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What to feed hedgehogs

Home Forums Champions’ chat What to feed hedgehogs

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 28 total)
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  • #6145

    Please remember if you wish to feed the hedgehogs the right diet is very important, there was a lot of useful advice on what to feed on the old site from everyone – here’s a reminder;

    Provide fresh drinking water
    Feed any meat based cat / dog wet food
    Spikes or similar hedgehog food / biscuits
    Purina One or similar kitten biscuits (chicken)
    Sunflower seeds
    Suet pellets with insects

    Bread or milk
    Feed any fish flavoured food

    Mealworms – definitely don’t feed exclusively, they are like chocolates to hedgehogs they are of no/limited nutritional value but will be eaten at the expense of proper food. Imagine a child presented with a bowl of meat and veg or a bowl of chocolate that’s how hogs view mealworms! Tasty but not nutritional.

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    I would add to that to go easy on the sunflower hearts, sultanas and peanuts as well. Someone put a very interesting post on the old forum about the Calcium (Ca) Phosphorous (P) ratio. It is too long to put all of it on, but here are a few extracts.

    Quotes From December 12, 2016
    The internet is littered with advice about feeding hedgehogs and much of it seems to revolve around peanuts, sultanas, and mealworms. Following concerns that multiple young hedgehogs were coming in to rescues with deformities and pathological fractures from gardens where they had been fed exclusively on one particular food we decided to look into the issue further.

    Lucy Kells RVN had discovered some information which it appears is well known amongst the horse fraternity that calcium/phosphorus ratios (Ca:P) could be the cause of the problem and certainly the food exclusively offered to these hedgehogs has turned out to have a poor ratio which, as a sole diet, appears to be contributing to metabolic bone disease.’

    ‘For every milligram of Phosphorus you consume, you must consume another milligram of calcium. If you don’t then calcium gets taken from your body’s calcium stores – bones and teeth – in order to balance the phosphorus out.’

    ‘ The problem is to do with the Calcium/Phosphorus ratio (Ca:P) in foods which can actually strip calcium from the body and explains why we were getting deformed and ‘bendy boned’ babies
    coming in from gardens where they chuck out mountains of mealworms “because the hedgehogs love them”.

    A healthy balance is a Ca:P of 2:1, 1:1 or at most 1:2. Higher amounts of phosphorus cause problems – mealworms are between 1:7 and 1:11 unless they have been specifically bred and gut fed to increase calcium levels but that doesn’t guarantee correct levels once provided as food.
    Peanuts have a Ca:P of 1:6
    Sunflower hearts Ca:P of 1:7
    Conversely sultanas have a low ratio of 1:1.6 which is good, yes? Well no. Sultanas have a high sugar content, they get stuck on hedgehog’s back teeth which results in the high incidence of tooth decay rescues are dealing with. ‘

    If people wish to feed animals in the wild they must be instructed to provide a balanced diet. Often rescues recommend a particular food and homeowners will provide an excess of that to the exclusion of all else thinking they are helping but they’re not. Wild animals are used to eating what they find which will be a mixture of items.

    There are proprietary brands of hedgehog food available which have been properly researched, Ark Wildlife or Spike’s for example, and these contain everything needed.

    If the homeowner finds them too expensive then good quality cat biscuits can be given, both of these help clean the teeth. It goes without saying that if dry food is offered plenty of fresh water is also required.’
    [End of quotes]

    I would also add to this that there are other brands of hedgehog food which are not specifically mentioned.

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    Sorry, I meant to say that someone had referred to this research (and put a link on) on the old forum.


    I am surprised regarding mealworms since they are a high protein food and thus have some nutritional value

    If we now take mealworms as an example (since they are our farm bug of choice), the protein content of fresh weight ranges from 14 to 25 grams per hundred. Now if you were to dry-roast your mealworms, the protein content jumps to a whopping 55% and you still retain a good chunk of those vitamins, minerals and polyunsaturated fats (including Omega-3 and 6). You can see what I’m getting at here… bugs are incredibly nutritious! But let’s take this a little further and look at the essential amino acid content. Amino acids are the protein building blocks of our bodies and around 500 are known to science, but as far as human nutrition is concerned, these are classified into 22 functional groups. All but nine of these can be synthesised by our bodies out of other molecules, and these nine therefore have to be taken up through our food. They are called the “essential” amino acids and are what we’ll focus on.

    My hogs love them however i only put out a bit at a time throughout the night so everyone gets a chance to nab some along with other goodies such as crushed peanuts, sunflower hearts, kitty bix since none of mine like hog bix and if i leave my backdoor open in the summer evenings, the hogs will wander in and much my cats bix (much to their disgust) i also put out the odd bit of lacto free grated cheese or hard boiled egg and on occasion some meaty cat food but only once my 3 cats are in for the night.
    The down side of meaty food is the neighborhood cats will scoff if if i leave their dinner uncovered during dry nights. Wet nights i place the food under a large inverted plastic recyclying box with a hole cut in the front for easy access keeping their dinner dry.
    It also means the local birds eat what the hogs have missed so it is win win.
    I have a large trough saucer which i use as a birdbath on the ground and also for the hogs to drink in and paddle in and it is refilled each day at least once.
    My cats drink from it as well despite having a large dog water dish for fresh water.
    I have come to the conclusion the water in the birdbath tastes of bird and my cats are treating it as a chilled consomme.


    Love the consommé idea, amazing how animals prefer mucky water to fresh. Put out fresh water each night but hogs prefer the cat deterrent plants trays in front of the feeding station with grubby rainwater in for a drink and a paddle.

    I put out a variety of foods and they eat what they like, I heard about eggs being good for them may try that one.

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    Hi Goose

    I think the quote you have given above was discussing the potential value of mealworms for human food, not hedgehogs. However, I think in any event, you are missing the point regarding the research mentioned above. It was not discussing how much protein there is in mealworms, but that the Calcium Phosphorous ratio is not appropriate for hedgehogs (and other species) to be fed dried mealworms exclusively or in large numbers. They can lead to the deformities and pathological fractures mentioned above. Some hedgehogs, especially hoglets apparently become addicted to meal worms – hence the deformities. I have heard that some people who look after sick or injured hedgehogs sometimes have to wean them off mealworms, because they refuse to eat anything else. I am pleased to hear that you do not feed mealworms exclusively.

    I find that the hedgehogs here also tend to prefer drinking out of a mini pond in a large saucer which is refilled with rain water. Sounds similar to the ones there.

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    The following is a copy of a post by Yve on the old Forum (a copy of which I kept because I thought it had some useful advice.). Hope you don’t mind Yve.

    ‘Posted by: Yve Wed 21 Dec 2016 21:12:00    

    I have asked Gill, who runs Hedgehog Bottom Rescue, if I could copy her f/b post showing her frustration of people feeding hedgehogs the wrong food. For anybody not familiar with Hedgehog Bottom, take a look at her web page. In my opinion one of the best, if not the best, for information on Hedgehogs:

    “It’s coming up to Christmas when everyone is supposed to be full of the joys etc but I have just been reading several other pages that have made me completely and utterly depressed.

    Why, WHY do people feel they have to feed complete and utter rubbish to wild animals? WHAT exactly is the thinking behind it? or maybe they just can’t be bothered to think.

    Would you feed your child on slugs? No? So why give a hedgehog boiled eggs?
    Would you feed your child on earthworms? No? So why give a hedgehog chocolate digestives?
    Would you feed your child on caterpillars? No? So why give a hedgehog fairy cakes and weetabix and all the other complete and utter rubbish that they really do not need and would never find in the wild.

    Huge piles of mealworms, sunflower hearts, crushed peanuts are not good for them, they are positively bad! They are too high in phosphorus and leech the calcium from teeth and bones, if you don’t believe it, go do some research like the rescues have.

    Why do people feel the need to provide a varied diet? They don’t want a varied diet, they don’t need a varied diet. They just want nutritious food. Nutritious food is hedgehog or dog/cat food. It has everything they need in it unlike all the other junk people are putting out and then arguing with the rescues about.

    Yes there is all sorts of rubbish around the web about what to feed hogs. Yes hedgehogs will eat it but that doesn’t mean they should. PLEASE ignore all this misinformation. A basic balanced diet is all that is required.” ‘


    Hi Nic

    Re feeding hogs I was horrified to read in a Collins Complete Guide to British Garden Wildlife (published in 2010) that hedgehogs are partial to a saucer of milk! Diarrhoea & resulting dehydration not what we want for them at all.

    I’ve had many conversations with well meaning people about milk & hogs & they’re all surprised to hear how lethal it is to them. It’s the old wives tale of bread & milk that still goes the rounds interminably.

    As a vegan I know that humans don’t need milk either unless it’s from their mothers – cow’s milk is for calves after all, it’s just been hijacked for people unfortunately.

    My bunch are eating Spike’s moist food & catfood with gusto so the few sunflowers seeds & mealworms I was mixing in I’ll probably leave out from now on. Don’t want to add to hogs’ problems feeding them the wrong thing.

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    Hi Annie

    Yes, I agree, it is quite worrying that even some comparatively recently produced publications still give out this sort of information. Although, having said that, hedgehogs may be partial to milk, but, even the best of us probably are partial to things which are not good for us. We are capable of making an informed choice – to hedgehogs it is probably just food, so they would probably drink it if offered. Likewise, I come across people who still think bread and milk are an ok thing to give to hogs. There is still work to do before the general public know that hedgehogs are lactose intolerant.

    Glad to hear the hogs there are enjoying the feast you are providing. I think it is ok to give a few mealworms, although, I must admit, when I first found out about it, I thought I would cut them out completely. Now I tend to give them a very small ‘garnish’ of mealworms with their meal. I will probably cut this out when hoglet time arrives.


    Hi Wildlifehaven,

    Looking at your opening post I see that suet pellets with insects are on the good food list for hogs.

    As well as feeding my hogs I feed my local birds and give them insect suet pellets (although the insects are mealworms) and suet balls which the birds are lapping up as this gives them plenty of energy during this the breeding system.

    On the basis that I can kill 2 birds with 1 stone (which is a strange saying for me as a bird lover!) I might throw a few suet pellets out with the hog biscuits but won’t go overboard with them.


    i put fresh out every night and dried meal worms out with a little water so its like weetbix they love it

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    Hi Hogmeister
    I have said elsewhere, but will say it again here – I am not at all sure that suet pellets are good for hedgehogs and have not seen them recommended anywhere, officially, for hedgehogs. They are actually designed for birds. I can’t help thinking that a balanced diet, i.e. in the form of hedgehog food has got to be better for them. We don’t want to end up having a problem with obese hedgehogs from eating too much fat!

    Hi Hoglover17
    I am not sure from your post whether you are feeding something else as well as the mealworms. If not, then mealworms should only be a very small snack and not the major part of the food you put out. You may have seen from the above posts on this topic that, although the hedgehogs do love them, mealworms not do not have very good nutritional value for them. It is better to offer them either one of the many hedgehog foods which are available, or cat/dog food – meat varieties – and preferably in jelly not gravy or cat/kitten biscuits – not fish varieties of any of these. This will make for healthier hedgehogs. A few mealworms is ok, but not too many. As you say, fresh water is always important. They do seem to drink a lot and rely on us for that, particularly when the weather is dry.

    Good luck with the hedgehogs.


    Hi Nic,

    Thank you for your response as I’m not sure about suet pellets either in terms of feeding them to hedgehogs hence my query as they were noted on the ‘good food’ list for hogs and, as I have these for my birds anyway, if this were the case then I can offer these up as hog food.

    I’m going to stick with the Wild Things hedgehog biscuits, which the hogs like, water and a few mealworms but will drop these if I (hopefully) get hoglets.

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    Hi Hogmeister

    I recently came across an extract I had copied from From Wildlife on line – European hedgehog.

    ‘Hedgehogs have a propensity for eating almost anything and will readily consume high fat foods (e.g. cat food, processed meats, etc.) put out in gardens and if offered in captivity. Hedgehog metabolism is geared to the digestion of high protein invertebrate prey and unrestricted access to high-fat foods can result in fatty liver disease, obesity and coronary complications as is seen among humans.’

    Which seems to confirm the feeling I had that suet pellets are not a good idea for hogs.


    Mealworms should be a treat only, approx 6/week is sufficient and sunflower hearts contain oil, both conducive to heart failure. I have experimented with every retailed food item, provided homemade concoctions and 3 years later have found Vitakraft Premier Menu to be the most widely preferred. This ideally should be a supplement only.
    I have a 100% wildlife friendly garden with native planting and habitats to provide the best possible natural diet, which is always preferable.
    Please consider quantity as it is feasible that if everyone is feeding in your neighbourhood, then the hogs could be overfed. A fat hog is never a happy one!

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