Feeding a wild animal can be a big responsibility. Giving them appropriate food is essential for their health. Rememer, there are no doctors or dentists in the wild so please feed healthy food that resembles their natural food as closely as possible. Helping your hedgehog throughout the year with supplemental food and water can have a positive effect, but please remember that the hedgehog(s) you feed could become overly accustomed to artificial food sources. Never put food or water into a hedgehog house or next to it, as this will attract unwanted visitors to the house. We suggest you locate a feeding station elsewhere in the garden to support your hedgehog. To prevent hedgehogs from becoming dependent on supplementary food, try varying the times of night at which you leave food and the type of food you provide.
Although hedgehogs are hibernating mammals, it is not uncommon for them to stay awake throughout the winter. Wildlife that hibernate typically do so because their food supply has disappeared. In winter, insects, which form the hedgehogs' staple diet throughout the rest of the year, go into dormant or pupal states or have simply gone deep into the soil where they are unobtainable by hedgehogs. To hibernate safely and keep warm in winter, hedgehogs need to have sufficient body fat and be a good weight, at least 450 grams. Do not disturb a hibernating hedgehog as this uses up important fat stores, which they may not be able to replenish in times of food scarcity. If a hedgehog is disturbed and woken during hibernation, provide them with supplementary food for them to replenish energy stores. Without replacing energy, they will not be able to go back to sleep. Some hedgehogs sleep for shorter periods and wake up intermittently through the winter, and food will always be welcomed and appreciated.
Water is essential for hedgehogs and can be provided in shallow bowls or through a hedgehog-friendly fish pond. Flowerpot-saucers are a great source of water, but please ensure your flowers are grown in soil free of pesticides and chemicals as these can leach into the water. Gravel filled trays under your plants can stop both the plants' and hedgehogs' water from evaporating quite so quickly.
Water levels of ponds should be topped up to help them to climb out should they fall in. Hedgehogs are great swimmers but if ponds or pools have steep sides, they will be unable to escape. Always provide a gently sloping edge in any pond or water feature. Placing half-submerged rocks, wooden planks or secured chicken wire in the water as an escape route can also work very well.
If you do have bonfires in your garden please collect the materials for burning and store them in a separate location from where you burn. Relocate the pile to the burning area on the day of the bonfire. Wood piles are natural places for hedgehogs to nest and hibernate so wood should never be stored where it is going to be lit. A lot of other wildlife will also rest in these piles including toads, frogs and dormice.
If you are providing supplementary food, hedgehogs enjoy mince and chopped meat, meaty cat and dog food and crushed unsalted peanuts. Please do NOT give them bread or milk. Bread provides little nutrition and the sugars in it can rot hedgehogs' teeth, and hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and cannot digest milk.