Encourage the local hedgehogs to visit your garden. Make a hedgehog feeding station.
It’s always worth putting out a night camera to see what animals are visiting your garden at night. This is a particularly interesting exercise for me at the moment because we have just moved house. I was very curious to discover more about the local wildlife. So I put out the camera and was delighted when I saw a hedgehog visiting.
I really didn’t expect to have a hedgehog visiting our garden as we are quite close to the center of a small town. There is a wonderful park and woodland nearby, so maybe he or she travelled from there. Or perhaps they are based in one of the surrounding gardens. Anyway, as hedgehogs are in decline everywhere, and they are so good to have in one’s garden, I was determined to make this particular one feel at home. So I thought I would try and encourage it to be a regular visitor, if not a resident, in our garden.
So what I did was quickly make a hedgehog feeding station. But first, a bit of context.
Why do we need to look after hedgehogs?
Hedgehog numbers across Europe are low, and are getting lower. In Flanders, hedgehog numbers fell by 50% between 2008 and 2018. Similar declines have been recorded in Germany and the UK. There is a real concern that hedgehogs could be wiped out completely in certain areas of western Europe.
The reasons for their decline are varied. In the countryside, hedgehogs have been affected by the loss of hedgerows as nesting sites and movement corridors; the loss of permanent pastures for finding food; and the widespread use of pesticides which kill the invertebrates they like to eat. In towns and cities, slug pellets and other insecticides are taking their toll, along with over-tidy, sterile, wildlife-unfriendly gardens, and of course, death by car.
Hedgehogs are worth protecting simply because they are wild animals that share our living space. But they are also vital to ecosystems. They are an indicator species for the health of the natural world because they feed on soil invertebrates, so a big decline in hedgehogs implies the quality of the environment has significantly decreased. They are also extremely useful, eating vast numbers of slugs, snails, caterpillars, bugs, and other invertebrates.
Protecting hedgehogs is therefore an urgent necessity, and anything we can do to help them is a good step in the right direction. Making our gardens more hedgehog-friendly is one way to help. In this post I am focusing on providing extra food for them to supplement their natural diet. In future posts I’ll talk about encouraging invertebrates by planting nectar-rich plants and not using chemicals.
How to make a hedgehog feeding station
A hedgehog feeding station is basically an upside down box with food and water inside it, and a barrier to prevent larger animals such as cats from getting inside.
You need a box of size about 40 cm long x 30 cm wide and at least 20 cm deep. To be rain-resistant it needs to be a wooden or a plastic box. I chose an IKEA plastic storage box of size 48 x 30 x 25 cm. I went for plastic because I wanted a quick solution to put out the following night. Maybe later I will invest in a permanent and more attractive solution.
Make an entrance hole of size 15 x 15 cm in the “front” of your box. The plastic box I selected was easy to cut with a sharp knife. Smooth the edges of the hole with sandpaper and/or stick some tape over the edges. This is to prevent the hog from being injured by splinters.
And that’s basically all you have to do! Now you need to find a couple of plastic bowls or trays, one for water and one for food. I found something in our waste plastic bin.
What to feed a hedgehog?
When I was a young boy I studied the hedgehogs in my garden and fed them all sorts of things to see what they would eat and what they wouldn’t. I’m sure I offered them stuff that wasn’t particularly healthy for them. I seem to remember they happily gobbled up most things on the menu. Nowadays the recommendation is to give them meat-based dog or cat food (not fish), or dried cat biscuits.
What do hedgehogs drink?
Again, back in the 1970s I recall putting out a saucer of milk every evening for the hedgehogs visiting our garden. And it always disappeared! However, milk is not recommended as it gives the poor little mites the runs. Just a saucer or shallow dish of water is perfectly adequate and much healthier.
So now you’ve got your dish of dog or cat food, and a dish of clean water. Position them on the ground where you want the feeding station to be located. When you place the box over the dishes they will need to be at the end of the box opposite the entrance.
Then place a stone or a small brick (or half a brick) between the dishes and the entrance, but leaving space at the side for the hog to pass. This is to create a barrier to animals such as cats from reaching the food. Then cover the dishes and the brick with the box.
Add another brick or two or other heavy object to the top of the box to stop it being blown over in a strong wind. Or to stop a dog or fox from turning the whole thing over. An optional extra is to add a further obstacle to cats outside the entrance. I added another brick here.
And that’s it. Once it’s set up in the late evening, just go to bed and wake up with high expectations the next morning! That’s exactly what I did. The next morning I removed the brick from the top of my feeding station, lifted up the box, and this is what I found:
All the food had been eaten! I was thrilled. Presumably the hedgehog had returned to our garden, smelled the dog food, found the feeding station, entered, and enjoyed a good supper! However, of course I needed further evidence that it was the hedgehog and not an undesirable animal that had been snacking. Fortunately I had set up my night-cam overnight, and I was able to record it visiting and using the feeding station.
Mission accomplished! A bit later in the night the camera recorded a cat snooping around the box. It was not able to enter the feeding station.
I hope you find this post interesting. If you have hedgehogs visiting your garden – or even if you think you might have, but are not sure – please consider making a hedgehog feeding station to encourage their visits. Let me know how you get on. If you have photos or videos of your own hedgehog feeding station, feel free to share them with me. I would be delighted to add them here. If you’re looking for further information on hedgehogs, try here or here.
Other creative nature projects for children
Making a hedgehog feeding station might be a fun nature project for young children, with parental guidance of course. Apart from bringing them closer to nature, it would also be a practical way to introduce them to the need to conserve our local wildlife. Did you know that on this blog there are other nature projects for children? These include:
- Counting garden butterflies
- Identifying farm crops on a country walk
- Listening to the sounds of nature
- Reading bird books
- Building a bee hotel
- Watching garden birds
And don’t forget my ever-popular 12 ways to make a country walk fun for children!
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I’ve had a feeding station for the HH’s for 3 years now, we have a wildlife camera trained on it and get great pleasure from checking it everyday to see whaat they’ve been up to in the night!
Super Frag! Have you recorded any other night-time visitors?
Neighbourhood cats 🙂 and twice we’ve seen a fox.
Such lovely animals! They always make me happy when I see one.
And thanks for informing me about their diet. I also used to put out milk for them when I was a kid.
Thanks Andreas, yes, there were so many hedgehogs running around with diarrhea decades ago!
This will finally make me stop throwing cigar stumps into the garden.
I’m sure a highly respected and respectable person like you would never dream of doing such a thing! 🙂
Well, I was hoping it would turn into a small tobacco plantation…
You need a lesson in horticulture Andreas 🙂
When I work as a house sitter, I am always much more worried about the plants than about the cats.
But then, cats can tell me how they feel.
How wonderful to be so in sync with nature, to build something so worthwhile and fascinating to see them in action.
Thanks Miriam, it’s an interesting combination between a high-tech camera and some basic DIY handiwork with a knife!
I’m glad it was so successful Denzil, they definitely need our help.
Unfortunately there seems nothing can be done to prevent road casualties, unless you have heard of some bright ideas.
Unfortunately not. There’s a lot of talk here about hedgehog highways – neighbours leaving a gap in their fence so the hedgehogs can move safely from one garden to another.
Thank you for this article, I’d like to give it a try ! I’m a bit concerned though that the hedgehogs might get used to eating this kind of food and not want what they are naturally supposed to eat (slugs and all the rest). Also, isn’t dog/cat food harmful for them? Thank you!
You make a good point Gilda. I see it like feeding birds in the winter. I’m giving additional food that will help them survive. So in the case of hedgehogs, helping them find a bit of supplemental healthy, nutritious food so they are in good shape to breed, and don’t have to roam for miles to find their food and therefore have to cross dangerous roads. As far as I know, dog/cat food is good for them and not harmful, and is recommended by wildlife experts who know their science. Finally, I am not putting out a lot of food, just a thin layer in the bottom of the tray. Thanks for your comment and question. Let me know if you decide to go ahead, and how you get on.
Thank you for your answer! Feeding them small amounts of food seems reasonable indeed. Apart from dog/cat food, they also seem to like fruit such as apples, bananas, watermelon (according to this site : https://www.hedgehogworld.com/what-do-hedgehogs-eat/). Since we’ve recently moved to the countryside and we are surrounded by nature, I think it’s worth making such a feeding station for hedgehogs with the kids. Unfortunately, since we don’t have cameras yet, we’ll have no proof of their passage, apart from, luckily, finding the tray empty in the morning. I’ll let you know how/if it works.
I’m pleased with my wildlfe camera and it was surprisingly not expensive. 70 eur I think. I’ll be reviewing it soon so you may be interested in that. It opens up a whole new world.
Success! 🙂 🙂
Kudos, Denzil. We don’t have these little cuties in the US, but I applaud your actions to provide them a safe harbor.
I didn’t realize the US is a hedgehog-free region Eliza. Reading up about this, it seems that the nearest relative to the hedgehog you have is the opossum! Strange, considering its lack of spines, although there is a certain facial similarity.
Porcupines are our prickly animals here. Cute, but dangerous!
Not sure I’d like to make a feeding station for a porcupine!
Me, neither. Because I have a dog, I don’t need extra vet bills to de-quill her. 😉
What great fun! And the hedgehog did look quite happy as they exited Chez Denzil 🙂
Yes it does Henry, and in the most recent recordings, either the same one repeatedly returns in the hope of finding a top-up (or dessert?), or there are 2 or 3 local hogs appearing through the night.
What a treat to have this little guy visiting your garden and even nicer to be able to see what he’s doing. He’ll be wondering what’s on the menu every night now.
Yes, I’ll have to bring some variety into the menu.
That’s really an exciting visitor. I wish we had hedgehogs on this side of the Atlantic. There’s porcupines in NY and the northern part of this this state, but they’re extremely shy and I’ve never heard of them venturing near houses.
An opportunity here for an import/export business Robert!
We had two mating last night in the garden – first time a pair has appeared for years
A new interface!
Our hedgehog eats our chickens. I never would have believed it if I hadn’t caught it on camera. Baby chicks are the most vulnerable. I will never view those cute little guys the same way again…!
Wow, never would have thought that either Susan! How did they get in the coop? I know they can squeeze through small holes, but chicken wire?
The chickens were surrounded with livestock wire only (in a separate area from our regular chicken field were indeed the hedgehog can’t fit through the chicken wire). I never would have believed a hedgehog could kill an adult rooster, but it did – 4 of ours to be exact. It hangs onto the chicken’s leg until the chicken exhausts itself flapping around, then it goes for the throat. But ours are the more aggressive and solitary long earred hedgehog- yes, there exist different varieties of hedgehog (!!!). I now view the little guys quite differently!