How to help hedgehogs

Our spiky friends are coming out of hibernation, so how can we help them now?

Hedgehog

by Natalie Simister |

PUT OUT FOOD

You may not know if you have hedgehogs in your garden or not, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to help them out just in case. As they’re coming out of hibernation now they’ll need food. Don’t put out bread and milk, it’s dog or cat food that’s best for them (the meat varieties, not fish), and this can be left out with a dish of water somewhere roaming cats can’t find it. You can also buy hedgehog food sold as kibble from garden centres.

THINK ABOUT GARDEN CHEMICAL USAGE

Using less garden chemicals is better for the environment and our animal friends. Less reliance on chemical help makes for a biodiverse garden that will keep itself in check for the most part. Slug pellets and other sprays and powders can be extremely poisonous to hedgehogs.

KEEP SOME CORNERS WILD

Hedgehogs need free reign to be able to tuck themselves away on the search for insects and invertebrates to eat. If you keep some areas of grass long or leave an area of ivy and wild grasses alone and uncut they can roam happily. If your garden is planted up beautifully, with lots of different types of plants to attract lots of different insects, hedgehogs will help you keep slugs and other pests down too!

CHECK COMPOST HEAPS

It’s the time to turn and add to heaps more readily, but before you do, always have a peek in and around your heap to check no hedgehogs have decided to use yours as a warm home. You wouldn’t want to dig your fork in and damage any of our invaluable garden friends and pest controllers, would you?

CREATE A HOLE IN YOUR FENCE

Hedgehogs like to travel a surprisingly long way – around two to three kilometres (almost two miles) – at night in search of food, shelter and eventually mates. The only way they can do this is through gaps in garden hedges and fences, which are in shorter supply these days. We can do our bit by leaving some spaces open or sawing little holes in wooden fences.

ADD A HEDGEHOG HOUSE

In a quiet, secluded corner of the garden, why not add a little hedgehog house? It’s the perfect shelter away from predators, pets and other hazards, and mean just-woken-up hogs can take respite safely. It’s also a great place to feed hedgehogs without other animals taking their share. Remember to clean it out every year in mid-spring. Buy one from garden centres or online. Position it with foliage and other camouflage around it.

WHAT IF I FIND A POORLY ONE?

If you find an injured or unwell hedgehog in the day time, wear gardening gloves to pick it up, holding it under its belly. Put it in a high-sided box with a tea towel as shelter.

Offer it dog or cat food and some fresh water to feed on. It may also need warmth so give it a warm (not boiling) hot water bottle.

Contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801 for advice or visit www. britishhedgehogs.org.uk.

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