The plight of hedgehogs is a growing concern, with their numbers dwindling by an alarming two-thirds over the past twenty years, particularly in rural locales. Strangely, they appear to thrive better in cities. Gardens can potentially provide a sanctuary for these creatures, so knowing how to assist, accommodate and nourish them properly is key.
Feeding Hedgehogs: Think Natural
Opinions on whether to feed hedgehogs differ among experts. Some argue that constant feeding, especially with subpar food, may negatively impact their health. Hedgehogs naturally consume earthworms, caterpillars, snails, small mammals, frogs, young rodents, mice, lizards, and snakes. Therefore, it's discouraged to swap their diet with human food or leftovers. It's also advisable to refrain from using pesticides and slug pellets as they kill hedgehog prey.
Domesticating Hedgehogs: Not Recommended
Despite their cute appearance, it's not recommended to keep a wild hedgehog as a pet as it can endanger their lives and possibly transmit diseases. Hedgehogs are wild, protected animals and should not be domesticated. If you're considering breeding them, be aware that it's legally required to obtain breeding approval. However, if hedgehogs are frequent visitors to your garden, they can be beneficial and you can feed them.
Nourishing Your Garden Visitors
Special hedgehog biscuits can be a superb choice if a hedgehog routinely visits your garden. Though they're primarily insectivores, hedgehogs can also be omnivorous. They can be offered raw chicken breast, small cuts of meat, or eggs. Be sure to sidestep flavored foods like fish and absolutely avoid milk, cheese, and spicy food. Small fruits and certain vegetables are also favored by them.
What Not to Feed Hedgehogs
Despite its popularity, it's harmful and potentially fatal to feed hedgehogs bread as it can cause lethal diarrhea. The same goes for milk. Instead, opt for a selection of suitable vegetables like green beans, cooked squash, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, spinach, celery, and bell pepper.
Incorporating Salads and Fruits
Some hedgehog specialists suggest that salads and lettuces (excluding iceberg) can be included in their diet. Additionally, hedgehogs are known to feast on slugs, which are garden pests, thus providing an added benefit for gardeners. When feeding fruits, ensure they're served in small quantities. Hedgehogs can consume apples, strawberries, cherry flesh, raspberries, pears minus the seeds, and blueberries. Hazelnuts, walnuts, and almonds broken into small pieces can also be given.
Eggs: A Special Treat
Consider feeding hedgehogs eggshells. They are quite fond of them.
Hedgehogs need to consume the most in the fall to accumulate energy as fat reserves for winter. If a hedgehog awakens prematurely in winter when the ground is still icy or covered in snow, consider feeding them cat or dog kibble. Make sure to halt feeding when spring arrives and temperatures rise.