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Providing bedding

Home Forums Champions’ chat Providing bedding

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    Will hedgehogs carry bedding a certain distance? Or do they only make hibernation nests where plenty of bedding is available very close by?
    I have regular visitors – like to think I can recognise each of them 🙁 – but the two residences I made last winter don’t seem to have been occupied though I do gather leaves, long grasses etc in a pile close by.
    I think/hope they make nests under my sheds and have been for years, and in that case it would mean they find nesting materials without any help from me.
    Am I wasting time leaving piles of, hopefully. acceptable bedding near the houses? Just wondering what others have experienced.

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    Hi daffydill

    Yes, the hogs will collect nesting material from your garden. That’s why it’s a good idea to i.e. rake the leaves from lawns into borders and not tidy everything too much for the winter, which is what a lot of people used to do. The worms will gradually take the leaves down if the hogs don’t use them, so it would be good for conditioning the soil, too – and feeding the worms, which in turn help feed the hogs!

    But if you are doing a bit of clearing, then it’s handy to leave piles of potential nesting materials in fairly close proximity to nest boxes (but could, for instance, be hidden at the back of borders). It really depends how large your garden is.

    Here a hog started building his hibernation nest before I had thought of putting anything nearby (he used a feeding box anyway, so I wasn’t expecting it!), although there are usually a fair few leaves, etc. around, and he was going down to the other end of my garden (as well as nearer) to collect material. But then I left some long grasses which I had cut not far away, but not next door, and he made use of those.

    But you aren’t wasting your time, just potentially making it easier for hogs to find materials without using up so much energy.

    But also some people don’t have much by the way of nesting materials naturally in their gardens and then it’s handy if they can get some leaves, etc. from elsewhere if they are hoping for hogs to nest in any nest boxes they might have. But it is better to leave natural materials, i.e. medium sized leaves, etc. so that the hogs can build their nests as nature intended.

    Hogs have been making nests for millions of years – before humans ever thought of helping them, so would have been collecting the materials for themselves most of that time. Although, back in time, there would have been fewer gardens and more wild spaces (i.e. wild spaces which had not been cleared up too much for the winter).


    I made a pile of leafy twigs after cutting back the shrubbery, and the hogs seem to love it. They have stripped most of the leaves but still keep rooting around in the twigs- looking for food I guess.


    I have found straw to be very appealing to hogs. I buy a bag of straw as used to feed rabbits etc and put some just outside the houses. In all four cases the hogs have been taking everything I put down into the houses, along with the traditional leaves and twigs. All four main houses are now being actively fitted out in this way.


    Hi alanfrew
    Thanks for that tip about straw. I’ve a couple of bags of meadow hay I thought would be useful for bedding – and maybe some is – but if you say straw is appealing I will try some barley straw as well. Nothing wasted as leftovers go on the compost heap. Cheers.

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    Hay and straw can be useful if you don’t have any other materials to hand. But a nest made only of hay and/or straw is less likely to be waterproof than one made with leaves, where the leaves can be layered to make the structure waterproof.


    The nests I am talking about are all inside their wooden houses, so waterproofing is not a big issue. The hogs take the straw, but also forage for leaves and twigs of which there are plenty in our garden. I’m relying on them to decide what they want to use, but found over the last couple of years that they do make use of any straw that happens to be around the place.


    I have had hogs nesting in my garden over the last three or four years. One successful outside nest was one I made from a large hanging basket frame covered in thick plastic then vegetation which is on the floor of a mini greenhouse and last year a female raised four babies in it. As well as that nest the nearby shed has holes in the bottom of the door that hogs can get under and one nested in a pile of leaves in the corner so last winter I put three cardboard boxes in the shed and all three were eventually occupied. There are three new boxes in the shed at the moment but none have been taken so far but a hog has decided to build its nest under some “junk” in the corner instead. I have found that even though the hogs have access to the many leaves from the fruit trees as well as other vegetation in the garden they prefer shredded newspaper. When I saw that the hog had started its nest I scraped up leaves and dried them off before putting them in the shed and although the first lot were used, after I provided the newspaper the leaves were ignored and mouthfuls of paper have been taken into the nest instead. I have several internet cameras around the garden and one in the shed so can see the activity that is going on and have many videos of nest building. Last year was especially funny as one hog would carry a lot of shredded paper into its nest then tootle off to get some more, meanwhile another hog would come out of its box and steal the paper and had stuffed it in his box by the time the other hog came back!

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    It’s great that so many people are providing hedgehog houses and other places for hogs to nest.

    However, please bear in mind; hay, straw, newspaper, etc. might be adequate nesting material in a waterproof hedgehog box/shed (as well as for hedgehogs which have to be kept in captivity i.e. if they are sick, injured or need over-wintering) but not if they are trying to build hibernating nests outside – which many may have to do.

    Is it not the aim to allow hedgehogs, as much as possible, to be their natural wild robust selves which they have evolved to be over millions of years – able to build a hibernaculum without a hedgehog box, using leaves, grasses and other natural plant materials which they can find – as they historically and successfully have done. Bearing in mind that not all hedgehogs will have the luxury of a waterproof hedgehog box or a shed to nest in every year.

    In the same way that hedgehogs will often eat inappropriate food that we supply, they will also use less than ideal nesting material if we provide it. Especially if it is the most easily accessible. It might work out using torn up newspaper, hay, straw and any other bedding which humans might think suitable, in a shed or in a well waterproofed hedgehog house. But what happens next year when the hedgehogs may not have that luxury and they try to use those same materials outside, or even in a less waterproof hog house. They could end up with a pretty soggy nest!

    So please try to provide the hogs, as a priority, with access to as many natural materials (medium sized leaves, long grasses, etc.) to build their nests as possible (even if that nest is inside a shed or in a hog box) – and then only provide other (preferably non-absorbent) materials, if they are needed because there is a shortage of anything else. Lest it becomes a learned behaviour to use less natural materials and the hedgehogs forget how to build natural hibernacula which are ideally suited to the conditions they need for hibernation.


    I think what everyone here is doing is wonderful to help hedgehogs. Fancy them having special dry warm winter accommodation. It occurred to me my new small greenhouse is available for residents, but I’m keeping the door closed so they can find a more natural place to hibernate. I’ve built a couple of strong, dry houses and my little garden has so many leaves, twigs, grasses and small piles of wood and leafy twigs that I’m hoping it’s attractive enough to the hedgies that they can make their own nests and find adequate natural food too, though I admit I do provide supplementary food every night and love to watch them visiting..

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    Hi daffydill

    Well done for offering supplementary food. That’s very important at this time of year with some hogs trying to put on the two types of fat they need for hibernation. More information about that in this item from ‘News’ above:

    It is especially important to offer supplementary food if there are any young hoglets around who still need to put on a bit of weight before hibernation – just when the natural food may be beginning to decrease.


    I’m still hearing conflicting views on the provision of straw or hay. Some say straw is too brittle and spiky;hay can be too long and wind round their wrists and has to be double dusted before use. Any more views please?

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    Hi Roy Finch

    Leaves are best for hibernacula – medium sized ones. That way they can layer them as they would naturally and make the hibernaculum waterproof. They use long grasses to help weave the structure together.

    But maybe you are talking about rescue hogs which is a different matter.


    Hello Nic.
    In any case, something that Homo Sapiens use when they don’t use leaves. So, maybe Rescues etc. I saw a start-up “kit” advertised providing hay; when I went on my hog. course I’m sure that straw was recommended for bedding!
    I have leaves, medium- sized deciduous in my hibernacula but don’t have the long grasses on the site that I’m on.

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    Hi Roy Finch

    Yes I believe both hay and straw are sometimes suggested when appropriate leaves aren’t available. They are probably adequate in a waterproof hog house, but probably not so useful in a naturally built hibernacula. Hogs layer the leaves like tiles in a well built hibernaculum, which would not be so easy with straw or hay – hence my personal preference for leaves.

    I have heard the thoughts about straw being too spiky – but hogs will also incorporate twiggy material (which they have collected for themselves) into building hibernacula, so maybe they could also cope with straw. They also use long grasses, so maybe wouldn’t find the hay any more of a problem than that either. I haven’t heard mention of the hay being too dusty, but it sounds logical. Maybe a few days in the rain would wash the dust away. There are probably pros and cons to both.

    But hogs natural hibernacula are made with a varitey of materials, i.e. leaves and some other plant material. One hog here recently used the long trailing sections with new plantlets from alpine strawberries to help weave the structure together. They will also ‘pick’ green material from plants to include in the mix!

    You may be able to get some long grasses from a friends garden? I have some ornamental, fairly long grasses which I cut and leave near the hog houses and they seem to go down well with the hogs. They look quite comical walking along with what look like enormously long trailing moustaches when they take them into the hog houses!

    It’s best to just put a handful of material into a hog box to give them the idea and leave it to the hogs to build the hibernaculum themselves. They are likely to be much better at it than we are. Making sure there are lots of building materials fairly nearby is a good idea – even during the winter. Hogs are known to emerge from hibernation at times during the hibernation period and sometimes even change nests, so they might value materials being available all winter.

    Good luck. If you haven’t got a tenant for hibernation yet, maybe you could still get one.

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