There are some simple ways that you can encourage hedgehogs into your own garden, and make life easier for any visitors you do have –
- Provide a hedgehog highway, a 13 x 13cm gap to provide a route under or through any fencing round the garden. Hedgehogs are capable of roaming a great distance every night in search of food, some people estimate that they can travel up to 3 miles nightly. Opening up our back gardens to them not only makes it easier for them to do this but also helps keep them away from roads and cars!
- Provide water. Hedgehogs drink a great deal and so water is essential, especially in hot weather. A shallow bottomed plant pot saucer is ideal.
- Provide food. Cat biscuits are an ideal option (Tesco kitten biscuits are a good choice), or a hedgehog specific food. Please don’t feed mealworms – hedgehogs love these and will eat them to the exclusion of everything else if given a chance, and too many of them causes a imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in the bones, which ultimately can case Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) which is similar to rickets and fatal to hedgehogs. It weakens the bones to the point the hedgehog is in severe pain and won’t be able to forage for food, meaning a slow, lingering death.
Some say that a few mealworms can be provided as a treat, but I avoid them altogether as if a hedgehog is feeding from a few gardens where a few mealworms are provided, it can still be eating enough to be harmful. I still feed mealworms to the birds in the garden but only under a ground feeder cage which the hedgehog can’t get into, never in hanging feeders where there is the possibility of spillage.
The risk of MBD to hedgehogs has only recently been widely publicised, and there are a few manufacturers still putting mealworms in hedgehog food, so check the ingredients before you buy.
- Pond safety – if you have a pond, make sure it’s always full and that there is access out such as ledges or a slope on each side should a hedgehog fall in. They are great swimmers but if they fall into a pond and can’t get out they can still tire and drown. I used a length of coated chicken wire to provide an access route out of the long edge of our pond that didn’t have an easily available ledge.