How to help your hedgehogs
10th May 2018
Hedgehogs are one of the most welcome of garden visitors, capable of hoovering up more than 100 slugs in a single night! The spiny horticultural helpers are on the decline however, according to the People's Trust for Endangered Species, who report that urban populations have fallen by 30% and rural numbers dwindled by 50% since the turn of the century. In the 1950s, an estimated 36.5 million hedgehogs roamed our countryside, but it is now estimated that there are less than a million of our protected native species left in the wild.
The good news is that there are lots you can do to encourage hedgehogs into your garden, and if you're lucky, you may even end up with your own family of 'hoglets' (that's baby hedgehogs - so cute!).�
What can I do to encourage hedgehogs in my garden?
Swap fences for hedges
The clue is in the name: hedgehogs find food, shelter and get from place to place by hopping through hedges. Hedgehogs walk a mile every single night, and fences force the animals into ever more dangerous territory, including busy roads. Where you can, swap your fences for hedges, which will allow hedgehogs in and out of your garden freely; they'll gobble up plenty of pests in the process.
Create a 'hedgehog highway'
If swapping your fences for hedges isn't an option, then speak to your neighbours about installing a 'hedgehog highway'. All this means is making a small hole in your boundaries that give hedgehogs a route to hop from garden to garden. Hedgehogs are only small, so a 13x13cm hole will be enough to let them through, without opening doors to any pets with adventurous ideas! Encourage your neighbours to do the same, as the bigger the space you provide, the more visitors you'll attract.
Let your garden go wild
As well as being beautiful, wildflowers offer many benefits to the wildlife in your garden, encouraging all kinds of pollinating insects. Let an area of your garden go wild, either naturally (simply stop mowing!) or by sowing wildflower seeds. As well as being great for pollinators in your garden, the insect visitors make a veritable smorgasbord for our foraging friends.
Have a pond
Slurping up slugs is thirsty work, and hedgehogs will often seek out a pond, no matter what size, to wash it all down. You may not think it, but hedgehogs are incredible swimmers, so will occasionally take a dip too. Make sure your pond is easy to reach, and easy to get out of, too! Having sloping sides, both into and out of the water, is good safety advice for many species (including your pets), but remember hedgehogs only have little legs, so avoid steps.
Put out food
Hedgehogs love a meaty treat, and cat and dog food is ideal, particularly the wet stuff. Many people think milk is a good option as hedgehogs love the taste, but they are actually lactose intolerant so quickly regret lapping it up! If you worried about the neighbourhood cats getting to the food first, put it in a box with a hedgehog-sized hole.
If you want to learn more about protecting one of the nation's favourite species, head to Hedgehog Street and become a 'Hedgehog Champion'!�