The European Hedgehog found in the UK is called Erinaceus europaeus and an adult hedgehog can have as many as 7000 spines. They are usually nocturnal, feeding at night, and can eat up to 20% of their body weight in a single night. Usually, hedgehogs hibernate during very cold spells, generally between November and mid-March although milder weather over recent years means they are often still quite active and it is good to leave food and water out during these spells.
Hedgehogs are Omnivores meaning that they will eat virtually anything and they are opportunistic feeders. Generally, however, insects such as beetles and earthworms in particular, make up a large part of the diet.
As hedgehogs are now on the endangered list they need all the help they can get and many people are rising to this challenge. However, it is very important to feed them nutritionally beneficial food as many rescue centres are reporting hogs with dental disease caused by foods containing sugar.
Also, increasingly hedgehogs are being seen with Metabolic Bone Disease in which bones & teeth are soft, deformed and easily fractured. The cause of this disease is Calcium to Phosphorus ratio imbalance in the blood due to food containing too much Phosphorous. To redress this blood imbalance Calcium leaches out of the bones and teeth resulting in very painful bone and dental abnormalities.
We do not recommend giving Hedgehogs any foods containing high levels of Phosphorous such as:
- Sunflower Hearts
In addition hedgehogs lack the enzyme Lactase and so cannot digest lactose found in milk. If given milk they can get digestive problems and diarrhoea.
So, please do keep feeding Hedgehogs but check ingredients of foods that you give them as you could inadvertently be causing more harm than good.
Helping Hedgehogs in your Garden
Encourage a safe passage to and from your garden and your neighbours by creating a small hole at the base of fences and borders. A hole measuring 13cm diameter is about right. Leave a quiet area of your garden uncultivated so hedgehogs can have a safe haven and avoid using chemicals such as slug pellets and pesticides.
Always check the borders of your garden before using a strimmer to ensure no hedgehogs are resting there.
If you have a pond in your garden, make sure there is a way out for any hedgehogs that inadvertently fall in. A few partially submerged rocks around the edges of the pond will help.
Particularly around Bonfire night check any bonfires before lighting them as Hedgehogs see these as a nice place to Hibernate!