If you’ve just spotted a hedgehog in your garden and rushed to search online if you should worry about your plant’s safety, you’ve come to the right place.
Hedgehogs are not a threat to your garden. On the contrary, you should feel lucky that one of these cute tiny, and spiny mammals chose to make a home out of your outdoor space.
Many people regard them as spiny rats and fear them. Few people know that hedgehogs are actually valuable pest controllers in gardens. They eat snails, slugs, and insects, protecting your lovely plants from disease and pest infections.
It’s official: hedgehogs are a gardener’s best friend.
Before we move forward to why you should attract hedgehogs into your garden and how to attract them, let’s learn more about these little cute spiny animals.
Fun Facts to Know About Hedgehogs
How much do you know about these spiny mammals, other than you can find thousands of cute photos of them online? Don’t worry! This article will help you learn more about hedgehogs and why they are actually good to have around.
- Hedgehogs are part of the Erinaceidae family. This family also includes the moonrat and the gymnures of Southeast Asia and the Philippines.
- The name of hedgehogs was chosen for an excellent reason. “Hedge” represents where these spiny cuties build their nests: hedges, bushes, and shrubs. “Hog” comes from the cute snorting sound they produce.
- Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals. They sleep during the daytime and come out only during the night.
- There are 17 different types of hedgehogs. Different types can be found in parts of Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand.
- If you see a hedgehog rolled into a ball, it means that they are feeling threatened by your presence or other external factors.
- Hedgehogs have very poor eyesight, which is why they rely heavily on their hearing and smell to move around, find food, or protect themselves from dangers. Yet, they have pretty good eyesight in the dark because they have to adapt to a nocturnal lifestyle.
- You’ve probably always wondered how many spines hedgehogs have on their back. Well, the good news is that you don’t have to count yourself. Lucky for us, this information can be found online – hedgehogs have around 5000 to 7000 spines.
- Depending on whether they feel safe or threatened, hedgehogs lower or raise their spines. In threatening situations, they obviously raise their spines to protect themselves.
- Hedgehogs are solitary creatures, leaving their mothers only four to seven weeks after they are born. They spend most of their lives alone, except when they pair up with another hedgehog to mate.
- Last but definitely not least, hedgehogs’ diet is mainly based on pests that are common in most gardens, including caterpillars and beetles. This helps protect the food that gardeners grow in their outdoor spaces.
Why Are Hedgehogs a Gardener’s Best Friend?
Now that you know more about these little cuties, it is time to learn why hedgehogs are the heroes of the garden.
It’s not difficult to realize why having a hedgehog or more in your garden could benefit your plants: they eat all the pests that would typically affect your greens. Hedgehogs love eating slugs, caterpillars, and beetles.
Caterpillars, which are the larvae of butterflies and moths, can cause a lot of harm to your lovely plants. They chew on the leaves, flowers, shoots, and fruits of the plants. Similarly, beetles destroy garden plants by devouring their foliage, flowers, fruits, and other parts. What’s more, so do slugs. Slugs typically eat any type of vegetation, but their favourites are tender leaves. They also eat vegetables and fruits, causing a lot of damage to crops in the garden.
Now, with a hedgehog in your garden, you’ll never have to worry again that these pests will destroy your hard work to grow your plant collection. Attracting hedgehogs to your garden should be your no. 1 priority if you want to rest assured that your plants are protected from pests.
Tips To Make Your Garden Hedgehog-Friendly
Now you know that hedgehogs are good news in the garden. You know how they help you keep your plants healthy and safe. It’s time to learn how to actually attract them to your outdoor space.
Well, as with any other animal, hedgehogs need food, shelter, security, and water to feel like they can make a home out of your garden.
Create ways for hedgehogs to move around
No hedgehog will stay in your garden all the time. These tiny creatures love to move from one garden to another to ensure they find enough food to survive. In fact, they can travel up to one mile every night. So, they really won’t appreciate feeling trapped in your outdoor space.
For this reason, you should create ways for them to leave your garden and come back when they want. What should you do? Create small gaps in your fence or hedge that allow hedgehogs to pass through and walk where they want when they want.
We even recommend discussing with your neighbours to educate them about the benefits of having a hedgehog in your area moving from your garden to theirs. This way, you’ll ensure that your neighbours also allow these small spiny visitors to move around freely.
Install a hedgehog house
Even hedgehogs feel the need to have a place that feels like “home.” Hedgehogs don’t need a comfy bed and a big TV to be comfortable, but they do need shelter and food.
Food and shelter are the two most essential things hedgehogs need to feel encouraged to return to your garden. And, you can provide them with both by installing a hedgehog house.
You can either build a hedgehog house yourself, using wood or plastic pieces you have around your household, or purchase a ready-built one. Either way, the good news is that if you choose the right design for your little friends’ house, it’s also going to be a great garden decoration.
If you want to attract more hedgehogs in your outdoor space, install more houses. Try to place them in separated corners of your garden because, once again, hedgehogs are solitary creatures, and they prefer to travel and live alone in their “homes.”
Leave water in your garden
Both during hot summer days and freezing winter nights, hedgehogs, as well as lots of other wildlife, will really appreciate some clean, freshwater.
During the hot season, hedgehogs will also love to find a pond where they can swim to cool off. Everybody knows that these cute tiny mammals love swimming. You’ve likely seen online videos of them taking a bath. Well, if you also want to see it live in your own garden, install a water feature that is not deep enough to be dangerous for them, but enough to allow them to enjoy some swimming.
Provide enough food
Hedgehogs will come to your garden and eat as many pests as they can find and hunt. Yet, if there is not enough food for them, it’s doubtful for them to stick around for too long.
So, if there are not enough pests for a hedgehog to have a hearty meal, you should encourage them to stay or come back frequently with some extra feeding.
So, what you can do is leave dedicated hedgehog food in your garden during the night. Even wet cat or dog food can work for these short-legged cuties. To make sure that the food you leave for hedgehogs doesn’t get eaten by other animals, make sure you only leave a small hole for hogs to be able to reach it but to make it impossible for other animals to sneak in and eat it.
Upgrade your pond
If you have a decorative pond in your garden, you’ll have to make some upgrades to it, both to make it suitable for hedgehogs to enjoy the water and to protect them from drowning. Although hedgehogs can swim, it’s almost impossible for them to get over steep walls. And, if they get tired of trying to do so in the water, there’s a risk for them to drown.
So, adjust your pond with a small ramp or sloping mound at the side of the pond. This way, the hedgehogs taking swims in your pond will have a safe way in and out of it.
Don’t disturb hedgehogs during hibernation
Some, not all hedgehogs, hibernate. If it happens to have a hedgehog hibernate in your garden, leave it alone and don’t disturb it.
Hedgehogs typically hibernate from November to March. During these months, try to avoid disturbing them with very loud noises, going close to them, or destroying their nest.
If, by accident, you do disturb a hibernation nest, make sure to cover it back using a thick layer of leaves. Plus, you should also leave water and food near the nest so that in case the hedgehog woke up, it won’t starve and will have enough food to eat before finding a new hibernation place where it can rebuild its nest.
Dangers to Hedgehogs in the Garden and How to Protect Them
Attracting hedgehogs to your garden is not the only thing to consider. You must also protect them from all the dangers that can harm them.
One of the essential things that hedgehogs pay attention to when they come into a new environment is how safe it is. They can spot some dangers themselves and use their spines for protection. Yet, some threats may be hard for hedgehogs to notice. So, it is your responsibility to protect them from them.
Here’s what you must protect hedgehogs in your garden from:
- Pets: If you own pets, like cats or dogs, make sure to keep them away from the area where you see that hedgehogs spend most of their time.
- Mowers: when mowing the lawn, pay extra attention to see if there’s a hedgehog around. Mowers can injure hedgehogs that are asleep during the day because they won’t see the danger coming, and they can’t run away to a safe place.
- Cars: When you park your car on the driveway, remember to double-check if there’s a hedgehog on the way so that you don’t run over it with your vehicle. If your driveway isn’t paved, and there’s a lot of grass in the spot where you usually park, we recommend getting out of your car to check the area for hedgehogs before parking because the grass could prevent you from seeing this tiny animal.
- Pesticides: Pesticides are a real danger to hedgehogs. Since hedgehogs eat insects or other invertebrates, if those have pesticides in them, they will transfer it to the hedgehog, making it sick. So, instead of using pesticides that are toxic to hedgehogs, use compost and mulch to keep your soil healthy and only use pesticides as a last resort.
- Netting: Netting can trap hedgehogs in it. If you must use netting in your outdoor space, at least make sure that it is high enough to allow the hedgehogs to walk freely underneath it.
- Fire: If you want to make a fire in your garden using the piles of logs and leaves that are laying around, make sure you first check there is no hedgehog sleeping or hiding under them. Both logs and leaves are the preferred habitats for hedgehogs, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to find one under them.
Hedgehogs are not just cute small creatures that make wonderful pets. They are also real heroes in gardens as they help growers keep their plants healthy. In return, hedgehogs ask for very little from you.
To make sure that hedgehogs find your garden attractive, you need to provide them with food, water, shelter, and security. If you fulfil these needs, they are going to love spending time in your outdoor space. And, while they are there, they will make sure that no pest will harm your precious plants.
Attracting hedgehogs in your garden is a win-win situation, both for these little spiny animals and for your plants.