Hedgehog water bowl
Helping hedgehogs

Autumn gardening for hedgehogs

IMG_2388Autumn has arrived and already a few leaves are starting to fall in my York garden. Here are my top tips for keeping your garden hedgehog friendly during these golden months.

York garden in Autumn
My wildlife garden in Autumn. I leave the leaves for the hedgehogs

Don’t be too tidy

It’s really temping to be tidy and remove all the leaves but you’ll be robbing a hedgehog of a cosy Winter nest. Hedgehogs prefer to use dry, medium sized deciduous leaves for their nests. Oak, hazel beech are fantastic along with leaves from fruit trees like apple and cherry. Rake the leaves into piles and leave some underneath something to keep them dry, like a piece of wood propped up against a fence. I also leave piles of hay around the garden underneath similar shelters.

Hedgehog nest in pile of leaves
A natural hedgehog nest in a pile of deciduous leaves. This one has sadly been disturbed – the hedgehogs would not normally be exposed like this.

Piles of leaves also provide places for insects to hide away over Winter – providing valuable food for foraging hedgehogs, who may continue to search for food well into Winter.

Provide a cosy house

Recent research suggests that hedgehogs will make use of manmade hedgehog boxes. Now is a great time to be putting one out, filled with fresh dry hay. I recommend a sturdy wooden one to provide the best protection against the elements and predators. Where you position it is also very important so please watch my video on how to do this. Don’t be tempted to check any hedgehog boxes that you may already have out unless you are absolutely sure they are empty – many hedgehogs have a second litter of babies around this time.

Hedgehog house under wood store
A home made hedgehog house under my log store. It is lovely and dry and sheltered from the elements and has been used by hedgehogs

Recycle your strimmer

I hate strimmers. I cut my wildflower meadow area by hand. Many hedgehogs continue to be maimed and killed by these awful contraptions by people tidying up their gardens for Winter. If you absolutely must use one, check carefully for hedgehogs and other wildlife first.

Try to avoid bonfires

Don’t be tempted to later burn the beautiful piles of leaves you create this Autumn. They are much better left as homes for wildlife and insects. But, if you really must have a bonfire, here is how to do it safely for wildlife.

Autumn for insects

Hopefully you’ve already planted your wildlife garden with the aim of providing food for wildlife all year round and you can relax and admire the beauty and feast provided by your Autumn garden. If not, there is still time to plant now for this year and next. I love Sedums, Wallflowers, Dahlias, and Echinacea to provide Autumn nectar and ground cover. You can read more here about why insects are so important for healthy hedgehogs.

IMG_5027
Scabious flowers for a long time and is very attractive to insects
IMG_5325
Sedums and wallflowers provide stunning Autumn colour and plenty of nectar for visiting butterflies and bees
Dahlia and hoverflies
Hoverflies love these late flowering Dahlias

Keep feeding me please

A good wildlife garden should still be providing plenty of wild food for hedgehogs well into the Autumn but continuing to provide supplementary food and water is still vital. Hedgehogs need to build up their reserves for the long Winter hibernation. Although some larger male hedgehogs may start to hibernate as early as September if the weather is cooler, many females have second litters around this time. They won’t hibernate until the babies have left home and the babies face a battle to get up to weight before Winter.

Wild hedgehogs in garden
Supplementary food is a vital lifesaver all the year round

If you are doing all these things, there is still plenty of time for your visiting hedgehogs to get up to weight prior to hibernation. It isn’t time to be worrying about them yet. Hedgehogs need to be 650g+ to have the best chance of surviving hibernation but more about that soon.

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. You can read more about me and my work here. I also make silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife to support my awareness work. You can visit my online shop here.

Silver wildlife jewellery
Silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife by Little Silver Hedgehog
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7 thoughts on “Autumn gardening for hedgehogs”

  1. Yes Emma, one is in our hedgehog house. Plenty of food and water for him and I have left small piles of hay around in case he needs topping up!! Sorry to,hear you’re poorly again

  2. I put food out all year round as I have two that stay in or visit my garden,They both hibernated and have stayed most of the summer but I think they are just visiting now.Though I think they will hibernate here again,one does under the shed for the last 2 years and one in the greenhouse from last year.the box in the green house is ready for this winter,I just need to add some extra hay and leaves under the shed.which I will do some next week as I’m home from work that week.I hope they both choose to hibernate in the garden again,xx Rachel

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