Hedgehogs are becoming increasingly rare due to a wide variety of environmental problems not least lack of suitable habitat and deaths caused by domestic pets like cats and dogs as well as collisions with cars.
If that weren’t sad enough in itself these beautiful, harmess creatures also offer significant benefits to the environmentally-conscious gardener. Seeing hedgehogs snuffling around your garden on a warm summers evening never ceases to delight and the spectacle of their mating ritual which really has to be seen – and heard – to be believed! Furthermore hedgehogs also eat a wide variety of common garden “pests” including slugs and snails and can therefore be seen as a form of organic pest control if you’re growing any kind of crop in your garden.
In other words by attracting hedgehogs onto your little plot of land you’ll help them to thrive whilst adding valuable pest control as well as added interest to your garden. What’s not to love about hedgehogs?!
So now we understand the benefits of attracting hedgehogs into your garden the next question is really how we go about attracting hedgehogs in the first place and luckily there are a number of tips that can help.
Plant Low-Growing Bushes For Ground Cover
For most of the day hedgehogs are shy animals that prefer to hide away from hot sunny weather. You’re most likely to see these noctural animals in the late evening as the light is fading in your garden and their prey of slugs and snails are starting to make their nightly raids on your vegetable plot.
Providing some cover for them to hide in and sleep under can go a long way to encouraging them into your garden and an ideal way to do this is through the planting of low-growing bushes.
Tempt Hedgehogs With Food
In my grandmother’s era experts used to recommend feeding hedgehogs on a mixture of milk and bread but these days we know that this diet can cause stomach upsets for hedgehogs and offers little in the way of nutrition. Furthermore hedgehogs are almost entirely carnivorous so bread is really an unsuitable food.
Better is to offer meat in the form of tinned cat food and water in a seperate, low-sided saucer or bowl. Try to put out this food and water on a regular basis so that your local hedgehogs come to realize that this is a reliable and predictable source of nutrition and therefore return on a regular basis – hopefully eventually making your garden their home.
For your own pleasure it is possible to get hedgehogs used to your presence by bribing them with food. Start off with your lights on and put out the food and water in your garden a “safe” distance from your windows. Then, over a period of weeks you can slowly move the bowls a little bit closer each evening until eventually they are feeding happily right outside your window. At this point you should be have a perfect view of your local hedgehogs each evening as they feed and frolic in the light from your windows.
Add Ramps To Any Open Source Of Water
Hedgehogs need water to drink, and can swim well, but they also have a nasty habit of falling to ponds, water butts and other sources of open water. If the sides are too high for the hedgehog to climb out it will eventually succumb to exhaustion and may drown as a result.
Take the time then to ensure that any source of open water in your garden either has a covering of wire mesh to prevent this problem or has an easy way to escape from in the form of a wooden ramp or carefully placed rocks.
Create Logpiles And Composting Heaps
When hedgehogs hibernate during the winter they typically seek out secure places to hide such as in amongst piles of logs or in rotting vegetation just like can be found in a compost heap. This rotting vegetatation offers a degree of insulation and furthermore the bacteria present help to generate some warmth during the colder months.
Typically log piles and compost heaps have been created with other purposes in mind and may only be present temporarily but the caring gardener will try to create these important habitats deliberately just for their local hedgehogs. So try to find a few quiet areas of your garden such as by a hedge or in an underused corner and place your unwanted grass clipping, tree prunings and dead flowers here to create a valuable “hedgehog nest”.
Check Bonfires Before Lighting
Leading on from the previous point, many a hedgehog has been accidentally roasted alive after it snuffled it’s way into the middle of a pile of decaying plant matter without realizing the gardener was about to burn it as a bonfire. Should you ever decide to have a bonfire in your garden try to either put out the material shortly before lighting it – so minimize the chances of a local hedgehog having made it’s home there – or carefully turn it over with a garden fork before lighting it to check for any unexpected guests!