Life as a Hedgehog Host
In support of our Hedgehog Friendly Campus Campaign, LU’s Postgraduate Taught and Distance Learning Administrator, and keen hedgehog enthusiast, Natalie Sullivan, has written a guest blog for us…
The Hedgehog is such an iconic feature of the British garden and countryside, and yet many of us have never seen one. These wonderful little animals are officially recognised as vulnerable to extinction and appear on the Red List for British Mammals. With that in mind, when I discovered that we had a hedgehog nesting in our garden in July this year, I jumped at the chance to help her.
I was up early one morning and noticed a little hedgehog through the French doors who was gathering grass and entering a hole she’d made in the long grass – she was building her nest for the day. I named her Judi Dench and watched her intently for about half an hour. Before the day had even started, I’d ordered a Hedgehog House and Starter Pack online for her and got in touch with a local wildlife support group who are doing incredible work to support hedgehogs in the village that I live in.
Within a few days we discovered that we had lots of hedgehogs sleeping in our garden! We had Judi Dench, Eilish McColgan and a tiny hoglet we named Alberto. We have a number of visitors too, I had my eyes on 5 one night, with another 2 that I’d seen trundling away up the path to a neighbour’s garden. Summer 2022 was warm and dry, so these hedgehogs needed some support. I left water out for them in various places around the garden, we set up two feeding stations and we bought two hedgehog houses. I put out food for them every night and I keep a plant pot next to each of the hedgehog houses that I fill with bedding so they can maintain their nests. We have 5-7 hedgehogs visiting our garden at night, so I keep a close eye on who we have coming and going and making sure everyone is healthy. Now that it’s time for hibernation, their habits will change quite a lot. I’m really looking forward to when they all wake up in the Spring to start all over again!
While I chose to spend money to support our hedgehogs, helping them can be completely free. Their needs are really quite simple. They need somewhere safe to sleep during the day, they need food, and they need access to a mate.
Here are some ideas of things you can do to help, many of which don’t cost a thing:
- Their natural habitat is a hedgerow. Keeping healthy hedgerows is essential to looking after these animals.
- Be really careful when cutting grass, hedges or using a strimmer – check the area for sleeping hedgehogs.
- Don’t tidy away leaves in the Autumn. These serve as ideal bedding for nests, they sleep in leaf piles, and they hold insects for them to eat.
- If you can afford to, you can buy a hedgehog house. You can also make one if you’re handy! Put it in a quiet spot with a bit of dried grass and/or leaves inside. Let the hogs do the rest.
- A Hedgehog’s natural diet is insets and slugs. Leave some areas of your garden to grow a little – this will support bees and other pollinators too.
- Consider creating a sunken wood pile. If you dig a wide and shallow hole with twigs and leave in it, this will quickly fill up with critters for them to feast on.
- Never use slug pellets, they poison hedgehogs.
- Leave water out in shallow, low sided dishes. This is particularly important when it’s hot in the summer. Hedgehogs do tend to stand in their food and water bowls, so try and leave them on stable ground.
- If you wish to support them further, offer meaty dog or kitten food, or kitten biscuits.
- Make sure there are ways for hedgehogs to get in and out of your garden safely. We have hedgehog holes cut into the gravel boards in our fence. A hole that is 5 inches wide and 5 inches tall is all they need. They can travel over a mile every night and will visit multiple gardens, so long as they have safe access. You can create steps with bricks for any height difference between the fence on each side.
There are so many issues facing our planet at the moment but helping the hedgehogs to recover isn’t difficult to achieve. You can find lots of information and ways to help through the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website. We’ll continue supporting hedgehogs in our local area. The more people who can support them, the healthier the hedgehog population will be.
To get involved with our Hedgehog Friendly Campus campaign, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, and check our social media out for updates!
This article is in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 15: Life on Land. To read more click here.
Loughborough University Sustainability Blog