Should you be lucky enough to have a hedgehog visit your garden or wish to attract one and see it safely through the winter months there are lots of excellent books in libraries and experts at wildlife centres for advice.
Failing being able to visit one of these then you can read the excellent information for hedgehogs on the website or try these inexpensive ideas we successfully use around the farm.
Before we start, hedgehogs travel enourmous distances during the night so if you manage to create the right environment to attract them to your garden please consider yourself very lucky and take good care of them.
Attracting a Hedgehog
There is no quick fix to attracting hedgehogs to your garden and it may take a year or so to develop the right environment.
First of all think of the positioning of your garden. Is it near to a main busy road? If so does your garden back on to fields? Before trying to attract a hedgehog please make sure there is a small access/exit through your garden from and to the safest places, rather than directing them toward the road with the yummy smell of food.
Hedgehogs are wild animals and like to live in unspoilt areas, so leave an area of your garden to grow wild (this can be behind a shed or shrubs so as not to be unsightly).
When you cut a tree branch or sweep up leaves pop them in this wild area of your garden.
Ensure you regularly provide water (never milk) and some food. Because the food also attacts vermin you may want to just place some food out in a quiet spot for a couple of hours late each night and then bring it in again, if a hedgehog travels through or near your garden they will soon find the food.
Keep a look out, don’t assume that because has been eaten it is a hedgehog, it may be a neighbourhood cat eating the food. At night you can sit with the lights inside the house dimmed and a low wattage light shining into the garden where the food is placed, then keep looking to see if any prickly friends have arrived.
Hedgehogs are natural hunters but very slow ones so they hunt slow prey (ie worms, slugs, snails, etc) and while we all want worms in the garden few of us want slugs and snails.
However, they can also survive very well on tinned or dried cat or dog food (they prefer tinned in my experience but it does attract vermin and spoils quickly).
They do not do well on ordinary milk, it upsets their stomach, so avoid that little myth about badgers and hedgehogs milking cows at night and the old wives tale about feeding hedgehogs on bread soaked in milk.
When putting out food remember rats, cats and mice also like to wander around at night time and would willingly eat this food so keep your eyes open, and if worried then remove uneaten food before you disappear off to bed.
Hedgehogs need plenty of water, so ensure there is a shallow bowl of water placed near the food.
Words of Warning
If you or your neighbours have not seen a hedgehog in your area do not be tempted to steal one from the wild .. yes people really do that. For a start hedgehogs do not make good pets, they are rather difficult to cuddle and because they can’t scratch themselves they are covered in fleas.
There may also be a reason why you haven’t seen one in your area (ie a scarcity of food or possibly poisons somewhere) so introducing one may not be a good idea for the hedgehog.
Never pick up a hedgehog you may see in the wild (unless it is obviously injured), it’s in it’s own territory and it knows where it can find food.
If you see a hedgehog trapped in wire mesh or similar circumstances, cutting it free may not be the complete solution, it will need checked thoroughly and possibly given fluids, as you won’t know how long it has been without water.
If you don’t know what you’re doing then this is a job for a vet, as hedgehogs are wildlife it shouldn’t cost you more than the journey to the vet. Just cut the net or mesh far away from the hedgehog and transport the hedgehog, net and all, to the nearest vet or wildlife centre.
If you can’t get the hedgehog to a vet you can call the RSPCA 24 hour Cruelty Line on (also used to report animals in distress).
You may think they don’t but hedgehogs do respond to people, it takes a while and a few dinners but in time they will get used to us and even to our cats and dogs but please think about hazards in your garden (ie netting, the garden pond, etc). It would be awful to attract a hedgehog to your garden then find by doing so you inadvertantly kill or injure it.
If you are lucky enough to have a visiting hedgehog here’s a further warning - never use rat/mouse poison on your property unless it is safely covered and a wild animal can not get at it. Never use slug pellets unless they are also covered but do remember hedgehogs eat slugs and snails and a build up of poisons from infected slugs and snails will kill hedgehogs over time and hedgehogs are much more effective at ridding you of slugs and snails than pellets are.
As to winter care a hedgehog likes to build a warm snug nest out of all sorts of things in which to hibernate, reeds, rushes, dead leaves, old newspapers, cardboard, etc they’ll happily chew up and add to their nest.
Nests are chosen in a spot away from cold North winds (eg hedgerows under a garden shed, log piles, rubbish tips etc) so take care if moving any of those or when you are strimming/cutting the garden.
If they can find such a delightfull thing as a convieniently built, newly supplied, waterproofed warm and snug penthouse it would be perfect, provided it was placed in an out of the way safe place. In the next post I will show you how to build a cheap hedgehog house any hedgehog will happily live in throughout the winter.
Hedgehogs do hibernate but it is not a deep winter sleep, they will wake and feed when they need to. Please remember that hedgehogs look for snug winter homes in sheds, garages, coal houses, etc so check them regularly to ensure you don’t lock one in and starve it by accident.
The best of luck attracting a hedgehog to your garden and we would love to see photo’s of your little hedgehog visitor eating on your lawn.