We don’t see hedgehogs too often nowadays. Their declining numbers are due in part to the rapid urbanisation of the country, with hedgerows disappearing from not only our gardens, but also the countryside.
As a child, I often saw a hedgehog travelling the lawn at twilight. My parents would call me out of bed, and we’d greet the little hog at the back door with a plate of cat food and a bowl of water. A nightly ritual for ‘Mr Hedgehog’ as I called him (this tradition of naming everything Mr or Mrs. Species has unfortunately carried on well into my adult life as well), he returned every night for months, until winter, when he retreated into a little stone shelter, in a hedge, at the bottom of the garden.
As an adult, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a hedgehog, and I’m sure many other people will agree. Spurred on by recent campaigns by the RSPB to ‘Give Nature a Home’, as well as a simple determination to help my local wildlife, I decided to write about building homes for hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs are handy little pest controllers. If you’re lucky enough to have one living in your garden, he or she will happily munch on any slugs, worms, caterpillars, and beetles that they find. They make their homes in piles of wood, branches, thick, dense hedgerows, and under sheds and compost heaps.
If you’d like to make a home for a hedgehog, all you need is a basic wooden box with a lid. Hedgehogs hibernate alone, and prefer a slightly spacious home. They will fill it up themselves with moss, leaves, and other comfy things to curl up in, although you can add a layer of straw or dried leaves to get them started. An entrance tunnel will help deter predators, and keep the elements off of the hedgehog. You can also buy a readymade hedgehog box, and we really like the range available at the RSPB. A hedgehog box should be positioned in a hidden position out of direct sunlight and wind.
When you do find a spiny friend living in your garden, avoid bothering them in their new home, especially if they have babies in the nest. A quick and infrequent peek to check on the hedgehog is fine, but don’t add or remove anything in the nest, and try not to disturb the hedgehog, or its belongings.
It may take years for a hedgehog to move into your garden, but you can attract them with a nice ecosystem of shrubbery, and some enticing treats like dog and cat food, meal worms, fresh/dried fruit, cooked vegetables, and even a bit of cake! With a little care and patience, you’ll soon be providing a valuable home to one of the cutest little caretakers your garden will ever have.
Click here for some handy instructions on how to construct a hedgehog box.