Hedgehogs are insectivores, so they’ll eat any insects they find in and around your garden. They can also eat other foods such as fruits, vegetable and nuts, but you do need to be careful how much of these foods you give them. There are also certain things they should not have, such as bread and milk.
We’ll have a look at some of the foods you can give hedgehogs as a treat, and the foods you should avoid.
What hedgehogs eat in the wild
Hedgehogs are insectivores, so they love insects. In the wild, they will always find a habitat which is rich in insects. This includes:
- Hedges, which is where they get their name. The bottom of a hedge is dark and sometimes damp and this is the perfect environment for insects to thrive.
- If they come across large tree roots, they can create a home there as this will also have plenty of insects around.
If hedgehogs come in to your garden, it’s very tempting, and rewarding, to feed them. Sometimes this helps them to find food easier, and it also offers some variety to their diet. You must be very careful what you give them, though. If they have too much of the wrong thing, this can have a detrimental effect on their health.
From April to September, hedgehogs will travel several miles every night in search of food. They will be able to find plenty of bugs including:
- Caterpillars and worms
They will also eat smaller creatures, such as
- Baby birds and birds’ eggs
- Baby rodents
During the winter months, their natural food sources will reduce so the hedgehogs will hibernate until the spring. You can leave food out during hibernation as they can wake to look for food, but you will not need to leave it out every night.
A hedgehog’s diet
As they are insectivores, hedgehogs need a diet which is high protein and low in fat diet. Too many treats will upset the balance and the hedgehog could suffer as a result. Like all animals, if you offer them food and they like it, they’ll eat it so when you’re looking to supplement their food here are a few things to remember.
- Hedgehogs are not big eaters. Although you might think you are doing them a favour by putting out a lot of food, you could in fact be doing the exact opposite. The idea of a treat is that it is small and occasional. You don’t want to give them so many treats, that they fill up on foods that do not provide them with the protein they need.
- If you want to provide them with food, make sure you give them something crunchy as well as softer items. They will enjoy soft foods, but crunchy items are good for their teeth, so mix up the foods you give them.
- Certain foods should not be given every day. Sugary and fatty foods are ok in moderation, but too many can upset their diet.
- Never give a hedgehog milk or dairy products. They are lactose intolerant so milk, cheese or yoghurts will cause them a lot of pain.
The best time to leave food out for the hedgehogs is early evening, as it starts to get dark. As nocturnal creatures, this is when they start to wake up to begin foraging for food.
Find a sheltered place and put the food in a shallow bowl. Leave some water in a bowl with it. Hedgehogs may not come and eat it the first time you put it out, so persevere and they will find it. You may also find that they eat some food and not others. Just like us, there will be certain foods they’re not so keen on.
Protect their food
Unfortunately, if you leave food out for hedgehogs, pets and other visitors to your garden will be able to eat it as well. Foxes and cats will eat any food you leave out so you will need to find a way to stop them, but still allow hedgehogs to get to it.
You can buy hedgehog feeding stations and these have the food inside with a door which can only be accessed by smaller animals, such as hedgehogs.
You will also need to make sure the food is not left out too long and that it is fresh. Hedgehogs can carry disease, so clean their feeding station or bowl regularly, but try not to touch it directly and always keep it separate from your own crockery.
What do hedgehogs eat?
Hedgehogs will eat anything if they like it, which is all the more reason for you to make sure you don’t overfeed them. Maintaining the balance of high protein and low fat is very important to their overall health and well-being.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you can, and can’t, feed hedgehogs.
Do hedgehogs eat fruit?
Hedgehogs will eat fruit, and if they live in the countryside, they will eat fruit that falls off tress. Fruits are high in sugar though, so they must be given in moderation. Try not to give them fruit more than 3-4 times a week.
Before you offer them any fruit, remove all pips and stones, as these can be harmful.
- Apples: Hedgehogs usually love apples. If you chop then up in to bitesize pieces, they can crunch on them, making them good for their teeth.
- Bananas: Again, bananas should be chopped up. As they are a softer fruit, put these out with something crunchy.
- Strawberries: A seasonal treat for us, and also for hedgehogs.
- Watermelon: Watermelon is a popular fruit with hedgehogs.
There are many other fruits you can put out as well including:
- Melons, honeydew and cantaloupe
Do hedgehogs eat vegetables?
Vegetables are crunchy and low in fat, so a good choice for hedgehogs. As with fruit, try to limit the vegetable you put out so it’s just a few times a week. Cook the vegetables first as they could choke on any small, hard pieces.
- Beetroot: Make sure it is cooked first.
- Broccoli: Most hedgehogs enjoy broccoli.
- Carrots: Hedgehogs may struggle with whole, raw carrots, so cook them and cut then in to smaller pieces, or grate them.
- Pumpkin: You can give hedgehogs pumpkins and squashes, but make sure you remove the skin from them first.
Hedgehogs will also enjoy:
- Bell peppers
- Sweet potatoes
Do hedgehogs eat seeds and nuts?
Hedgehogs will eat nuts and seeds but you do need to be cautious with these. Nuts are high in fat and some can be toxic. Seeds, such as sunflower seeds can be eaten in moderation, but there is another danger with these foods.
They are hard and the shape of a hedgehog’s mouth is not designed to eat them, so they could choke them. Nut butters are acceptable, but they are also high in fat content, so this should be given as a rare treat.
Do hedgehogs eat insects?
They are insectivores, so they love insects. You don’t need to provide these for them, and it’s best not to. Some insects which are bought in pet stores may have been exposed to chemicals.
- Earthworms: When they find them in your garden, they will eat them.
- Frogs: They do eat frogs.
- Mealworms: These should only be given as an occasional snack. If you buy these, always make sure they have not been treated or sprayed with any chemicals. You also need to be aware, that insects which have been prepared for food are generally higher in fat then insects caught naturally.
- Slugs: If you have these in your garden, and most of us do, hedgehogs will help to keep them down for you.
Do hedgehogs eat meat?
Meat is full of protein, but make sure it is cooked and always choose meats which are low in fat, such as chicken.
High salt meats such as bacon should be avoided.
You can also give them salmon and tuna as a special treat.
Do hedgehogs eat dog food?
Cat and dog foods are a great thing to feed a hedgehog.
- Dog biscuits: Meaty dog biscuits are a nice treat, and they’re crunchy too so they’ll help the hedgehog’s teeth
- Wet dog food: Make sure you have a meaty variety, and you will only need a small amount. These meals are great for protein and not too high in fat.
What else do hedgehogs eat?
There are many other foods which hedgehogs eat, but it doesn’t mean they should.
- Bread: Many people leave bread out for hedgehogs, but this is not recommended. They will eat it but is has no nutritional value for them. Filling up on bread means they will not go foraging for insects to get the protein they need.
- Cottage Cheese: Cheese is a dairy product and so should be avoided. Some hedgehogs do like cottage cheese, though, but only give them a small amount of natural cottage cheese once a week. Do not give them flavoured cottage cheese.
- Eggs: Eggs should be limited to around once per week. Cook them first and don’t add any seasoning to them.
What do hedgehogs not eat?
Hedgehogs will mostly eat what you give them, but there are certain foods which you need to avoid.
- Anything seasoned: Foods seasoned with herbs and spices can cause an upset stomach, and depending on the seasoning, could even be toxic.
- Avocadoes: These are potentially toxic.
- Chocolate: Not only does this contain high levels of both sugar and fat, some of the ingredients can be toxic to a hedgehog.
- Citrus fruits: These fruits are high in citric acid and this can upset a hedgehog.
- Fatty foods: Hedgehogs need a low fat diet. Even before hibernation, don’t give them foods which are high in fat.
- Grapes / raisins: While they can eat fruit, grapes can be toxic so never give them these.
- Milk: Any dairy product should be avoided, as hedgehogs are lactose intolerant.
- Mushrooms: These can be poisonous, but they are also not a popular food with hedgehogs.
- Nuts / Seeds: Try to avoid these as they are a potential choking hazard.
- Onions/ garlic: These can be toxic.
- Pineapples: The acid content is too high.
- Potatoes: These are high in starch so don’t feed them to your hedgehogs.
- Raw meat or fatty meat: Always cook meats to get rid of any bacteria, and avoid anything fatty.
- Tomatoes: While some hedgehogs enjoy tomatoes, others find them very acidic and they can upset their stomach.
If you do want to treat your hedgehogs always remember that you are only offering them a treat, and not actually feeding them. The more you give them, the less they will forage for food naturally and it’s important they do this.
You don’t need to leave a lot of food out and hedgehogs will share feeding stations. Mix up the foods you leave out and they you can also have fun finding out which foods your hedgehogs prefer.