In autumn, the breeding season for hedgehogs comes to an end and the young leave their mothers in search of independence. The first time alone in the wild can be challenging for hedgehogs as the autumn and winter months see their food supply (insects, worms, slugs and other garden creatures) beginning to dwindle. If they lack this food they can die during hibernation, so as the weather turns colder it’s good for them to have a comfy garden spot to nest in. In addition, being a key predator of garden pests such as caterpillars, snails and slugs, hedgehogs really are a gardener’s best friends so it’s worth making your garden a habitat they can explore with ease.
1. Make your garden a hedgehog highway
Make sure hedgehogs can get in and out of your garden. Hedgehogs will need a 10cm square space to move through.
2. Watch out for water
If you have a pond in your garden, make sure there is an easy way for hedgehogs to get in and out. Try building a ramp or ladder. A simpler alternative is to wrap a plank in chicken wire to create a ramp that the hedgehog can grip to escape from water. Alternatively, place rocks near the edge of a pond to allow a hedgehog to crawl out, or introduce a shallow pebbled area which will encourage other wildlife to take a dip too. Make sure to cover up swimming pools when not in use.
3. Find a natural alternative to slug pellets
Laying down slug pellets in your garden not only removes potential food for hedgehogs, but can also kill them. Instead of using toxic pellets, try making a beer trap. Place a container in the ground, making sure to leave it poking out of the ground by a couple of inches to stop other insects falling in, then half-fill the container with beer. A quick internet search will also conjure up plenty of hedgehog-friendly ideas for slug control.
4. Check long grass before mowing or strimming
We all know to check for hedgehogs before lighting bonfires or plunging a shovel into the compost heap, but it’s also well worth checking for hedgehog nests before chopping down any long grass.
5. Keep netting off the ground
If you’ve got netting dangling in your garden or garage, make sure you keep it above hedgehog height (about 30cm) to stop them curling up and getting stuck.
6. Avoid giving them milk
Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so ignore the old wives tale and don’t leave out a saucer of milk for your prickly pals. Provide fresh, plain water instead. It is also thought to be bad for hedgehogs to eat pumpkin, which acts as a laxative and causes severe dehydration at a time when they’re striving to gain as much weight as possible. So, it’s best to avoid leaving this autumn vegetable out for them to eat at Halloween.
7. Keep your garden a bit untidy
Too much neatness — such as decking and neat and smooth fencing — won’t help hedgehogs, and can act as a barrier, making it difficult for them to travel further to forage for food, and to meet other hedgehogs during breeding season. Talk to your neighbours and, if they agree, cut 13cmx13cm holes in your fences or dig a channel beneath garden boundaries to connect your gardens.
8. Check your recycling
Crush tin cans and cut the plastic rings that connect cans as both can be hazards for small mammals.
9. Create a hedgehog haven
When is National Hedgehog Day?
Wednesday 2nd February