The hedgehog – not such a prickly character!

Well, there’s a thing! I looked out of the kitchen window the other evening and there, trotting across the drive in the dusk, was a hedgehog!

Fifty years ago, this would have been an unremarkable event as these prickly little characters were regular visitors to our gardens but, like so many of our native creatures, they have suffered a huge decline over the past few decades. Sadly, it’s the same old story – the once common hedgehog is under threat from development and the loss of its habitat with hedgerows disappearing.

In just the last 10 years, hedgehog numbers have fallen by 30%, and there are now thought to be fewer than one million left in the UK. The Wildlife Trusts say that hedgehogs are disappearing from our countryside as fast as tigers are worldwide – isn’t that sad.

There’s something terribly endearing about hedgehogs, from their funny little round bodies to their twitchy noses – and let’s face it, most of us were brought up with Mrs Tiggy-Winkle! A hedgehog washerwoman who lives in a tiny cottage in the fells of the Lake District, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle appeared in 1905 and is the creation of Beatrix Potter.

They are such comical little creatures, toddling around like little old folk that it always comes as a surprise at how fast they can move, and how long their legs are when a turn of speed is required! The one in my garden positively raced off into the flower border when the outside security light came on.

When I was a child, we would always leave out a bowl of bread and milk. Sadly, we now know that hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so I don’t think any of us helped much, although we obviously meant well! Apparently, the best thing to give them is a dish of cat food. In the wild, hedgehogs live on a diet of invertebrates, such as snails, slugs and worms and can get through about 100 every night! Great news for gardeners, but of course you need to not use poisonous slug pellets.

Despite their beady little black eyes that appear so alert, hedgehogs have poor eyesight. They are quite curious animals and they do tend to fall into holes and get stuck, so make sure you cover up any open drains and gullies. If you have a pond, make sure you provide an access point so that hedgehogs can climb back out – this can be achieved by simply placing some stones at one end.

If you’d like to try and help and encourage hedgehogs, there’s really useful information on the Wildlife Trusts website.

Another really good website is Hedgehog Street 


10 replies
  1. SueP says:

    Hi Joanna,thanks for highlighting this.
    Where I work, at Wildlife Aid, we over-wintered nearly three hundred hedgehogs. They have now all been released back into the wild. We are trying to do our bitfor these lovely creatures!

  2. Diana Newson says:

    We live in the middle of a city but have hedgehogs in the garden 🙂 We had a family of four last year! We do try to help them by leaving a wild piece at the bottom of the garden with a large pot turned on it’s side for them to hibernate in, along with a pile of dead leaves. We also do not use slug pellets. If they become a nuisance we put upturned orange halves (after we have eaten the flesh LOL) on the borders and the slugs and snails crawl in there to shelter in the daytime. So you just have to pick them up and dispose of them. Beer traps are good too! We have small gaps at the bottom of our fences so that the hogs can travel from one garden to another.

  3. janet says:

    We have a number of regular hedgehog visitors (I live backing onto woodland -beautiful with bluebells just now) and I give them Mr Spike hedgehog food plus dried mealworms which they love! I’ve put out canned dog food but they often leave that. I have ‘hog houses’ under the hedges and behind the shed so they have plenty of shelter. I adore them!!


    I just adore wildlife but my favourite is the hedgehog . My garden backs on to woodland and over the years we have had lots in our gardens x Sadly of late the numbers have dropped i always put water and hedgehog food out for them but sadly last year it was often left uneaten but i’m trying again this year fingers crossed they never used there house this last winter but i’m hoping the will come back x

  5. Pearl Farrier says:

    I’m not sure if we still have hedgehogs in our garden in Kinver. We used to and I did capture one on a video camera tugging a long worm out of the ground! I’ll set up the camera again and see if we get any. We had a small pond and sadly one did get into it and drowned. We have a much larger pond now, covered with a net against the Herons, with a smaller shallow pond to return the filtered pond water down a small waterfall back into the pond. So I like to think it is hedgehog friendly – we’ve not had any fatalities anyway.


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