One of our most familiar garden visitors is the humble hedgehog. Their taste for slugs and snails makes them a welcome addition to the garden. However, you may not have noticed them as often as you did ten or twenty years ago. Sadly, their numbers have declined nationally and they need our help.
A home for hedgehogs
One of the best ways to help your neighbourhood hedgehogs is to provide them with their own house. The hedgehogs could use this as a place to hibernate or if you are very lucky, rear their young. The homes don’t have to be complicated. They could be as simple as leaving a pile of leaves and twigs in the garden for them to use as shelter. Alternatively, you can build your own more substantial house. There are instructions on how to do this on the RSPB website here. (It is best not to treat the wood with any preservatives.) You can also purchase ready made hedgehog homes from the RSPB shop.
The best place to put your hedgehog home is in a spot that’s out of direct sunlight, in or under thick vegetation or behind or under a shed. If you’ve had a hedgehog nest in the garden before then use that as a guide for a good place to put your box. Make sure the entrance is facing away from any prevailing winds.
A safe place to stay
There are many hazards in gardens, which can risk injuring or even killing hedgehogs. Avoid using slug pellets as some may be harmful to hedgehogs. Hedgehogs can also easily fall down holes, into water troughs, ponds, and other types of water vessel. If you can’t prevent them falling in, then make sure there is always a way for them to get out such as a flat piece of wood coming out of the water at a shallow angle or creates ponds with gently sloping sides. When painting the shed or fence, use non-toxic products because hedgehogs like to sniff and lick new smells. Feeding them can be a great way of helping them too. They aren’t picky animals and will eat most types of food. The best food to put out is cat or dog food, fruit and cooked vegetables. However, don’t put out milk and bread because it can make the hedgehogs ill. The hedgehogs fondness for piles of leaves and twigs means they can end up hibernating in garden waste destined for bonfires so it’s important to check these before burning.
Once you’ve created an ideal place for hedgehogs to stay, they need to be able to get in to your garden. Gardens surrounded by fencing can be like fortresses to a hedgehog. Creating a gap in your fence and encouraging your neighbours to do the same will allow hedgehogs to move freely along the street. Planting hedges instead of fences would be even better. Hedgehogs like to have cover to shelter in so hedges and long grass can be important too.
It’s not just hedgehogs that you can help – there’s simple ways you can make your garden the perfect spot for all types of birds, bugs and beasts. To find out more and to download your free guide, visit rspb.org.uk/homes.
The worrying state of things for creatures that call our gardens ‘home’ has encouraged Rightmove to lend our support to the RSPB’s new Giving Nature a Home campaign. The objective is simple: to encourage people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature in their gardens and outdoor spaces.