There’s something very magical about sitting quietly and watching wildlife.
On a recent visit to my parents’ house I was lucky enough to observe a trio of hedgehogs enjoying a feast on their patio.
How cute are they?!! They look as though
they are wearing little spikey skirts!
I am determined to encourage these cute little mammals to our own garden and after some advice from Mum and Dad, here’s the plan:
- Ensure there is easy access in and out of the garden.
- Leave out chopped unsalted peanuts, meal worms and fat balls. Cat food is also recommended but is not so useful for us as the cat would eat it all!
- Place a saucer of water out for them.
- We don’t usually use chemicals, but ensure that we avoid substances such as slug pellets as they are poisonous.
- Build a hedgehog box for autumn.
As well as being uber-cute the hedgehog is known as ‘the gardener’s friend’ as it will eat slugs, beetles, caterpillars etc. so it’s well worth encouraging.
There’s a page on how to build a hedgehog box in our book, Seasonal Garden ideas:
Hedgehogs spend the winter months hibernating, curled up asleep in an out-of-the-way corner. They do good work in the garden by eliminating slugs and snails – so repay the debt by providing them with a safe, purpose-built home.
This can be made at any time of year, but needs to be ready in early autumn for the hedgehogs to find before they settle for their winter sleep. Allow a couple of hours, depending on your woodworking skills.
- For the box: Six pieces of 1cm (½in) thick untreated plywood – two 30cm x 31cm (12in x 12½in) side pieces; three 53cm x 30cm (21in x 12in) pieces for the bottom, back and front and one 56cm x 30cm (22in x 12in) piece for a fixed roof or one 58cm x 33cm (23in x 13in) for a hinged roof.
- For the tunnel: two 15cm x 30cm (6in x 12in)pieces of untreated plywood for the sides; two 18cm x 30cm (7in x 12in) pieces for the top and bottom.
- Panel pins, 20cm (8in) length of 2.5cm (1in) diameter right-angled (‘elbow’) plastic piping, wood glue (non-toxic), saw, hammer.
- Two or three brass hinges and screws (if using).
- Shredded paper and/or straw to line the box.
1 Make the box first. Cut six pieces of plywood to the dimensions given on page 144. In the back piece cut a central 2.5cm (1in) diameter ventilation hole about three-quarters of the way up from the bottom – this will eventually take the piece of plastic piping.
2 Cut a central hole measuring 18cm (7in)wide by 15cm (6in) high in the bottom of the front piece.
3 Attach the sides to the bottom piece of plywood using glue and panel pins. Next attach the back piece in the same way. Hammer in the panel pins as straight as you can for stability. Attach the front piece in the same way.
4 For the roof you have a choice. If you want to look inside the box from time to time, then attach it to the back piece using two or three brass hinges. If not, then glue and pin the roof to the box sides, back and front.
5 Now make the tunnel. Glue and pin the two sides (the pieces measuring 15cm x 30cm/6in x 12in) to the bottom piece. Then glue and pin the top on.
6 Insert the piece of piping in the ventilation hole, with the outside open end facing down so it doesn’t get filled with leaves and debris or let water in
7 Put some shredded paper and/or straw into the box so it is warm and snug for the hedgehog, then position it in a sheltered, secluded part of the garden – but not facing north or north-east. If possible, set it against a fence or wall. Insert the tunnel into the entrance hole – and await the arrival of your winter lodger.
Cover the box with leaves, twigs and branches to give it a more natural look and to help it blend into its surroundings, but take care not to obstruct the entrance or the ventilation hole and pipe.
Don’t use treated plywood – the stain used may be toxic or harmful to the hedgehogs. Try not to look into the box frequently to see if there is someone inside – a hibernating hedgehog should not be disturbed once it is asleep. Also, the less time you spend near the box, the more likely it is that a hedgehog will feel confident enough to take up residence.
The ventilation hole and pipe enable the hedgehog to breathe while it is in the box, and also help to avoid condensation. If you have used hinges for the top of the box, then place a brick on top to keep it firmly closed. Clean out the box once a year in late summer – after the breeding season is over and before hibernation is due to begin. Put some more clean, fresh paper or straw inside.
For more projects like this, such as how to build bee home or a bird box see Seasonal Garden ideas, which is on sale for just £3.99
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