Hedgehogs & gardens

This week, hedgehog enthusiast Duncan Richardson is our guest blogger. Duncan’s garden is a akin to a Hedgehog paradise, and he and the hedgehogs have been featured on BBC’s Autumnwatch. To find out more, visit Duncan’s site The Lilac Grove.

One of the problems with finding hedgehogs is that they are nocturnal. So, how do you know if you have hedgehogs in your garden? The signs are quite subtle, but once you have your ‘eye in’ they are quite easy to see.

How to tell if you have hedgehogs

The most obvious signs are footprints. Although hedgehogs are quite heavy (about 1kg) they don’t leave many footprints unless the ground is really soft.

Hedgehog tracks in the mud

Hedgehog tracks in the mud

A small mud or wet sand trap is easily set up to see if you get some. The prints are about 2.5cm long and 2.8cm wide. The front toes are quite widely splayed, but the back toes are quite long and slender.

If you see poo around, that is a good indicator! The poo is 1.5-5cm long and 1cm in diameter. They are normally quite dark coloured due to being full of beetles.

Hedgehogs also tend to leave slight tracks through the grass of a lawn or small tunnels through undergrowth as they go about their foraging. A good time to see these is in the morning through the dew on the lawn.

Hedgehog tunnels

Hedgehogs leave slight tracks through grass or small tunnels through undergrowth

Go into your garden at night and listen. Hedgehogs are noisier than you think, and you may hear them snuffling and huffing around as they search for food. In the spring they can get very noisy as they can fight over females.

Gardening For Hedgehogs

If you already have hedgehogs, or want to encourage them into your garden, what can you do? The first and most important thing is access!

A lot of gardens are fenced and there is no way a hedgehog can get in. A small hole under or in the fence will do, about 3 inches is usually sufficient.

If you have the option, a native hedge is fantastic; hawthorn etc make a very good hog friendly border. Hedging provides easy access and shelter for them and other wildlife.

Keep parts of the garden a little untidy. Try leaving an area of long grass and some shrubs for hogs to root around in.

Piles of leaves, logs or a compost heap can also provide them with a place to nest and rear their young or to hibernate.

Water is a very important commodity for hogs. The best way to provide it is a pond, but make sure the pond is either shallow or has shallow parts, so if a hog does fall in it can easily get back out again. If that can’t be done, leave out a water bowl!

Hedgehog gaps in fencing

If you want hedgehogs in your garden, first ensure there is access

Put out food for them. Dog/Cat food and shop bought hedgehog foods are great. Dry food is also good, if it is small such as puppy food; this will last and is good to leave out in the winter in case they wake up from hibernation.

They also love mealworms. Don’t feed them milk or bread; this will make them ill. Set up some feeding stations for them tucked out of the way or under hedges.

Provide some shelter, hedgehog boxes, compost heaps, piles of twigs, and logs or leaves will always be welcome.

Encourage your neighbours to do the same. Gardens are a vital resource for hedgehogs. Consider joining Hedgehog Street and become a Hedgehog Champion.

Hedgehog gardens

Untidy areas are great for hedgehogs

Dangers to Hedgehogs:

A hedgehog in a garden hedgehog box– Don’t feed milk or bread, this will make them ill.
– Don’t use plastic netting as this can entangle the hedgehogs and cause serious injuries.
– Slug pellets are very dangerous. Hedgehogs enjoy the odd slug, and any poison they ingest can kill.
– Check compost heaps before turning. Hogs may use them to nest and hibernate.
– Check under hedges and bushes before strimming. Strimmers can cause horrific injuries.
– Check bonfires carefully for hedgehogs. Better still rebuild them before lighting.
– If you disturb a nest please replace it and leave well alone.
– If shed doors are left open over night, don’t suddenly shut them, a hog may have made it it’s home and this will trap them. Check first.
– If a hog is seen out in the day it usually means it’s in trouble. Please contact your local hedgehog society for advice. More information can be found here: britishhedgehogs.org.uk

You can follow the goings on in The Lilac Grove and also watch the live cams at lilacgrove.co.uk

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