Turn your garden into a hedgehog heaven!

Posted on June 3, 2019 | Information

Encourage hedgehogs into your garden by following these easy tips.

Britain’s favourite mammal is under threat from habitat loss. Hedgehogs are no longer the common sight they once were in the UK’s gardens, mainly as a result of human activity including the installation of barriers to natural movement – like fences and walls – as well as house and road building. Russell Armer has been considering ways in which new housing developments can accommodate and encourage hedgehog populations for a number of years. In fact, we’ve recently helped the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) to produce a guide to protecting hedgehog numbers.

The new guide, published by Hedgehog Street, is called Hedgehogs and Development and is designed to support developers, planners and landscapers in making the small changes necessary to help hedgehogs to thrive. We’ve taken the initiative and installed special gaps – known as ‘Hedgehog Highways’ – in the boundaries of new homes in our Oakfield Park (Kirkby Lonsdale) and Squirrel Close (Yanwath) developments. These gaps help to create a connected habitat, allowing hedgehogs to access gardens and cross green spaces in search of food, nesting sites and mates.

There are lots of ways homeowners can help to stop the decline of hedgehog numbers – here are a few tips taken from the new guide:

1. Make hedgehog access points…
Hedgehogs can roam further than you’d think. They are nocturnal wanderers covering anything up to 2km per night, which means it’s important for them to enjoy unhindered progress, where possible. In some Russell Armer developments we’re installing special ‘Hedgehog Highways’ as part of the build process but you can achieve the same effect by creating modest ground-level holes (about 13cm x 13cm) in walls and fences to allow easy passage between gardens.

2.…And signpost them
It’s a good idea to mark your fence and wall gaps to avoid them being filled in by future homeowners who may not know why they’ve been created. You can buy special Hedgehog Highway signs made from recycled plastic from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, as well as garden kits from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species  .

3. Don’t be too tidy!
Hedgehogs benefit from having a wild area that they can explore and forage in the summer and even nest in the winter. So, consider leaving an area that you don’t cut back – use a few branches to add structure, if you can. A log pile makes a great addition to a hedgehog-friendly garden. If you have a pond, make sure a hedgehog could climb out if it accidentally fell in – a plank of wood will do.

4. Feed your guests
Hedgehogs will benefit from extra food – and you’re likely to encourage more spiky visitors if you’re prepared to offer them a snack. Meaty cat or dog food, cat biscuits, hedgehog food and chopped, unsalted peanuts are all suitable. Avoid feeding meal worm as they can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. A bowl of water is a good resource for a thirsty hog – but don’t put out milk. Consider creating a simple feeding station in a plastic storage box with a 13cm square doorway to deter other animals.

5. Think hedgehog!
You won’t see hedgehogs around in the day as they hide away to rest. So, it’s super-important that you check likely hiding places before you go to work with the strimmer or lawnmower. Because hedgehogs like to lurk in log piles, thoroughly check any bonfire stacks before lighting them.

6. Finally
Remember that hedgehogs are every gardener’s friend, as they prey on slugs and bugs, so try to avoid the use of potentially harmful chemicals on your plants and soil.