I was walking around the garden last night. It’s amazing how much unseen activity there is after dark: plenty of rustling in the borders, small rodents no doubt, or perhaps a few larger ones! Then I heard the ‘huffing’, a loud persistent raspy panting or puffing. Which could only mean one thing … we have hedgehogs back in residence.
It has been several years since we have seen any hedgehogs in the garden. Our cosy straw-filled hedgehog boxes have gone unused for the past two winters, so I was thrilled to find they were back.
I quickly threw a few hedgehog treats onto the lawn in the vicinity of the activity (we actually still had some hedgehog biscuits left over from the days when they were coming in regularly – see below), and low and behold a hedgehog emerged. After all that huffing, he (or she) was hungry!
The huffing happens when two hedgehogs meet, and is part of a hedgehog’s courtship behaviour, where they huff and circle each other. So we can but hope for hoglets later this year. Watch this terrific piece of footage on YouTube of hedgehog courtship behaviour to see and hear the huffing behaviour for yourself!
Hedgehog numbers in the UK have declined by more than a third over the past decade and they are now on the endangered species list. So if you find them in your garden, look after them!
Hedgehogs are insectivores; over 70% of their natural diet comprises beetles and other insects, worms and a tiny number of slugs and snails, but you can supplement their evening dinner with:
- Meat-flavoured tinned cat or dog food (chicken in jelly is the best – no fish flavours or meat in gravy!)
- Specific tinned or dry hedgehog food, available from garden centres and pet shops
- Cat biscuits (but not fish flavoured)
- Cooked meat leftovers – chopped up finely as they have tiny teeth and cannot chew or tear big pieces
- Chopped or crushed peanuts (the sort you put out for the birds – not salted!), dried mealworms and sunflower hearts
- Sultanas and raisins
Do not give them:
- Bread or milk – they can’t digest them!
- Salty meats such as bacon or corned beef
Make sure you:
- Provide a source of water – they drink a lot!
- Provide a sloping exit out of ponds so they can get out if they fall in.
Do you have hedgehogs in your garden? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or let me know on Twitter @15greenmins