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Hedgehog Newbie

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    I’m new to this hedgehog conservation business, and wanted to join the forum to see just what sort of things I should learn about keeping hedgehogs healthy and happy.

    In March of this year, just before lockdown, we renovated our back garden, took out all of the old plants and fence and began again. We love gardening, and have always gardened organically, and with wildlife in mind. We have a hedgehog highway in our fence, and from time to time had seen hedgehogs in our garden. When we put the new fence up, one of the first thing we did was make another hedgehog highway. (Apart from anything else our 3 cats like to use it and think its there for their convenience).

    We wanted to take this one step further, and after noting there was quite a lot of hedgehog poo being left behind, we began to put dishes of cat food out at night.

    Our cats alerted us to the fact there was a hedgehog checking out the garden in the dusk of a spring evening, but thankfully beyond a cursory inspection, they gave the hedgehog a wide berth.

    Around September, I grew curious about building or buying hedgehog house., as a form of shelter I got a relatively inexpensive one made of untreated wood. Nothing fancy – no internal baffle, though it does have a tunnel on the front and a hinged lid. I put it under the hedge, facing south, put a handful of hay inside and then banked loads of hay up around the sides and under the hedge next to the box.

    We weren’t really expecting the hedgehog to take up residence, but within a couple of days, it became evident there was hay being tracked in and out of the box. I began to keep a photo diary. Soon I was having to top up the piles of hay under the hedge. As our acer began to shed its leaves, I added some of those to the pile and they swiftly disappeared. I gathered up bags of fallen leaves and added them to the mix. Everything seemed to go down very well. It’s even made itself a little “patio” of straw and leaves in front of the entrance.

    We’re very excited. We didn’t think it would be anything more than a temporary sleeping shelter, but now it looks like our hedgehog guest may well be making itself a cosy little home for the winter.

    Of course now I find myself worrying about all sorts of things I never knew I should be worrying about, like – when the hay “patio” gets damp should I lift it and put fresh down? Will that upset the hedgehog – after all, it made matters to its own liking, and who am I to change it? Or What if the wood gets damp over winter? Maybe next season I could treat the wood with melted beeswax to assist with waterproofing……. and so on. Driving myself slightly nuts I suppose, worrying about what I should do better next time.

    He (or she) is still taking food at night, and the weather so far has been pretty mild, but I shall be keeping a close eye on events to try and keep our little hedgehog safe through winter (not that I’ve clapped eyes on it since the spring!) I just follow its daily progress with the hedgehog photos. And I’m now considering getting a trail camera. It can get quite addictive taking care of hedgehogs. I never knew!

    We’re hoping to garner all of the helpful tips and info on Hedgehog Street to expand our knowledge of these fascinating little creatures, and hopefully do our bit to help their numbers stabilise. Nice to meet everyone. Am off to have a look around……


    Hi Acer,
    Just read your post – my first one as I only joined today.

    Unlike yourself, I have never seen a live hedgehog and thought that at the ripe old age of 53, that was something that should be on my bucket list. Then I tuned into Autumnwatch and discovered that their numbers were dwindling fast, in part due to our actions. I confess – I am guilty of being one of those tidy gardeners.

    But I decided to mend my ways and try to help our prickly friends, plus at the same time I might manage to tick off one of those bucket list items.

    I do have an untidy small area between my back fence and shed because it’s hard to get in there and so when collecting up leaves off the lawn yesterday, I deposited them in a pile there instead of getting rid of them. I also have an empty bed in an area which doesn’t get much sun that I was considering paving over as it was unused, but I have now decided to use this area for garden wildlife also. So it’s a blank canvas at the moment.

    From your story, I was glad to see that cats are not a deterrent – I have one myself who is pretty imposing (he scares off most humans in fact). I guess my next step really then is to cut a hole in the fence and see what happens and start thinking about hedgehog houses. But I know what you mean about your mind wandering off on all things hedgehoggy, as I have already sat here and pondered night time cameras!


    Hey Smileymiley – lovely to find another newbie to talk with. You small untidy area sounds just perrfick.

    When I was young, we used to have a few hedgehogs would come to our house and mum would put out mince or dog food for them. The dog however ( a labrador) would nearly always try to “herd” the hedgehog and three or four times tried (unsuccessfully) to pick it up. The cats have more sense, I think.

    Lol! You’re thinking of night time cameras too?! It gets you like that, doesnt it?

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    Hi Acer and Smileymiley

    Welcome, both, to the Forum!

    I’ll reply both together, so not everything will apply to both of you.

    It’s brilliant that you both have hogs visiting and that you are planning on adapting your gardens to help them.

    The important thing to know is that hedgehogs have been managing for millions of years without our ‘help’, so you don’t need to worry too much about their hibernation nests (hibernacula) – they are very capable. Just bear in mind that a hog box is just a structure within which a hog can build a hibernaculum. The hogs are able to build a far more intricate nest then we would be able to do.

    One of the problems hogs face is that there are not so many hedges, and suitable areas for them to build their hibernation nests, so hog boxes are a great help to them. But, other then a roof, a hog box does not need to be waterproofed. Hog nests are designed to be outside and so a well built nest should remain waterproof, even if a hog box leaks a little bit. So the hog box you have, Acer, sounds fine. You are honoured that a hog has taken to it already, sometimes they don’t use them for a year or two (when they have become part of the furniture!). So quite a hog seal of approval!

    But yes, they do need huge amounts of material. Medium sized leaves and long grasses are best, so that they can weave the structure together. They sort of layer the leaves, a bit like tiles, so that it isn’t just piled up in a haphazard fashion – hence they use far more than we might expect. But that’s why it’s a really good idea when/if you rake the leaves off the grass to leave them somewhere that the hogs can access – even if it’s just into a border. I find that they usually tend to disappear eventually even if the hogs don’t use them.

    Cat/dog/hog food is fine to offer them (mince not ideal), but really important is to offer water – all day every day, including during winter. It’s possible they might be able to find some wild food, but sometimes impossible to find water and they do drink quite a bit. But making your gardens more hog friendly is ideal. Wild food is better for hogs than anything we can offer them, but, as things stand, it’s useful for them to have a bit of supplementary food. The complete ideal would be to increase and extend suitable habitat so that we no longer needed to offer supplementary food, but sadly we aren’t in that place at the moment.

    If you are the sort of person who likes a tidy garden, you can still make it hog friendly. You can have tidy woodpiles in open sided boxes or gabion baskets – the insects, beetles, etc. don’t mind whether the pile of wood, etc. is tidy, as long as it’s there. Likewise you can have a neat area of wild flowers – either with grass mown around them, or with a path around. A rough area is good, too, but I wouldn’t want to think that tidy minded people felt that they couldn’t help hogs, too. Also, as said previously, the leaves can still be raked off the lawn, into the borders. Hog boxes are a great idea, especially if there aren’t suitable rougher areas where the hogs can build their nests.

    But yes, hog holes in the fences are very important. The hogs need lots of gardens to enable them to find sufficient food. If you can persuade all your neighbours to make hog holes as well, that would be great and then the hogs can have a whole hog highway! The more gardens are linked, the less likely it is that hogs need to cross roads, which are a huge hazard to them.

    Yes, it’s a really good idea to have a good explore around Hedgehog Street – there is loads of good information there.

    No, don’t worry about cats. Other than eating the food that’s meant for the hogs(!), they normally don’t bother each other much. I find the local cats, here, won’t try to get at the hog food if there is a hog actually eating.

    Night cameras are a great idea. Gives you the opportunity to see a bit more what the hogs are getting up to. Also, whose really eating more of the food, hogs or cats.

    Most hogs will be disappearing to hibernate soon (some will have already gone), so don’t be surprised if everythings goes quiet. Some hogs (hoglets in particular) decide not to hibernate. If one of those is visiting your garden, just continue to offer food as normal. Perhaps surprisingly, the cold doesn’t seem to bother them too much. But more normally most will hibernate so it’s just a case of looking forward to their return in the Spring. They do sometimes come out of hibernation for short periods during the winter and some people continue to put a small amount of food out all winter, anyway. But that’s why a constant supply of water is also useful.

    I hope I’ve answered everything, apologies, if not!

    Good luck and happy hog watching.


    Wow Nic – thanks so much for the warm welcome and the wealth of useful information. Really appreciate your time. Good to know we dont need to fret too much about waterproofing, and also about the quantity of leaves and hay to leave handy.

    It’s all really interesting. Am glad me and smileymiley seem to have got off to a good start.


    Thanks from me too Nic. Your advice was really welcome and has given me some good ideas on how to adapt the end of my garden for any visiting wildlife and if I get to spy some of them or see evidence of their visits, I’ll be thrilled 🙂

    I have found another quiet area in my garden that they may wish to use in between another shed and a lattice screen covered in honeysuckle. The ground between is bare but tucked away and I could stack some logs, leaves etc there and see what happens?

    Once you put your mind to it, it’s amazing the possibilities you begin to see.

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    Thanks, both. I’m always happy to help people to help the hogs. Sounds a brilliant idea to have a log and leaf pile in that quiet spot, Smileymiley. Yes, you’re right there are all sorts of things we can do. If everyone did even a little bit to help wildlife, it would make such a difference.


    Newby here reading my first ppost too!
    Thank you


    Brilliant reponse Nic, well done for helping yet more champions of the future

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    Welcome to the Forum, Rockyroad, and good luck with the hogs where you are.

    And thanks, stef.

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