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Cleaning out hedgehog boxes

One fun way to help the hedgehogs in your garden is by proving accommodation. Natural features such as compost heaps, woodpiles and brambly/shrubby corners are all readily used for summer and winter nesting – or you might be tempted to construct or buy and install a hedgehog house or hibernacula.

HOGFACT: Hedgehog Champions have installed 3866 hedgehog houses since the start of the campaign!

1) Timings

There are two periods when it is best to move or clean out your hedgehog house.

  1. April: after hibernation but before hedgehogs starting producing hoglets
  2. October: before hibernation but after the most litters have been weaned.

Bear in mind that hibernation may be extended by particularly cold snaps, so make a judgement call if the weather is unusually cold.

2) Is anyone home?

If a hedgehog is using the box, it’s best not to disturb it. Find out by placing a piece of scrunched up paper or a large flower head in front of the entrance one evening, and if it’s still there the next day you can probably assume that the residence is vacant. If you do find a hedgehog, gently replace the lid and leave it be.

3) Roll up the sleeves

Hedgehogs naturally have external parasites such as ticks and fleas that can be transferred through nest use. Remove any bedding and then wash out the box using boiling water and leave it to dry out, and this will kill off any parasites. Make sure you wear gloves and/or a mask when cleaning to avoid the transfer of parasites.

4) Duvet or sheets?

Wild hedgehogs use deciduous leaves of intermediate size to construct their nests, such as oak, hornbeam, beech or lime. Hedgehogs will make their own nests from materials in the surrounding environment so the best thing to do is ensure there are plenty of leaves near to the box. You can also put bedding inside the box to give them a head start, such as leaves, straw or hay.