Provide shelter for the local hedgehog population with a habitat
Hedgehogs are one of those unassuming little British creatures that we almost take for granted. Despite our affection for these prickly characters, we seem to know very little about them - a fact reflected in no better way than our tendency to occasionally leave out milk for them to drink. Believe it or not, milk can adversely affect a hedgehog's health and even lead to death...
With this in mind, it is no surprise to learn that - without us probably even realising - the hedgehog population of the UK is in sharp decline. A number of factors are supposedly to blame - predatory badgers and foxes, dwindling natural habitat and an ever-changing landscape all seem to be partly responsible for this downward trend. Thankfully, there is something that we can do to help, and it comes in the form of a hedgehog habitat.
Hedgehog habitats offer hedgehogs a place to hibernate, shelter, feed, convalesce and generally protect themselves from the many threats that they seem to face. There are a number of fantastic models on the market today, all of which are sturdily built, waterproof, insulated and feature the kind of narrow entrances that even the most determined of large animals will be unable to squeeze through.
Entice a hedgehog into your garden in this way and a mutually beneficial situation will unfold: the hedgehog has a safe place to live, and in return you get the pleasure of watching their antics in the knowledge that you're doing your little bit to help sustain these increasingly rare beasts. They may even eat the odd slug or snail too, which is always a bonus, though this kind of fare only constitues a small part of their diet (roughly 5%) so don't expect them to save the day if you do have a slug problem!
There is, of course, more to it than simply dumping a pristine hedgehog habitat in the middle of your lawn and hoping that will do the trick. This web site provides lots of important tips regarding where to place the habitat and the food to leave out, plus some great buying advice. The next section will explain the various features that you need to look for when buying one of these fantastic products.
The features of a Hedgehog Habitat
What to look for
Perhaps the most important feature of a hedgehog habitat is the entrance tunnel, with most models being specifically designed to allow access for hedgehogs, but not for bigger animals. Even though these prickly creatures have an almost mythical ability to turn into what appears to be an impregnable spike covered sphere, dogs, cats, foxes and badgers will still try to catch them out; a suitably narrow entrance tunnel will therefore make their habitat an excellent safe haven.
In addition to the entrance tunnel, the appearance of the habitat can also help to protect them; a well-designed hedgehog habitat should blend in with its surroundings, so it's more difficult for predators to locate.
It is also important that a hedgehog habitat is sturdy and secure to ensure that their food (if you care to give them a spot of dinner) will be safe. Other animals will inevitably smell the food so the shelter needs to be solid enough to ensure they can't get in. In order to keep up their strength and continue the battle against evil garden slugs and snails, hedgehogs need to be well fed.
Another factor to look at is how cosy and waterproof the habitat is - this is particularly important between November and April when they hibernate. If these animals are cold and wet they may fall ill and certainly won't enjoy their hiatus. A well-designed, comfortable and waterproof hedgehog habitat will ensure that they are safe and secure during this lengthy hibernation.
In addition to the general points mentioned above, a couple of other useful features are an access point and a vent pipe. Although these are not essential, if there is good access (i.e. a removable roof) then it will be easier to maintain the habitat and keep it clean. A vent pipe offers some additional fresh air circulation, which can be particularly beneficial during the hibernation period.
How to Use Your Hedgehog Habitat
To ensure you get the best use from your hedgehog habitat, make sure you read these useful hints and tips. As you will see, it's not simply a case of sticking your habitat out in the garden and hoping for the best - if only it was that easy!
Take care when positioning your hedgehog habitat; there are a number of things to consider. Firstly, choose a nice quiet spot where there is plenty of cover. Ensure that the habitat not only blends in with the surroundings, but also has adequate protection from the wind. Make sure it is not facing a north or north-easterly direction, or they may be subject to bitter winds during the winter period. You can also add some extra cover in the form of grass or leaves so that the hedgehog house has even better camouflage.
Once you have positioned your hedgehog habitat, it's a good idea to add some foliage to kick start their nest. A few handfuls of dry grass and leaves will encourage them to use the space for nesting and ensure they have a comfortable stay.
Make sure you clear out your habitat at least once a year. If you are unsure whether or not there is a hedgehog still in residence, one useful tip is to put a light obstruction in the entrance - if it gets moved aside overnight this gives you a clue. Give the hedgehog house a good clear out, but make sure you don't treat it with wood stain as the fumes can be harmful to hedgehogs.
Keep up to date
Whilst hedgehogs are currently not in hibernation, it is still important that we provide them with habitat that can be used as shelter, a place to convalesce when injured, or somewhere to hide from predators.
It's also worth setting up a hedgehog habitat during the summer months as this will give it time to "bed in" ready for the winter - at which point hedgehogs will look to hunker down for the colder part of the year.
Wildlife Watch - Nature watch and spotting through the year.
Wildlife Online - Wildlife online, comprehensive resource.
Animal Sanctuary - Woodlands Animal Sanctuary.
Beautiful Britain - Learn about wildlife and scenery in the UK.
Garden Sheds - Shop for garden sheds with delivery to your home.
Hedgehog Rescue - information on how to care for your local wild hedgehogs
Chapelwood Hedgehog Habitat
A homely and sturdy hedgehog habitat
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1. A hedgehog habitat is affordable and easy to install in the garden.
2. Hedgehog habitats help support your local hedgehog population.
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