As you may have picked up by now, we have been pretty excited here about the fact we have a resident hedgehog in our garden. I’ve always had a soft spot for hedgehogs, probably ever since reading Mrs. Tiggywinkle as a child.
Sadly, I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen on of these engaging little creatures in my adult life. This isn’t so surprising when you read the statistics – a study carried out in 2011 estimated that in the previous decade the hedgehog population had declined by a quarter. The reasons for the reduction in hedgehog numbers isn’t know for certain. It is likely that decreasing hedgerows, increased use of pesticides which kill their insect food, more roads which dissect their territories and reduce population movement and increasingly tidy gardens resulting in a loss of places to hibernate are all factors.
In the latter respect I can proudly say we are doing our bit for hog-kind. I love gardening but there is always one part or another of it that is in need of attention. We are lucky to have an oak tree out there and it is forever throwing down odd twigs and sticks. We have been flinging these and any other large shrub cuttings into a pile behind the tree for kindling or until we had time to shred or otherwise dispose of them. It was in this messy corner of rotting wood and undergrowth that we found our Hoggy. Needless to say that tidying up the woodpile has been put off indefinitely.
Since first finding him, Hoggy has been sighted over near the compost heap rummaging around on top of it. Roo is completely taken with the idea of a hedgehog in the garden and thinks every rustle out there after dark must be Hoggy on his nightly rounds. Eager to encourage him or her to become a regular visitor to the garden, I decided to make a hedgehog box and last weekend I finally got around to it with my little helper at hand, although she was still a bit young to help with the first bit.
Making a hedgehog box
For our box, I used an old wooden wine crate we’ve had hanging about from our wedding wine as the main house. I used pliers to remove some protruding metal staples.
Next, I measured and cut out a hole into one of the short sides of the box to make the main entrance. Mine was 14cm wide.
I then measured the dimensions of the base. Using some wood we had hanging about in the shed and a metal ruler, I used these measurements to draw out another rectangle of wood to make a roof on the hedgehog box.
Whilst I had my pencil and ruler out I also drew out the pieces to make a hedgehog tunnel. I made four identically sized pieces measuring 30cm long by 13.5cm wide (I used the hog-box entrance width minus the depth of my wood, minus a couple of mm extra to get this).
Next came cutting out. With the use of a clamp, a work bench and a saw of the good old fashioned variety I impressed myself with how close to the lines I managed to cut everything out. A little bit of sanding to smooth the edges and it was time to put it all together.
First I made the tunnel. I structured it so each side had one overlapping edge on the next side and used 3 small tacks spaced out along each join to pin it together. I needed the clamps to keep the structure in place whilst hitting the tacks in although an extra pair of hands (far enough away from the hammer obviously) would have probably worked just as well.
Tunnel constructed, I positioned it in the cut-out entrance of the main box. Next I turned the box over and used short screws to attach the roof. It was at this point I realised I’d bodged and cut my entrance at the bottom not the top of the box, meaning my roof was actually now my floor. Look at the pics – you’ll see what I mean! Never mind – I doubt Hoggy will mind and the screws can still be undone for cleaning the box out once or twice a year.
With that, our hedgehog box was finished. I was going to cover it with some felt roofing but given I’d messed up the top and bottom I decided to use this box as this season’s prototype and make a better and longer lasting job of one next year.
Back in the garden…
Roo then got involved with helping to find a good spot for the box. We checked out behind the oak tree where we first spotted Hoggy but were amazed to discover that where we had planned to put it, there was already a mound of twigs,leaves and dry grass with a most definite entrance-way in one side. I can only assume Hoggy beat us to it and built their own den! Instead, we sited our box near our compost heaps where the warmth from the decomposing grass, vegetables and plant matter ought to give a snoozing hedgehog over winter a bit of extra heat. It’s also another spot we’d found Hoggy exploring, so who knows, maybe a prickly friend will come across it?
Roo set about collecting dry leaves in a bucket and gathering twigs to cover the hedgehog box with. Hopefully this helped insulate and camouflage it and give it some protection from the rain. She really enjoyed getting involved! By the time she finished, it was barely recognisable! Roo also put a few dry leaves inside too. I’d read varying advice on whether to line a hedgehog box or not (some say the hedgehogs prefer to find their own material, others say they can be put off by the hard floor of a wood box) so we compromised with a thin scattering of oak leaves. Finally, we laid a very light, small twig across the entrance so we would be able to tell if something had been checking out the new house. Now we are waiting… there is no sign of exploration in the hedgehog house yet but it’s still early days! In the meantime I’m doing my research on what else we can do to encourage hedgehogs in the garden – the British Hedgehog Preservation Society have plenty to say on the matter!
If you’re thinking of building your own hedgehog box but don’t have a wine crate then you can make your own box from scratch with some wood – untreated is best but so long as it hadn’t been creosoted (poisonous) it will suffice. You can also use all sorts of other things like plastic crates to build it up. Making a longish tunnel is advised so that predators like badgers can’t hook out an unsuspecting hedgehog from the outside. Do go over and take a look at the awesome Wildlife Gadgetman’s website for some inspiration – he has some brilliant ideas on how to make a hedgehog box and care for our prickly hedgehog friends as well as loads of other great wildlife ideas for your garden. As for Hoggy – well I’ll let you know when we next catch a glimpse and you won’t be able to miss it if we find out there’s a hedgehog in our new house!
Do you have hedgehogs near you or in your garden? I’d love to hear your tips on encouraging them to the garden!