Make Your Garden Hedgehog Friendly
Essex Country Park Rangers Tom Heenan and Laura Howles bring you tips on how to attract wildlife to your garden
Hedgehogs are the UK’s favourite mammal, but these small and spiny ‘ouch mice’ are under threat, with fewer than a million thought to be left in the UK. Unfortunately, hedgehogs face many threats in today’s world, including being run over, ingesting poison from slug pellets and being burnt alive when they hibernate in bonfire stacks. Time for some good news? Good! Our gardens are excellent oases for many types of wildlife, including the humble hedgehog. Below is a variety of things you can do to make your garden more hedgehog-friendly. It would be great if you could do everything, but even one action will make a difference! So…what will you do first?
- Provide a buffet Hedgehogs are especially hungry at this time of year as they emerge from hibernation. This deep sleep exhausts their fat reserves, so they desperately need to fatten up again upon waking, and fast! The best food for hedgehogs is their natural food – slugs, caterpillars, worms and beetles. So the best way to feed them is to encourage creepy crawlies to thrive in your garden – plant a variety of native flowers, shrubs and trees, leave an ‘untidy’ patch with leaves, sticks and stones, and avoid pesticides where possible. Hedgehogs will also be very thirsty, so if you can, leave out a shallow dish of fresh water. This will need to be topped up, and disinfected on a regular basis.
- Create some sheltered areas Leaving a corner of your garden to get a bit messier will not only benefit hedgehogs by providing food and shelter for their prey animals, but it will also benefit them directly by giving them somewhere safe to hide from their own predators, and from any bad weather. Alternatively, ready-made hedgehog homes, or ‘hogitats’, are available to buy online.
- Improve your garden’s access Spring is a busy time for hedgehogs, but they’re not just hunting for food, but for mates as well. Their mating season typically begins in May, so it’s vitally important that hedgehogs can safely seek out fellow ‘hoggies’. To ensure that hedgehogs can freely travel through your garden, cut a 13 x 13 cm hole in the bottom of your fences. But please get your neighbours’ permission before getting to work! You don’t need to worry about access if you have hedges, as hedgehogs can crawl through / under them.
- RSB, Hedgehog Wins Favourite UK Mammal Poll, https://www.rsb.org.uk/news/14-news/1649-hedgehog-wins-favourite-uk-mammal-poll
- RSPB, Non-Toxix Slug Control in the Garden, https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/animal-deterrents/organic-pest-control/non-toxic-slug-control/
- Devon Wildlife Trust, Help the Hog, https://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/take-action/garden-wildlife/help-hog?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIh9OqjMTW6AIV0dDeCh1uIgofEAAYASAAEgJ-vPD_BwE
- Natural History Museum, Seven Simple Ways to Create a Wildlife-Friendly Garden, https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/seven-ways-to-create-a-wildlife-friendly-garden.html
- Wildlife Trusts, How to Build a Pond, https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/how-build-pond