16 Things You Can Do to Help Save Hedgehogs
- Written by Alicia Drewnicki
- November 5, 2018
- 5 min read
At Honestly Good HQ, we’re dedicated to helping save our planet and our beautiful wildlife. Did you know that the UK hedgehog population has declined by a third in 10 years? There are now fewer than 1 million hedgehogs left in the UK. There are lots of reasons for this, including intensive farming and the wide use of pesticides, hedges being cut down, and impermeable garden fencing.
It’s not too late though. There are still lots of things you can do to help protect hedgehogs. Here are our top 16 tips:
1) Carefully check your bonfires for hedgehogs
With their chunky piles of leaves, twigs, and rolled up newspaper, bonfires are irresistible to hedgehogs looking for a place to hibernate. Unfortunately, many hedgehogs perish in bonfires that haven’t been checked properly (especially around Bonfire Night).
If you’re planning a bonfire, use a torch and the blunt end of a broom/rake to gently check bonfires before lighting them. If possible, relocate the whole bonfire, so it’s thoroughly checked.
If you find a hedgehog, here are some top tips from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on what to do.
2) Get a hedgehog house
Did you know that there’s such a thing as a hedgehog house for your garden? There are a variety of different types you can get, ranging from dome-shaped to rectangular boxes with a small doorway. Alternatively – if you’re feeling creative, why not make your own? Here are some tips from Eco Sapien.
3) Leave out some food for your prickly friends
Hedgehogs are insectivores, so they forage for insects in the wild, such as slugs, snails, beetles, worms, and caterpillars. However, ‘top-up’ meals are encouraged to help them put on weight, so that their fat reserves will get them through winter.
If you go to larger pet stores/garden centres/look online, you’ll find there are actually a range of speciality food mixes for hedgehogs. You don’t have to buy these though – your hedgehog will be more than happy with meaty dog/cat food.
4) Hold back on the mealworms
It’s widely believed that hedgehogs love mealworms – and this is true, however, mealworms can be addictive to hedgehogs and cause health problems. Why? Well, mealworms are high in phosphorus, but for every milligram of phosphorus a hedgehog eats, it must consume another milligram of calcium, otherwise, the calcium gets taken from other parts of the body, to balance out the phosphorus (such as their bones). Mealworms should be considered a special treat (much like if we were eating a chocolate brownie), rather than given in large quantities. Ideally, stick to meaty dog/cat food or special hedgehog food instead.
5) Let your hedges grow/plant a hedge
As you can guess from their names, hedgehogs love hedges! They make ideal nesting spots, and allow hedgehogs to easily move between gardens. Think twice before cutting down a hedge.
6) Create ‘Hedgehog Highways’ (access holes) between gardens
A hedgehog highway is a 13cm x 13cm hole in your fence (or a channel beneath garden boundaries) that connects gardens so hedgehogs can roam freely. The amazing Hedgehog Street (a joint campaign from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society) has created this article on how to link your gardens.
7) Create log piles in your garden
Log piles are fantastic for hedgehogs – they not only make a safe spot for breeding/hibernating, but they also attract bugs, which provide hedgehogs with year-round food.
8) Have an open-air compost heap
Compost heaps are great for hedgehog nesting and attract lots of bugs.
9) Leave piles of leaves/twigs
Hedgehogs love leaf piles for nesting sites and for bedding, so make sure you keep some of these in your garden.
10) Make ponds and swimming pools safe
Fun fact: hedgehogs are excellent swimmers, and love the bugs that ponds attract. Sadly, they can easily drown if they can’t climb up steep edges. If you have a pond, make sure there’s a sloping edge so they can escape (you can also use stones or planks of wood wrapped in chicken wire). With chlorine-rich outdoor swimming pools, make sure they are covered up at night.
11) Don’t use slug pellets and pesticides
Hedgehogs are a natural ‘pest controller’ and eat slugs, so avoid using slug pellets and other pesticides in your garden that can poison hedgehogs.
12) Have a wild corner of your garden
From bees to hedgehogs, your garden visitors will thank you for leaving an area of your garden to grow a bit wild. Plant wildflowers, have lots of variety, let grass grow long, and let nature be wild and free. Lot of different plants will attract lots of bugs, and that makes a happy hedgehog.
13) Leave out water for hedgehogs (not milk!)
The only drink hedgehogs need is water, so leave a shallow bowl of water and ditch the milk, as this can cause sickness and diarrhoea in hedgehogs.
14) Cover up drains
A hedgehog can easily slip down a drain, so may sure you always cover them up.
15) Check long grass before using strimmers
Always look for hidden hedgehogs in long grass before you do your gardening.
16) Don’t leave fruit netting or tennis nets on the ground
Netting can cause hedgehogs to become entangled so be careful when using this in your garden.
So that’s it – 16 top tips for helping to save hedgehogs. If we’ve missed any, please leave a comment and let us know. If you’ve seen a hedgehog in your garden, make sure you check out the BIG Hedgehog Map on Hedgehog Street which is a real-time map that shows hedgehog spotting in the UK. You can also add your hedgehog highway hole on the site too. Want to do more? There’s actually a fantastic petition by Hugh Warwick to make hedgehog highways compulsory, which you can read more about here.
If you enjoyed this, you might like this post: Bee Kind: Why Bees Need Saving and What You Can Do To Help