From 5th to 11th May it is Hedgehog Awareness Week – so why not make your garden a hedgehog haven?
Hedgehogs are one of the most recognisable of British wildlife species. Unfortunately their numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate with an estimated 1.5 million left in the UK, down from an estimated 30 million in the 1950’s. Fortunately there are ways in which the average household can create a wild space in their gardens to provide shelter, food and water for our much loved hedgehogs.
Many people find it rewarding seeing wildlife such as hedgehogs in their gardens and enjoy providing food for them. However not everyone is aware of what is safe and unsafe for hedgehogs to eat and drink. Below is a list of foods that should and shouldn’t be fed to hedgehogs. Most important to put out is a shallow bowl of water to prevent dehydration. You might find the food attracts cats into your garden; to prevent them from eating it you can put it under a half drainpipe or in a tube that is still big enough for the hedgehog to get through. Putting food out at dusk will also give the hedgehog a chance to get his fill.
Here are some of the food which are safe for hedgehogs:
- Hedgehog biscuits (these can be found in garden centres or pet stores)
- Dog food (not in gravy)
- Cat food (in jelly or dry biscuits, but not in gravy)
The following are not safe to feed to hedgehogs:
- Mealworms (in large quantities)
Of course, the best food for hedgehogs is their natural diet which includes slugs and snails. A lot of people chose to get rid of slugs and snails as they do not want them in their gardens. This is usually done by putting out slug repellent and other chemicals which, once a slug is eaten by a hedgehog, the hedgehog will suffer poisoning effects as it gets into their system. Stopping using slug repellent will create a healthy buffet for your visiting hedgehogs. If you do not want slugs in your garden, make it a haven for hedgehogs, nature’s slug remover!
Hedgehogs are nocturnal so need somewhere to sleep during the day. Log and leaf piles are perfect places for them to sleep, rest and even nest in. A well-placed pile at the end of the garden where it is less busy and noisy is preferable as it allows the hedgehogs to sleep in a quiet spot. A sheltered ‘hedgehog box’ would also be ideal in providing a safe space for hedgehogs to stay out of the open. Fitting one between some bushy shrubs is an ideal place as this will prevent the box from overheating during warm, sunny days and also shelter it from the wind and rain.
Hedgehogs can move distances of up to 2km a night so ‘hedgehog highways’ are vital in allowing them to move around densely-populated areas. To allow hedgehogs to gain access to your garden you need to provide a hole in your fence that is about 13cm in diameter. Any smaller and hedgehogs might struggle to fit through and could even get stuck. To help hedgehogs even further it is worth chatting to your neighbours and encouraging them to also add a hole into their fences to enhance the hedgehog highway and make it easier for hedgehogs to travel!