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What to feed hedgehogs in the garden – what do the mammals eat and what foods to avoid?

There are many animal lovers who would feed a hedgehog in the garden, and if you are also one of them, you are in the right place. Nowadays, these popular mammals often have difficulty finding enough suitable food in the wild due to numerous factors. Therefore, it is important for garden owners to be more informed about how to feed them. Thus, they do not endanger the health of critters and at the same time can provide them with a hospitable refuge. Here are some useful information and tips on feeding such wildlife that can help you with such a charitable project.

Provide natural environment and feed hedgehogs in the garden.

feed wild hedgehogs in the garden and support the animals before their hibernation

The hedgehog’s natural diet consists mainly of earthworms , ground beetles, caterpillars and millipedes. Of course, it is difficult to find such food, but you can still treat such a visitor as an honored guest. However, during cold or dry periods, the creepy crawlies are much less likely to be seen in gardens. Therefore, hedgehogs benefit tremendously from shallow water dishes and supplemental feeding during these times. Hedgehogs drink water from natural sources such as puddles. However, by leaving a shallow bowl of fresh water, you ensure that they stay hydrated throughout the year.

natural food for hedgehogs can be invertebrates like snails or caterpillars as well as centipedes

In addition, hedgehogs hunt by sniffing through the undergrowth and using their keen sense of smell and hearing to catch any prey that disturbs them. While invertebrates are high on their menu, hedgehogs are opportunistic feeders. Carrion, fallen fruit, and the eggs of ground-nesting birds may be taken if a hedgehog encounters them. A likely reason for the lack of food for these wild animals is the reduced number of invertebrates due to agricultural intensification and pesticide use.

Why care about outdoor beneficial insects?

care for wildlife and provide a hospitable refuge for hedgehogs in the garden area

Although they have been endangered in recent decades, hedgehog populations are beginning to stabilize, especially in urban areas. One of the main reasons for this is that more and more people are feeding hedgehogs in their yards and even making their outdoor areas and patios wildlife-friendly. For example, many garden owners feed birds in their gardens because they enjoy watching the animals at the table and feeders. However, that’s not quite the case with hedgehogs. The mammals are nocturnal and usually feed when most people are asleep. So unless you have a night camera, you probably won’t be able to see a hedgehog feeding.

provide shelter and feeding for hedgehogs and help these favorite outdoor guests

Habitat loss and increased use of pesticides mean that it is difficult for hedgehogs to find the food they need from natural sources, even though they forage all night. However, the supplemental food you offer them doesn’t mean hedgehogs won’t still forage naturally. Think of it as replacing the food that humans have stolen from hedgehogs by destroying their natural food sources. This makes the difference between a hungry hedgehog and a healthy one that can survive hibernation. In addition, hedgehogs can be useful in the garden by feeding on some pests and protecting your plants from unwanted guests.

Suitable food for the widespread hedgehog species

place dry cat food in a shallow dish next to the house and feed hedgehogs in the garden

There is now a whole range of home-made hedgehog food on the market. Some people also swear by cat food and on the Internet you can even find recipes for homemade hedgehog food. But what kind of food can you feed a hedgehog in the garden? As opportunistic animals, hedgehogs will readily eat food left in the garden area, and meat-based cat or dog foods are best suited for them. So hedgehogs will enjoy any combination of meat-based wet dog or cat food, or dry cat food, as these are high in protein. Remember that they get most of their nutrition from insects and worms in the wild, and this food is only a supplement.

providing a suitable shallow water bowl can help hedgehogs stay hydrated in the garden area

Place it in a shallow dish and place it in a sheltered area of your yard or at a feeding station around sunset. Dividing food among several locations can also reduce aggression at feeders. Don’t forget to offer water bowls as well. There is also specially made hedgehog food in both dry and wet form that you can buy at most pet and garden stores. However, it is not entirely clear how much urban hedgehogs rely on food provided by humans. But it is thought that it would supplement rather than replace their natural diet. High quality and professionally produced hedgehog food is the best thing you can feed wild hedgehogs in your garden. It is nutritionally balanced to provide just the kind of healthy supplement to their congregate diet. Some manufacturers have spent years perfecting their recipes.

When and how much can you feed hedgehogs in the garden?

a feeding station built especially for hedgehogs prevents predators and cats from entering the garden area

It is a good idea to put out food for hedgehogs throughout the year. In the spring it will give a boost to those coming out of hibernation, while in the late summer and fall it will help them build up those all-important fat reserves to get them through the winter. In addition, their hibernation is not constant. As their fat reserves are depleted, many wake up to forage for food before going back to sleep. This is especially true for young animals born later in the year. A bowl of cat food left covered will remain dry and edible for at least a week. Providing food and water for visiting hedgehogs is especially important during periods of dry, hot weather when natural resources can become scarce.

protect young wildlife from danger and create a natural environment for hedgehog species outside

When offering dry food to hedgehogs visiting your yard, aim for about 25 grams per night. This is about one-third of the 75 grams of food hedgehogs eat most nights. You could possibly increase this amount in the fall before they hibernate, when they work hard to gain weight. If you have a hedgehog in your care that is not foraging on its own, you will also need to increase the amount and provide about 100 grams of food per day. If you are providing wet food, also remember that it has a high water content, so you may want to provide a little more. Always provide water next to the food on occasion.

What should hedgehogs not eat?

learn about wildlife and feed hedgehogs in the garden in the late summer or spring season

While hedgehogs are very adaptable in terms of diet, eating both meat and fruit, there are some foods that you should avoid giving out for them. Bread, for example, is something that many people traditionally give hedgehogs, and of course birds, to eat. However, it has little nutritional value and only serves to fill them up, which means they won’t then go in search of more nutritious food. Milk is another food that hedgehogs are traditionally deprived of. However, it will do them more harm than good due to their lactose intolerance. Here is a more complete list and some background on why the following foods are bad for hedgehogs.

  • Dairy products: Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, and while a little cheese won’t hurt them, dairy can make them quite sick.
  • Bread, cakes, pasta, rice: these are high carbohydrate foods, whereas the hedgehog’s natural diet is high protein and low carbohydrate. However, they like to snack on many of these foods.
  • Mealworms, peanuts and sunflower seeds: these foods have an unsuitable calcium to phosphorus ratio for hedgehogs and can lead to metabolic bone disease.
  • Honey and dried fruit: Hedgehogs often have a sweet tooth, but eating too much of these can leave them without teeth. Therefore, they should avoid these products.

How to prevent cats or foxes from eating food for hedgehogs and prevent diseases.

make a small house to feed hedgehogs and prevent cats from eating their food

Be aware that putting out food of any kind can attract other wildlife, including predators. To prevent feeding for prickly friends from being eaten by pets or foxes, you could set up a feeding station. This should be difficult for anything larger than a hedgehog to access. You could use a piece of pipe or build a shelter out of bricks and pavers. Placing a shallow water dish at the entrance and/or a maze in a feeding station should also prevent cats from getting to the food.

prevent transmission of diseases from wild animals like hedgehogs by cleaning the feeding bowls

In general, hedgehogs are solitary animals. By putting out food, you are more likely to attract multiple animals. Since they share food from the same feeding station, it is possible that they may transmit diseases to each other. This could also increase the risk of the animals transmitting diseases to you. Therefore, clean your feeding bowls regularly and do not wash them with your own plates and bowls. Thus, you will take the right safety measures and prevent possible disease transmission.