How to create a hedgehog friendly garden
Having a hedgehog in the garden is really beneficial if you’re a gardener, as they eat all the slugs and snails they can get their little mouths on. Here are a few things you can do to make sure your garden is a welcoming place for these helpful hogs.
Hedgehogs do best with a free run of your whole neighbourhood as they search for food and mates. The increase in garden fencing is one of the reasons hedgehogs are endangered, as they need more than one garden to survive.
A small gap under your garden gate or fence is ideal – an opening of just 13 square cm at ground level will give them all the space they need to get around.
Check if you have any drains or holes that could be a potential trap for visiting hedgehogs, and cover them so you don’t have any casualties. Get rid of any netting when you’re not using it, to prevent them getting entangled or injured.
It’s really important to avoid slug pellets as these can be mistaken for food. And since hedgehogs eat slugs, your garden will be even more attractive.
Make a hedgehog house
Hedgehogs live anywhere they can find shelter. Log piles provide a safe, secure site for breeding or hibernating, and with masses of insects in residence, there’s a year round food supply.
Compost heaps or leaf piles are another favourite, providing nesting sites, bedding material and an abundance of delicious creepy crawlies. You can also build or buy hedgehog homes – just make sure you get them outside well before hibernation season (November to March) so they start to smell like the garden.
Put food out
Leave fresh water out for your visiting hogs, along with hedgehog friendly food. Hedgehogs can eat:
- Pet shop bought hedgehog food
- Puppy or kitten food (meat or chicken in jelly)
- Cooked chicken or raw minced meat, chopped up small
- Chopped unsalted nuts
Hedgehogs are actually lactose intolerant, so don’t leave out milk and bread as this could make them sick.
Let your garden grow wild
Pick a corner of your garden and let it become overgrown. It’ll provide a great area for hedgehog hibernation and nesting spots to go undisturbed, and encourage more insects which are a good source of food for your visitors.
Build a pond
Ponds provide a great place for your visiting hedgehogs to go for a swim, and they also act as a reliable water supply.
Your guests can enjoy the added insects and amphibians a pond will attract. Just make sure you build a gently sloping edge for them to climb back out – stones work perfectly.
Plant deciduous trees
Hedgehogs can be pretty fussy about which leaves they use to build their nests for hibernation. A deciduous tree loses its leaves in autumn – like oak, apple or hornbeam – and they’re just the right size for your hedgehogs to build a nest in time for winter.
Keep hedgehogs safe
Once your garden has been turned into a hedgehog haven, it’s important to keep your visitors safe. Be sure to:
- Check for hedgehogs before using lawn mowers or strimmers
- Check compost heaps before raking them over
- Build bonfires close to the time of lighting, and check before you set them ablaze
- Avoid the use of pesticides, as they can be poisonous to hedgehogs
And by following these simple steps, you’ll have the perfect spot for hedgehogs to make themselves right at home.