Hedgehogs were once common in the UK, often seen foraging for food in gardens in the early hours of the morning. These days it’s a different story, with hedgehogs vanishing from our Gardens at an alarming rate. Estimates put the decline at somewhere around the 30% mark in the last decade, putting numbers at around one million left.
There are a variety of reasons for this, but with so much building work going on around us, habitat loss is surely one of the major factors.
But the good news is there are steps we can all take to help our little spiky friends in our gardens. Below we’ve highlighted some of the ways you can help hedgehogs survive the summer in your gardens whilst they prepare for their October/November hibernation period.
1. Access to your garden
You might think this is pretty obvious, but how to do it is the key here. The best thing you can do is to cut a gap around 13cm by 13cm in your garden fence for them to pass through; if you want to go an extra step, you can add a Hedgehog Crossing Tunnel to the hole in your fence. This will help to link up your garden with neighbouring gardens and provide both easy access and easy escape for hedgehogs.
As an added bonus here, it’s worth talking to your neighbours to let them know that you’re doing (if nothing else to explain why you’re drilling through your shared fence!) and to invite them to do the same at the other side of their garden.
If you have concrete gravel board bases on your fence panels, you could either dig down and put a pipe in, or replace one of your gravel boards with a hedgehog friendly one.
2. Encourage them in with food and water
Providing regular sources of fresh water and healthy Hedgehog foods will encourage hedgehogs to return.
During the hot summer months, many of us have complained about sleepless nights, sticky public transport and generally being uncomfortable, but spare a thought for our wildlife.
We do at least have reliable access to drinking water, but natural water sources might dry up. To help prevent hedgehogs in your garden becoming dehydrated, leave a shallow bowl of water in your garden for our prickly friends to drink from. It could help save their lives.
You could also help them out by supplying them with readily available food. Our range of Hedgehog specially formulated foods are ideal food sources as they provide the right balance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
It’s particularly important to put out food on the days when it gets really hot, as the ground might be too dry and hard. This makes it more difficult for hedgehogs to forage.
Just a note on milk. Please avoid giving hedgehogs milk, as it can really upset their digestive system. Instead, stick to providing a shallow bowl of fresh water.
3. Cover up any drains or holes
If you have open drains or holes around your garden, make sure they have a drain cover on them. Most drains do come with them, but it’s worth a check!
If you have a pond, consider placing bricks or a wooden board to allow hedgehogs to get out again if they need. Rocks and planting baskets do a similar job. Hedgehogs can swim if they do accidently fall in, but they can’t climb up slippery edges.
Perhaps not a problem for that many of us, but if you have a cattle grid at the end of your lane or nearby, bricks or a plank can help hedgehogs that fall in to get back out.
4. Be careful when gardening
Things like strimming and mowing the lawn might not seem like much of an issue, but hedgehogs might be hiding in the grass. Take a good look around before you start.
We also recommend looking in compost heaps before forking them over and before lighting bonfires – both favourite haunts of our spiky friends.
5. Make them a home
By leaving part of your garden untended and ‘wild’, you are giving hedgehogs a safe place to forage and sleep (perhaps without even realising). Once you’ve designated a spot, add some leaves and piled logs to encourage them in and also to encourage their food sources. If you’re really lucky, hedgehogs might choose to nest in your garden!
6. Give them a home
If you can’t designate an area of your garden to become ‘wild’, then consider buying a hedgehog home for them instead (or as well!). Purchase a hedgehog home and put it in a quiet and undisturbed space of your garden. A house specifically made for a hedgehog provides a safe space for our nocturnal spikey night-time guests to shelter from a variety of dangers, such as: cold weather, garden tools, predators and cars. Providing your hedgehog visitors a home also encourages them to return during the Winter months
7. Once you’ve made your garden safe, keep it safe!
Avoid using harmful chemicals in your garden, as these could be harmful if ingested by hedgehogs. It’s best to ensure any chemicals used in your garden, such as a weed killers, are wildlife friendly.
Be careful of any larger animals, such as dogs. Dogs are naturally social animals, however they are also a natural predator to small mammals, so our spikey friends are highly likely to be afraid in a dog’s presence. It’s best to keep an eye on your dog, especially in the evenings.