Hedgehogs are often referred to as the Gardener's Best Friend, as they will happily amble around your garden gobbling up pests to help keep your plants safe. If you'd like to encourage helpful hedgehogs to visit and stay in your garden, take a look at our Gardening Angels handy tips.
- Hedgehogs travel 1-2km each night and return to the same daytime nest for a few days then use another, returning to an old nest at a later date. So ensure that there is a route in and out of your garden (they need a 5in gap).
- If you have a pond or pool dangle a piece of chicken wire into the water to help the hedgehogs climb out.
- Garden netting can entangle hedgehogs so makes sure it’s staked down tightly.
- Check piles of rubbish before burning them, and before sticking a fork into leaves or compost.
- Reduce your use of pesticides and only use pet-safe slug deterrents. A hedgehog can eat 80 slugs per night, so if you attract hedgehogs you won’ have to worry about slugs!
- Leave an area of your garden wild with piles of leaves and organic debris for shelter.
- Provide a shallow dish of water, meat-based pet food, chopped unsalted peanuts or hedgehog food.
As well as the hazards of roads, hedgehog numbers have been affected by…
Habitat Loss - Changing agriculture has removed hedgerows, the natural habitat of hedgehogs, as has the trend for fences and walls in place of hedges in private gardens.
Lack of food – the increasing use of pesticides to kill slugs, beetles, caterpillars and other bugs has left hedgehogs with less to eat. The move towards rye grass and crops that are short of invertebrate life and our tidier gardens has also left hedgehogs with a smaller food source. Having hedgehog food readily available means you can provide sustinence for local hedgehogs the whole year round.
Climate change – Several years of early autumn cold spells have killed off hedgehog food sources before they’ve laid down enough fat to survive hibernation. In the spring cold snaps have also killed of the bugs, worms, caterpillars, beetle larvae etc leaving hedgehogs too weak to breed.
Lifespan More than half of hedgehogs die within their first year, and average life expectancy is 2-3 years in the wild, but it is possible for them to live to be 10 years (but this is exceptional). Hedgehog Hibernation Hedgehogs start to hibernate in November and re-emerge around Easter, but it is weather dependant. Hedgehogs usually wake up several times during winter. In the spring they commonly spend a few days active then enter hibernation again during a cold snap.
Hedgehog Breeding Between April and September the females have litters of 4 or 5 hoglets. Males do not assist in rearing them. Young born late often die, being too small to survive hibernation. They need to weigh at least 450g (1lb) to last the winter.