Here is an update to the story of the hedgehog which began visiting my Uplands garden in June.
Following a bizarre incident with a camping stove, Mother Hedgehog (MH) started having supper every evening outside my back door about an hour after sunset. Supper consisted, conventionally enough, of dried cat food and a bowl of water, but the bizarre incident consisted of MH knocking over a saucepan of (fortunately cold) sunflower oil and greedily licking up the oil… then coming back later to lick up more. Who would have thought that hedgehogs would love sunflower oil?!? In case you’re wondering, I had been deep frying falafels outside on a little gas stove, and had left the oil there to cool down before dealing with it. Mother Hedgehog decided to deal with it instead.
So, having agreed with MH that in future I would provide dried cat food and a bowl of water instead of just sunflower oil, she started coming every evening to have supper on my patio. Followed about a month later by a little hedgehog.
Followed about a week later by another little hedgehog!
As things stand now (10th October) the two little hedgehogs have been coming to have supper on my patio every evening for about a month, but I’ve not seen Mother Hedgehog for a couple of weeks. I think she’s left me to look after her teenage offspring.
There was a baby hedgehog in the garden one night in July, but I think that this pair of youngsters are probably from a second litter.
So, I’ve been busy. I’ve made a feeding station so that the local cats don’t come and steal all the cat food. My feeding station is just an old wire basket with a hedgehog sized hole (13cm by 13cm) cut in each end for access. I’ve seen instructions online for how to make a feeding station out of a wooden or plastic box, but essentially you just make a hedgehog doorway 13cm by 13cm (5 x 5 inches) in any sort of box. My wire basket feeding station gives improved visibility for photos, but a semi-transparent plastic box would also allow you to see the diners to some extent.
When feeding dried cat food to hedgehogs, you must provide a bowl of water – it’s amazing how much they will drink every night. As well as eating the cat food, the hedgehogs go off to snuffle-hunt around the garden, looking for snails, worms, woodlice and other delicous snacks. But the regular supply of cat food will hopefully ensure that my two hedgehog youngsters reach the required survival weight before hibernation time.
You might want to place a brick on top of the feeding station to stop other animals being able to knock it over, and you might need to place a brick outside the box, 6 inches from the entrance, to prevent a big animal from lying down and hooking out the food or feeding dish with their paw!
I’ve also been making hedgehog houses, of course. In varying degrees of sophistication. You can use an old wooden or plastic box, or other improvised materials – the key thing is to have a tunnel for the entrance, so that larger predators can’t attack the hedgehogs inside the box. The tunnel needs to be 13cm x 13cm (inside dimensions) and 30cm long, or 5 x 5 inches and 12 inches long in old money.
Hedgehog house 1 was adapted from an old window that was already leaning, shelter-like, against the garden wall by the side of my garage. I’d seen Mother Hedgehog previously wandering past it, so I thought that turning a familar landmark into a more secure and comfortable house might be attractive for her.
Hedgehog house 2 was made from an old small plastic water tank which had been cluttering up the garden for years:
It looked better once it was covered with some twigs and small branches!
Hedgehog house number 3 is a wooden one that I made using plans provided by the Hedgehog Preservation Society:
I put some hay inside the houses to give the residents the beginnings of a nest, but they will bring in dried leaves etc to make it comfortable and warm for themselves.
Within a few days, houses 2 and 3 were already being lived in by my two young hedgehogs! Hooray!! You can check whether anyone is visiting the box by leaning a small twig diagonally inside the entrance tunnel – if the twig has been pushed over, the box has been visited. I do this every morning and night to keep track of when the boxes are being used, and I actually saw a small hedgehog emerging from Box 2 one evening, the first time it explored it.
If anyone would like to buy a hedgehog box from me like Box 3 above, I’m happy to make one for you, and it will cost you £45 including delivery in Stroud (and siting advice/help if required). The best time to put out new boxes is March or October, and the best time to clean them out is March. As well as using them for hibernation in winter, hedgehogs will use them as daytime sleeping nests and places to rear their young during the spring, summer, and autumn.
Finally, don’t forget to make sure that hedgehogs can get in and out of your garden, by making a ‘hedgehog highway’ hole at the bottom of the fence. The hole needs to be 13cm x 13cm, or 5 x 5 inches. You can buy smart signs to nail above the hole, so that future residents of your house will know why it is there and won’t close it up.
And – finally finally – if you have a pond, for hedgehog safety’s sake, do make sure that there is a ramp which hedgehogs can use to climb out if they fall in!
Useful hedgehog links:
If you find an injured hedgehog or one you think needs helping or rescuing in Stroud or Gloucestershire, here are two hedgehog rescues near Stroud:
To find a hedgehog rescue/hospital elsewhere, you can use this UK directory of animal rescues:
Advice and information about hedgehog welfare: