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Epping Forest Hedgehog Rescue

Cartoon Hedgehog

Feeding Hedgehogs and the Hedgehog Diet

Hedgehog Menu

If you have hedgehogs in your garden, please look after them well. You are one of the very few lucky ones to still enjoy the presence of these endangered animals

Hedgehogs are insectivores with over 70% of their natural diet being insects and beetles, some worms and a very tiny amount of slugs and snails. 

**Do not give them bread and milk**. They cannot digest the bread and cows milk gives hedgehogs very bad diarrhoea.  Many hedgehogs die because of this wrong diet.

What to feed them on...

  • Tinned Cat, Dog, Puppy or Kitten food. They prefer Chicken flavours best. Do not give Fish flavours
  • Cat or Kitten Biscuits. Only give meat flavoured biscuits. Do not give Fish flavours.  The premium brands like Royal Canin, Burns, Hills or James Wellbeloved are much better for them (The "cheaper" common brands contain much more cereal and are not so nutritious)
  • Spike’s Dinner hedgehog food either tinned or dry available from good pet shops or Direct from Spikes World who also have other quality hedgehog foods in their online store
  • Garden Bird Hedgehog food
  • Wildthings Hedgehog Food
  • Ark Wildlife Hedgehog food
  • Any cooked meat leftovers like chicken or  mince. Chop all meat in very small pieces. Hedgehogs only have tiny teeth and cannot chew or tear big pieces.
  • Small pieces of chopped mild or medium cheddar cheese
  • Chopped Peanuts ( the same peanuts you feed the birds on. NOT SALTED NUTS)
  • Sultanas & Raisins
  • Lots of Water, especially in hot weather. Hedgehogs drink a lot of water.
  • DO NOT give salty foods like bacon and corned beef
  • In winter or cold weather use biscuits, peanuts, cheese etc instead of tinned meat which freezes quickly

Feed at night after the flies have gone and remove the food in the early morning, before the flies arrive. Fly maggots cause serious harm to hedgehogs.

How to prevent other animals like Dogs, Cats or Foxes stealing the hedgehog’s food.

Slugs and Snails

Gardeners wrongly think having hedgehogs in the garden is all they need to keep the slug and snail population down.

  • Hedgehogs mainly eat beetles and caterpillars, not slugs and snails
  • The idea that they only eat slugs and snails is very wrong. Only approximately 5% of their diet naturally will be slugs or snails.
  • They will only eat a lot of slugs and snails when they are starving and no other food is available.
  • A hedgehog that is forced to rely only on slugs and snails will not survive long.  Offering a hedgehog additional food is the best thing for the hedgehog

Slugs and snails are the primary carriers for the lungworm which is  the biggest killer of hedgehogs except for us and our careless behaviour Hedgehog and slug

  • When the lungworms breed inside the hedgehog they rapidly multiply, fill the hedgehog's lungs and the hedgehog either dies from drowning (Pneumonia) or bleeding from the lungs.
  • Hedgehogs with lungworms have terrible breathing problems, are very thin and underweight, often have bad diarrhoea and will have secondary bacterial infections. Once the worms are well established the hedgehog coughs like an old smoker and gasp for air before dying in agony. Post mortem examinations often show the lungs as a solid mass with very little lung tissue left

Over half of all the hedgehogs brought into Rescue Centres or Wildlife Hospitals in Autumn and Winter die because of the damage the lungworms have done to them. 

Pat Morris in The new Hedgehog Book (ISBN 1873580711) available direct from BHPS  or says:

There is usually a significant prevalence of lungworms in hedgehogs. They cause a type of pneumonia that is often fatal. Lungworms are a special kind of nematode worm and are often very widespread. They are very tiny (invisible without a microscope) but attack the lungs in large numbers. This causes the hedgehog to produce a lot of watery fluid in its air passages and breathing becomes very laboured. Once the worms have established the hedgehog wheezes and coughs as though it had smoked 40 cigarettes a day. Hedgehogs get these parasites as a result of eating slugs and snails within which the parasite larvae live. 
There are 2 main types of lungworms prevalent in hedgehogs: Crenosoma striatum and Capillaria aerophila. It has previously been thought that lungworms mainly affected adult hedgehogs because the juveniles wouldn't have had enough time to be badly infested. We have found that almost all juveniles, especially the Autumn orphans will carry a very heavy parasite load and unless given treatment will die.

The way to prevent a lot of the infestations is to make sure you feed the hedgehogs in YOUR garden, so they are not forced to eat slugs and snails. Once a hedgehog eats a slug it only takes 3 weeks before the lungworms are established in the lungs

Lungworms are parasitic nematode worms of the order Strongylida that infest the lungs of vertebrates  In other words Lungworms are parasitic worms that live in the hedgehog's lungs. Also very frequent in Horses, Cattle, Sheep, Donkeys etc. Now becoming much more common in Dogs & Cats. Read this article in Daily Mail 2nd September 2008

Read more HERE

See some pictures and a video  of live lungworms and eggs in a hedgehog faecal sample here

Watch these videos of hedgehogs eating and see how easy it is for YOU to help the hedgehog in YOUR garden

A short clip of a hedgehog coming onto patio to take his food 

A real close up of hedgehog coming into his feeding box showing him eating his food. 

  • Once you start to feed the garden hedgehogs, you should continue every night
  • If you go away on holiday ask a friendly neighbour to help.
  • Don’t forget to leave a small dish of biscuits and water while the hedgehogs are hibernating. They often wake up and have a quick snack. That food can be a life saver
  • You should put out food and water  all year round for them.
  • Put water outside your front door as well as in your back garden


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Please visit the other hedgehog sites below

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Hedgehog Research Pages

British Hedgehog Preservation Society
St Tiggywinkles
Wildlife Hospital
South Essex Wildlife Hospital
01375 893893
Covers Essex, North Kent & East London areas
Prickly Ball Farm Hedgehog Hospital
Spike's Site
Jan a good resource for colouring pictures of hedgehogs. is a good source of colouring pictures of hedgehogs and has other good educational aids.