Hedgehogs are opportunists and, provided they have sufficient food, water and a suitable nesting site, can thrive in both rural and urban areas—even in your home garden. When trying to make your garden ‘Grace friendly’, keep in mind that a hedgehog will rest and shelter where it feels safe and unexposed, e.g. in wild patches within a garden or hidden under a pile of sticks.
Constructing a wildlife garden is not dependant on size, it is dependant on facilities. Just like humans, you can live in a palace or a maisonette but your needs remain the same - you need to feel safe, protected and have access to water. Growing plants - especially native species - that attract insects is a good way to make your garden hedgehog friendly. Including fruits or vegetables amongst your flowers will help to further attract invertebrates, and thereby encourage hedgehogs to take up residence.
You can attract hedgehogs to your garden and encourage them to stay by setting out a dish of water and supplemental food. Dog or cat food, chopped nuts and minced meats are suitable foods to leave out. To avoid attracting flies, food should be set out at sunset and collected in the morning if not eaten.
If provided, hedgehogs will take up residence in ‘hedgehog houses’ that are weather-proofed and well-positioned, i.e. along a linear feature such as a fence or a hedge, and near plants. Once occupied, do not disturb or uncover the nest to take a peep.
If you think your garden is ‘Grace Friendly’, tell us about it on our ‘Grace Friendly Gardens’ page!
First things first: it is illegal to take a hedgehog from the wild and put it in your garden, or to take one from your garden and translocate it to another home. Hedgehogs will not survive in new areas without being part of a complex release program.
If you already have a hedgehog or are trying to encourage one, please be aware of the following:
Milk and Bread
Whilst they may eagerly lap it up, hedgehogs should not be given milk. They are lactose intolerant, so milk will upset their stomach, and the sugar content in milk is bad for their teeth. Bread, sweet foods and treats should similarly be avoided; they offer little nutritional value and can cause tooth decay. Remember, wildlife don’t have dentists to step in if their teeth rot, and without their teeth they will not survive. Also, never leave out food with bones as they can splinter and cause internal damage.
If you have the good fortune of hosting a hedgehog, be sure not to disturb it, particularly if it is hibernating or if you have brood of newborn hedgehogs. Rousing a hibernating hedgehog requires great energy expenditure and uses up its valuable fat reserves. If awakened, provide it with a dish of dog or cat food and water each night until it goes into hibernation again. Disturbing a new mother often results in her abandoning or killing the hoglets. If you do accidentally disturb a nest, replace the nesting material so the hedgehog can repair it, and be sure to handle the nest as little as possible so as to not leave your scent on it. If babies are in the nest, keep an eye on it to make sure the mother returns. If there is no sign of her by the next morning, telephone us or your nearest wildlife rescue for advice.
In urban areas, private gardens are often the most suitable habitats for hedgehogs. There is typically plenty of vegetation - and therefore there are plenty of insects, slugs and other invertebrates for hedgehogs to eat - and there are usually limited paved surfaces. However, gardens are not without their own suite of hedgehog hazards. Read more here.
Most dogs and cats will happily share the garden with hedgehogs, but if you are concerned about your dog’s interaction with hedgehogs (staffies, particularly, can be a source of concern), you could turn an outside light on before letting your pet out which will help to frighten any hedgehogs away. You could also put your dog on a lead on the last ‘patrol’ of the night to help keep hedgehogs safe.
Many pet owners are concerned about the possibility of fleas being transmitted between hedgehogs and pets. Fear not! Whilst hedgehogs can have fleas, they are host-specific fleas called Archaepsylla erinacei, and will not survive long on any other species: cat, dog, human or otherwise.
We run a soft release program for all of our rescued hedgehogs that come in as orphans or are unable to return to the area in which they were found. We are always looking for more volunteers to help host a soft release site. People wishing to support us in this will be required to construct a release pen to our specifications and attend one of our release courses. Learn more by visiting our Hedgehog Release Program page.