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Ten top tips for hedgehog welfare and encouraging them into your garden from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society

1. Keep a corner of your garden wild to offer shelter, protection and natural food for hedgehogs and other wildlife. Encourage wildlife into your garden, but you should never just move one in from another area, as it may well have a nest of dependent young that you would be condemning to death. If you think your area is suitable for hedgehogs yet you do not appear to have any, it may be worth contacting a local hedgehog care centre who could possibly use your garden as a release site for rehabilitated hedgehogs.

2. Avoid using pesticides and slug pellets in your garden. Not only can these harm hedgehogs but also damage their food chain. Use organic methods instead. You could try a ‘beer trap’, a small pot filled with beer and sunk in the ground, or the skin of half a grapefruit placed on the ground like a dome. Precious plants can be protected with crushed egg shells or sharp sand placed in a circle around the base.

3. Provide a shallow dish of fresh water for all wildlife, and food such as fruit or unsweetened muesli for hedgehogs, especially during long dry spells. You should try to avoid dairy and meat products if possible as these are too high in fat. Hedgehogs will eat pet food but try to use it as a treat only. Prevent cats from stealing the food by creating a hedgehog feeding station. Get a blue plastic mushroom box (from supermarket) or plastic storage box, and cut a 13cm x 13cm (5” x 5”) hole in one of the short sides so that when the box is upside down the hole forms an entrance. Place a brick on the box to stop it being moved away and put the food at the back of the box. If necessary put a brick about 13cm (5”) away from any feeding station entrance to stop cats lying down and reaching in with their paws. The less food you offer the hedgehog the more he will have an appetite for the juicy pests in your garden. 

4. Make or buy a hedgehog home, this offers a hibernation site safe from predators in the winter. It may also be used as a nesting box for a mother and her hoglets in the warmer months. The hoglets stay in the nest for four weeks after they are born, after that you will see them out of the nest with mum for a further four weeks, at eight weeks old they are fully weaned and will wonder off to find nest sites of their own. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society can provide a leaflet on building a hedgehog home.

5. Gardeners take care. Check areas thoroughly for hedgehogs and other wildlife before strimming or mowing. Keep pea netting 22-30cms (9 - 12") off the ground so hedgehogs can pass under and plants will grow to the netting. Start a compost heap; birds will feed off the mini-beasts that congregate in a compost heap, as will hedgehogs and toads that may nest in it. A word of warning though before using the compost test the base and sides gently for sleeping wildlife. Hedgehogs will repay you for your concern by eating your slugs and snails!

Little hedgehog on mans hand, looking at you with smile (© Paleka |

6. Dispose of litter responsibly. Every year hedgehogs are injured by litter and starve to death by getting trapped in discarded rubbish. Their inquisitiveness can get them into trouble as they get their heads get stuck in various kinds of containers - empty food cans, yoghurt cups, plastic mugs etc. Perhaps even more deadly are the plastic rings that hold cans together; wildlife can get trapped in them. Always make sure each circle is cut. What better reasons could there be for always picking up our litter?

7. Bonfires offer a tempting home for a hedgehog, ideally collected materials should be re-sited just before the fire is to be lit, if this is not possible, the base should be lifted up with poles or broom handles and a torch shone in to look for any wildlife or pets in need of rescue before lighting. Single hedgehogs found can be moved. Use gardening gloves to pick the hedgehog up and pop it into a box. It can be released when the fire is totally cooled down. If you come across a nest with babies in it, quietly put the materials back and leave the nest well alone. Keep an eye on the site as the mother may abandon or even kill young if a nest is disturbed. If it seems the mother is not returning to the nest call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society Helpline on 01584 890 801.

8. Hedgehogs are good swimmers but can become trapped in ponds or pools with sheer sides. Keep water levels topped up, provide a gently sloping edge if possible or place half submerged rocks in the water as an escape for them.

9. Cattle grids can be a problem, hedgehogs fall in and become trapped, a simple ramp placed in the grid will save lives. It can be made of concrete, approx 8" wide, or of wood or metal. The surface should be allowed to remain rough to enable the escapee to gain a foothold. If it is impossible for an animal to gain access to the whole of the pit i.e. if it is sectionalised, more than one "ramp" would be required. Similarly in a very large cattle/sheep grid, two ramps would be preferable.

10. Finally, take care on the roads, hedgehogs are nocturnal so are often seen out at night. A hedgehog’s natural defence mechanism is to roll into a ball. This is no match for a motor vehicle. All nature-loving people want to do something about this. So, do drive carefully, especially at night, do all you can to avoid hedgehogs which may be crossing the road and, if it is safe to do so, stop and assist hedgehogs to get across quickly.

For more information contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society

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