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5 Simple Tips To Help Save Our Hedgehogs

April 19, 2021

It’s a sad fact that the UK’s Hedgehog population is in rapid decline. Our domestic garden areas are now caring for the majority of our remaining prickly friends.

In fact, Hedgehogs have seen a 50% decline since the year 2000!  That’s a staggering figure which we all need to do our part to turn around.  You can help by giving them an opportunity to survive and thrive into next year whilst they begin to prepare for their annual hibernation.

Hedgehogs will only hibernate if it has been -5 degrees for five consecutive days, but that doesn’t mean they won’t emerge before the Spring.  Some hedgehogs will occasionally come out of hibernation for food then go back in, so it’s advised to keep putting a little food out throughout Winter.

Here’s 5 simple tips on how you can help this Autumn.

1. Full Bellies

Hedgehog’s will continue to wander our gardens looking for food and a place to hibernate until roughly the end of November.  As food is much more scarce during this time of year, a small bowl of supplementary food will be appreciated. This can make all the difference when it comes to hedgehogs settling into their hibernation.

Tip – feed Hedgehogs specially formulated safe foods such as Brambles or Spike's (see all hedgehog food here).  Never feed them milk or mealworms.  Mealworms can actually cause a painful bone disease and in worst case scenarios result in them losing their ability to walk. Hedgehogs picking up a few mealworms that drop from the bird table is not a concern, but offering bowls of them as food must be avoided.

When they start to emerge from their hibernation in March/April, hedgehogs will need reliable access to food sources whatever the weather. Hot, cold, wet or dry, they need to eat every day and more so once they emerge from their long hibernation.

2. Thirsty Hogs

It’s a huge help to hedgehogs to have access to clean drinking water every night.  Although not essential, this will help encourage them into your garden.  Never feed them milk, as they are lactose intolerant and this can cause diarrhea.

3. A Roof Over Their Heads - Shelters and Hedgehog Homes

Hedgehogs need a safe place to sleep and hibernate.  They may well find places in your garden themselves, but it might be a good idea to buy a Hedgehog House.  That way you can site the house in a quiet, shaded area of your garden.  This will help keep them away from your compost and other areas you might need access to.  Part fill the house with leaves, hay or grass to encourage them in.  It might take them a while to get used to it, but be patient.

Tip – Place the house so that the entrance faces East to South, as this will help to keep the weather out.  Try not to disturb your hedgehog house once it’s been placed.

4. Room to Roam

Hedgehogs are natural foragers and need access to large areas to find food, accommodation and a mate. They travel up to 4 miles per night looking for food!

Over time, their foraging areas have shrunk as a result of our expansion.  Just take a moment to think about all the development around where you live; new homes are built, new developments put in place, areas are cleared for farmland and hedgerows are pulled up to expand farmland.  It's staggering just how much their environment is changing.

The good news is, more and more housing developments are becoming aware of this. Some are even adding holes to fences for hedgehogs to pass from garden to garden.  For anyone in an established neighbourhood, you can easily add your garden to the list of places they might visit by cutting a 4.5 inch hole at the bottom of your fences.  There’s no need to cut into every one, just enough to give them access to your garden.  Consider speaking to your neighbours too - they might want a link from your garden to theirs to expand their habitat.

5. Check, Don’t Chance

If you’re doing work in your garden, you’ll need to be careful not to disturb any sleeping Hedgehogs.  Unfortunately, many accidents occur as a result of strimming, forking, raking and other garden tasks.

If you’re tidying your garden, be careful before raking up any piles of leaves or long grass where a Hedgehog might be hiding.

The Winter months are great for fertilizing your garden in preparation for next year’s growing season.  But be careful when digging into your compost heaps, another favourite hidy hole for our spikey friends.

Lastly, be careful before lighting bonfires and make sure you check there are no hedgehogs inside.  The best way of doing this is to site and build your bonfire on the day you light it. By building on a fresh site you can be sure there’s no wildlife underneath.

Doing Our Part

We hope our tips to supporting Hedgehogs during Autumn helps you, but more importantly we hope it helps Hedgehog's in your local area.  By working together we can really make a difference in the survival rates of our spiky friends.

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  1. For the last few years we’ve had two or three hogs visiting the back garden and sleeping in the polytunnel….this year has to be a record though…SIX in the garden at one time…I had to raid the cat’s bowl for biscuits!!

  2. We keep trying but I’m afraid that every time hedgehogs appear – and we had one with a youngster earler this year – they disappear withing days. Badgers, I’m afraid.

  3. I feed hedgehogs every night and am mortified to read (above) that mealworms are bad for them. I have read, elsewhere that they are nourishing food and the hedgehogs do seem to love them. Luckily, they also have Spikes hedgehog food in their bowl and a variety of dog biscuits etc. which they find in the bowl put out for our our foxes and badger.