We can use these results to help conserve these animals and give the most accurate advice to anyone wanting to provide shelter for wild hedgehogs through our Hedgehog Street campaign.
School’s out for the summer! What better way to spend a sunny afternoon than by creating your own hedgehog house to help the nation’s favourite mammal from further decline, especially during the current heatwave.
Last year, Hedgehog Street launched the first ever Hedgehog Housing Census, which looked at how, when and why hedgehogs use either homemade or artificial hedgehog houses in gardens across Britain.
Between August and October 2017, over 5,000 people responded to the Hedgehog Housing Census. Now, a year on, the secrets behind what makes a perfect hedgehog home have been revealed. The results, analysed by the University of Reading, show that:
- Hedgehogs prefer homemade houses, but artificial houses are still a good alternative if they have the right features
- Hedgehogs need time to get used to a new house before they use it
- Feeding hedgehogs, putting water in your garden & providing bedding (such as dry leaves, pet straw or both) increases the chances of a resident hedgehog moving in
- Hedgehogs prefer houses found in back gardens, in shaded areas.
- Pets or badgers don’t appear to put off a ‘hog from moving in
Building your own hedgehog home is a fun and easy to do. To download a PDF with simple instructions on how to build two different types of hedgehog house, visit: www.hedgehogstreet.org/housingcensus.
Interestingly, the results also showed that houses positioned less than five meters to the homeowners’ house are most frequently used, indicating that hedgehogs have become accustomed to human activity.
A total of 81 percent of those who responded to the questions about usage for daytime resting and hibernation found evidence that their hedgehog house was used for resting during summer daytime, 59 percent noted that it was used for hibernation during winter months and 28% said it was used for breeding.
Emily Wilson, hedgehog officer for Hedgehog Street explained: “Until now we didn’t know what type of hedgehog house was best for hedgehogs and if they were even really used at all, as this area of hedgehog ecology simply hadn’t been studied.
"These results tell us that hedgehog houses are helping ‘hogs find a place to rest, hibernate and even breed. We can use these results to help conserve these animals and give the most accurate advice to anyone wanting to provide shelter for wild hedgehogs through our Hedgehog Street campaign.
“It’s interesting to see that hedgehogs seem to prefer houses that have been in a garden for some time, but we hope that people won’t be disheartened if they have a newer hedgehog house, it just means hedgehogs need a little time to get used to it.
"If hedgehogs are provided with food and water in the garden (especially during this unusually hot weather), and the correct bedding in the house, this really encourages hedgehogs into your area, and they could become regular night-time visitors.”
Abigail Gazzard, a postgraduate researcher at the University of Reading added: “Further analysis is required to investigate why hedgehogs seem to prefer homemade houses to artificial ones.
"This could be to do with the type of materials they are made from, they're physical size, or whether they have other features such as tunnels and internal partitions, so the next step for us is to look into this aspect specifically."
Emily concluded: “Thanks to these results analysed by the University of Reading, we now better understand what a hedgehog is looking for in a perfect home, so we hope existing Hedgehog Champions and those who aren’t yet champions, consider encouraging hedgehogs in gardens across Britain by building and introducing your own hedgehog houses.”
Marianne Brooker is a contributing editor to The Ecologist. This story is based on a press release from PTES. To support PTES’ ongoing conservation work, you can donate £3 by texting ‘PTES18 £3’ to 70070.