Hedgehogs are the companion gardener's best friends.
Hedgehogs will be searching for somewhere to hibernate for the winter, so be a friend to a hedgehog and provide him with a cosy safe place to over winter. When Mr (or Mrs) hedgehog wakes up in the spring he will be eating all those nasty slugs and snails.
To encourage your hedgehog to stay in your garden provide a box, about one foot cube, with a tunnel leading into it, just big enough for a hedgehog to walk through. Incorporate a hole in the back of the sleeping quarters, to give ventilation to the hedgehog box, preferably with a piece of hose pipe in it to help stop the rain running in. If your hedgehog box is made of wood use untreated wood.
Fill the hedgehog box with dried leaves, place it in your garden surrounded with soil and leaves and try to have the opening facing south, or at least not north, west or north-west, to avoid having the coldest winds blowing straight into the box.
To encourage hedgehogs to visit your garden, and to keep any resident hedgehog, leave food and fresh water (never milk) out for them. Water is most needed in hot weather. A plate of dog or cat food well hidden from said dogs or cats is always appreciated, most particularly in the autumn when they are trying to fatten up for winter. Create various feeding stations around your garden.
Hedgehogs are vulnerable to many of our gardening activities so try and reduce some of the problems they may meet in your garden by adhering to the following advice, if at all possible.
Dogs; Try to be aware of your hedgehog's routine and avoid letting your dog out at that time. At night try and warn the hedgehog by turning on a light or shinning a torch around just before the dogs are let out.
Bonfires; Try to use an incinerator, or burn the fire as soon as you have built it. If you make a bonfire stack over a period of time then move it slightly to check that a hedgehog has not taken up residence under it. If you have Pampas Grass that you burn then again check that a hedgehog is not nesting in it.
Compost; The compost heap is another popular place for a hedgehog to nest, so be careful when you are turning it to avoid forking a baby or adult. The best time to spread your compost is Oct./Nov when the baby hedgehogs have left home and adults have not yet started to hibernate.
Drains; Keep drains covered, this not only stops hedgehogs from going down them but stops the leaves as well, from blocking up the drain.
Fences; Leave holes at the bottom of fences and walls so that hedgehogs can come and go. Use environmentally safe wood preservatives, as hedgehogs will lick new smells. Try to mend or pick up any fallen fences as hedgehogs may nest there and then be disturbed.
Ponds; Always provide escape routes for hedgehogs out of ponds or tubs of water, this is also necessary to stop frogs and toads from drowning, another companion gardener's friend. Keep ponds topped up to avoid hedgehogs falling in when having a drink. Remember that sand pits and paddling pools will provide similar dangers.
Netting; try to keep any form of netting above ground to stop hedgehogs getting stuck in it. If it is necessary to have netting hugging the ground then please check it morning and night.
Slug Pellets; As an organic gardener you should not be using these, as they will kill your hedgehog as well, after he has eaten the slugs and snails that have feasted on the pellets.
Sheds; If you generally leave them open then check before changing this habit. Similarly if you usually close the door and forget one night, please check in case a hedgehog has taken up residence. As with children keep all undesirable substances out of reach of hedgehogs.
Strimmers; If you are tidying up a wild area trim the grass to a foot high, check there are no hedgehogs before cutting it shorter.
Rubbish; Always check any rubbish before throwing it out as hedgehogs may have started nesting in it.
If you accidentally disturb an empty nest try and leave it as you find it. If you find a hedgehog with or without young, try to offer food then leave alone, do not let others come round for a peep. Any doubts phone your local BHPS (British Hedgehog Preservation Society).
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Good Luck and Enjoy your Hedgehogs
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