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Attract Hedgehogs to Your Garden with These Simple Tips

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Curious about making your garden a welcoming place for hedgehogs? These charming little creatures thrive in less manicured spaces, often wandering through gaps in fences and nesting in piles of leaves where they feast on insects.

If your garden is too tidy, you might want to consider letting it go a bit wild. With some simple adjustments, you can transform your outdoor space into a sanctuary where hedgehogs can find refuge, hibernate, and even raise their young.

Many people wonder how to turn their garden into a hedgehog haven, especially those who haven’t seen one of these critters in years.

The good news is you don’t need fancy hedgehog houses or expensive food to attract them. A more natural, holistic approach often works best, and it doesn’t have to cost you anything.

Unfortunately, hedgehog populations are declining in the UK, partly due to the loss of their natural habitats from expanding farms and cities, as well as the dangers posed by roads.

The excessive use of pesticides might also be reducing their food sources like caterpillars, beetles, and worms.

In this guide, I’ll share practical tips to not only lure hedgehogs into your garden but also to support their survival and wellbeing.

Understanding Hedgehog Behavior and Habitat

Hedgehogs roam over a wide area and need access to at least 10-12 neighboring gardens to meet their needs. This is becoming harder as modern yards are often enclosed, cutting off routes to fresh foraging and nesting spots.

To encourage hedgehogs, you must ensure they can enter your garden, remove potential hazards, and provide amenities that make your space welcoming. Hedgehogs are drawn to the basics—food, shelter, security, and water.

These small mammals thrive in environments where woodlands meet open spaces like hedgerows, fields, and varied countryside with a mix of trees, grasslands, and shrubs.

In urban areas, they find similar conditions in parks, gardens, and cemeteries, preferring dense bramble patches, wood piles, and open compost heaps. They often nest under garden sheds.

Understanding Hedgehog Behavior and Habitat
Credit: Victoria Wade

Hedgehogs can squeeze through small 13cm (5 inch) gaps—about the size of a CD—in fences or under gates. If hedgehogs frequent your garden, it’s a sign you have a welcoming habitat with plenty of food and shelter.

They may travel up to 2km (1.2 miles) each night foraging for food and mates, often returning to familiar gardens that offer supplementary food or accessible compost heaps.

Male hedgehogs might visit the same garden for about a week before moving on, while females may stay longer if raising young. Typically, hedgehogs hibernate November-March, so they’re less visible in winter, though some remain active and could visit during cold snaps.

If you spot a hedgehog wandering through your garden at night, there’s no need to worry—it’s a natural behavior. Be glad that your outdoor space provides a haven for these endangered creatures.

If you encounter a hedgehog during the day in the summer, it’s likely a mother searching for food or water. Observe from a distance to ensure it moves steadily and purposefully, which usually means a nest isn’t far off. In this case, you can help by leaving out some food and water.

However, if the hedgehog appears disoriented, makes distressing sounds, or seems weak, it’s crucial to intervene quickly.

Wearing gloves, gently place the animal in a deep box with a warm towel and a hot water bottle, then contact a local wildlife rescue right away—prompt action could save its life.

During the colder months of autumn and winter, a daytime hedgehog might be suffering from health issues like lungworm or could be too small to hibernate. Again, swift assistance is vital. Place the hedgehog in a prepared box and take it to a rescue center immediately.

Occasionally, a sick hedgehog might try to enter warm areas, including your home, as it struggles to maintain its body temperature. Such behavior indicates severe illness, necessitating immediate care at a rescue facility.

Remember, a healthy hedgehog will neither bask in the sun nor attempt to enter human dwellings.

Hedgehogs, numbering 17 species, are native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, and have been introduced to New Zealand. These spiny, nocturnal mammals play a crucial role in controlling garden pests.

To attract them, ensure your garden is free from hazards and provides a secure environment with ample food, water, and nesting sites like undergrowth, piles of logs, or unused outbuildings.

You can even construct a simple shelter using a cardboard box with air vents and a small entrance, lined with grass and leaves, and covered with plastic to protect it from the elements.

Place the shelter in a quiet, undisturbed part of your garden to offer a safe retreat for these beneficial creatures.

Spotting Hedgehog Signs Locally

Let’s start with a common question—have you ever wondered if hedgehogs are scurrying around your neighborhood? Many assume there aren’t any simply because they don’t see them. H

owever, these little creatures are quite sneaky. To detect their presence, look in your garden and local green spaces for their distinctive tubular droppings, roughly 2-3cm long.

If you tend to stay up late, keep windows open during warm months. You might just hear the soft snuffling sounds of hedgehogs exploring your yard.

Besides noises, another clear sign is their darker, sometimes shiny droppings with beetle shell bits. Also watch for their distinct footprints in mud—a dead giveaway that hogs are around.

Despite declining numbers, you may be surprised to find hedgehogs nearby. Whether visiting already or not, why not make your garden more inviting?

Creating a hedgehog-friendly space essentially means enhancing your yard’s appeal for all wildlife, something our struggling ecosystems desperately need.

Other clever detection tricks include placing a stick at a feeding station or nest box entrance to see if it’s been moved, or putting down straw or leaves near the nest—hedgehogs might use it for nesting material.

Still unsure if you have hedgehog visitors? Check the BIG Hedgehog Map online for reported local sightings. Investing in a trail camera can also capture these nocturnal visitors on video, giving you a peek into their nightly routines.

Spotting Hedgehog Signs Locally
Credit: Hedgehog Street

Hedgehog Facts

When do hedgehogs give birth? As spring arrives, hedgehogs finish hibernating and begin mating. A female typically carries her litter for about four weeks before giving birth to up to seven adorable hoglets in late spring or early summer.

She’ll venture out to find food while continuing to nurse them. By 3-4 weeks old, the hoglets start joining her foraging trips, learning to find food but still relying on her milk.

Around 6 weeks, they begin exploring independently and gradually wean off their mother’s care, ready for solo adventures.

In some cases, a second litter may appear in late summer or early fall, though these late arrivals face bigger challenges gathering resources before hibernation, often making them more visible during the day as they desperately seek food.

Can hedgehogs swim? Yes, hedgehogs can swim! On warm summer evenings, you may spot one taking a leisurely dip in your garden pond. However, they tire quickly and can struggle to escape steep-sided water bodies.

To keep these little swimmers safe, make sure your pond has gently sloping sides or add a ramp or log to help them—and other wildlife—easily get in and out, especially from structured plastic ponds.

What do hedgehogs eat? Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs eat more than just slugs and snails. Their diet includes a variety of invertebrates like caterpillars, worms, and beetles.

Slugs and snails are actually a small part of their diet and can be harmful, potentially transmitting lungworm and causing respiratory issues.

If feeding hedgehogs, provide cat or dog food, ideally dry kibble which is high in protein and vitamins and less likely to attract pests. Kitten-sized biscuits are perfect for their little mouths.

What noises do hedgehogs make? Hedgehogs are not silent creatures; they communicate through various sounds:

  • The most common are grunts and snuffles, similar to pigs, indicating foraging.
  • A loud, rhythmic chugging noise might signal mating behaviors or courtship.
  • A chirping like a baby bird from the nest could mean the hoglets are distressed or the mother is gone, requiring immediate checking.
  • A scream suggests severe distress or pain, warranting contact with a rescue center urgently.
  • Listen for coughing too, which could indicate health issues like lungworm, again suggesting a call to rescue services.

How to attract hedgehogs into your garden

Hedgehog populations are declining, a worrying trend especially noticeable in rural areas. Intensive farming practices have fragmented traditional hedgehog habitats like small woodlands and hedgerows, leaving them with fewer places to nest, hibernate, and find food.

Additionally, our roads and highways cut through these natural areas, posing further risks. The widespread use of chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides is also reducing the availability of their prey, like beetles, worms, and caterpillars.

In cities and suburbs, the situation isn’t much better. Fences and walls block their paths between gardens, while common garden features like ponds, netting, lawnmowers, and slug pellets pose serious dangers.

The trend of paving over green spaces not only deprives them of necessary shelter and food but often forces these small creatures to venture dangerously close to roads in search of greener areas.

However, there’s a glimmer of hope for these spiky friends. Gardeners have the power to turn the tide. Here are easy steps you can take to provide hedgehogs with safe shelter and abundant food in your own backyard.

Creating Access Points for Hedgehogs

Inviting wildlife into your garden often involves a simple yet overlooked step: providing a way in. Fay emphasizes, “The first thing I always mention is hedgehog holes!”

This refers to creating openings in your garden’s boundaries, whether fences or hedges, to allow hedgehogs to wander freely between properties.

Since hedgehogs can travel up to a mile each night in search of food or nesting materials, these entry points are vital for their nightly explorations.

Creating access is straightforward: carve out a 13cm by 13cm gap at the base of your garden fence. If you have a particularly large garden, you might consider placing several such openings around the perimeter.

By collaborating with your neighbors, these individual gaps can become a comprehensive ‘hedgehog highway’, enhancing the distances these creatures can travel.

Fay adds, “They generally stick to the edges but wander extensively at night, especially the males during the breeding season, who may travel up to two miles.”

Creating Access Points for Hedgehogs
Credit: Gardening Know How

Most residential gardens are enclosed by fences or walls, which can stand as high as two meters and often extend right down to the ground, especially in newer properties with concrete elements.

While these barriers don’t pose much of a problem for larger animals, birds, or many insects, they can severely limit the movement of smaller creatures like hedgehogs.

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To aid these small travelers, consider installing a hole in each fence that borders another garden, linking your space to the broader neighborhood.

Before making any modifications, it’s wise to chat with your neighbors, especially if they have pets that could potentially escape through these new openings.

When placing gaps, position them at fence ends or along borders, as hedgehogs naturally follow these lines during their nocturnal foraging.

A standard gap size of 13cm x 13cm should suffice, not only for hedgehogs but also for other wildlife like wood mice and frogs. Generally, if a gap fits a clenched fist, it’s likely big enough for a hedgehog.

In addition to modifying fences, planting hedges like hawthorn and hazel can greatly benefit hedgehogs.

These plants attract moths, which lay eggs that turn into caterpillars – a primary food source for hedgehogs. Hedges not only facilitate movement between gardens but also provide natural foraging grounds and safe nesting spots.

Ultimately, the best way to support hedgehogs is by working together with your neighbors to extend this wildlife corridor, ensuring hedgehogs can safely and freely navigate your community.

Enhance Your Garden’s Aesthetics with Hedgehog Houses

Hedgehogs require a dry, secure environment for raising their young and hibernating, and crafting a hedgehog house in your garden can provide just that.

Ideally, you should shield this little shelter with a plastic cover topped with leaves, and design an entry tunnel about 13cm by 13cm and 40cm long to keep predators out. Position it beneath a north-facing hedge to keep it hidden and protected.

Not only are hedgehog houses practical, but they can also enhance your garden’s aesthetics, serving as a charming feature.

You can opt for an eco-friendly model made from recycled materials and FSC-certified wood, endorsed by wildlife organizations, or you can get creative and construct your own using whatever materials you have on hand, like a pile of logs loosely stacked with spaces filled with leaves.

Fay points out, “Log piles are fantastic, providing not just refuge but also a food source as they attract numerous insects.” These natural structures blend seamlessly into your garden while offering a vital habitat for wildlife.

Incorporating several hedgehog homes can be highly beneficial, especially in larger gardens. Fay suggests up to three, spaced out to accommodate the solitary nature of hedgehogs.

Even in smaller gardens, a couple of well-placed log piles can significantly enhance biodiversity, serving as a haven for beetles, spiders, and other insects, which are crucial food sources for hedgehogs.

If you’re short on logs, consider reaching out to a local arborist. Often, they might let you have some logs for free or a small fee, aiding in their disposal efforts.

It’s generally best to use hardwood, which lasts longer, though any untreated wood is preferable to commercial products like pallets or treated garden structures, which may contain harmful chemicals.

Setting up a hedgehog box is a straightforward way to invite these creatures into your garden and provide them with a nesting spot. Place the shelter in a shaded area, preferably under vegetation, with the entrance facing away from prevailing winds.

It might take time for hedgehogs to discover and use your setup, but patience is key—they might simply have another cozy spot elsewhere!

Hedgehog House
Credit: Homebase

Providing Food for Hedgehogs

Like all creatures, hedgehogs need sustenance to thrive. Since they are nocturnal, they primarily forage for food at dusk.

To support them, especially during the cold winter months when natural water sources may freeze over, consider placing shallow dishes of clean water around your garden. Position one near a hedgehog house to ensure they have easy access to hydration.

Supplementing their diet with appropriate foods in the evening can also attract these charming animals to your outdoor space.

Hedgehogs are insectivores and primarily consume a meat-based diet, so offerings like wet cat or dog food, particularly chicken or turkey flavors, are ideal.

You can also provide specially formulated hedgehog foods like Brambles, which are available online. These help hedgehogs achieve the necessary weight for successful hibernation – crucial for young hedgehogs born later in the season.

Providing Food for Hedgehogs
Credit: Green Feathers

While natural food sources are preferred, providing supplemental feed can significantly aid hedgehogs, especially just before and after hibernation.

Opt for meat-based foods, and avoid bread and milk, which can cause dehydration and digestive issues. Similarly, steer clear of mealworms as they may lead to a severe bone disease in hedgehogs.

If you’re also interested in attracting birds, adding a bird bath provides a reliable water source year-round, benefiting all your garden visitors.

To ensure the food is consumed by hedgehogs and not other animals, use a simple Tupperware container trick. Cut a hedgehog-sized hole in one end, place it upside down over the food, and secure it with a heavy object or tent pegs.

This setup allows only hedgehogs access to the food, keeping it safe from other wildlife.

Attracting Hedgehogs with Garden Water Features

Water features are incredibly appealing to various wildlife, from tiny insects to larger animals like birds and hedgehogs. Whether a grand lake or a simple bird bath, introducing water into your garden is an excellent way to attract nature.

You don’t need anything fancy; even a repurposed bucket or an old washing-up bowl buried in the ground can become a thriving habitat for frogs, newts, and insects if you add a few rocks or bricks for varying depths and a couple of plants for appeal.

If you have a pond, ensure hedgehogs and other creatures can safely enter and exit. While capable swimmers, they often struggle with steep, slippery edges. Installing a gentle slope or ramp can make a significant difference.

Fay, a wildlife expert, advises, “Ponds are excellent for attracting wildlife, but always ensure there’s easy access to prevent hedgehogs from becoming exhausted while trying to exit.”

In our garden, we installed a small freestanding pond, and within a year, it became a nursery for frog spawn and a playground for froglets by summer.

Soon, dragonfly larvae appeared, water snails settled in, and even blackbirds enjoyed bathing in it. Hedgehogs also frequent it for a drink.

freestanding pond
Credit: Pinterest

Here are some tips to make your pond wildlife-friendly:

  • Avoid constant direct sunlight; our pond is shaded by a potting table.
  • Use rainwater to fill and maintain your pond. If using tap water, let it sit for a few hours to allow chlorine to dissipate before adding it.
  • Include a sloped side or ramp to help creatures exit easily.
  • Place the pond near ground cover like bushes or a log pile for nearby shelter.

Even without a pond, consider placing shallow dishes of fresh water around your garden. Refresh these daily and include stones or marbles to provide safe drinking spots for insects, preventing drowning.

To make your pond hedgehog-friendly, create an entry and exit point with sloped sides or a makeshift ladder like a log or thick rope netting to help them navigate safely in and out.

Enhancing Biodiversity with Native Plants

Incorporating native plants like honeysuckle, dog rose, hawthorn, and blackthorn into your garden isn’t just about boosting beauty – these plants are crucial for the life cycle of many moths.

Their leaves serve as perfect laying grounds for moth eggs, and as caterpillars mature, they drop to the ground to pupate, becoming vital food for roaming hedgehogs.

Many gardeners focus on planting to attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. While a great start, we can enhance our gardens further by selecting plants that provide nectar throughout different seasons.

This strategy helps fill gaps during the late summer nectar drought when many common garden plants have finished blooming. Plants like Campanula, Iberis, and Erysimum bloom into summer, supporting pollinators when they need it most.

Additionally, while ivy may not be everyone’s favorite, it’s incredibly beneficial, offering shelter and continuous nectar into fall.

Trees, especially fruit-bearing and pollen-rich natives like silver birch, are fantastic for adding biodiversity. However, choose the right tree for the right spot, and sometimes low-growing shrubs that provide cover and shelter are more suitable, especially in smaller gardens.

Another often overlooked group is grasses, which play an essential role in the life cycles of many insects, including numerous butterfly species.

Consider dedicating a corner of your garden to wild growth. Allowing grass, clover, and nettles (a favorite of orange-tip butterfly caterpillars) to flourish creates a mini sanctuary, offering food, shelter, and nesting materials for hedgehogs and other visiting wildlife.

By limiting mowing and raking leaves – perhaps only a couple of times a year – you’ll significantly enhance this wild patch’s value.

Creating a Hedgehog-Friendly Garden Habitat with Garden Waste

Inviting hedgehogs into your garden is easier than you might think, and it actually benefits from a bit of untidiness. During their winter hibernation, hedgehogs often stir and move around, rustling through piles of leaves.

So, leaving some garden debris like leaves, logs, or twigs in a secluded corner not only creates an ideal spot for them to nest and hibernate but also attracts the small invertebrates they feed on, such as slugs, beetles, and centipedes.

Nick Hamilton, from Barnsdale Gardens, recommends designating a little wild area in a quiet part of your garden.

Let some brambles and nettles grow there; hedgehogs thrive in such dense cover. “They typically build their nests using smaller leaves from trees like beech, hornbeam, and oak,” Nick notes.

“During your autumn clean-up, you can gather these leaves and add them to your wild area. If your garden lacks these trees, you might collect leaves from a nearby wood or forest.”

However, it’s crucial to keep your garden free of man-made debris. Clear out any litter and avoid using garden netting, which can entangle and harm hedgehogs.

A thriving wildlife garden goes beyond just providing a haven for hedgehogs. By planting flora that supports a healthy insect population, you’re laying the foundation for a vibrant food web.

This habitat not only supports invertebrates but also attracts small mammals and birds, which in turn can draw larger predators.

Establishing such an ecosystem is surprisingly affordable and low-maintenance, yet it enriches your garden with a diversity of life, possibly attracting foxes, badgers, raptors, and even more elusive creatures like owls, snakes, and bats.

If your garden features a log pile teeming with beetles and spiders, a lawn rich with grasshoppers, worms, and other larvae, plus a water source like a pond or a simple drinking station, you’ve essentially provided everything a hedgehog—and a host of other wildlife—could need to thrive.

You might be amazed at how quickly these creatures make themselves at home in such an environment.

Creating a Hedgehog-Friendly Garden Habitat with Garden Waste
Credit: Gardeners World

Reducing Chemical Use

If you’re keen on making your garden a haven for hedgehogs, reducing chemical usage is a crucial first step.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society highlights how lawn treatments can diminish worm populations, and how pesticides, insecticides, and slug pellets not only harm hedgehogs but also deplete their food sources—various small critters that are beneficial for garden health.

Opting for organic gardening practices can be greatly rewarding. Once hedgehogs settle into your garden, you’ll likely notice a natural reduction in pests such as slugs, beetles, and caterpillars, as hedgehogs help control these populations naturally.

This can lead to healthier plants and more bountiful vegetable crops without the need for chemical interventions.

It’s important to emphasize that reducing pesticide use is beneficial for hedgehogs, as these creatures feed on many of the insects that pesticides aim to eliminate.

As Hedgehog Street advises, for a garden to be truly friendly to hedgehogs, ceasing the use of slug pellets and pesticides is essential.

While moving away from pesticides might mean accepting some losses in your garden, such as damaged plants or less-than-perfect fruits and vegetables, there are non-toxic alternatives to consider.

Although not always as effective, some gardeners try natural remedies like garlic water spray to deter pests, though this might not be appealing for all types of plants, particularly those you plan to eat.

Safe Practices to Attract Hedgehogs into Your Garden

Avoiding the use of slug pellets and other chemicals in your garden is crucial for the well-being of all wildlife, including hedgehogs. These substances can be harmful, and there’s a more eco-friendly approach to managing your garden’s ecosystem.

By welcoming a variety of creatures, including those often considered pests, you create a balanced ecosystem where nature manages itself. Implementing companion planting can significantly aid this process by attracting natural predators of pests.

Fay highlights an important point: hedgehogs naturally eat slugs, making them an effective and natural solution for slug control in your garden.

When using garden netting to support plants, ensure it’s suspended well above the ground. This prevents hedgehogs from getting trapped underneath it.

The same goes for sports nets like those used in football, tennis, or cricket—store them away when they’re not in use to avoid accidental entanglements.

Always inspect your lawn for hedgehogs before mowing or using a strimmer. These creatures can be hidden in the grass, especially in leafy or mound-like areas, and are vulnerable to injury from garden machinery.

Be vigilant with bonfires too. Piles of logs and leaves can be appealing hiding spots for hedgehogs. Always check them before lighting a fire, and if possible, build the bonfire on the day you plan to light it to prevent hedgehogs from settling inside.

Garden hazards aren’t limited to machinery and fires. Dogs and cats can also pose threats to hedgehogs, along with other common garden dangers such as cars and pesticides. Any pesticides consumed by insects can be transferred to hedgehogs, harming their health.

Feeding hedgehogs might seem helpful, but it can attract rodents which can compete with hedgehogs for food. If you decide to feed them, ensure it’s appropriate—cow’s milk, for instance, is harmful to hedgehogs.

Cutting a hole in your fence for wildlife access can raise concerns about unwanted guests like rats or cats.

However, a balanced approach to wildlife gardening accepts the presence of both desired and less-welcome animals. A healthy garden ecosystem includes a wide range of species, each playing its part.

Regarding rodent control, while it’s challenging to prevent rats from accessing food intended for birds or hedgehogs, minimizing food outside at night can help. Ultrasonic deterrent devices are another option, though their effectiveness can vary.

Ultimately, fostering a wildlife-friendly garden means accepting the complexity and richness of nature, which sometimes includes dealing with less favored species as well.

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