Tag Archives: British Hedgehog Preservation Society

A hedgehog in the daytime – disaster or delight?

I was getting concerned for our garden’s hedgehog population – we hadn’t seen one for a while, and the mealworms I had left out went uneaten for a few days (that never happens if hedgehogs are about!). But I wasn’t expecting my next sighting of a hedgehog to be in broad daylight.

Usually if a hedgehog’s out during the day, that’s a bad sign. The last time we found one in our garden in daylight, it was obviously poorly – sluggish (which is strange, given our hedgehogs never seem to eat any of the thriving slug population in our garden) and disorientated. We ended up taking him to the local wildlife hospital, Wildlife Aid, where he stayed for a few months, being treated for a respiratory infection, dehydration and underweight. (It ended happily, with us being able to release him back into the garden, and him scurrying off, a picture of hoggy health and haste.)

But this time was different. The hedgehog was active and purposeful. I wanted to know more – should I be worried, or was it natural behaviour? A look at the British Hedgehog Preservation Society website soon settled that. While hedgehogs are nocturnal, there are a couple of reasons that a health hedgehog might be out and about in daytime:

  • it might be a new mum, grabbing a quick bite to eat while the babies are asleep
  • or it could be an expectant mum gathering nesting materials ready to give birth

It being daylight, I got a good view of the hedgehog and what it was up to. It was collecting mouthfuls of bedding material from our ‘mini meadow’, and carrying them into our hedgehog box. Which hopefully means that ‘it’ was a ‘she’, about to give birth, and planning to do so in our hedgehog box!

According to hedgehog expert Pat Morris, young hedgehogs usually venture out of the nest for the first time 3-4 weeks after their born, so we’ve got a bit of wait before we find out how it’s all gone. But we’ve seen mum (we’ve named her Florence) a few times in the evening, tucking into the cat food and mealworms we leave out for her.

Hedgehog and hoglets from 2013
Hedgehog and hoglets from 2013

I’ve never been sure how much our hedgehog box gets used. Hedgehogs are rather nomadic, and will use several nests in a single week, so I wouldn’t expect a particular hedgehog to move in and stick his nameplate on the door (entrance tunnel). We know that it has been used from time to time, but I’ve always had a suspicion that the hedgehogs prefer our compost heap to the box (that’s where the fencers found one hibernating when they were fixing our fence, so they put it safely in the box). So it’s really good to know that Florence has chosen to bring up her new family there.

Finished hedgehog box in situ
Finished hedgehog box in situ

I’m dying to know how things are getting on in there, but obviously I have to be careful not to disturb the young family (if there is one now). Hedgehog mums have been known to eat their babies if they’re disturbed soon after birth. Or it could just drive her to find a new nest. I tried setting the trail cam to keep an eye of the entrance of the box, to keep track of when Florence comes and goes. But the box is in the meadow, so all I got was footage of the plants rustling, and the odd glimpse of prickles. So I’m going to have to be patient. Not my strong point.

Anyway, Dr C and I are delighted to know that the hedgehog box we built is helping a new hedgehog family – hedgehogs need all the help they can get these days. It was well worth the effort of building it!

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Hedgehog pawprints

A while ago I shared the results of using a black plastic tunnel, inkpads, paper and some tasty mealworms to find out who visits my garden at night. Researchers using this method on a rather larger scale have recently shared results for the UK as a whole.

It turns out that my garden is the exception, rather than the rule. While hedgehogs are regular visitors to my patch, they were found in only 39% of sites surveyed. This is a lower proportion than expected, and is further evidence of the decline in hedgehogs.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species are now running an even bigger survey using this method, and are looking for volunteers. It’s quick and simple to set up, and can provide some fascinating insights into your nocturnal visitors – why not sign up? Evidence from this larger study may help us to understand why hedgehog numbers are declining, and how we can help them. Go on, give a hog a hand!

How to build a hedgehog box

You’ve probably heard that hedgehogs are having a tough time these days. Numbers in Britain have fallen by around a third in the last 10 years. So they need all the help they can get.

If you have a garden, there’s lots you can do to make it hedgehog friendly. Leaving gaps in your fence, having a variety of lengths of grass and good dense undergrowth, and avoiding slug pellets all help. They also need places to sleep in summer, and hibernate in winter.

Open compost heaps and piles of dead wood are good, easy ways to provide hedgehog hotels. When we had to get our fence repaired after the winter storms the fencers found a hedgehog hibernating in our compost heap.

When we found out that we had regular spikey visitors to our garden, we decided to offer them some luxury accommodation, in the form of a hedgehog box, to encourage them to spend even more time eating our garden bugs.

If you’ve spotted hedgehog boxes for sale, you’ll probably have noticed that they are very expensive. A good wooden one could cost you £50. We had some spare wood, so decided to save some cash and build one ourselves.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society have an excellent leaflet on how to build hedgehog boxes. It includes several designs, ranging from a quick and easy ‘council tax band A’ one made from a sturdy cardboard box, to a luxury ‘band H’ one suitable for the David Beckham of hedgehogs.  Living in Surrey, home of most of the Chelsea squad, we had to go for that one.

Besides the wood and screws, it also required a small length of hose for ventilation, and some plastic sheeting to keep the water out (both of which were easily obtained from our local hardware shop – the type of place you could buy four candles from). We also bought some hay from the pet shop for the hogs to use as bedding.

Neither Dr C nor I are DIY experts, but the instructions were clear and it was straightforward to build. We made it in a (not too long) day.

Hedgehog box in situ, before burying
Hedgehog box in situ, before burying

We sited in the shade next to the fence and a small hedge. We then built a little entrance tunnel from leftover bricks, and covered the whole thing in some earth and greenery.

Finished hedgehog box in situ
Finished hedgehog box in situ

We’ve evidence that hedgehogs have used it, although I don’t know how regularly. I plan to install a camera in it to find out what goes on in there.