Giving these endangered animals a helping hand will be good for them and help to keep your garden free of slugs and snails. Here are some ideas for how you can do this.
Hedgehogs can travel between one and two miles each night looking for food. Make sure your garden is accessible and that they can come and go easily. Where possible plant hedges rather than putting in solid fences, If that’s not possible, cut a small hole in the bottom of your fence. It only needs to about 5 inches wide. Encourage your neighbours to do the same so that hedgehogs can travel between gardens easily.
Leave some wild areas in your garden
If possible, make sure that a corner of your garden is left untidy. Hedgehogs and other wildlife will be attracted to it, and will use any logs, twigs and fallen leaves to make their nest.
If you have a compost heap, may sure you check it for signs of wildlife before turning it as hedgehogs may be using it to nest in and can receive serious injuries from garden forks.
There are lots of different ways to make a hedgehog house. They can be as simple as a pile of leaves or something more elaborate. It’s a good idea to have either a long entrance at the front or a division inside the house to deter anything from disturbing the hedgehog. You can find details online if you are attempting to make one yourself. The one below is approximately 47cm long, 34 cm wide and 37cm high with 6cm legs to lift it off the ground. You can cover the roof in felt to keep it dry and the roof lifts off for easy cleaning in spring. If you treat the wood make sure you use a safe water based product as some preservatives could be harmful to hedgehogs.
Alternatively there are plenty of ready-made houses available to buy online.
Remember to clean out your hedgehog house in early spring, just after hibernation and before they start producing young. Add new dry bedding such as soft meadow hay or dry leaves.
Providing food and water
Providing food and water for hedgehogs can make a big difference to making sure they survive. Hedgehogs will eat a variety of foods – meat flavour cat or dog food in jelly, cat biscuits or crushed peanuts are just a few suggestions. Remember that hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so never give them milk.
It’s also really important that hedgehogs have access to drinking water, so leave out a bowl and make sure that its full each night.
You can make a very simple feeding station to keep the food dry by using an upturned storage box with a 5” square hole cut in the short side, placing a brick on top to prevent it blowing away, and making a “dog leg” tunnel outside the entrance to prevent the local cats partaking in the nightly feast.
Dangers in the garden
There can be hidden dangers lurking in the garden. For example, although hedgehogs are good swimmers they can sometimes struggle to get out of ponds and can become exhausted and drown. Make sure there is a sloping edge or a ramp so that they can easily get out.
Check too that any drains are covered. A hedgehog will sometimes smell water down a drain and then be unable to get out again. Even if they are lucky enough to be rescued, their claws will be damaged trying to escape and they will require a long period in care.
Similarly, any holes that have been dug for whatever reason, and are being left overnight should be covered as a hedgehog can easily fall in and become trapped.
We always get a number of hedgehogs brought into us with injuries caused by lawnmowers or strimmers. Therefore before cutting long grass, always check for hedgehogs and other wildlife.
Before you light a bonfire, either move the rubbish to another site (the safest method) or please check underneath as this is a 5 star hotel to a hedgehog.
If you need to move a garden shed please check underneath first – a family of hedgehogs could be nesting there. Please leave the floor in place until the family has moved on,
Using slug pellets and other hazards
Don’t use slug pellets as they don’t just kill slugs. If you must use slug pellets please buy organically approved ones (Advanced Slug Killer) which use ferric phosphate and not metaldehyde and are just as effective according to “Which” magazine.
Please don’t leave full bin bags lying around as a curious hedgehog may choose to settle in them with dire consequences.
Empty cans/yoghurt pots can also prove a hazard to a hedgehog out looking for an easy meal. They can get their heads stuck and become trapped until they die a very slow and painful death.