FEEDING YOUR GARDEN HEDGEHOGS
Hedgehogs can be a bit picky! In the wild they eat slugs and snails and any meat they can get hold of. Although omnivorous they definitely lean towards meat as far as choice goes. In the garden, the remnants of bird food below the bird table goes down well! They are quite happy to eat fat balls and sunflower hearts, apples and other fruit that falls off trees in the garden. In the wild they eat a lot of worms and pull them out of the lawn like sucking up spaghetti. They have also been recorded eating eggs of ground nesting birds. In our garden we feed them a few mealworms and some cat food in a shallow stainless steel cat dish. A stainless steel dish because its easy to wash or chuck in the dishwasher. Here are some definite do's and don'ts.
ALWAYS leave clean water out, they are very thirsty animals.
NO MILK because hedgehogs cannot digest it.
Make sure the cat food does not contain FISH and check small print.....NO fish derivatives. the Aldi cat food as shown in the photograph meets these requirements most of the time. This is a wet cat food but you can also feed dry biscuit style food in the summer months as the wet food can quickly attract flies!
Feed in a box, see pictures and plans. You can make use of any box (eg small storage box) and adapt. But, if you are cutting holes in a plastic storage box cover the sharp edges in sticky tape. if you don't use a box then expect to be feeding all your local cats. The entrance to a feeding box needs to be about 15 cm square. Use bricks 15 cm in front of the box entrance to deter cats. See photo below.
Don't put food in your hedgehog Hibernation/Breeding house. This might encourage other animals to go into a box that contains a breeding hedgehog with hoglets!! Use a feeding box like the one shown in the photograph.
In the morning clear away any food that remains in your feeding dishes.
Small amount of mealworms cab be used as a tempter. Science tells us that mealworms have practically zero nutritional value. There is some research that tells us that long term heavy feeding of mealworms can cause bone diseases in hedgehogs!
You can buy specially formulated hedgehog food HERE.
Making sure that hedgehogs can get in and out of your garden is one of the most important things you can do. If your garden is fenced you can make a tunnel under it or a hole through it. Tunnels can be made using some LARGE drainpipe. Holes should be 15cm square and cut in the bottom of a fence or gate etc. Hedgehogs can travel 2 or 3 miles a night and they do this in order to find sufficient food and for breeding purposes. For hedgehogs to survive they need this access to gardens, open spaces and the surrounding countryside. Of course, if your lucky, your garden is surrounded by hedges and hedgehogs can go where they like. But many houses these days have solid fencing and hedgehogs have no right of access!
Given the need to provide access points on boundaries it is always good idea to discuss your ideas with your neighbours. One of the perceived difficulties, for those not wanting cats in the garden, is that a hole in a fence etc is another way cats can get into their garden. However, realistically a cat can jump from the floor to the top of a six foot larch lap fence easily, so cutting a hole is neither here nor there. But having said that I had this problem some years ago. I applied the same theory as applied to the feeding box with the bricks placed 15 cm in front. (see photo). I discovered cats don't like or cannot physically turn through a 90 degree bend. So I built an L shape tunnel to put in front of a hole that I had cut in a fence panel. I tuned on the night cameras..... problem solved. The hedgehogs continued to pass in and out of the garden and no cats.
You could label your highway with a sign like this (see photo) and buy them HERE
HIBERNATION & BREEDING
Hedgehog boxes in your garden can be used by hedgehogs in different ways. These boxes can get filled with leaves and dried grass and used as a place for winter hibernation. They can also (if your lucky ) be used for breeding purposes.
I have three different boxes in my garden. Each one is a different design. They have all had hedgehogs in them. Two out of three have had overwintering hedgehogs (hibernating). So what am I trying to say! There is no best way to make a box. There are some links below to get you started. From my experience, there are some important factors to consider, when making a box.
Ventilation. Drill holes in the top of one of the wooden side panels of your box, or push a short piece of hosepipe into the side. Make sure the pipe is not pointing up otherwise it will fill the box with water!!
Location. Choose a quiet place for the box and make sure there are lots of leaves/grass/hay nearby.
Material. If the box is made of wood then:
Don't use treated timber,
Lift the box off the floor on a couple of wooden strips 2/3cm thick, to prevent the floor from becoming permanently wet and rotting.
Use roofing felt to waterproof the roof. You could also use rubber sheeting like butyl or a square of old pond liner. I like to use corrugated plastic/bitumen sheeting and make this big enough to overlap the roof for a bit of extra protection.
If your not able to make a Hedgehog box then you can always buy one. There are plenty of choices on the internet. We have a local supporter called Andy who has already built many boxes for our Edgmond Group. Andrew can be contacted by email. . Andy makes good quality boxes. Some clients have had boxes built to very special specifications. (see below)
Thrifty Squirrel - Design 1 - Build a wooden hedgehog house. I like this design, the turn before you get to the nest chamber prevents cat entry. click HERE
Hedgehog Bottom - Build a wooden hedgehog house. click HERE
Natural History Museum - Hedgehog House, low tech, fast build - simple family activity click HERE