How to Set Up Your Garden for Hedgehogs This Winter
Ten Tips to Help Your Garden Become A Haven for Hedgehogs During the Cold Winter Months
Local wildlife can be a natural part of your garden, without becoming pests, bees and insects play a large role in keeping biodiversity in a state of balance, with bees being particularly important for the cultivation of plants. Then we have the humble hedgehog, a staple of the British garden, while you might not realise it, they too have a part to play in keeping your garden maintained. Hedgehogs love to eat slugs and snails, this is ideal for keeping the slimy pests at bay, as they are prone to eat their way through your plants.
Encouraging hedgehogs into your garden is one issue that has several solutions, but the issue doesn’t stop there, what do you need to do once the hedgehog is in your garden? That’s where we hope to help, with our ten top tips you can be sure that your garden will be the place to be, for all local hedgehogs, read along below.
Create an Entrance
The first thing you will want to do is to make sure that hedgehogs can actually enter your garden. This can present various challenges, depending on your garden setup and location. If you live in a terraced garden there may be numerous fences and walls preventing hedgehogs from accessing your garden. If you can, try to create an opening or hole in the fence or wall that is nearest to any open areas, if you are surrounded by other gardens you can always try to get the neighbours on board, making gaps in each subsequent garden, creating a hedgehog highway!
Make your Garden Accessible
While hedgehogs are known to be fairly good at climbing, they struggle to scale slippery or sheer surfaces, and they also struggle climbing down. If there are any deep recesses or ditches, make sure to provide ways for hedgehogs to get out from them, and if you have any garden ponds be sure to cover them, or again, provide a way for hedgehogs to get out.
Create Nesting Spaces
Hedgehogs love dark shady places to nest in, so you have a few options available to keep them nesting in your garden. One of the easiest ways to encourage nesting is by keeping an area of your garden thick with plants and vegetation, less pruned than you might normally, hedgehogs will benefit from the overgrowth and the plentiful insects that are sure to make their homes here too.
The other option is to create or buy a hedgehog home, if you have some solid logs or branches available you can use these to create a small structure for the hedgehog to take up residence in. There are a number of hedgehog houses available to suit the aesthetic of your garden, this makes it a much easier option for encouraging nesting, plus they are going to be more robust than what the hedgehogs might make themselves.
Litter, plastic, and garden twine/wire are the enemy of the common hedgehog, try to clear out any detritus from your garden before inviting hedgehogs in. Similarly, if you know that there are areas just outside of your garden where there is an abundance of rubbish, get these cleared too.
Like many other small creatures in winter, hedgehogs benefit greatly from additional food and water sources. In the coldest parts of winter, try to provide food and water every night, and remove any leftover food the next morning as it is likely to attract pests. Dry cat food works particularly well for keeping hedgehogs fed, break it in to smaller pieces to make it more digestible. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so avoid dairy products, especially milk.
If you are worried about other animals accessing the food, you can leave it in a place only the hedgehog is likely to get in to, such as the hedgehog house, rather than a larger animal like a fox.
Harmful chemical pesticides, slug pellets, and lawn treatment can reduce the number of insects available for hedgehogs to eat, not to mention the negative environmental impact they can cause. There is also a chance that these chemicals can directly affect the hedgehog, and potentially kill it.
Be Careful When Cutting Grass
Being nocturnal creatures, hedgehogs will likely be asleep during the day, apart from the odd bit of stirring, this means they are unlikely to realise when grass is being cut. If you are using a lawnmower or strimmer to cut your lawn it is easy to miss something as small as a hedgehog, but with some care and due attention, you can avoid hurting our spined friends.
Due to the natural structure of bonfires, dark, damp, with plenty of shelter, hedgehogs will be drawn to them. If you do intend on lighting a bonfire, check for hedgehogs before lighting, and whenever possible, build the bonfire just prior to lighting it. When looking for a hedgehog, try looking at night, as this will be when they are most active, shining a bright torch into the bonfire may startle the hedgehog and cause it to hiss, while this will cause the hedgehog some stress, it may make it easier to locate it and save it from a much worse fate.
Start A Compost Pile
Composting has its own benefits, regardless of a hedgehog’s interactions, so it’s always advisable to start composting whenever you can. If you do have an exposed compost pile, it can be a veritable smorgasbord of food for a hedgehog, decomposing garden waste will attract worms, slugs, and insects. Hedgehogs are also fond of hibernating amongst compost heaps, so due care is needed if you are turning the pile or removing any contents.
Grow Specific Plants
Attract moths and caterpillars to your garden by growing native plants such as foxglove, primrose, sea lavender, and buddleias. Hedgehogs will love to feast upon any caterpillars they come across, and any moth eggs that have been deposited. Not only does this get rid of pests that are likely to eat your plants, but it also keeps the hedgehogs sustained.
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