Whether they are living in our gardens or just simply passing through, hedgehogs play a key role in our ecosystem and have been cited as one of the UK’s most loved mammals.
As part of a pledge to improve local ecology, housebuilder Mulberry – which is currently building new homes in Bedfordshire – has partnered with Wyboston-based Spiny Norman’s Hedgehog Support to offer advice to homeowners on how they can transform their gardens into better homes for our prickly neighbours.
Amanda Norman, Founder of Spiny Norman’s Hedgehog Support, said: “With hedgehogs declining at such an alarming rate, there hasn’t been a more critical time for us to help the humble hedgehog by trying to protect them and nurture them – and that involves us looking at what they need, right now.
“I always say teamwork makes the dreamwork, and that’s why when Mulberry Homes asked to team up with my rescue I was absolutely delighted. It’s all about education, but not just that, it’s also opening up our gardens and creating wildlife corridors keeping hedgehogs off the roads.”
Kerry Jones, Sales and Marketing Director at Mulberry Homes said: “Our gardens can be hugely beneficial resources to hedgehogs and there are lots of quick and easy ways to build a better and more sustainable environment for these much-loved animals.
“Even the simplest addition to your garden can make a huge difference, and with autumn just around the corner, it’s a great time to get your children involved too.
“To mark our 10-year anniversary of providing new homes, we have teamed up with Spiny Norman’s Hedgehog Support to provide 10 top tips on how to create a safe haven for hedgehogs in your garden.”
- Hedgehog holes and highways – by digging or creating small openings between fences, it will allow hedgehogs to safely pass from garden to garden and maximise their access to food and green space – we would recommend 13x13cm holes for the perfect hedgehog highway.
- Hedgehog homes – building a hedgehog home is an excellent way to get creative and provide hedgehogs with shelter and for those who would prefer a quicker method, ready-made hedgehog houses can be purchased online or at selected pet stores. Once you have a hedgehog box, placing the box in an area with undergrowth or away from direct sunlight is recommended, preferably with its entrance facing a fence opening. It is important to resist temptation to disturb or move the box once it has been placed.
- Nutrition – by providing supplementary food and water, you can help to ensure hedgehogs receive a better chance at finding these vital resources. Hedgehogs can consume hedgehog food, meaty dog food, cat biscuits and cat food. Hogs need to be fed all year round – they can wake up intermittently during winter and go looking for food and water. Avoid feeding mealworms, sunflower hearts or peanuts and milk.
- Objects and litter – to protect hedgehogs, it is essential to remove any wires, netting or plastic items which can trap or cause injuries to wildlife. Sport nets are a common hazard, and vegetable netting should be raised 13cm above the ground. Make sure to cover any holes in the garden, as hedgehogs have a tendency to fall in and can get trapped very easily.
- Make your pond safe – by providing platforms, sloped routes, plants raised out of the wateror a beach area, it will give hedgehogs a quick escape route if they fall in. Although they are good swimmers, steep slippery sides mean that if they fall in, they can quickly develop hypothermia. Getting out quickly is essential.
- Avoid the use of chemicals – it is much safer to use natural and non-toxic preservatives on your plants. Chemicals can cause skin burns and poisoning when the hedgehogs eat the things we spray. Avoid slug pellets and instead put sharp sand, crushed eggshell, copper wire or beer traps around plants.
- Nests and unexpected encounters – if you accidentally uncover a nest, try to cover it up again quickly and quietly. If it’s a nest with babies and the mother runs away, please monitor the nest, and if she doesn’t return within a few hours, please contact your local rescue. Try not to wake a hedgehog if you find one resting in your garden, it can take four days for a fully hibernating hedgehog to wake up. If the hedgehog has been disturbed, please leave some food and water nearby.
- Disposing of garden waste or mowing the lawn – before working on your garden, make sure to check around for hedgehogs as they love bags of garden waste and can sometimes make a nest in the bag. Always check the garden over for hedgehogs which may have developed nests within leaf piles or long grasses before starting machinery. Many hedgehogs are killed or badly maimed each year because of mowers and strimmers, so checkingthe area before starting work is essential.
- Encounters with pets – extra care is needed, especially in the evenings, to ensure pets and hedgehogs can co-exist with a little planning. Domesticated pets and wild hedgehogs can often pose risks to one another in an encounter, so it is best to monitor your pets around known hedgehog nests or if your pet enters the garden in the evening. We recommend extending leads or a muzzle after dark.
- And finally, get planting! – growing insect-friendly plants can help to attract bugs, which is a great natural food source for hedgehogs. Cherry trees are also a wonderful resource for hedgehogs, as they will eat the insects attracted to fallen fruit.
According to Hedgehog Street, an organisation campaigning for the protection of hedgehogs, the UK has lost over half its countryside hedgehog population since the millennium, with cities and towns losing a third of hedgehog numbers. It is estimated now that fewer than a million hedgehogs remain in the UK.
Amanda said: “It’s really, really wonderful to have Mulberry Homes who are also stepping in beside me here, helping the humble hedgehog at their fabulous new developments, with hedgehog highways and clever planting of shrubs, we can certainly give the hedgehogs a decent wildlife corridor through our gardens.
“Spiny Norman’s Hedgehog Support came about when I moved to a local new build village in Bedford. I was delighted when hedgehog started visiting my garden so started to read up all about them. I was so shocked to learn of their rapid decline. I felt very moved I made a pledge to help them.
“Almost all the hedgehogs I see need treatment. I’ve helped hundreds of hedgehogs that have come through the doors, working voluntary 24/7, 365 days a year and I’ve never been so busy. I’ve even moved house to be able to have a better working space. I now have a dedicated building, my hogspital.
“I rely on the kindness of others to help me keep things running. I am grateful for any support and I still self-fund too. My aim is to offer basic first aid, five-star care, and treatment as necessary with rehabilitation of the hedgehogs back to the wild being the ultimate goal.
“It’s all about co-existing nicely, and this is the way we will save the hedgehogs together.”
In Bedfordshire, Mulberry is currently installing hedgehog boxes and hedgehog highways at two of its developments – Maulden Ridge in Maulden and Manor Heath in Leighton Buzzard – where a variety of luxury and affordable new homes are being built.
The housebuilder is hosting collections for Bedfordshire hedgehog charities at the two developments in its sales suites, and with each donation, Mulberry is providing visitors with a hedgehog highway sign of their own, alongside cards with step-by-step instructions on how to set up a hedgehog highway at home.
For more information on Spiny Norman’s Hedgehog Rescue, visit https://www.spinynormans.org/
To find out more about the new homes available at Maulden Ridge, visit https://mulberryhomes.co.uk/developments/maulden-ridge/ or visit https://mulberryhomes.co.uk/developments/manor-heath/ for further information on Manor Heath in Leighton Buzzard.