If in doubt, phone The Hogsprickle. Hedgehogs are insectivores and, in the wild, live on a diet of beetles, earthworms, caterpillars, millipedes, earwigs, and other invertebrates. For many years well-meaning people have been putting out bread and milk to "help" hedgehogs, but human beings are the only mammals on the planet to drink milk after we have been weaned so please DO NOT GIVE WILDLIFE MILK OR BREAD and that goes for the Ducks too!
How you can help a Garden Hedgehog
Make a feeding station. A plastic storage box upside down with a CD size hole about 5 inches square, with a tunnel in the hole, will allow hogs to get in for the food but keep cats and other larger animals out. Put a bowl or 2 of cat food in but keep the water outside, as hogs will walk in and sometimes poop in the water bowl. A couple of heavy bricks on top will stop a bigger animal toppling it over and you have a perfect Hedgehog restaurant. If you use a clear box you can watch your Spiky Butt without disturbing him.
Feeding cat food twice a week from around June to October is enough as we only want to supplement the wild diet. You can feed 4 to 6 times a week from October to June. Check with your neighbours about who else may be feeding the local hedgehogs as too much food can make them reliant on humans and not enough natural food. They can also become quite fat which is not healthy and may result in a hedgehog not being able to curl up into a tight defense ball, putting them at risk of predation by dogs, foxes and badgers.
We don't know if they can tell the time but you might have one, 2 or 3 hogs visiting your feeding station the same time each night! Maybe they can tell the time using the moon and the stars?? Clever Spiky Butts!
Compost heaps are also a lovely warm snug bed for the cold months so before burning any leaf litter or garden waste please check CAREFULLY that a hedgehog has not moved in for the winter. Hedeghogs can move in over night so if you must burn a bonfire, then set a small fire a distance away and feed the fire from the large pile or even better, just leave it to rot down naturally and increase the biodiversity for insects, frogs and hogs.
What's on the Menu?
Hogs will welcome an extra meal where they can get it, especially in the colder months. Sticking to a natural diet as much as possible is ideal however in a pinch, and with a helping human hand, cat and dog food, in jelly with lamb and chicken flavours have a place.
A word of warning. Snails can carry lung worm so a lot of Hedgehogs can infect themselves with lung worm which can lead to breathing problems, pneumonia and in severe cases, death. So it's best not to put l'escargot on the menu. Dry food will help with dental health and a shallow bowl of clean water should always be available. Hogs much prefer caterpillers, beetles, and earthworms. Fun Fact, Hedgehogs can actually hear these insects underground!
Make sure any bowls you use are Hog friendly. If the sides are too high they can't get to the food, or they may fall in and become trapped in there. I like to use casserole dish lids, glass ones are pretty good and I get them from 2nd hand shops. Dishwasher safe ones ensure that you can clean them easily which is a must if snails or slugs are around. Shallow water dishes are a must too, as they will be used by lots of other wildlife and birds. Freshen the water each day and remember to check it in the winter to break the ice.