Hedgehogs in the garden
One of the delights during the years that I spent living in the country was hosting hedgehogs in the garden.
If I’m honest it started with me being a bit lazy and leaving cuttings and leaves in a small area at the bottom of my garden. The neighbours thought that it was a bit untidy – until a hedgehog set up home there, and they decided that it was actually a cunning plan to protect that local wildlife! The gap at the bottom of the fence that I had neglected to repair soon meant that the hedgehog was paying my neighbours a visit at night, much to the delight of their children!
Hedgehog numbers have been in serious decline in the UK. It is believed that during the last 20 years numbers have halved in rural areas and declined by one third in towns and cities. Loss of habitat is one reason. Another is the use of pesticides that can harm them and the beetles, slugs, worms and caterpillars that they feed on. Many hedgehogs are also killed on the roads.
Of course you can create a nest of wood and leaves and hope for the best or you can make or buy a hedgehog house. This should have a small entrance, small enough for a hedgehog to pass through, but too small for a fox, badger or dog. Hedgehogs are solitary animals. A female will look for somewhere secure to give birth to her young over the summer, and all hedgehogs will find somewhere safe and warm to hibernate over the winter months.
Hedgehogs travel around one mile a night looking for food, so the small gap in the fence is a lifeline if they’re to get enough food. You can try to persuade other households to leave small gaps in their fences, or even better plant hedges instead to give them as good a chance as possible.
Some people leave food out for them: Wet meaty cat or dog food is ideal. It is also possible to buy special hedgehog food. But remember that the food could also attract other animals, wild or domestic. Water (not milk) can also be left out for them.
Don’t worry about the garden pond because hedgehogs can swim. But they must be able to get out of the pond, so ensure that the sides aren’t too steep or arrange stones to provide steps that will allow them to leave.
A few other suggestions: Check for hedgehogs before mowing grass or cutting hedges; if you’re planning a bonfire, move the material before setting light to it in case a hedgehog has been attracted to it; cover drains or deep holes; and be mindful before (for example) sticking a fork into a compost heap.
I hope that you casn enjoy hedgehogs in the garden!
Photo: One of the hedgehogs that set up home in the garden over the yearshedgehog houses from Gardening Naturally : Hedgehog food from Gardening Naturally