Have you ever wondered if hedgehogs visit your garden? Would you like to see them? A quite wander around your garden just as it starts to get dark at this time of year will give you just enough light to perhaps see them with nose on the ground searching for tasty bites. A still night would be best. Put quiet shoes on and stand near one of your borders. Watch the plants for signs of leaves moving and listen for any rustling of something moving about beneath them. You could walk around and listen for other noises too.
Please read on to the 2020 update on feeding wild hedgehogs at the end of this post. Bird food and sultanas are now known to be bad for the health of hedgehogs.
A huge signal for more than one hedgehog visiting your garden is a fairly loud snuffling sound. I have never recorded this yet but I do know someone who has. See the sound accompanying this hedgehog video by Midmarsh John. I’d love to capture this with the little dance the hedgehogs do during it too. I’m not asking for much then? I have watched this a few times and it is really quite fascinating.
There is one thing, costing absolutely nothing, which could encourage any passing hedgehogs to return to your garden. You could put out a dish of water. They will appreciate a drink as they pass by. If you keep it regularly topped up especially during dry spells of weather and they find it they are very likely to return.
Another thing which costs nothing extra (if you feed birds already) will be the food that is dropped to the ground especially after greedy Starlings have attacked your feeders spilling it out all over the place. Below bird feeders would be another place I’d look on a quiet night. I believe that is how my visits started.
Since then, I have experimented with a number of feeding stations (from my very first one back in 2007) which have all had success. The key would be to always have a supply of food and water in the same place as they appear to be creatures of habit following the same routes.
Following edges is something I have noticed my hedgehog visitors do many times in my garden. Side of house walls, fences and along the bottom of hedges and lawn edges – especially any little hedgehog wide strips as you can see above. This is a popular spot and with their colouring they are pretty camouflaged there too. I wonder if they know this.
Just a warning though, don’t be tempted to put out milk for hedgehogs thinking it would be a treat instead of water. Cow’s milk can give hedgehogs very bad diarrhoea. Bread too is another ‘no’ as they cannot digest it. Hedgehogs can die through this as a diet.
In my garden I have found that dried sultanas or mixed fruit is a huge hit as are peanuts especially if they are crushed. Crushed is best for any young hogs that may pass through. They also munch their way quite happily through sunflower hearts too.
I don’t put out cat food but understand they love that. I’ve also heard that they love dried dog food too. There are many brands of special hedgehog mixes available in Pet stores and Supermarkets but I even when there are no sultanas in my garden to accompany this they have never eaten the hedgehog mixes. I no longer try new ones as I know and they know what they come to my garden for! They perhaps take hedgehog mixes in other gardens.
I have always associated hedgehogs visiting from late August into December, just before they go into hibernation, and have never set up feeding stations at this time of year. I will do from now on. Until now, I never saw them as a subject for Spring watching.
I missed Thursday’s BBC Springwatch programme and haven’t watched last night’s recording so don’t know if they included any mention of hedgehogs. However, it would be a good idea if they did suggest to viewers to put water out in the evenings for them. It would be nice to raise the profile of this species of wildlife on this programme as we can take small steps to help it survive when numbers are causing concerns.
Last night, I spotted what looked like a different hedgehog visiting. It was on the small side and had quite a large collar without needless around its face – don’t know the proper name for that part. I dashed in for my camera but… no charge on battery. A quick, quiet run back inside for the video camera (phew… it had charge this time) and I’m so glad it did.
I had already written and uploaded my photos for this posting during yesterday but still had a few bits I wanted to add and ran out of time to publish it last night. As it happens that was very fortunate. The video I captured last night fully supports the content of this posting! It’s almost like it was written for this action. You never know what you’ll get when you start recording these wonderful wild animals. Sometimes they just scoff, scoff and then run off!
Update 2020, unfortunately I can’t roll the camera and share the action from this video now. During my migration of blog posts from Blogspot to WordPress in May 2020 as I have been checking through formatting of older blog posts I’ve discovered this Flash video can no longer play. I have edited the next few paragraphs slightly to keep the story.
The hedgehog was seen walking straight past the full dish of water. This hedgehog probably never considered to look for water there. As I said earlier, hedgehogs do seem to follow the same routes and only explore a little more around it.
It clearly knew there was water down the rocks though (so glad it didn’t fall in) but the interesting thing here is that my pump has been off for the last few nights so there was not a sound in this area to suggest water. So, this hedgehog can’t be a new visitor. I noticed it had a mark on its back so I should recognise it again. I really like to see the smaller ones get food and water.
The disappearing act between the grasses was very impressive. The young hedgehog clearly knew there was a dish of water in there. Oops… but what did it find? As I said earlier in this posting if you do put out water (or food) in the same area keep it filled up regularly. We’ve not had a lot of rain recently and with all the plants around this tray I hadn’t noticed that the tray was almost dry. I remedied that shortly after the hedgehog left.
Ooops the hedgehog almost went free fall down the rock edge and on to the grass. This is not the first time I have seen this. Having seen it from the other side they almost just let themselves go and tumble down. They don’t try to walk it at all. They really are such entertaining animals to watch.
Perhaps you’ve already seen hedgehogs in your garden and would like to share your stories via my comments on this posting. We’d all like to hear about them. Ah… but wait a minute… the power of the internet… I’ve just read on Midmarsh John’s blog that the RSPB are interested in hearing about these visitors too!
Yesterday, they launched their first Summer garden wildlife survey. I didn’t know about that. Thanks for that John, I’ll help pass the word too. The RSPB say on their website:
“Running from 8-14 June, it is the first time the charity has asked people to count the wildlife in their gardens over the summer. We hope Make your nature count will build a picture of the wildlife visiting gardens and define how important gardens are for some of our breeding birds and summer migrants.”
“It’s not only birds people are being asked to record. We also want to know about some of the other wildlife visiting gardens, like frogs, toads, squirrels and even badgers. At this time of year, gardens are alive with young birds and we are asking people to record blackbird, robin and song thrush chicks. Song thrush numbers have declined by 50% since the 1970’s but in recent years have started to make a bit of a recovery. Counting young birds will help give an indication of how successfully they are breeding across the UK. “
I like the line on their logo for this: “Love nature? Then tell us what crawls, hops, flutters and flies in you garden” This sounds like fun. I assume they are including night visitors like bats and owls too as well as the star of this posting – the hedgehogs. Night time is a good time to spot frogs and toads too! Yes… they are interested in all nature that visits your garden whatever time it visits.
If you want to take part you can submit your results online. You might just be amazed at what does visit your garden at this time of year too. Pre blog, I had no idea my garden had so many visitors during the day far less at night. I am always thrilled to see more arrive too – although a few less Starlings would be okay! Perhaps I should make myself a sheet on what visitors I’d expect to be seeing now and take it from there! I wonder if there will be any surprise entries. Hope you are able to enjoy your wildlife visitors now too 🙂
Update a few hours later! Wow… this is the first ever daytime visit I have seen of a hedgehog at 2.30pm in the afternoon. It looks like that perhaps it’s the one in the video above. Yep… if I hadn’t been looking out the window at that exact time I would have missed this. What a treat… I think. Hope its okay 🙂
The first photos above were taken in my garden on June 6th & 7th 2009. The daytime hedgehog photos were taken at 2.30pm today. The video above was taken in my garden on June 8th 2009.
This post was updated by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2009.
Important update on feeding wild hedgehogs
Since this blog was uploaded, in recent years, more information and articles have become available on how harmful the feeding of bird food is to wild hedgehogs. Metabolic Bone Disease in hedgehogs is the problem. A serious problem, to the health of these animals. Bird food is not a diet for wild hedgehogs. I was completely unaware of this at this time. Fortunately more people are now.
Further reading on Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) can be found in this document by Vale Wildlife Hospital & Rehabilitation Centre. There are many hedgehog carers on twitter and this is where my attention was drawn to this condition. Thanks go to everyone there that is highlighting this serious issue for our already endangered hedgehogs. Other social media will be doing so too I suspect. Hedgehogs are already in trouble and need our help.
Thanks especially go @HedgehogCabin on twitter for pointing me in the direction of the document above by Vale Wildlife and the video they uploaded to illustrate the problem further. It shows x-rays of hedgehogs with and without MBD. If you have found this blog and want to help hedgehogs, it’s worth watching the video below. If you are on twitter, you might like to take a look through the tweets of Hedgehog Cabin where videos and stories can found of the hedgehogs in her care.
In the current COVID-19 situation, along with all charitable organisations, wildlife rescue centres are struggling for donations. In fairness to the two that I’ve referred to in this blog post I’d like to include links to their websites. Hedgehog Cabin is absolutely worth a look through if you are interested at all in hedgehogs. There is a lot of information there including information on feeding hedgehogs. Vale Wildlife Hospital & Rehabilitation Centre has information too.
Leaving a dish of fresh water out for hedgehogs is recommended by all hedgehog rescue centres, carers and everyone that is interested in helping them. This is especially important during long periods of dry weather. I now have a wildlife pond with a shallow side, edged with stone so wildlife can get in and out. It has a camera overlooking it and hedgehogs can be seen safely drinking there.
My garden feeding station is still the repurposed, hard plastic, rabbit hutch shown above but it is partially buried into a garden border now. Dishes of fresh water can be found there as well as food. For a few years now, I’ve been watching hedgehogs through remote IR cameras that trigger movement, outside and inside my hedgehog feeding station. I particularly enjoying watching LIVE at my PC, late evening.
Dried mealworms, sultanas, sunflower hearts and crushed, unsalted peanuts are no longer on the menu in Hedgehog Manor. It’s dry kitten biscuits with a side of fresh water now. Quite basic sounding perhaps but, with a good percentage of protein, this food is good for hedgehogs. Unfortunately, stopping neighbourhood cats going in, eating then spraying before they left became a problem. This was a long and hard challenge that I very nearly gave up on, but I didn’t.
Hedgehog Manor lost its open door policy. It became an enclosed dining establishment with an elaborate entrance chamber. The smaller cat, the most persistent, still got in. The next step was to try a suggestion given on twitter. Gosh, that was a great tip (probably @HedgehogCabin and a few others that agreed). I wish I had known this earlier. I spent many, many hours trying in vain to find a solution.
Two small terracotta plant pot saucers, filled with water, is all it took to stop cats getting in this hedgehog feeding station. Two small terracotta plant saucers. Water was the key and it’s position outside the front and back entrances, was the solution. It worked!
Via my cameras, I’ve watched hedgehogs walking through entrance dishes of water without any issue at all. Maybe even taking extra drink on the way in or out. It’s been more interesting watching the cats attempt to go past these little dishes, that fit just inside the tunnels. Although I do have a moment every time they try, but they just don’t go past the water. They are still seen bending their heads down to the the water dish, trying to move inside but quickly retreat not wanting to get face/tummy wet. What a simple solution.
I hope this new information helps even just one hedgehog visiting a garden and anyone wishing to feed them there. Every single hedgehog life matters. Sorry I am closing comments to this very old blog post, to help stop unwanted spam. Gosh, I could never have imagined at this time, 13 years on, I’d still be enjoying hedgehog visitors. That is very positive news for numbers around here. Please email if you would like to get in contact.
This post was updated by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch on July 25th 2020.