How to Help Hedgehogs

This week in the UK it is Hedgehog Awareness Week.  Having hedgehogs snuffling about in your garden (or seeing them out in the countryside) is such a lovely experience. They also play a vital role in our wildlife ecosystem, naturally controlling many garden pests.  Unfortunately, hedgehog numbers are steadily declining. Here are our top tips for how you can support these wonderful creatures in your own gardens.

A recent study has shown the population had dropped by as much as 8.3% a year over the last two decades. This is mostly due to loss of their natural habitat in more urban areas, competition from other mammals - badger populations have grown significantly - and the reduction in permaculture pasture, hedgerows and field margins in rural places.

According to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s Chief Executive, Fay Vass, “Hedgehogs are struggling and mostly that’s due to human activity. Small actions can help a great deal, a little effort from each of us could make life a lot easier for hedgehogs.

"If you don’t have a garden yourself, you can still help by contacting public space managers, neighbours, family and friends to ensure they are doing their bit.”

How can we help hedgehogs?

Whether you live in a city or in the countryside, you can help hedgehogs by giving them food, water and shelter. Here are a few ways we can do our part. 

1. Make a wild corner in your garden 

Keep a corner of your garden for wildlife. Plant a native shrub and add a pile of rotting logs or branches. Make sure there’s enough shade – hedgehogs are nocturnal and prefer dark, secluded spaces.

2. Build a hedgehog house

Hedgehogs need shelter just like humans do. By providing a cosy habitat, you’ll be encouraging them into your garden and The Wildlife Trust has a handy guide for building one here.

Where do hedgehogs sleep?

Hedgehogs are named partly because of where they build their nests, which is typically in hedges where they are protected whilst they sleep and can root around in search of food whilst awake.

A hedgehog sleeps for around 18 hours of the day and are only active for 6 hours or so.

Whilst nesting, they can also be found in:

  • Piles of leaves
  • Under garden sheds
  • Self-made burrows

3. Create a hedgehog highway

Gaps under boundary fences, also called hedgehog highways, create a network of green space that hedgehogs that allow hedgehogs to roam more freely.

4. Let the grass grow 

Say “no” to the mow and leave your mower in the shed. Grass is a wonderful natural habitat for plants and insects, so mowing your lawn infrequently is a great way to give them a chance to grow and thrive. 

The bees will thank you too.

5. Offer extra food and water

If you'd like to feed the hedgehogs in your own garden, the BHWS recommends "either a good quality meaty hedgehog food, meaty cat or dog food or dry biscuits for cats".

You can also leave a shallow dish of water out for them.

What do hedgehogs eat? 

The hedgehog is known as a gardener’s friend, with many trying to lure them into their backyards because they play key role in maintaining a strong ecosystem by eating pests.

In the wild, Hedgehogs eat fruit like berries, but they mostly munch on insects and invertebrates, like: 

  • Caterpillars
  • Beetles
  • Millipedes
  • Worms
  • Slugs
  • Snails

A healthy hedgehog population is a good indicator of a healthy local environment. 

6. Avoid using chemicals in your garden

Toxic pesticides can hurt an entire ecosystem, harming the climate, wildlife, soils and our own health, so go organic, if you can.

Composting is a wonderful way to enrich your soil naturally, and a little extra planning from season to season will keep your garden thriving naturally.

A compost heap or leaf bin is also somewhere safe for a hedgehog to hibernate during winter.

Find out more about how you can support British wildlife in your garden by reading our blog on Simple Ways to Save the Bees.

May 05, 2022