This week is Hedgehog Awareness Week and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society is asking all of us to do just one thing positive for our beloved British little prickly friends this week. I don’t need to tell you that we are a bit hedgehog crazy in this house and I’m pleased to have welcomed back our garden visitors recently after spotting them on camera for the first time after the winter months.
Not everyone is so fortunate though and despite hedgehogs being consistently named as one of Britain’s favourite animals, hedgehog numbers are seriously in decline. Four in ten children have never seen a hedgehog in the wild– something I can attest to having never seen one myself until I was 17 and then not again until three years ago. That is coming from someone who grew up in a rural village and was always curious about nature!
(Footage of the hedgehogs checking out our brand new feeding station)
This year the British Hedgehog Preservation Society are focusing particularly on keeping hedgehogs safe from strimming and garden cutting equipment. This time every year British families turn their attention to making the garden summer-ready and every year this flurry of garden activity coincides with a lot of horrible hedgehog casualties from strimming and other garden maintenance related injuries.
Before you get your gardening gloves on this weekend, do see if you can do one of the things below to help make your garden a more hedgehog friendly place. Don’t assume either that just because you’ve never seen a hedgehog in your garden that they aren’t there (or wouldn’t visit if they had access) – we were in blissful ignorance of ours until that fateful garden camp-over night!
To make your garden safe for hedgehogs do:
- check long grass and bottoms of hedges before strimming/hedge trimming. Sending the kids out there for a game of chase in any overgrown areas due to be trimmed first is a good tactic – chances are they will startle off any snoozing wildlife, including any humble hoggies.
- be careful forking over a compost heap. Hedgehogs, like slow worms and many other creatures, enjoy the warmth a compost heap gives off and the snacks it often has on offer.
- make sure ponds have an escape route or shallow exit. Thirsty hedgehogs have been known to drown in deep ponds and drains.
- switch your slug pellets for something harmless. Slug pellets are poisonous to hedgehogs. Try wool pellets instead (we love them in our household) or natural alternatives such as beer traps, sprinkling broken egg shells around the base of tender plants or patrolling with a bucket after dark. Don’t forget that by encouraging hedgehogs you will be introducing another natural pest control – hedgies love slugs!
- make sure pea/garden netting is kept hedgehog height above the ground. Hedgehogs are not always that great with keeping their prickles out of tangle-trouble.
- check any garden rubbish piles for hedgehogs before you burn it. Ideally, build and burn your bonfire on the same day to avoid any hedgehogs or other creatures taking refuge in it.
To encourage hedgehogs in your garden do:
- make sure there is hedgehog access to your garden. Hedgehogs roam a large distance every night. Cut a 13x13cm gap in your fence and you’ll be giving hoggies the best chance to both access your garden and crucially improving their chanes of finding a mate!
- provide a hedgehog nesting box in the garden. You don’t need to break the bank on a fancy one from the garden centre. Using some old bricks, an upturned flowerpot or an old wooden wine crate will do the trick – the fabulous Wildlife Gadgetman has plenty of ideas if you’re stuck.
- put out some hedgehog food. No milk and bread – contrary to belief, this can actually make hedgehogs unwell. Dried cat biscuits (meat not fish), bird peanuts, sunflower seeds or meal worms are all good choices. Don’t forget some drinking water too! If you’re worried about thieving cats or foxes then use an upturned plastic storage box with a 13×13 cm hole cut in it as a food shelter. Alternatively make your own as we did recently.
- leave an area of grass in the garden to go a little wild. Hedgehogs use long grass, hedge bottoms, undergrowth and wood piles as welcome daytime retreats so use that as an excuse to mow just a little bit less!
In the Baby Routes household we finally got our brand new fox-resistant hedgehog cafe made – our so-called Prickley Palace – in time for Hedgehog Awareness Week (hubby turned it into an epic mansion complete with window from some old wood left-over from a DIY project)! The girls have loved watching the resulting hedgehog footage on the camera each morning (see above) and so far, it has foxed the foxes although a rogue cat has been sniffing about.
I’ll also be writing to our local garden centres to ask them to consider adding free labels from the BHPS to their garden electric tools to help raise awareness of hedgehogs during this busy month for gardening – something you can do too if you want to (see the BHPS website for details).
I love hearing about other people’s garden wildlife so please leave a comment below if you’ve got a wildlife story to share. For more information on hedgehogs and what you can do to help then, nip on over to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society.