If you’ve got a garden, hedgehogs can be useful visitors. They will eat snails, slugs, beetles and a variety of other insects.
Make a hedgehog a home
To attract hedgehogs to your garden you can try providing hedgehog homes, both natural – by creating ‘wild’ areas – and man-made by placing a piece of board against a pile of bricks to form a type of bivouac or buy a purpose built hedgehog house.
Hedgehogs normally hibernate between November and mid-March but are sometimes seen during this time, if the weather has been mild. Try to keep aside a hedgehog-friendly area of garden, leaving welcome heaps of leaves and brushwood. Read our hedgehog hibernation FAQ for more information.
Feeding hedgehogs – what hedgehogs eat
Food and fresh water at any time of the year will encourage visiting hedgehogs to return regularly. You could try leaving out food such as minced meat, fresh liver, tinned dog food (not fish-based), or chopped boiled eggs. There's also hedgehog food available, which can usually be bought from suppliers of garden bird food.
Hedgehogs like milk but it can cause severe diarrhoea; they should never be given cow’s milk. So it’s best to give hedgehogs plain, fresh water each night in a shallow bowl.
Caring for hedgehogs in the garden
There are things you can do to protect and care for hedgehogs in your garden, to prevent them from become sick or injured.
Make sure there is always an easy route for hedgehogs to climb out of the water. Steps built out of house bricks are often used. Ideally, swimming pools should have shallow steps and a tight-fitting insulating cover should be used overnight.
Strimmers should be used sparingly under hedges and other areas of undergrowth – hedgehogs and other animals are likely to be resting there during the day.
Drains and similar open holes frequently trap unwary hedgehogs and they can starve if they are not rescued. Keep all drain covers in good condition and cover any open holes.
Litter is a real hazard – hedgehogs frequently get their heads stuck in tins, plastic binders from drinks cans or discarded yoghurt pots – make sure you dispose of your rubbish safely. Find out more about the dangers of litter.
Nets particularly those used for tennis, football or cricket, must be furled well above the ground when not in use – hedgehogs often get entangled in these nets and die of starvation. Fruit nets are a similar source of danger but can be kept taut to stop animals getting entangled.
Slug pellets can poison hedgehogs and should only be used as a last resort. Try using other methods such as beer traps or sprinkling fine sand or ground up shells around the plants you need to protect; rings made of cut down plastic drinks bottles can offer protection to individual plants and aluminium, sulphate-based products can be used over wider areas. If all else fails and you have to use pellets, place them under a slate which is inaccessible to hedgehogs.
New evidence has shown that hedgehogs are at risk from poisons put down for rats and mice. Although the bait boxes used should not allow hedgehogs to get to the bait, slugs and snails are attracted to the bait and will then store the poison in their bodies, so when the hedgehog eats the slug, they get the poison. So always seriously consider whether you need to use these chemicals and if so, be very careful.
If you have to light a bonfire, always make sure there are no animals sheltering in the pile.
Juvenile hedgehogs found weighing less than 500 grams (1.1lbs) during late autumn will need help to survive the winter. Read our factsheet caring for autumn juvenile hedgehogs (PDF 130KB) to find out how you can help. Very young orphaned hedgehogs need more specialist care, we recommend passing these animals to an experienced wildlife rehabilitator.
Facts about hedgehogs
Did you know?
The hedgehog’s spiky coat makes it one of the most easily recognised wild animals in Britain. A hedgehog has about 5,000 spines which can grow up to 2.5cm long and when it rolls up most predators are kept at bay.
As many as 10 different hedgehogs may visit a garden over several nights, which could mean ‘your hedgehog’ may in fact be a number of different individuals visiting at different times.