Hedgehogs in the garden

Hedgehogs are a gardener's friend, as they eat beetles, caterpillars, worms and other invertebrates. Here's what you can do to help encourage hedgehogs into your garden and keep them happy throughout the year.

Did you know? As many as 10 different hedgehogs may visit a garden over several nights, which could mean 'your hedgehog' is actually a number of different ones visiting at different times!

Make a hedgehog a home

Leave areas of the garden wild, with piles of leaves, logs or compost. These are an attractive nest, as well as a home for the invertebrates that hedgehogs like to eat.

Making an artificial home can be as simple as placing a piece of board against a wall. Or you can buy a purpose-built hedgehog house, or even try to build your own!

Create hedgehog highways

Hedgehogs can travel around a mile every night, so they may need help to get into and out of your garden. Try cutting holes in fences, removing bricks from walls, or digging tunnels under the garden boundary. Hedgehogs can travel through gaps as small as 13x13cm, so these gaps don't need to be large.

Even better, swapping your garden wall or fencing for native hedgerows provides a route in and out of your garden, as well as shelter for a range of wildlife.

Feeding hedgehogs

Supplementing a hedgehog's natural diet by leaving out food and fresh water is a great way to encourage local hogs into your garden. If you're thinking of feeding your local hogs, remember:

  • Leave out foods like tinned dog or cat food and crushed cat or dog biscuits. If the hedgehog is very young - roughly apple-sized - you'll need to soak the biscuits in water first. You can also get good quality, meaty hedgehog food from wildlife food suppliers. 
  • Never feed hedgehogs milk or bread - milk can cause diarrhoea and bread isn't very nutritious. 
  • Check the food and water bowls each day to top them up with fresh water and food, and remove any food that hasn't been eaten.
  • Always clean the dishes - do this outside (not in the kitchen) every day using hot, soapy water and rinse well. This will help to reduce the risks of spreading disease between different hedgehogs that might eat from the same dish.

Hedgehog-friendly gardening tips

Here's what you can do to keep your garden hedgehogs safe.

  • Cover holes: hedgehogs can easily fall into uncovered drains or holes in your garden. Cover holes or check them every day to make sure no hedgehogs have become trapped.
  • Give them a way out of ponds and pools: place bricks or stones at the side of ponds, or create a sloped edge on part of the pond to give hedgehogs a way to climb out if they fall in. Cover swimming pools overnight and when they're not in use.
  • Check for hedgehogs before using strimmers or mowers - particularly under hedges, where they might be resting during the day. If you're forking over a compost heap, check them for any nesting hogs first.
  • Always thoroughly disturb bonfires immediately before you light them, as there could be hedgehogs nesting or hiding inside. Moving the whole bonfire by hand immediately before setting it alight is the best way of ensuring that hedgehogs and other wildlife aren't sleeping in there.
  • Litter is a real hazard to hedgehogs - they can get their heads stuck in tins, plastic bags, binders from drinks cans or discarded yoghurt pots. Make sure you dispose of your rubbish safely and check there's no litter in your garden. Don't forget to snip the straps of disposable face masks too! 
  • Raise any netting: if you have any netting or wire in your garden, make sure it's at least a foot above ground level, as hedgehogs can easily become tangled up in it. Pack away or roll up fruit nets, tennis and goal nets when they're not in use. We recommend replacing any netting in your garden with solid metal mesh if possible, as it's less likely to entangle hedgehogs.
  • Don't close your shed doors if you usually keep them open, as there might be hedgehogs nesting inside. Keep any dangerous chemicals or tools well off the ground. If you need to dismantle your shed, check carefully underneath the floor first for nesting or hibernating hedgehogs. 
  • Avoid slug pellets and pesticides - these can poison hedgehogs and should only be used as a last resort. Instead, try using one of many natural alternatives, like sprinkling crushed eggshells or coffee grounds around the plants you need to protect. If you have to use pellets, place them under a slate that's inaccessible to hedgehogs. The outdoor use of slug pellets containing metaldehyde will be banned in Great Britain from March 2022.

What to do if you disturb a hedgehog

If the hedgehog is hibernating, gently put it back into its nest, re-cover it with the nest material and leave it alone. If this isn't possible - for example, because the nesting site has already been destroyed - then place the hedgehog in a part of the garden where it will be safe and sheltered, with as much of the original nest as possible.

If there's not much natural shelter available, you could use a large box instead, but make sure the hedgehog will be able to get out of the box easily when it next wakes up.

If the hedgehog isn't hibernating and has young hoglets, re-cover them with the nesting material and leave them alone. If this isn't possible, please call us on 0300 1234 999 for more advice.

Find out what to do if you find an injured or sick hedgehog or an orphaned hoglet in your garden.

Before you go...

Our priority will always be helping animals in need - from your beloved pets to the wildlife in your garden. To do that, we rely on the kindness of people just like you to help our hard-working team continue the life-saving work that they do 24-hours a day.

From offering wildlife advice just like this to rescuing suffering hedgehogs caught in garden netting - we couldn't do it without you.

In 2019, we saw a record-breaking flood of hedgehogs coming into our rescue centres, and with each centre costing around £670,000 to run each year, we need your help more than ever.

As a charity, we rely on your generous donations (no matter how small) to help run our centres and support our mission to create a world that's kinder to all animals. What we're saying is - every day, our animals rely on the kindness of humans to make a difference.

Your spare change could mean a huge change to an animal in our care. Taking a minute to donate really could mean a lifetime of happiness for an animal in need...

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