The bug hotels have had all the glory of late, haven’t they? The Bee ‘n’ Bees, the Minibeast Motels and Mansions and we’ve even made sure our feathered friends have been well fed this wintertime.
But have you ever thought about our nocturnal garden guests? Whether you’re a Sonic or a Mrs Tiggywinkle, you might be surprised to hear that the British hedgehog is now officially classed as vulnerable to extinction. And so this year we reckon it’s time to embrace our garden as a hedgehog haven.
This is a perfect time to prepare for the emergence of our prickly pals – they are in full hibernation right now, usually from October to March/April. And so, the first step is to make your outdoor space easy for them to both enter and to leave by creating a hedgehog-highway. This is super easy by simply allowing small gaps or openings by your fences, hedges or walls. And log piles aren’t just good for those Gruffalo snakes, Aha, O-No, they are also great places for those bugs and slugs that hedgehogs love to feast upon. If you do choose to leave food out (in the run up to hibernation to help build up their fat reserves or when the weather is dry), please don’t put any bread and milk out…I remember my own mum doing this when I was young. I had no idea then just how bad this seemingly kind and thoughtful gesture was – hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. Eek. Better to provide low bowls of meaty cat/dog food, cat biscuits and water…they’ll lap this up and it’ll save their energy too!
So, your garden is now accessible, and you’re all clued up about food…what about the humble ‘hog home’? Well of course you can buy one, but where is the fun in that? And you can also get the tools out – start measuring and cutting wood, hammering nails, but you know us, right? Let’s keep it simple, functional and fun for all the family. Right, you’re going to need…
- A plastic box – storage size is ideal and a top opportunity to recycle too. Turn this upside down to provide the house shape.
- Sharp scissors or a Stanley knife – this is to cut some air vents in opposite sides of the box and an entry point (try to make this about 13-15cm in both height and width).
- A bin bag or carrier bag – top recycling points here again. These are used to cover the box to make it more waterproof and slightly more protected from the elements (if using carrier bags, snip through the handles to avoid potential ‘traps’).
- Some straw, leaf debris, moss, grass, dry leaves and twigs – this will be for some cosy bedding inside the box (put the dry stuff on the top and if it remains empty, keep this topped up…a damp and dank home won’t be appealing for any creature!)
Try to position the house in a sheltered position out of direct winds, under a hedge or bush in a quiet and shady spot. You can then go for a full-on snug, camouflage-style abode by piling more twigs, leaf litter and grass on top, forming a mound-shape (to visualize, think Teletubbies-landscape).
It’s looking good now for sure, but here’s an extra top tip… other creatures may fancy having a snoop around inside, like foxes and cats for example and so an entrance hall or tunnel would be a much welcome deluxe addition. This can be, in true Conker-Crew style, as makeshift as you like. It just needs to provide some extra protection from potential predators…so some bricks with a slate tile roof would work well but so too would a second, slimmer plastic box or container covered in the same way as the first (Crisp tubes are a great recycled option for after you’ve popped and you just couldn’t stop!) Either way, it’ll keep those prying paws and hungry jaws out!
And one final word of warning – you know that we love to get the paints out, splash a bit of colour here and there, bringing that festival vibe wherever we can…well not here, folks! Paints and other chemicals can prove pretty lethal to our prickly pals, releasing harmful fumes and limiting insect numbers. This is one that is definitely best left au natural.
Et Voila, Ta-Da…there you have it – a perfectly positioned ‘hog home in your very own hedgehog haven. A helpful, handy and wholesome way for another dose of fresh air fun for the whole family. Happy Days.