In April, I was pleased to see the return of a very welcome visitor – a hedgehog!
A neighbour had an old shed removed which I suspected the hog was using as a nesting place and that very night I was thrilled to see one turn up in the garden!
I already had the hedgehog feeder in place – which I’d made out of some old slabs and bricks left by the old owners of our house, so started leaving food out nightly and the hedgehog soon seemed to work out the way in and that the bowl magically refilled with food each day! I always leave a bowl of water at that end of the garden too, as hedgehogs drink a lot.
It seemed to be an opportune time to invest in a hedgehog house, so I quickly ordered one which arrived a couple of days later and I set about creating a home fit for a hog. Hedgehogs like to create their own nests so some hay placed inside the house to start it off, and some left in a pile outside for the hedgehog to bring in itself, then the house was ready for guests and all I needed to do was wait.
In the meantime, I was curious as to how the hedgehog was getting into the garden. It’s fenced all the way around with concrete baseboards, but there were some small gaps where the fences met and also a larger hole where some of the boards had come loose. So I set up a trailcam next to the gap in the fence to see if this was the favoured route, and bingo.
I was very impressed by the hedgehogs upper body strength as it hauled itself over the baseboard, and I hadn’t realised what good climbers they were. All the same, I wanted to make it a little easier for our nocturnal visitors so a quick trip to an orange-logo’d DIY warehouse and several block paving slabs later, and a hedgehog step was born!
Within a couple of weeks of the house being in place, I started noticing that the hedgehog was spending time in there each night during it’s visit – apparently they do this when checking out potential nest sites. A few nights of this and I was over the moon to see the hedgehog return in the early hours of the morning and start taking big mouthfuls of straw and leaves into the nest!
Once it was to it’s liking, the hedgehog promptly checked in and fell asleep! Since then, it’s stayed over on a regular basis. Not every night though, as hedgehogs apparently have a few nest sites on the go at once. Which makes sense I guess, as if something happens to one of the nest sites they always have somewhere else to go.
I put food out in the feeder when I return from work each evening. I started to notice that on the days that the hog stayed in the house, it would often get up in the early evening to have an early snack, before going back to bed until a more hedgehog-appropriate hour after dark. The major benefit of this is that I’ve managed to get some colour footage of the hedgehog, especially while the evenings are quite light.
The most extreme example of this was one weekend where I was only at the house sporadically and would be away in the early evening, so I put food into the feeder at lunchtime. Only for the hedgehog to rise at 1pm for it’s snack! This worried me initially as hedgehogs should NOT be out in the day unless they are a nursing mother, but it returned to it’s normal routine as soon as I did, so I assume the smell of food woke it up!
One weekend evening in May, after a day of glorious sunshine stormclouds rolled in and it went really, really dark. This seemed to confuse the hedgehog into thinking that dusk had fallen, and it came out for food. Seeing movement by the feeder, I ran for my camera and longest lens and hid at the end of the patio. I didn’t want to disturb it by getting too close, but managed to get a few shots as it emerged from the feeder. I will always treasure these, along with a spine I found in the water bowl one morning.
As the weeks passed, I began to think that maybe there were two hedgehogs visiting, rather than just one. Some convenient scratching of hedgehog nether-regions in front of the camera made me think there was at least a male and a female visiting. Then one evening a hedgehog was drinking from the water bowl when it visibly bristled – it was fascinating to see this reaction, and something I’d never seen before.
On watching the footage from the trail camera on the lawn, I realised that there was another hedgehog foraging on the lawn at the same time! It was a while before I caught them on camera at the same time but the reaction was not friendly, and somewhat akin to an episode of Robot Wars played with hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs are very solitary creatures, and apparently reactions like this are fairly common. I’ve seen hedgehog interactions a couple of times now on the cameras, and each time the aggressor is the smaller male hedgehog. He’s been christened Tiny Thuglife and I wonder if he’s a youngster that hasn’t quite worked out appropriate social interaction with other hedgehogs yet.
Last week there was an incident of hedgehog fisticuffs outside the feeder. For a while afterwards the bigger hog stayed balled, while the smaller one went to eat. Eventually it uncurled but remained wary as Tiny Thuglife came out of the feeder and ran into the house – I like to think this is some kind of progress?!
I am loving having the hedgehogs visit. It’s been a dream of mine ever since I realised we had hedgehogs in the area – I have fond memories of watching them feed on my gran’s patio when I was a child, and had hoped to do the same in my own home. I’m hoping the hedgehog house remains in use, and maybe is a hibernation spot this Winter and even a nursery next year… Their antics are great to watch, be that pulling a worm out of the lawn like spaghetti, or using their water bowl as a foot spa!