How to site your hedgehog box

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I’ve made a little video with my top tips on how to site your hedgehog box.

A great read once you’ve bought one or made your own using my guide

I’d love to see your pics and how you get on.

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. Like all wildlife rescues, my work is entirely self-funded. You can support my work here

Build a hedgehog feeding station

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Want to feed hedgehogs but not your neighbourhood cats? A hedgehog feeding station may well be the answer. It also helps to keep the food and the hedgehog dry when it is raining. Hedgehogs aren’t keen on rain!

There are lots of options for feeding stations. You can buy a ready made one, I use a wooden hedgehog house (see header pic) or you can also build your own very cheaply from a plastic box. Please remember that a feeding station should only be used for food – don’t mix dinner with bed and breakfast. Use a separate hedgehog box to provide a house.

You will need:

  • A plastic storage box with a lid. A minimum of 12″ wide by 18″ (but can be bigger)
  • A stanley knife or strong scissors to cut the hole
  • Measuring tape to measure the size of the hole
  • Strong tape to cover the cut edges of the hole
  • A brick
  • Small but heavy ceramic bowls for food

Building the box

  • Decide whether you want to have the box with the lid on or whether you want to turn the box upside down with the lid underneath.
  • Carefully cut out a hole around 4″ square.
  • Tape up the edges of the hole – they may be jagged
  • Line the box with newspaper
  • Put the food at the far end of the box
  • Place a brick on top to help prevent the lid being taken off by a fox/cat
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Feeding station lined with newspaper. Pic courtesy http://www.thehedgehog.co.uk

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Place a brick on top of the box. Pic courtesy http://www.thehedgehog.co.uk

Check the box daily and change the newspaper when it gets dirty. Wash the food bowls regularly to keep them clean.

If you want to check that your visitor is, in fact, a hedgehog, you can place a non-toxic ink pad at the entrance followed by a white paper lining. You should then be able to spot hedgehog footprints made by the ink….

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Hedgehog footprints. Pic courtesy http://www.hedgehogstreet.org

For suggestions of what food to put in your feeding station please read my blog.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York. I make silver jewellery to raise funds to support my work.

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How to sex a hedgehog

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Is my visiting hedgehog a girl or a boy? I’m often asked this question. The challenge of working it out often leads to many just being called ‘Spike’, which I guess works for either…..

There are a few ways you can tell what sex your hedgehog is. The first does depend on the hedgehog being cooperative and uncurling for you. You could also pop it into a see-through box so that you can take a sneaky look from underneath.

A male hedgehog has a large ‘belly-button’ about halfway up its tummy. This isn’t really a belly button but is actually his penile sheath. You can see this clearly in the pic below.

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Alex with his manhood proudly on display

You can tell a female hedgehog because her vulva is directly above her anus. You can see this in the pic below. Although it looks as if she has a protruding part, you will see that there is no gap between it and her anus. If she were a boy, she would have a ‘belly button’ like Alex a couple of cm up in the area of belly that you can see exposed and a gap between that and the anus.

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Female hedgehog

Another way of identifying the sex of your visiting hedgehogs is to observe their behavior. If you aren’t able to catch your visiting hedgehogs physically ‘in the act’ (which makes it very clear which is which!), you are more likely to see hedgehog courtship behaviour. You will certainly hear it! The male will chase and circle the female. The female will be the one being circled around and making the ‘huffing’ sound. This brilliant film featuring David Attenborough shows you everything you need to know and more!

 

Many people wonder if male and female hedgehogs can be identified by their size. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible because there are so many other factors influencing the size of a hedgehog including age, nutrition and whether females are pregnant. Like humans, some hedgehogs will naturally be smaller or larger than others and some will eat more or less than others!

Good luck and do let me know how you get on!

Help – I’ve found a hedgehog

Hedgehogs out in daylight need rescue
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Hedgehogs out in the day are in need of help

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and should not be out in the day. A hedgehog out in the day is in urgent need of rescue. Hedgehogs never sunbathe.

Don’t delay, the faster you act, the greater the chance of saving the hedgehog. Speed in getting help is particularly important if the hedgehog is collapsed/not moving or is shaking/wobbling when walking.

What to do.

  1. Pick it up with thick gloves on.
  2. Contain the hedgehog in something with very high sides. Plastic recycling boxes from the Council are excellent. It may climb out of anything with lower sides.
  3. Place it somewhere warm. This is vital if the hedgehog feels cold to the touch or is shaking/wobbling.
  4. Fill a hot water bottle or a leak-proof drinks bottle with hot water.

Don’t use boiling water. Wrap the bottle in an old towel and place it at the bottom of the box. Then place the hedgehog onto the heat and cover it with an old towel or fleece. It is vital to make sure that there is room for the hedgehog to move away from the heat source. Keep checking on the bottle to make sure it is warm – if it gets too cold it will take heat away from the hedgehog.

5. Offer a little dish of meaty cat/dog food and a shallow dish of water.

6. Get some help. Caring for poorly hedgehogs is a specialist task. Don’t be tempted to try and care for it yourself without seeking advice.

If you have found a baby hedgehog/nest of baby hedgehogs do not touch them with bare hands. Always wear gloves. Seek urgent advice before picking up the babies – a hedgehog rescue can advise whether they are likely to have been abandoned or whether mum may come back.

Finding a hedgehog rescue

You can find details of hedgehog/wildlife rescues from the following:

www.helpwildlife.co.uk – the site also has more useful advice on what to do if you find sick/injured wildlife.

Top tip – put the above number into your phone NOW! Do it before you forget – then you will have the number handy if you ever need to find a hedgehog rescue.

A specialist hedgehog rescue is the best option but if you cannot find anyone else and especially if the hedgehog looks to be in pain/injured or is shaking/wobbling, take it to a vet. Most vets will treat wildlife for free.

Hedgehogs feeding in garden

Healthy hedgehogs will only be seen at night

 

Top plants for your hedgehog haven

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Help hedgehogs thrive in your garden with this guide to plants that are great for our spiky friends. Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t mainly eat slugs. Their favourite foods are beetles and caterpillars. Growing plants to attract insects is therefore one of the best things you can do to help hedgehogs. Plus, you’ll help bees too!

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A garden full of plants looks beautiful and also provides a haven for insects – a hedgehog’s favourite food

As well as providing food and shelter for insects, plants also provide shelter for hedgehogs to forage and nest underneath. The more ground cover the better! Don’t be too tidy – when plants die back in the Winter, keep the remains on the ground to provide Winter hidey holes for insects. Don’t forget fences and walls – cover them with climbing plants and ivy.

Any native plants are good but here are a few plant ideas to get you started.

Wildflowers

  • Field Scabious
  • Ox-eye Daisy
  • Meadow Cranesbill
  • Red Campion
  • Common Knapweed
  • Wild White Clover

TIP: Many garden centres now offer native wildflowers as plug plants or you can grow them from seed.

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Scabious attracts bees and hoverflies

Wild corner of garden for wildlife

A wild corner left long and featuring Red Campion, Knapweed and Clover

Hedging

Hedges provide a great habitat for a wealth of wildlife including nesting sites and berries for birds. They also provide free access for hedgehogs between gardens, unlike walls and fences. Native species are best:

  • Beech
  • Field maple
  • Hawthorn
  • Geulder Rose
  • Berberis (not native but its flowers are great for insects and its berries for birds)
  • Hazel

Shrubs

  • Alder Buckthorn
  • Goat Willow
  • Dogwood
  • Buddleia
  • Pyracantha
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Buddleia in flower is a magnet for butterflies and other insects

Good luck with your planting and please share your pictures!

Please read my blog for more tips for hedgehog friendly gardening.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York and I am also a keen gardener. All the photos are from my own garden. My work is entirely self-funded. To support my work, please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

 

WANTED – homes for hedgehogs!

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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!

Hedgehog friendly gardening

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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