Unfortunately, hedgehog numbers in the UK are on the decline, and our prickly friends have now made it onto the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List for British mammals. This means they're at risk of extinction, and it's important that we do our bit to keep them safe and protected.
Hedgehogs need a warm and quiet place to sleep, hibernate, and nest in. Often, they'll make their own home from leaves and twigs they find while they're out and about. But, with a few simple materials, you can help to give them a cosy place to rest by making a hedgehog house for your garden.
Of course, you could always buy a hedgehog hotel from your local garden centre but making your own at home is much more fun and a great way to recycle your old boxes. It's also even more rewarding when a little hedgehog takes up residency in your DIY hedgehog house!
If you're not sure how to build a hedgehog house, we’ve put together our top tips to get you started, including:
Making a hedgehog house for your garden is easy, and it’s a fun activity to do as a family. Although you can make your hedgehog house out of a cardboard box, these are less sturdy and would be difficult to clean. Instead, we'd recommend recycling an old plastic or wooden box, such as a storage box or wooden wine crate with a lid.
To make a hedgehog home you'll need:
Just follow the steps below to make your own hedgehog house.
Once you've bult your own hedgehog home, it's time to fill it. Hedgehogs will usually make their own nests with things they find around the garden, but you can start them off with some cosy bedding to make your homemade hedgehog house more inviting. Small dry leaves, twigs, and dry grass will keep your little friends warm, so cover the base of your hedgehog home with them.
Most hedgehogs will prefer to find their own food and will very rarely eat and nest in the same place, so you won't need to fill your hedgehog hotel with extra food.
If you'd like to feed your resident hedgehogs or tempt them to your house, then you can put out two shallow plastic saucers — one filled with water, and one filled with a meat-based pet food or a specially made hedgehog food — outside of your hedgehog home. Make sure you keep food away from the entrance to your hedgehog box, though, to keep predators away.
Hedgehogs prefer shaded areas of your garden that won't get too much sunlight or wind, so somewhere under a tree or bush with the entrance facing south would be perfect. Having plenty of leaves around your box is a good idea, as hedgehogs will likely use them to make their own nest. So, make sure you leave a nice pile just outside.
Hedgehogs love to eat worms, slugs, beetles, and caterpillars, so building a compost heap or a log pile near your hedgehog house will attract insects and provide them with plenty of food. It's also possible that hedgehogs would choose to nest in your compost heap instead.
You can also cover your hedgehog house with vegetation, leaving just the entrance hole and ventilation pipe open. Not only will this give hedgehogs plenty of foliage to make their nests with, but it will also disguise your homemade hedgehog house as a pile of composting leaves, which might help to attract them to your DIY hedgehog hideout.
The best time to put out your DIY hedgehog house is either in the spring (around April) or in autumn (around October).
In spring, hedgehogs will have finished their hibernation and will be looking for a home to start a nest for their hoglets (baby hedgehogs). In the autumn, the hoglets will have finished weaning and the hedgehogs will be looking for somewhere warm to hibernate in.
Once you've built your hedgehog house, you should ideally avoid disturbing it so as not to disrupt any hedgehogs living inside. However, hedgehogs can sometimes carry ticks and fleas that can be transferred to other hedgehogs that come into the nest, so you'll need to clean it out once a year to make it a fresh and cosy home for the next guest.
It's best to clean your hedgehog home either just after hibernation in the spring, or just before in the autumn. During this time, hedgehogs will be venturing out to find food. This means your hedgehog home will likely be vacant for a while, giving you enough time to give it a little refresh.
Before cleaning your hedgehog home, it's best to check that there's nothing inside it. You can do this by placing something small and light at the entrance to the box, such as a ball of paper, and wait until the next day. If a hedgehog is living inside, it'll move the paper away as it goes in or out the entrance. But, if the paper is still there the next day, then the house is probably empty, and you can start cleaning.
To clean your hedgehog house, remove the lid and empty all of the bedding from the container. Then, clean it using hot water to kill germs and parasites. Hedgehogs tend to lick surfaces with scents they don't recognise, so it's best to avoid strong household disinfectants, as these aren’t hedgehog friendly. Instead, you might want to use a pyrethrum powder that's suitable for use on animals. This will kill off any remaining ticks or fleas.
Now you know how to make a hedgehog home, you can help to keep your local hedgehogs safe from predators while they're sleeping and nesting. Remember, hedgehogs can live anywhere from hedgerows to compost heaps, so if you don’t see one going into your DIY hedgehog hideout, there's every chance that another one will come along and move in next year!
To find out about some other small ways you can help the environment, just take a look at our tips on how to reduce your plastic waste. You might also be interested in some of our storage and organisation tips to help you declutter your home and maximise your space.