Some of us are very lucky, in that we do see the hedgehogs which live in our garden. As they are nocturnal, not everyone gets to see them but if you know where they live, it will help you work out if you have them. They like dark and damp places such as leaf piles, compost heaps and also live at the bottom of a hedge.
How to tell if you have a hedgehog
The most obvious way of finding out whether or not you have a hedgehog in your garden, is if you see it.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal and start coming out around dusk so it’s often very hard to see them. They are also very timid and may curl up or shy away if they see you.
One way you can attract them to your home is to put food out at dusk and if you’re lucky, and often very patient, you may see them come to feed.
Apart from seeing one, how else will you know if you have a hedgehog resident in your garden?
- The first thing to look out for is whether or not leaves or other garden material has been moved and piled up. This does not always signify a hedgehog, but it could be that they have moved these items around to create a shelter for themselves.
- Hedgehog watchers will also look out for hedgehog droppings. We all have different visitors to our gardens so it’s not always easy to distinguish which droppings belong to which creatures. It can be hard to distinguish hedgehog droppings from cats’ droppings as they are about the same size. The main difference is that if they belong to a hedgehog, they will be rounded at the edges.
- For the more technically minded, some people install cameras in and around the garden. These are great way of watching not only hedgehogs but any other nocturnal visitors you may have.
Where hedgehogs may live
Hedgehog habitats can be hard to spot, as they often look like, or indeed actually are, a natural part of your garden. Here are just some of the places they may live, but do not disturb these to see whether or not there is a hedgehog inside.
- Leaf piles. If you have a lot of leaves around your garden you may find that they have suddenly been piled up and if they have, there may be a hedgehog asleep underneath.
- Compost heap. You may not think that this is a particularly pleasant place for hedgehogs to live, but many compost heaps are made up of dead foliage and leaves and this is an ideal habitat for a hedgehog to live.
- Hedgehogs usually live forests and woodlands and so their preferred habitat will be similar to this kind of environment. If they have come into your garden, then they may set up home at the bottom of hedgerow, which is where they get their name. If you have a large tree they will even make themselves comfortable in the roots.
- Sheds. They won’t make their home inside your shed but you may find they are living underneath. Not only is this a dark dry space for them to live, but it is likely to have a good population of insects for them to feed off as well.
If you have a hedgehog, or want to encourage them, then you can set up your own hedgehog habitat. These can often be bought online or your local garden centre or DIY store may stock them.
Once you have your hedgehog house, you will need to make sure it is set up correctly.
- Find a space in your garden which is away from any direct sunlight and ideally sheltered from any winds. Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so they won’t like ab bright lights.
- Place it on the ground and then cover it with leaves and twigs to make it look more natural.
Once it’s in place it can be very tempting to keep checking to see if there is a hedgehog inside, but it’s best not to keep looking. This can disturb the hedgehogs and may even encourage them the go and find a home elsewhere. It can take quite some time for a hedgehog to find and settle in your hedgehog house, so don’t be disheartened if they don’t use it immediately.
If your garden is enclosed, then it’s unlikely that you will find any hedgehogs living there. Hedgehogs are very active during the night and will often leave your garden to forage for food. If they have no access, they will not be able to get there to set up home in the first place.
If you think you have a hedgehog, then you may want to encourage them to stay. To do this you need to make your garden as hedgehog friendly as possible.
- Hedgehogs love insects and insects love thick foliage. If you have an area of your garden which you can leave to create a natural wild garden, this will encourage insects, which in turn gives the hedgehogs something to feed on.
- If you have seen a hedgehog or evidence of one, then you can help them to appreciate your garden, by leaving food and water out for them at night. Never leave milk as hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so water is the best option. When it comes to food, a simple can of meat flavoured cat or dog food in a bowl will make an enjoyable meal for them.
We all try to keep our gardens looking as neat and tidy as possible, but please be wary if you have a hedgehog visitor.
- Weedkillers and slug pellets can be damaging to hedgehogs. If you must use chemicals and poisons around the garden, keep them locked up safe, and always bear in mind that any garden visitors may come across them. If possible, look for organic, non-poisonous methods of controlling your weeds and slugs. Hedgehogs are a great way of helping to control your garden pests anyway, as they will eat any slugs and insects that they find.
- If you have a bonfire, always check before you light it as hedgehogs will find your pre-bonfire pile a great place to live.
- If you’re looking to trim your hedge, it’s highly unlikely that you will find a hedgehog living near the top, but check the bottom of the hedge before you trim.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I move a hedgehog to a better spot?
If you find a hedgehog asleep in a pile of leaves or under your hedge, and it seems perfectly healthy, leave it where it is. If you have set up a special hedgehog home do not lift it up and simply put the hedgehog inside. It’s best let it find the home for itself.
Not only could handing the hedgehogs upset them, but they do have ticks so you really do need to avoid handling them wherever possible.
Is it safe to clear my garden if I’ve not seen a hedgehog for a couple of weeks?
If you’ve not seen a hedgehog for a while, there could be a number of reasons. Before you clear your garden, check all the places they may be.
- Hedgehogs will hibernate from autumn to spring so just because you haven’t seen one, it doesn’t mean that they are not there. If you do want to tidy your garden during the winter, check the area you want to work on first just in case your hedgehog friend has decided hibernate there.
- If it’s summer and your hedgehogs are usually very active, then you may want to make sure that nothing has happened to them. If you know where they live check carefully to make sure the hedgehog is not injured or unwell. If it is, call your local hedgehog rescue centre immediately.
Hedgehogs are a very welcome visitor to any garden. They generally don’t interact with humans, but you may still see them foraging in your garden at night. They are usually very self sufficient and you can often leave them to go about their business. That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a little food or water if you want to put some out.