All About Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are very useful visitors to any garden. They eat slugs, beetles, caterpillars and a variety of other cute creepy crawlies, in fact, everything that makes holes in your plants will probably be the prey of these spiky fellows, making them a must have in any garden.

Hedgehogs are in trouble. They have declined in population from 30 million in the 1970's to around 1 million now and at that rate they could be extinct by 2025. We, as humans, are pretty poor at looking out for the wildlife we share our space with but this is one of the most horrific examples of our lack of caring. Pesticides kill!        

"Chemicals have replaced bacteria and viruses as the main threat to health. The diseases we're beginning to see as the major causes of death in the latter part of this century and into the 21st century are diseases of chemical origin." Dick Irwin, a toxicologist at Texas A&M Universities.    

Slug pellets and pesticides kill slugs and insects because they are poisonous. That poison means they suffer a very painful death. Please do not use them. These insects and slugs do not eat to annoy you they eat to survive. The poison ensures a painful and slow death. It can be passed onto larger animals that eat them and go right through the food chain.The poison will end up in our water table when it rains. Whilst this may sound extreme - it is not. We must protect our planet and maintain the balance. We can still progress but must strive to find greener solutions to everyday issues. If we all do just that little extra every day we will be working towards a greener planet. What have you done today to make a difference? 


Many of our most precious native creatures feed off these cute beasts so why not encourage them to frequent your garden and help balance our environment. Hedgehogs will help keep your slug population under control, just a shallow bowl of water and an alternate meat based food supply will keep them with you. Birds are another predator of the slug and can be encouraged into your garden with bird seed and a water supply. Beer traps are an organic option to pesticides they are a container sunk in the ground with the beer in it. Grapefruit skin is another alternative. Put this on the ground like a dome and remove slugs daily. Move this around the garden.  

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society comments on Bio Slug Pellets - "Recently we have received letters and calls of concern from members and carers who have seen Bio Mini Slug Pellets advertised using pictures of hedgehogs. We are worried that people may think this means the pellets cannot harm hedgehogs. The pellets concerned made by PBI Homes & Gardens contain an ingredient called metaldehyde; we have post-mortem reports of hedgehogs that have died from ingesting this chemical and believe that it does pose a threat to hedgehogs". 

The letter continues "We were approached by a representative of PBI Home & Gardens to endorse this product and refused because we believe the pellets pose a threat to hedgehogs. We explained this in our letter to the representative, enclosing copies of the aforementioned post mortem reports. We, along with other concerned individuals and groups have written to the Advertising Standards Agency and Trading Standards voicing our fears".

Letters have also been written to the stores where such promotions have been seen, and in response B&Q have said “The 'hedgehog friendly' claim made on the product packaging does not meet B&Q standards; hence B&Q will develop an action plan with our suppliers to delete this phrase from the packaging on a rolling programme. 

Hedgehogs are opportunists and will rest and shelter where it is safe, for example, a wild area or a pile sticks. A very well placed hedgehog house will help attract them and encourage them to stay. Water is needed for our spiky friends but please make sure your pond has an area where a hedgehog can climb out by using a rock or mesh. Hedgehogs can swim but will quickly become cold and tired if they cannot get out as they cannot tread water indefinitely. Milk isn't good for them and can upset their stomach. Dog food, nuts and minced meats are the most similar to a natural diet. They will eat sweet things, but like us their teeth will rot and with no false teeth or dentists on hand in the wild they will not survive without teeth.


Hedgehogs sometimes feed on eggs and chicks of ground-nesting birds. Please be aware that drains can be death traps if a hedgehog falls down one, so please keep them covered. Strimming around the edges in a garden can also disturb a sleeping hedgehog and can even harm or kill them, we see many each year with awful injuries from strimmers.    

If you find a hedgehog that needs help, place it in a large box with clean fresh hay, crumpled newspapers or dry leaves. Also add heat with a hot water bottle, fresh clean water and some tinned dog food. Hedgehogs are named after their "pig-like habit" of rooting through the undergrowth for food. They are quite noisy and can be heard snuffling and grunting during their activities. Hedgehogs normally live up to five years in the wild but can reach eight years in captivity. Their body length is normally 15-30 cm with a weight of up to 2kg. The hedgehog is Britain's only spiny mammal. The upper parts of the head and body are covered in short yellow-tipped spines - adults may have up to 5000 spines. The rest of the body is covered with brown fur and the hedgehog has a short tail. European hedgehogs range from Scandinavia to Romania. They were introduced to New Zealand. Their preferred habitat is forest, hedgerows, scrub, cultivated land and they are commonly found in gardens.    

Males and females may share a nest for a short period during the breeding season. Females produce one or two litters a year of about five young. These are weaned after five weeks. The mother will just leave the nest and sometimes you will hear "piping" (a shrill noise) that the abandoned hoglets will make.    

Hedgehogs are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act in Britain, and may not be trapped without a licence. Numbers are in decline due to habitat loss and slug pellets. Hedgehogs are often killed by manmade hazards such as in ponds, bonfires, on roads, by strimmers, lawnmowers, pesticides, garden netting and litter. They can also be food for foxes, pine martens, stoats and badgers.    

In the summer, hedgehogs shelter during the day in temporary nests of leaves, moss and grass. By autumn, hedgehogs have dramatically put on weight in preparation for their Hibernation. Their hibernation nests are typically situated under hedgerows. They hibernate until the following March or April, during which time their body temperature and heart beat fall dramatically from 190 to about 20 beats per minute. Most hedgehog deaths occur during this hibernation period.    

Their eyesight is poor but their sense of smell and hearing are very good and they can swim and climb well. Their dense covering of spines offers protection when the animal is disturbed, rolling up in a tight ball covering the head and soft underside.


Back to top