If you are lucky enough to see a hedgehog scurrying in your garden, then count your blessings! Hedgehogs were once a familiar sight in both rural and urban areas – inhabitants of waste grounds, railway embankments, cemeteries, gardens, and parks – however, in recent years, their numbers have continued to decline and these nocturnal animals are now a somewhat rare sight, usually only spotted out in daylight when they are unwell or in distress.
Once spotted, you should do everything you can to encourage your prickly visitor to reside in your garden. Remember, in doing so, not only are you helping to protect an endangered species, but you’re also giving yourself the opportunity to observe these fascinating, quintessentially British, endangered creatures breed, forage and hibernate, from the ease and comfort of your very own home. How can you do this? It’s simple: invest in a hedgehog house – a welcoming, sensitively-made replica of their natural habitat.
Only got five minutes
Whether you live in the hustle and bustle of a town centre or the peace and tranquillity of the countryside, you can help to look after the king of garden wildlife – the hedgehog – by providing food, water and shelter. By providing a safe place for hedgehogs to live – an attractive natural home and safe retreat – you’re much more likely to see these prickly creatures in your garden – you’re giving Mrs Tiggy-Winkle a helping hand in her mission to hibernate, breed and survive our ever-changing British seasons, encouraging these spiky yet adorable creatures to rest and raise their hoglets in your garden.
A good hedgehog house will be of attractive, natural appearance and, consequently, should blend into the majority of garden settings, whilst still attracting curious hogs. Look out for hedgehog houses which are easy to maintain and install – after all you’re doing your good turn for the environment by purchasing a ready-made residence for our prickly friends! You don’t then need to be spending hours of your precious ‘free’ time building and looking after a garden feature which, truth be told, should be self-sufficient, bar the odd annual cleanout or roof repair several years after the initial purchase.
Investing in a hedgehog house shouldn’t hurt your bank balance too much – prices for a decent-quality hedgehog house start at around £20, with the more technical and eco-friendly models sporting a price tag of £100+. It’s worth remembering though that after the initial purchase, you then become a season ticket holder to one of nature’s most-exclusive, in-demand shows – the day to day life of the hedgehog. All that’s left to do after installing is to sit back and enjoy the thought that not only are you helping an endangered species and in turn, the environment but also that the latest spiky addition to your family chose your garden and is proud to call your house their home.
Reasons to buy a hedgehog house
It is hard to believe that there are fewer than one million hedgehogs left in the UK. Once a familiar sight, the hedgehog has since declined significantly in number – it is estimated that there were over 30 million hedgehogs in the UK in the 1950s; numbers are said to have fallen by as much as 50 per cent since 2000, and today, it is believed there are fewer than one million hedgehogs in Great Britain. This decline is likely caused by the loss of typical UK hedgehog habitats, due to pressures of corporate development, agricultural intensification and climate change however there are still hedgehogs that need a haven to breed, forage and hibernate – hedgehogs need homes just like humans. Purchasing a home for them is a great way to encourage them into your garden. As a result of the destruction of their preferred habitat, inevitably hedgehogs are becoming increasingly reliant on urban and suburban gardens: urban populations of hedgehogs have increased by up to a third, while rural populations have sadly halved. That’s such a tragedy, especially given that they’re the gardener’s friend – munching their way through pesky slugs and parasites – yet another advantage of purchasing a hedgehog house for your garden. If you’re not particularly green-fingered, bear in mind that a hedgehog house is an ideal present for wildlife lovers, whilst helping conservation.
Build Quality & Hedgehog Protection
Hedgehog houses should be a waterproof, warm, well-ventilated space, which offers hedgehogs and other small mammals a safe retreat from the many hazards of modern urban and suburban life such as garden strimmers, forks and tools, domestic pets and other predators such as badgers and foxes. A predator resistant entrance will deter unwanted visitors and an anti-predator tunnel is a further precaution that can be taken – this chamber sweeps around the main body of the house to confuse any potential intruders. With these added safety features in place, your hedgehog house is a much safer habitat than the compost heap, bonfire or woodpile.
A good hedgehog house will have been designed to be aesthetically pleasing whilst effortlessly blending into any garden, attracting curious, home-hunting hogs who are drawn to the delights of your garden, particularly their ready-made 5-star hotel! Hedgehogs will inspect their potential residence – after all, they are potentially intending to raise their offspring here. The structure should be robust with a steel frame, often covered with brushwood or similar camouflage, with an anti-predator entrance tunnel. The house should have a large compartment which is insulated from both cold and heat, with a smaller entrance corridor which will keep your hedgehogs safe from badgers, dogs and other predators. A good hedgehog house will integrate these features into a natural hedgehog house design, which looks fabulous in any garden.
Even the best hedgehog homes, just like human homes, require basic maintenance. Looking after your purchase, and tending to general wear and tear, will be beneficial in the long run, prolonging the hedgehog house’s longevity and giving you – the initial investor – the peace of mind that your hedgehog house is a comfortable and suitable environment for your prickly tenants to thrive. Annual maintenance is minimal yet beneficial to both parties: it’s worth clearing out the hedgehog home, every year or two, ready for new potential occupants to inspect. Ideally, this should be done in April, after hibernation but before hedgehogs starting producing hoglets. Simply wash out the box with boiling water and leave out to dry. Day-to-day, bear in mind that hedgehogs can be messy eaters, so put plenty of newspaper on the floor of the nesting box before hibernation season, after most of the litters have been weaned. You have a relatively small window in which to maintain your hedgehog home without disturbing the current occupants unnecessarily. You’ll obviously want to monitor your hedgehog home regularly for signs of activity but remember, between October and March/early April is when our prickly friends are hibernating and so activity will be minimal.
Desirable Design Features
- Large rear entrance with a hinged inspection door for ease when cleaning and inspection of sick or rescued hedgehogs
- Wooden interior for ‘breathability’ and condensation
- Overhanging roof and porch to further prevent damp and condensation
- Raised battened feet to prevent rot
- Open floor design in the feeding area making cleaning easier
- Hinged roof-prop making it easier to keep the lid open – useful for feeding and cleaning times.
- Environmentally-friendly options are readily available: options include 100% environmentally friendly FSC timber and Eco-Plate materials, including recycled plastics for a lower carbon footprint
- A generously-sized bedchamber will provide greater insulation and protection
- Predator-resistant entrance
- An anti-predator tunnel that sweeps around the main body to confuse any potential intruders
- Screwed construction that gives the structure the strength to withstand wind, external crushing or garden strimmers
- Breathing holes for ventilation
- Wood treated with an anti-bacterial oil coating to prevent the spread of disease.
Frequently asked questions
Purchasing a hedgehog house and putting it in place during spring or summer means that it will be erected and ready for inspection by any potential prickly tenants when they’re house-hunting in autumn.
Once your hedgehog home is in place, don’t worry if a hedgehog doesn’t move in right away – they are so scarce these days that it may take time. And remember that you won’t see any activity between October and March or April when they’re hibernating.
If you suspect your hedgehog home has residents, but you’d like to find out for sure if your box is being used, put something in front of the entrance that won’t be blown away by the wind but that can be easily moved by a hedgehog, like a scrunched-up piece of newspaper or rubber ball. If a hedgehog is at home, you’ll find it will have been moved by the next morning.