One of our most recognisable wild animals - the humble hedgehog - is currently on a mission to fatten up before hibernating over the Winter. From roughly November to March, they will snuggle up in a pile of leaves, logs or garden debris to conserve their energy before breeding in the spring.
This loveable creature's true habitat is woodland but they also love to explore our gardens, which provide shelter, food and potential mates. Hedgehogs are often called 'the gardener's best friend' as they like to feast on pesky slugs.
Sadly, hedgehog numbers have declined by more than a third in the last 10 years, but luckily there are a number of very simple ways you can give them a helping hand in your own garden:
1. Stop using slug pellets and other pesticides in your garden - encourage hedgehogs to provide that service for you instead!
2. Very importantly at this time of year, please remember to check any piles of garden waste for hedgehogs - you may wish to leave a pile there undisturbed over winter if it's already inhabited. Be very careful when digging your fork into the compost heap, and always move bonfire piles to a new location the day of burning it. Also, check thoroughly before strimming or mowing overgrown areas.
3. When tidying your garden for the winter, consider leaving a pile of leaves or logs in a quiet corner for a hedgehog to find and hibernate in. Alternatively, there are many specially-designed hedgehog houses on the market - you could even disguise one of these in amongst your leaf/log pile! Check out our range of hedgehog houses here.
4. Leave some food and water out in a dish for them if possible. Meaty dog or cat food or specialist hedgehog food are all good choices - but please no milk, as hedgehogs are lactose intolerant! We sell a wide range of hedgehog food - crunchy, moist or semi-moist.
5. Make sure any ponds or water features have a ramp or shallow edge so that wildlife can get in and out easily.
6. If you use netting, twine or similar in your garden, be sure that it is raised off the ground enough so that hedgehogs can pass underneath without becoming entangled.
7. Did you know that hedgehogs can roam 1-2km per night? Create 'hedgehog highways' between gardens by leaving a 13 x 13cm gap in your fence, hedges or gate so that hedgehogs can roam freely. You can add your hedgehog hole to the fantastic Big Hedgehog Map, where you can also log hedgehog sightings.
Here at the Really Wild Bird Food Company, we love receiving customers' photos of their garden bird activity. If you are lucky enough to have resident hedgehogs, please email us your pictures at firstname.lastname@example.org - you may end up with a mention on our Facebook page!