A naturally designed garden provides hedgehogs with invertebrates to eat and places to shelter and nest. The garden can very easily be made into an attractive haven for many small animals and by not cleaning up too thoroughly, it can be maintained as habitat for Hedgehog and Co.
Hedgehogs roam large areas in search of food. Hedges and picket fences are suitable boundaries. Hedgehogs can get entangled in coarse-meshed wire; chain link fences should have a gap beneath them. And garden walls should have escape holes at the bottom.
Pesticides and weedkillers kill insects, they destroy the hedgehog’s food sources. When “pests” get out of hand, they should be controlled exclusively by organic means. Do not use artificial fertilizers! Do not use artificial fertilizers! Compost soil, bark mulch and other natural fertilizers do the same job and don’t harm animals.
Hedgehogs find insects and especially earthworms in short grass. Blooming and seeding grasses and flowers are not only important to insects. So leave the edges of the garden under bushes and hedges and only mow them, best of all never, but at most twice a year – after careful inspection.
Not only are they better adapted to our soil and climate, they are also indispensable to a great variety of insects, birds, and small mammals like the hedgehog. Exotic plants are sterile and of no use to our indigenous fauna.
The hedgehog’s favourite hiding places are thick hedges, bushes, compost heaps and heaps of leaves or brushwood, as well as hollow spaces beneath wood piles, garden huts, sheds, stairs, stone piles and old roots. If you disturb a hedgehog nest while gardening – possibly with babies inside – it must be covered over again immediately and any further disturbances must be avoided (keep dogs away!).
Whether or not a hedgehog has visited a (hedgehog friendly) garden, can be seen by looking for his calling cards. The droppings of a healthy hedgehog consist of little dark brown/black sausages about 3 – 6 cm long.
By setting up a feeding station in good time when food is scarce in spring and autumn, you can often make it unnecessary to bring underweight hedgehogs into care. Suitable foods are tinned cat food mixed with dry hedgehog food or porridge oats and/or unseasoned scrambled egg.
To protect the food from birds and rain, put it out in each evening under a small box with at least two 10 x 10 cm entrance holes cut in the sides. The feeding station must always be kept clean to avoid the danger of cross infection. The feeding dish must be thoroughly washed every day, it is advisable to put it on some newspaper which should be changed daily.
Stop putting out food, when it is freezing and snowing, so that hedgehogs are not “encouraged” to stay awake. Lack of food is an important catalyst for hibernation.
Natural garden design is the best way to help hedgehogs. You can also offer artificial nest boxes as sites for day nests and hibernation.
Hedgehog houses can be home made or obtained from specialist shops, pet shops, garden centres and a few workshops as well as some regional hedgehog conservation societies. Read more about Hedgehog houses.