It has been years since I saw a hedgehog in the garden, or heard one (blimey do they make a racket when mating!) so it was thrilling this summer when the dog went crazy in the garden one night and we discovered him in a stand-off with a large spiny snuffler.
Enter Sir Snuffles, a hedgehog of bravery, completely un-phased by the barking rudeness of our ignorant mutt. And thank goodness for that; hedgehogs are endangered and hard to come by these days. They must be actively encouraged, not rudely yelled at.
We left out fresh water and mealworms and Sir Snuffles returned so often that Fidge no longer even registers his presence.
Help a hedgehog to hibernate
Hedgehogs go into a state of torpor during hibernation, between October and April dependant on the weather; their body temperature drops to the surrounding temperature, preserving energy but making bodily functions and activity impossible.
If you spot a hedgehog outdoors during winter get advice from British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) on 01584 890 801 or via email.
With the autumn air cooling and leaves beginning to fall, it seemed a good idea to build a hedgehog house and perhaps persuade Sir Snuffles to over-winter with us. Putting a hedgehog shelter out in the autumn encourages them to investigate it in plenty of time for their winter hibernation.
Top tips on how to build a hedgehog home
These tips are relevant whether you build your own house or buy a ready-made one:
- A hedgehog house should be roughly 26cm x 40cm x 30cm – 26cm wide by 40cm deep and 30cm tall with a 13cm square door and air vents either side approximately 15cm x 5cm, with a tunnel entrance for protection against foxes etc.
- Don’t use treated or creosoted wood; unpreserved timber is best
- Don’t use hay for hedgehog bedding as it sticks in their spines. Always use straw and dry leaves
- Site the box in a quiet place amongst undergrowth, leaves or rotting wood.
- Face the door southwards for protection against chilly winds.
There are many online instructions for building hedgehog homes. I found some plans here on the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website and chose ‘Council Tax Band A’, for simplicity and ease.
What (not?)to do
(Please read to the bottom before attempting this yourself..)
We cut a 13cm door and air vents in the sides of a suitably sized box, taping a plastic bag over the roof for waterproofing.
Caroline added a porch extension complete with waterproof roof!
We placed it against a fence for protection, with the door facing south. An old flower pot was placed on top to weight it down and we filled it with dry leaves and straw before covering it with sticks, grass and wood to create a mound.
Now we waited for Sir Snuffles’ approval of our architectural genius…
Grand Designs it ain’t
So here’s the rub. After 3 weeks the box sides had become damp and soft and were caving in, so I can’t recommend this hedgehog house after all.
Next year we’ll buy one instead – Sir Snuffles hasn’t been around for a while so he’s hopefully tucked up for the winter elsewhere, in a home that hasn’t disintegrated in the damp!
Sir S came into our garden due to holes under the fence. Hedgehogs roam around 2km overnight and are in huge decline due, amongst other reasons, to our ever-more secure gardens which reduces their roaming space and consequently the amount of food they can find.
Help hedgehog conservation (with holes in your fence?!)
Creating holes in garden fences may sound daft but it provides hedgehog ‘corridors’ or ‘highways’. Hedgehog Street send out a guide when you pledge to make a hole. Once made, map your location; become a hedgehog champion by encouraging your neighbours to take part and even buy recycled plastic labels to make sure your hedgehog holes remain in place.
Some dogs will attack hedgehogs so be extra vigilant if you own a dog.
Put out food in the evening. Don’t put out milk as they are lactose intolerant, instead try: –
- dried mealworms
- sunflower seeds
- wet dog or cat food
- unsalted chopped or crushed peanuts
- a saucer of fresh water
Don’t use slug pellets as they can poison and kill hedgehogs.
Check bonfire piles for snoozing hedgehogs before lighting them.
Record hedgehog sightings here to help the conservation effort.
What is a hedgehog?
- small nocturnal mammal with spiny coat and short legs that rolls itself into a ball for defence. Latin name Erinaceus europaeus.
- Hedgehogs have a tiny tail!
- A group of hedgehogs is called an Array. Babies are called Urchins or Hoglets though we call them Hedgits!
- Hedgehogs eat slugs, snails, insects, worms, centipedes, small (sometimes dead) animals and eggs, and grow 20-30cm, averaging 700g in weight and living up to 6 years
- To survive hibernation they must reach a body weight of at least 450g (1lb) and preferably 600g (1lb 6oz)
- They have 5000-7000 25 mm (1 inch) quills
- Hedgehogs have poor eyesight & rely on hearing and smell. They have soft brownish fur on their pointed faces and underside
- Hedgehogs are so-called because they make pig-like grunts and prefer living in under brush and nests of leaves in dense bushes, under hedges and log piles
- Hans my Hedgehog is a little-known Grimm’s fairy tale about a half-boy, half-hedgehog – somewhat bizarre reading for a winter’s evening! See what you think.
- To get used to new tastes or smells, hedgehogs rub frothy saliva on their quills, called self-anointing.
St Tiggywinkles fact sheet
For all you need to know about hedgehogs.
Sir Snuffles on a night hike
There are many hedgehog rescue centres around the UK looking for voluntary helpers – an internet search will find one near you.
Learn about other animals and wildlife on our Wildlife page.