Let's use National Hedgehog Week to learn about and save these wonderful garden animals, says Ruth
We seem to have a week for everything these days – National Potato Week, National Sausage Week, National Get Outraged About Something Really Strange Week.
Yesterday we talked about International Compost Awareness Week, which is something worth highlighting and today we are bringing National Hedgehog Week to your attention – and this is definitely worth promoting.
We are lucky to have three – we think – hedgehogs locally and they seem to congregate in our garden at the same time each night. This is – coincidentally – around the time we take out small bowls of hedgehog food for them!
Here at AG we can’t do enough for hedgehogs. They are our best-loved native animals and the gardener’s greatest ally, yet their numbers are in steep decline because we seem to be doing our best to get rid of everything that keeps them safe.
Over the past few decades we have built walls they can’t scale and roads they get squashed on trying to cross. We manicure our gardens to barren perfection and spray them with chemicals because insects don’t fit in with our picture of horticultural paradise.
Luckily things are changing and people are now aware of the hedgehogs’ plight – hopefully not too late – and doing what they can to help them.
And this is where you come in. Gardeners are key to the survival of hedgehogs because the little plots we call our own are havens for the beleaguered beasties as the countryside gets built on and agriculture intensifies to feed ever more hungry mouths.
It’s easy to make your garden hedgehog-friendly. Start by leaving an area slightly unkempt, with a log pile, long grass and somewhere they can hide, forage, breed and hibernate.
When you are tidying the rest of your garden. Check long grass before strimming or mowing – hundreds of hogs are left with hideous, often fatal, injuries each year after being caught by garden machinery.
Reduce, or stop completely, the use of chemicals. If you kill off all your ‘pests’ it creates a huge gap in the natural food chain and leaves nothing for hedgehogs, bats or birds to eat.
Instead of killing pests, deter them instead using effective products such a those made by Grazers (grazers.co.uk; 01768 800555). That way your plants will be safe, the bad guys will look elsewhere but still be around to feed local wildlife.
Leave out fresh water and food each night. Proprietary hedgehog food is widely available and they also like meat-based cat and dog food. If you have hungry pets, or there are local foxes, that will also eat the food, protect it by making a feeding station that can be accessed by hogs but nothing larger.
Do remember though that hedgehog food is only supplementary, as most of their diet should be made up of invertebrates they snaffle from the garden, many of them pests!
Never leave out bread and milk or mealworms for hedgehogs. They are lactose intolerant so will be very ill if they drink milk, and mealworms weaken their bones by taking calcium. If you do feed mealworms to garden birds, scatter them on the bird table, not on the ground where hogs can get them.
Hedgehogs are largely solitary animals but you may get several coming to your feeding bowls. This can spread diseases so always give them fresh food each night and wash the bowls up each morning and consider having more than one feeding point in the garden.
Hedgehogs travel long distances at night searching for food and love and they can’t do this if we box in our gardens with walls and impenetrable fences. If there is nothing linking gardens together, hogs are forced to travel by road, which is why so many end up pancaked on the tarmac.
You will be doing them a huge favour if you cut a CD-sized hole at the bottom of a fence (ask your neighbour first) to allow hogs to travel freely without needing to cross any roads.
For further ideas about how to help hedgehogs and bring them back from the brink, visit the British Hedgehog Preservation Society at britishhedgehogs.org.uk, call 01584 890801, or join the UK’s 70,000 hedgehog Champions at Hedgehog Street (hedgehogstreet.org, call 01584 890801).
- If you find a sick or injured hedgehog, carefully place it in a box with a warm – not hot – hot water bottle wrapped in an old towel. Place it somewhere quiet and call 01584 890801. Someone will put you in contact with a local hedgehog helper or animal sanctuary.
We are here for you
Although many people are coping well with self-isolation, others are really struggling and feeling completely forgotten and alone.
Here at AG we are doing our best to keep connected to our readers though the magazine, this website and also through social media.
Our gardening ‘agony uncle’ John Negus is also still working hard. Send him your problems and questions, with pictures if you can, and he will get back to you with an answer withing 24 hours, as he has been doing for decades. Contact him using the AG email address at: email@example.com
We already have thriving Facebook page but are also on Twitter and Instagram. These sites are a brilliant way of chatting to people, sharing news, information, pictures and just saying hello – we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Best of all, as gardeners are generally lovely folk, more interested in plants, hedgehogs, tea and cake than political shenanigans and point-scoring, so the chat is friendly and welcoming.
So please drop by, follow us, ‘like’ our posts and say hello – the Instagram feed is in it’s really early days so the quicker we can get that going with your help and support, the better!
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