take a look at the boundary of your garden, could you make it easier for them?
In particular, and with your neighbours' permission, you can cut 13cm x 13cm square gaps in your fences and gates to enable them to snuffle through from your own garden to your next door neighbour, and vice versa. Once you have created your Hedgehog Highway, you can even log it on the BIG Hedgehog Map, where you can also log hedgehog sightings. Think about any steps as well, which you might have in your garden. Could you create a ramp next to the steps?
Build a log pile
We talk about this a lot, but building a log pile is one of the most fun and most wildlife-friendly things you can do in your garden (the other being to build a pond!) A log pile does two vital things - it creates shelter. Not just for hedgehogs, but also for toads and mice. Secondly, it also creates habitat for insects - the bugs and beetles which hedgehogs love to eat.
It's best to build your log pile in a shady part of the garden that's less likely to be regularly disturbed. Try to use logs and twigs of differing thickness and length, and make sure that the logs on the bottom are actually part way dug into the ground. This makes the whole pile more stable, but also helps with starting to break down the woody matter - which in turn encourages more beetles and bugs.
Build or buy a hedgehog home
There are three ways in which you can provide a hedgehog house in your garden. The first is through garden design. By which we mean, if you have the space, providing natural nesting areas like hedgerows, piles of brushwood or, in fact, big log piles with entrance holes and space inside. Hedgehogs like to hibernate in quiet, undisturbed areas of your garden. Underneath sheds and compost heaps are favourites. The more you can design your garden with elements like this, the better.
Secondly, you could build a hedgehog house. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has an easy to follow design on its website which you can follow here. Lastly, you can buy a purpose built hedgehog house like our Hogilo, or our Hedgehog Barn. Both are built with entrance ways to discourage pets or foxes from being able to reach inside. The Hogilo is made from second-life, recycled plastic waste and the Barn is made from FSC-certified timber. Again, it is best to place them somewhere sheltered and quiet, where you think a hedgehog might like to spend a peaceful winter hibernating!
Offer food and water
Once a hedgehog comes out of hibernation, it is incredibly hungry and thirsty. In the natural world, hedgehogs like to eat beetles, earwigs, earthworms, millipedes and slugs. Things which our gardens are full of during the springtime. However, you can help them by leaving out supplementary food and water if you would like to. It's best to either offer meaty (not fish-based) cat food or specifically designed hedgehog food like our Cotswold Granaries Hedgehog Food. Ours is a natural food that's nutritionally dense and energy rich, and its crunchy texture helps with teeth health.
You can leave the food in a low lying saucer which a hedgehog can reach. Or take a look at our specially designed Hedgehog Snack Bowls and Water Bowls. Leaving fresh water is as, if not more, important as leaving food, especially during warm springs and hot summers. Again, it needs to be in a low lying saucer or Tupperware pot so that it's easy for the hedgehog to get its snout inside! If you worry about your neighbour's pet cat coming into your garden, then you can leave the food inside a feeding station. Again you can build this yourself, with a 13cm x 13cm hole entrance. Or you can buy one of our ready made feeding stations, like the new Dome Hedgehog Care Pack, the Artisan Hedgehog House, or the Timeless Hedgehog House.
In this video, our Ecologist, Chantal Brown, talks you through the practicalities of providing food, water and shelter in your garden for hedgehogs:
Take care when gardening
There are a few safety considerations when thinking about how you garden. First and foremost, one of the biggest causes of injuries to hedgehogs is actually strimmers. Every time we visit our local Help A Hedgehog Hospital in Tetbury, they are nursing back to health a hedgehog which has been accidentally hurt from someone strimming or mowing their lawn. We recently spoke to Chairperson and Carer, Mary Hinton, on our Wildlife Community podcast, who advised: "If you are poking about in your garden, or maybe moving your compost heap, or you have a big pile of something you want to move, then just check it. Pop a pair of gloves on, and poke about. A hedgehog curled up somewhere is not an insignificant thing, it's like a bowling ball. And if you have to destroy wherever the hedgehog s, then please just find another reasonably suitable similar spot for that hedgehog. Cover it up with some leaves or similar material."
Similarly, we advise as do all hedgehog hospitals and charities, that it's best to avoid pesticides and chemicals when gardening for wildlife.
You can also try and leave an area of your garden to go wild. It doesn't need to be a big patch, just a small corner will do. Wilding or rewilding green spaces allows for habitat creation which in turn provides food for all different species of wildlife, including hedgehogs. One of the easiest ways to do this, is to follow PlantLife's No Mow May initiative, which encourages us all to pop the lawn mower back into the shed for spring.
This year, the British Hedgehog Preservation Society is urging everyone to become a Hedgehog Champion for their area at Hedgehog Street. A project run by the BHPS and People’s Trust for Endangered Species. There you can join over 105,000 Champions by signing up for free. BHPS is hoping to raise £2,000 during Hedgehog Awareness Week 2022, you can donate to the 2022 #hedgehogweek appeal here.