WANTED – homes for hedgehogs!

Hedgehogs feeding in garden
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“I want a garden hedgehog!” If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that, I would be a rich woman!

I’m on the lookout for suitable release sites for 30+ hedgehogs that have spent the Winter in care. I want the best of the best for these rehabilitated hedgehogs so please let me know if you can offer the perfect des-res. Below are the minimum requirements that all homes must meet. I am looking for homes within 5 miles of York but other hedgehog rescues will have similar criteria.

1.. You must already have hedgehogs regularly visiting your garden. This is the only way to know that the habitat is suitable and that the hedgehogs will find a mate. You can’t just release one or two hedgehogs and hope they will colonize an area. If hedgehogs aren’t in the area, sadly, there is a reason…..

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You must already have hedgehogs regularly visiting your garden

2. You must be well away from busy main roads – hazardous to hedgehogs.

3. You and your neighbours must not use slug pellets, pesticides or herbicides – all of these can cause poisoning and death. You must also avoid use of garden netting, check carefully before strimming and forking (and ideally not strim your garden at all)

4. Your garden must be linked to at least 10 large gardens via hedgehog holes/hedges/open fencing. The ideal garden will offer plenty of ground cover for foraging and nest sites.

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The perfect garden will offer wild areas for foraging and shelter

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The best release sites will be packed with native plants to attract insects – beetles and caterpillars are the top two foods for hedgehogs

5. You must provide a suitable escape route from any ponds.

6. You must provide some form of shelter. This can be anything from a homemade house  under a log pile, to a specially purchased hedgehog box. This will give your new resident a helping hand to set up home.

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A hedgehog house made under our log store from bricks, twigs and leaves. It provides great shelter from the elements and also a home for insects.

7. You must leave food and water out daily for at least the first month and ideally forever. For advice about feeding hedgehogs, read my blog

8. Not near badger sites. Badgers will predate hedgehogs where they live in close proximity.

If you didn’t get past the first essential requirement, many people find that if they leave food and water out regularly, they discover they do have hedgehog visitors!

If you are interested in being a release site, drop me a line via my Facebook page

My work rehabilitating hedgehogs is entirely self funded. I raise funds for medicines, food and equipment by making silver jewellery inspired by nature – great ethical gifts!

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Build a hedgehog house

Hedgehog house
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Give your prickly garden visitor a helping hand by creating this sturdy des-res. It will make a cosy Winter hibernation home or a snug Summer nest.

This design was made by my husband Joe. Every hedgehog rescuer needs a DIY expert to support them. There is always something that needs building or mending in the hedgehog hospital!

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Joe building the hedgehog house

Every rehabilitated hedgehog that is released from my rescue is provided with one of these houses to help them settle into their new home. Some will remain living in them but others will continue their search for the perfect ‘natural’ residence – they can be fussy creatures! You can always use it as a feeding station if no-one makes it their permanent home….

The entrance tunnel helps to keep out predators as well as wind and rain.

You will need:

  • A DIY guru who can translate the diagram into reality – ESSENTIAL!
  • Exterior grade plywood or OSBC board (untreated)
  • Wooden battens
  • Screws
  • Wood glue
  • Hinges (for lid)
  • Roofing felt (optional)
  • Fence paint (for exterior)

Plan and dimensions

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Plan and dimensions for the hedgehog house

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The completed house before the exterior is painted. Drill some air holes at the top of the side walls to help aid ventilation

Hay-presto!

Once you’ve built the house, don’t treat the wood with anything nasty like creosote – these can be toxic to hedgehogs. You can paint the exterior with fence paint to prolong its life. Drill some ventilation holes towards the top of the side walls.

Fill the house with some hay as a ‘new home’ gift for your spiky visitor. You can also place some piles of hay around your garden underneath something to keep it dry and then they can add more to their nest whenever they like.

Siting your hedgehog house

Follow these tips to site your hedgehog house and increase your chances of a prickly resident.

  • Face the entrance away from the prevailing weather.
  • Place it in a quiet area that is unlikely to be disturbed.
  • Insulate the house and provide extra protection from the weather by covering it with branches/twigs/leaves.
  • Don’t treat the wood with strong chemicals like creosote.
  • Clean it out in Spring after the hibernation period and before nesting begins (late April).
  • Don’t line it with newspaper as this tends to go soggy.

Good luck and please share your photos when you’ve completed your project.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York. You can support my work at http://www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

 

 

Hibernating hedgehog

hibernating hedgehog
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How can you tell if a hedgehog is hibernating? This is a question I am frequently asked by my foster carers, a network of special people who support me with looking after rehabilitated hedgehogs over the Winter period. These hedgehogs missed the deadline for release before the weather turned cold and, if they are well enough and heavy enough (absolute minimum of 650g), they will be allowed to hibernate in captivity.

Hibernation is not like sleeping. The hedgehog won’t be roused by touch or by noise. Hibernation is a state of torpor, where the core body temperature has dropped, the heart rate and breathing have slowed right down and normal activity has stopped. A hibernating hedgehog will be completely rolled up into a tight ball with no face visible.

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Lucky, a hibernating hedgehog, just before his weight check

You can tell that the hedgehog is hibernating and not dead by the fact that it will ‘ripple’ when touched very gently. It may also emit a little ‘snore’!

Video of a hibernating hedgehog

Please don’t read this post and think you should go around disturbing the hibernating wild hedgehogs in your garden to check on them. I only check on these hedgehogs during hibernation because they have been poorly. Weight checks every few weeks will alert me to any potential problems and they can be woken up again if they have lost too much weight. I use a special calculator from a wildlife rescue to assess whether their weight loss in hibernation is acceptable or not. Waking up a hibernating hedgehog is also a specialist task, so please do not try this yourself.

The best advice is not to disturb a hedgehog in hibernation. Take care when gardening in Winter. Don’t be tempted to tidy up piles of leaves or logs – they may be home to a hibernating hedgehog. If you do disturb one, cover it back up straight away – unless there is a chance that you have caused injury e.g. with a fork. In that case, you must take it straight to a hedgehog rescue.

Hibernation is also not a continuous state. Hedgehogs will wake up during periods of milder weather for a quick snack or sometimes even to move their hibernaculum if the warmer spell lasts for a few days. I always leave out a bowl of water in the garden and a little food year round to help hedgehogs that have briefly woken from hibernation.

With a little luck, hedgehogs that were healthy when they hibernated will wake in the Spring. The exact timing depends upon the temperature and can be as early as March or as late as May. They will emerge hungry so Spring is a great time to put out hedgehog feeders and make sure that you can give them a hearty breakfast when they emerge….

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England, you can support my work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

Hedgehog friendly gardening

Feeding garden hedgehogs
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The sound of a hedgehog snuffling round your garden has got to be one of nature’s most glorious delights but hedgehog numbers have dwindled in recent decades with habitat loss and human activity thought to be the biggest causes. There are now believed to be less than a million wild hedgehogs left in the UK, with gardens providing a vital stronghold.

Here are a few simple tips to help the spiky residents in your garden.

Before you start, get down on your hands and knees and think like a hedgehog! Take a good look around your garden from this new perspective. How easy is it to get between gardens? Are there any good hidey holes? What hazards are there at ground level?

Tip 1 – Make a hedgehog highway! Hedgehogs need access to lots of gardens to find enough food and to find a mate. They can travel up to 2 miles a night. Please provide a gap at least 5” square within or underneath wooden/wire fences to enable them to travel between neighbouring gardens.

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A hedgehog hole linking my garden with my neighbour’s garden

 

Tip 2 – Provide a wild corner in your garden and don’t be too tidy – keep piles of leaves, logs and branches. These provide homes for insects (a hedgehog’s favourite food) and are also great hibernation sites.

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I’ve turned a gap under a disused BBQ into a hedgehog house full of dried leaves and twigs. Great for insects and hedgehogs!

Tip 3 – Check before you use a strimmer on areas of long grass or fork over a compost heap – they may be home to a hedgehog.

Tip 4 – Avoid using pesticides, slug pellets and herbicides. These can all make hedgehogs very poorly and even cause death. My garden flourishes beautifully without them.

Tip 5 – Provide an escape route from ponds. Hedgehogs can swim but they will soon get tired and drown if they cannot find an easy escape route.

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A corner of my garden left wild for hedgehogs to forage in

Tip 6 – Keep netting at least a foot off the ground. Hedgehogs can get trapped in it.

Tip 7 – Avoid dismantling sheds during the summer nesting period. Hedgehogs often make their nests under sheds.

Tip 8 – Leave out food and water. If you feed them, they will come! Here’s some advice on what to feed them.

10543594_832420926795609_648555195443977511_oTip 9 – Check for hedgehogs before you light a bonfire and ideally move the wood pile to a completely different spot on the day of the bonfire. Wood piles are ideal homes for hedgehogs.

Tip 10 – Cover drain holes and keep rubbish tidied away. Hedgehogs can get trapped in plastic and tins and may try to nest or hibernate in bags of garden rubbish left open.

Tip 11 – Plants, plants and more plants! Hedgehogs love foraging in the undergrowth for beetles and caterpillars. The more ground cover the better. Grow a wide range of native plants which will attract insects – read my blog about the top plants for your hedgehog haven

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My garden is packed with shrubs and flowers to attract insects and provide cover for hedgehogs

Tip 12 – provide a hedgehog des-res. Give your spiky visitors a helping hand by providing them with a good quality hedgehog home. Fill it with some hay to create the perfect starter home.

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My husband Joe with one of his homemade hedgehog houses. The divider helps stop wind, rain and predators entering the house.

Good luck and let me know how you get on!

You can find out more about me and my work rescuing hedgehogs here