[entry deadline extended to 13 October]
Do you want to help our Hedgehogs? If so you could win a family ticket to The Real Halloween, by entering our Hedgehog Heap Competition #hedgehogheapcomp. (No not a heap of hedgehogs – a heap for hedgehogs).
Help our struggling hedgehogs (see below) by providing a vital refuge for nesting and feeding by making a garden Hedgehog Heap. ‘Hedge-pigs’ or ‘urchins’ as Hedgehogs are also known, have halved in number in less than 20 years, so the Fairyland Trust aims to encourage everyone to provide an undisturbed pile of logs, sticks or leaves and cuttings to make a Hedgehog Heap a garden feature. We’ll be giving away two family tickets to The Real Halloween (26/7 October, family ticket for four, worth £30) for the best new and the best existing Hedgehog Heap. The latter also win the Golden Hedgehog Heap Award.
How to Enter
To make the competition as open as possible there are two categories:
- Existing Hedgehog Heap
- New Hedgehog Heap
The winning entry in each category will receive a Family Ticket (for four people) to The Real Halloween (26/27 October at Bradmoor Woods, Norfolk, where we also have a free Hedgehog Houses drop-in Workshop).
We want to celebrate conservation in practice so the winner of the Existing Hedgehog Heap will also receive the Golden Hedgehog Heap Award. (A national first – to be presented by the Fairy Queen at The Real Halloween).
To enter please send us, at firstname.lastname@example.org :
* one or more photographs showing your Hedgehog Heap and its location
* a brief description of your Hedgehog Heap including any special features, how you made it, and your story of what you’ve seen in or around it (hedgehogs or other wildlife)
* your ideas on three more things people can do to help hedgehogs in their gardens (see more info below)
* remember to include your name, county, town/village/city and a contact phone number
(Judges will take account of the points above and evidence of effort, creativity, opportunity, and hedgehog appeal based on their understanding of the habitat requirements of hedgehogs. Note that photos you send may be posted at this website with your name and town/location.)
You will also be able to enter the competition via our Facebook page. Please share #hedgehogheapcomp
Closing date: Sunday 13th October at 10pm; winners announced on Monday 14th
Why Hedgehog Heaps
(scroll down for tips and info)
Hedgehogs need our help. The hedgehog is Britain’s favourite wild mammal beating the fox, squirrel and others but a 2017 survey by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society found they had declined by 50% since 2000 in rural areas and by 35% in suburban areas. Too much ‘tidying up’ of wild corners, strimming, pesticides on farms (and in town and garden), more traffic, and impenetrable barriers such as walls and modern fences replacing hedges, are all reasons for the loss of hedgehogs.
Gardens are now some of the Hedgehog’s favourite places to live, and there are some simple things we can do to help them do a lot better in our gardens.
One of those things is to provide them with a Hedgehog Heap – a wood or stick pile, or a good hedgehog-friendly compost heap with plenty of leaves. There are two main reasons for this: food and shelter.
First, a pile of rotting wood or plant material is home to lots of the thing hedgehogs like to eat. Many people know hedgehogs eat slugs and snails for which they are liked by gardeners but they mainly eat insects, including lots of earwigs, millipedes which nibble one dead plant matter and ground beetles, which often eat other insects. (They are also fond of earthworms which eat dead leaves and the like). Of course it’s vital not to use chemicals in your garden as they take away hedgehog food and are often poisonous to hedgehogs.
Second, hedgehogs need to make three types of nest. In spring and summer when they are most active, they create flimsy day-nests out of grasses, leaves and garden vegetation. They use these for lying-up in, to get a bit of peace and quiet during the day. In the same season, females build more robust breeding nests in which they give birth to their babies (usually 4-5, known as hoglets, pups or kittens). And for winter, hedgehogs famously create cosy hibernating nests, which they can retreat to when it’s cold and there is not enough food about. Undisturbed log-heaps, leaf-piles or compost heaps are particularly used for summer breeding nests and winter hibernation nests.
So a good hedgehog-heap* is great for hedgehogs to feed in, nest in and over-winter in.
(*You can of course buy ready-made ‘hedgehog home’ structures (see below) but hedgehogs still need untamed wild corners to rootle about in and find food in, and a log pile or undisturbed compost heap provides both food and shelter, and for many other creatures too).
25% of people have never even seen a hedgehog in their garden. So as part of its commitment to Fairy Gardening, the Fairyland Trust wants to encourage everyone to have a hedgehog-friendly corner in their garden, including a wood/ leaf-pile, be it not much larger than a few shoe-boxes or the size of a few wardrobes.
TIPS on Hedgehog Heaps
Most experts suggest a heap should preferably be near or against a wall, fence or hedge for shelter, access (hedgehogs follow linear features) and less disturbance.
If you are thinking of creating a new compost heap of leaves and garden cuttings with hedgehogs in mind rather than a stick/log pile, then consider having an undisturbed open one which you just let gently rot into the soil (even big logs disappear into a few ‘grains of dust’ eventually), and if you need to actively use compost for instance on your veg’ patch, do that in a closed container that hogs can’t get into.
If not, you will need to carefully lift the edges of your compost heap before turning it each time, to check that there are no hedgehogs living in it.
A closed compost bin – ‘hogs can’t get into these – best option for making compost to use with no risk to hedgehogs. Many styles are available including non-plastic
An open compost heap – will need turning carefully
A heap of straw, leaves and twigs composting in a garden corner – left undisturbed, good for hedgehogs
There are many styles of log- and stick-piles. Nature will not mind which one you pick!
If you are planning a bonfire, it’s best to store the wood in a place hedgehogs can’t easily reach it and in all cases, to move the wood to the fire site on the day. Otherwise there may be a nasty accident for a hedgehog.
Many landowners and gardeners get rid of dead wood but that’s really bad for wildlife so in nature reserves like Wayland Wood (NWT in Norfolk) you may see recently coppiced timber being piled up to create new log piles:
Or placed in a long stack like this at Foxley Wood (NWT):
Or in a heap (again at Foxley Wood):
Either way it gets covered in fungi, algae, moss and plant seedlings becoming a micro-nature reserve all of its own, attracting zillions of tiny creatures, and in turn, hedgehogs!
This is what it looked like 10 years afterwards
An ambitious but effective approach to creating an instant logpile – illustration from the excellent hedgehogstreet online guide to garden features for hedgehogs
Here’s a wood pile in our garden, including cut tree branches and logs, up against a wall, and old timber and planks from DIY. Hops and bramble and nettles are growing all over it in a corner left to ‘go wild’.
Not a great photo – you can do better !
More Things To Help Hedgehogs In Your Garden
Here’s the same heap (on the right) and a hedgehog/ toad/ frog hole (plus ramp) made in a wall behind (left). This allows access to another garden as part of a ‘Hedgehog Highway’.
“Hedgehog Highways” are really important for ‘hogs as they need to roam 1-2km each night in search of food (and mates) and their available habitat has been chopped up by new roads and development and hostile land use such as larger intensive arable fields and barriers like fences and walls. So if you want them in your garden, check to see if it’s easy to get in and out of at ‘hog level. Hedges are better than fences – have a hedge if you can – and if not, make a hole sized about 13cm x 13cm.
Please also sign this petition started by Hedgehog Guru Hugh Warwick for all new housing developments to have hedgehog highway holes put in garden walls and fences. The government said ‘yes’ earlier this year but there have been lots of personnel changes and not much has happened so it needs more support.
More Tips and Info
Hugh Warwick’s Top 11 Things You Can Do for hedgehogs
If you have a sick, injured or orphaned hedgehog please call BHPS on 01584 890 801 or if non urgent email email@example.com – there is also a Frequently Asked Questions page on the BHPS website for more advice.
Seen a hedgehog? Tell Hedgehog Street by putting it on the Big Hedgehog Map
Hedgehog Street also run Hedgehog Champions which spearheads the campaign for more Hedgehog Highways. Over 60,000 people have joined so far!
Not seen a hedgehog but want to check if they visit?
A good way to tell if you have hedgehogs visiting your garden at night without staying up very late, is to make a ‘footprint trap’. This guide from The Wildlife Trusts ‘Wildlife Watch’ shows you one way, with a sand tray (others use ink):
Download better version here
Download a better version here
Help for Hedgehogs also posted this useful if slightly unusual video, which clearly shows the type of features hedgehogs like in a garden
Did you know hedgehogs have a magical side ? In Shakespeare’s time people thought elves and goblins could transform themselves into ‘urchins’ (another old name for hedgehogs).
and see –
All about hedgehogs – a great page on ‘hog natural history from Wildlife Online
Report about managing gardens and other land for hedgehogs
Feeding hedgehogs – advice from BHPS
Finally – Did You Know
- contrary to what many people think, hedgehogs can’t digest milk – they are lactose intolerant, so don’t put it out for them (water’s fine – and they like a shallow pond, just make sure they can easily get out)
- hedgehogs sometimes kill snakes and are a bit immune to snake venom
- the only park in central London with a resident hedgehog population is Regents Park
- the name ‘hedgehog’ comes from the Old English hyge-hoge or hedge-pig, which they are sometimes also called even today. Haga is also Old English (Anglo Saxon) for haw as in hawthorn – so Hugh Warwick says “hedgehog being covered in thorn, living in thorn”
- Another old name, used by Shakespeare, is “urchins”
- a Dutch study found hedgehogs spent 87% of their lives no more than 5 metres from a hedge – so we need more hedges!
- in a suburban or urban area, a viable hedgehog population needs about 32 indivduals and one square kilometre of connected habitat – which is why we need lots more gardens with Hedgehog Heaps and ‘highways’ between the gardens
- the word for a group of hedgehogs is an ‘array’ or a ‘pickle’
- hedgehogs can see, hear and smell but their sense of smell is most important. It’s thought they can also hear ‘ultrasound’ high pitched noises that we can’t hear
- hedgehogs can climb trees (but not fences) and they can swim
- their natural defense is to curl into a ball but if you hear a dog barking at one, don’t let it ‘play’ with the hedgehog as a puncture wound can be fatal
- they are born without spines and must grow them
- the normal body temperature of a hedgehog is 34.C but in hibernation this can drop to 2.C and they rely on fat reserves to survive winter so it’s important not to disturb them
- exactly how dangerous slug pellets are is unclear but many sources suggest they can poison hedgehogs and they certainly kill slugs which ‘hogs eat – so use alternatives
- the reason we associate them with autumn is probably because very young, ‘teenage’ and adults are all about at this time of the year and because we are more likely to be out and about at dusk