December

Hedgehogs at Home

Student Ambassador Zoe Newth from Bath Spa's new Hedgehog Friendly Campus Team shares her top tips on how to look after our little garden visitors.

Bath Spa University has recently set up a Hedgehog Friendly Campus team with the aim of making our campuses more suitable for our hedgehog population. The team will be working on activities ranging from creating hedgehog houses to making our roads safer.

But can you do your bit to make your own garden safe for them? Here are some simple things you can do to make to your garden hedgehog friendly!

Fences

Hedgehogs love to roam but garden fences can stop them from getting about. Cut holes (around 12cm x 12cm) at the bottom of the fences around your garden – this will allow them to freely move about and have a better chance of finding food and shelter.

Food

Tasty insects are a big part of a hedgehog’s diet! Native bushes such as hazel, honeysuckle and hawthorn all attract moths, the caterpilllars of which provide a nutritious food source for hedgehogs. 

Natural food sources are best for hedgehogs, but it can be very helpful for them to receive extra food before and after hibernation. If it's cold enough, hedgehogs can begin hibernating as early as October, before emerging around April.

If you want to provide extra food, some good options are meat-based dog or cat food, especially chicken flavour.

There are some foods that you should never leave for them, as these can make them sick or dehydrated:

  • bread
  • food waste (e.g. vegetable scraps)
  • milk (hedgehogs are lactose intolerant!)

If in doubt, do some research online before you place the food outside.

Shelter

To create some extra shelter in your garden, you can add a hedgehog house. These are available to buy from organisations such as the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, but you can also try building your own!

It can be made from wood and be covered with a plastic sheet, with an entrance tunnel of 12cm x 12cm and 40cm long to ensure no predators can enter. Houses should be placed facing a bush and in a secluded area. Surround it with leaves for bedding, and it will make a nice base for hedgehogs throughout the winter.

Hazards

Some of the biggest hazards for hedgehogs are:

  • Ponds
    Ponds are a reliable source of drinking water for thirsty animals, not to mention a wildlife hotspot. However, any deep water can be dangerous as, although they can swim, hedgehogs get tired quickly. Sloping edges, steps, or a log acting as a ladder will mean they can climb out if they fall in.
  • Drains
    Cover drains or deep holes so hedgehogs don't get stuck.
  • Netting
    Remove discarded netting from around your garden, as this can trap hedgehogs.
  • Strimmers and lawn mowers
    Before you cut the grass, especially in long grassy areas, have a quick check for hedgehogs or other animals.
  • Pet dogs
    Dogs can be a danger to hedgehogs. Try to give some warning before you let your furry friends outside – you can turn on an outside light or make some noise. Leads and muzzles are useful precautions in the dark as hedgehogs are most active in the nighttime.

Hibernation

Keep some areas of your garden wild. Not only does this attract all-important insects, but wilder areas can be a wonderful place for hedgehogs to create a nest and hibernate. Piles of leaves, twigs and other garden waste should be left undisturbed during hibernation months, but always remember to check bonfires for snoozing hedgehogs or other visitors before burning them on Guy Fawkes Night or New Year's Eve. Move the pile to a new location to check for sleepy animals and make sure to burn it that night so they don't crawl back in!

Daily inspections of garden sheds and garages are a good idea as sometimes animals can become trapped. Try not to leave doors to sheds open for long periods of time, and check for any visitors before closing up – a hedgehog may have created a hibernation nest inside if they were able to move freely in and out. This also means it may be best not to dismantle sheds during hibernation months, or in the summer when hedgehogs breed (June to October).

Garden pests

Chemical slug pellets might keep pests away from your prize-winning fruit and vegetables, but they are sadly very toxic to hedgehogs. If you can, try to use organic versions instead.

However, an even better solution would be to have no pellets at all – and if you've made your garden a hedgehog haven following the steps above, they'll take care of nasty slugs and snails in return for a safe place to live!

Hedgehog friendly campus team logo including an image of a hedgehog and the University logo

To see our work and get involved, visit our Bath Spa University Hedgehog Friendly Campus Facebook page or check us out on Instagram.

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.

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