Make your garden a hedgehog-friendly zone

Tom Marshall

It's #HedgehogAwarenessWeek and our new Voluntary Communities and Wildlife Officer for North Chilterns Chalk has some great advice for making your garden as friendly as possible for our prickly friends..

Spring is really getting going, and with the beautiful weather we are having, our wildlife is becoming increasingly active for the warmer months. All over the country everyone is seeing signs of spring, whether that’s in the garden or on daily walks, and it is wonderful to see. With a huge amount of us staying home at the moment, it is a perfect time to get out in the garden and do things that will encourage wildlife into your garden, whilst also giving it a helping hand.

Hedgehog exploring a lawn

Hedgehog by Gillian Day

One animal that is becoming very active at the moment is the hedgehog! Hedgehogs start to come out of hibernation in March and April, so this is a good time to see if you can spot any visiting your garden. With populations of hedgehogs sadly declining, it is a good idea to try and make your garden as hedgehog friendly as possible - and Hedgehog Awareness Week means this is the perfect time to think about it. There are many things you can do to help out the hedgehogs and hopefully entice them into your garden:

Use a hedgehog house

Hedgehogs naturally make nests out of leaves and garden debris, but providing them with their own home will help them out greatly. They may use this home to hibernate in over winter, but at this time of year they will be able to use it to rest safely, and also raise their young. It is best to place your house out of direct sunlight and within vegetation if possible, and also providing an entrance tunnel to help stop predators getting in.

Put out food and water

When hedgehogs come out of hibernation they will soon be on the lookout for food to top up their energy reserves, and so putting out food and water is an excellent way to make your garden attractive to hedgehogs. A lot of people give hedgehogs milk to drink, but they are actually lactose intolerant and this can make them quite unwell. The best thing to put out for them is meaty cat or dog food, or special hedgehog food if you can get your hands on it. It’s important to make sure the food is supplied all year round as even during hibernation they may emerge to top up on their food reserves.

Make a hedgehog highway

Hedgehogs walk a huge amount, travelling between 1-2km every night during summer months. A common problem they face is getting stuck between fences in gardens and not having a way to get through, and so making a CD sized hole (roughly around 12 x 12cm) in your fence will allow them to travel with ease. It also means they have a way of getting into your garden to eat that yummy food you have put out!

Creating a hedgehog hole in a fence

Creating a hedgehog hole so they can break on through... 

Image by Paul Wyer

Let your garden grow wild

Allowing even a small section of your garden to grow wild and wonderful will encourage lots of insects and creepy crawlies into your garden. This is good in itself, as we need insects and their excellent pollinating qualities! But it also provides a good food resource for hedgehogs. As much as they will happily eat the cat food you put out, they naturally eat lots of insects such as beetles and slugs, and are more likely to wander into gardens with lots of tasty insects available. Having lots of long grass and bushes also provides lots of good hiding spots.

"Wildlife Area - no gardening!" sign amidst an array of wildflowers in a garden

Image by Sophie Stocking

Hedgehog health and safety!

A garden can be a treacherous place for a little hog, and it is important to make sure your garden is hedgehog safe. You can do this by ensuring any holes or drains in the ground are covered so they don’t fall in and get stuck, avoid using slug pellets, and always check before using your strimmer or lawn mower to make sure there aren’t any sleeping hedgehogs in your long grass. If you have a pond it is also important to make sure you give hedgehogs a way to get out if they fall in, for example using a plank of wood to make a ramp.

So make sure you keep your eyes out for any spiky visitors to your garden, and give them the helping hand that they need this spring.

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