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.
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 in their 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.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Since this blog was uploaded more information and articles have become available. Please avoid feeding bird food to wild hedgehogs. Although they will enjoy it (especially dried mealworms) these foods can cause Metabolic Bone Disease in hedgehogs. Sultanas are bad for their teeth too. Please follow the following link to the August 2020 update on feeding wild hedgehogs after reading this post.
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.