Make a hedgehog hole!

Hedgehog hole to link gardens
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Making a hedgehog hole to link your garden with others is one of the most important things you can do to help hedgehogs.

Hedgehogs need access to a large number of gardens and other habitats to find sufficient food and mates. They roam up to 2km a night between gardens, parkland and allotments. Habitat loss and people fencing in gardens and other green spaces may be a major contributor towards their declining numbers.

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A hedgehog hole in my garden

Make a 13cm (5 inch) square hole in or under any fences. This will provide hedgehogs with access but should keep any neighbouring dogs out. Remember to create a hole on all sides of your garden.

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Hedgehog highway sign. Pic: PTES

I love these hedgehog highway signs from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. If you move house, it hopefully means that future residents will understand why the hole was created and keep it open.

You can also purchase special gravel boards that have hedgehog holes already built in from a number of fencing suppliers including from Jacksons Fencing.

Hedgehog Fencing

Hedgehog friendly gravel board. Pic: Jacksons Fencing

When you’ve made your hedgehog holes, please map them on the Big Hedgehog Map to help build a picture of hedgehog habitats across the country.

Don’t delay – do it today! Then, when you’ve done it, ask your friends, family, neighbours and colleagues to do the same….

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. Like all wildlife rescues, my work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.com

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Burnt hedgehogs – watch out for wildlife in your bonfire

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Don’t toast anything but marshmallows on your bonfire this Bonfire Night.

Sadly, every year wildlife dies a cruel and painful death by being burnt in bonfires. It isn’t just bonfires built for Bonfire Night on November 5 but also those created to burn garden waste at any time of year.

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Hedgehog often nest in a loose pile of Autumn leaves – a bit like those created for bonfires

Piles of twigs, logs and Autumn leaves are the perfect hibernation spot for hedgehogs and other wildlife, such as frogs and toads. Bonfire Night falls right at the time when all these creatures are seeking a snug home for the Winter. The middle of a bonfire pile is the ideal spot – out of the wind and the rain.

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To prevent this needless suffering, please consider whether you need a bonfire at all. A pile of twigs and leaves is a perfect home for wildlife year round and makes a great garden feature.

If you must create a bonfire, build it on the day it is going to be lit. Create a pile and then move it to the bonfire site on the day itself. Choose a site that is clear of leaves and other vegetation where you are sure there are no creatures already hibernating.

If you have no choice but to build your bonfire in advance, check thoroughly with bright torches and watch for movement and listen for noises. Hedgehogs will be in the bottom 2 feet of the bonfire. They will often dig down into the ground beneath it. Ideally a team of people should check to cover all sides of the bonfire. Only ever light the bonfire from one side – giving wildlife a chance to escape from the other sides. Whilst it helps, this way of checking is not as good as creating the bonfire on the day. If a hedgehog is hibernating, it will not stir….

If you find a hedgehog, capture it and keep it safe and away from noise in a high sided box. You can find more info on how to look after it here. Only release the hedgehog back when the bonfires are finished and you are certain that the embers have gone cold.

Even with checks, some hedgehogs are unlucky. Below is a hedgehog that was found in a bonfire and all the spines on its back have been singed. This hedgehog did survive but it took many months of treatment for it to recover and the spines to re-grow.

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Burnt hedgehog. Photo courtesty Dorthe Madsen

The hedgehog below was not so lucky, its injuries were too severe for it to be saved.

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Burnt hedgehog. Photo courtesy Dru Burdon

So, remember, whilst you might be having fun on Bonfire Night, it is not so fun for wildlife that may be living in your bonfire. Always always check and ideally make your bonfire on the days itself. Please don’t create a needless wildlife casualty.

You can help to spread the word about checking bonfires. Get in touch with people organising bonfire parties in your area and ask them to check for wildlife. You can also download awareness posters here to put up at work, school and in your neighbourhood – look in the ‘information’ section.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.com

Poo glorious hedgehog poo!

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Hedgehog poo

Hedgehog poo – the morning after the night before!

Many people get excited about the first signs of Spring – daffodils raising their sunny heads and delicate snowdrops swaying in the breeze…. But for me, poo is the most exciting sign of Spring….

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and, unless you plan to spend endless hours camped out by your patio doors or invest in a wildlife camera, you are more likely to see hedgehog excrement than the creature that left it.

Hedgehogs emerge from hibernation any time from March onwards and the sign of fresh black droppings on the lawn is a wonderful sign that my spiky friends have emerged safely from their deep sleep. The ‘poo calendar’ reminds me that it is time to leave out fresh water and food every day to help my prickly guests.

Top tip: If you want to know if you have a hedgehog visitor, go on a poo hunt around your garden!

Healthy hedgehog droppings are black or dark brown in colour, solid and usually oval or tapered. They can be up to 5cm long. Stools also provide a vital insight into the hedgehog diet. Hedgehog poo will often ‘glisten’ due to being packed with the remains of invertebrates, such as beetle wings and other body parts. Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t just eat slugs. Beetles are their favourite foods and eating too many slugs can actually be bad for them as they are an intermediate host for lungworm. This horrid parasite can cause weight loss, breathing problems and ultimately death.

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Top tip: Help your hedgehogs to have lovely healthy shiny black poo by packing your garden with native plants and log piles to attract beetles. There more plants the better!

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Flowers in my wildlife garden

Hedgehog poo is also a vital indicator of health in other ways. Green slimy poo can be a sign that a hedgehog is poorly and in need of rescue, so keep a close eye on your hedgehogs if you see any dodgy poo around your feeding stations.

Hedgehog rescuers like myself also love looking at poo under the microscope. Parasites can be identified under the microscope that can then be treated, with the most common being lungworm (from slugs) and roundworm (from earthworms). Bacterial infections can also be identified. Studying poo is one of my favourite passtimes…

Looking at hedgehog poo through the microscope

Studying poo under the microscope

Roundworm in hedgehog poo under microsope credit Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Roundworm eggs under the microscope: courtesy Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Lungworm in hedgehog poo under microscope credit Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Lungworm under the microscope: courtesy Whitby Wildlife Rescue

So, poo glorious poo, my favourite sign of Spring!

I’d love to know when you spot the first hedgehog poo in your garden….

My hedgehog rescue is entirely self-funded. To support my rescue work please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

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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 4.5″ 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.

You can also decrease the risk of cats getting into the feeding station by placing the entrance up against a fence or wall with only a hedgehog sized gap behind it….

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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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

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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

 

Build a 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

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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.

If you disturb a hedgehog that has hibernated in a completely unsuitable spot – such as inside a garage that is normally left closed – then you will need to very carefully relocate the hedgehog. You should move it to inside a wooden hedgehog house filled with plenty of hay. You will need to site it properly to give the hedgehog a good chance. It takes a long time for a hedgehog to waken from hibernation so it will likely stay curled up whilst you relocate it.

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