Every animal belongs somewhere. What about hedgehogs? As more people take pet hedgehogs, we tend to forget about their natural habitat. In this post, you’ll learn all about hedgehogs’ wild habitat followed by practical suggestions for building a great home for your own hedgies.
Table of Contents
Hedgehogs’ wild habitat
Nowadays, hedgehogs are turning into a popular pet. At the same time, we tend to forget where they come from and what their natural habitat looks like. The same has happened with guinea pigs for hundreds of years after their domestication in Western countries. People tend to imagine cages, not South American shrubs. Let’s take a closer look where wild hedgehogs live and what kind of environment they need for survival.
Where in the world?
Hedgehogs distribute geographically across Europe, Africa, and Asia. Also, they can be found in New Zealand by an introduction. Both the Americas and Australia have zero native species. Although, we do have to point out that there was an extinct genus once thriving in North America. In addition to New Zealand, hedgehogs were introduced in Scotland. Both of these island regions regard hedgehogs as pests. They have damaged the native species’ ecosystems while being happily safe from any natural enemies because there just aren’t any. That’s what happens when people introduce animals to new habitats. Consequently, the people of some Scottish islands tried to eradicate hedgehogs. They were met with fierce resistance from many animal welfare organizations. After legal inquiries, people decided to transport the hedgehogs to the mainland instead of outright killing them.
It’s all in the name
Since hedgehogs live in different parts of the world, quite many genera developed throughout the ages. Quite a few species of hedgehogs refer to their geographical origin: North African hedgehog, Somali hedgehog, Indian long-eared hedgehog, and European hedgehog. You don’t have to be a zoologist to understand where their names came from. Just by looking at the hedgehogs’ names, the long and wonderful geographical history of their existence unfolds in front of your eyes. But look at their names closely: North Africa, India, and Europe. These are extremely wide geographical terms. What could we know about their habitat when Europe’s diversity runs from Swiss ice-capped mountains to Baltic’s plains. We need to take a closer look at their actual habitats.
Where are you hiding, hedgie?
We have established the geographical boundaries of native hedgehogs. Therefore, it’s time to understand the climate and terrain comfortable for these cute animals. Hedgehogs live in arid and semi-arid regions. The arid nature of the landscape isn’t enough. There need to be enough places for shelter. Grassland and shrubby areas work out just fine for hedgehogs. In these places, they start building nests on the ground in spots that are protected from predators in one way or another. For example, the suitable spots might be under some bushes or even quite deep in rock crevices. Also, hedgehogs don’t mind a bit of climbing, which means that they won’t shy away from areas that are bit hilly or steep. After settling down in a shelter, they start to make trails in their range surrounding the nests. All of these trails aren’t just for exploration, it’s a necessity for finding food.
When the hunger strikes
In addition to shelter, the area has to contain enough opportunities for filling the stomach. All of that scavenging, hunting, and eating takes places during the nighttime. Yes, hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures. When the sun sets, they venture out to find insects, slugs, and snails. Well, at least mainly these. Because they are quite opportunistic eaters, hedgehogs can easily have other mammals or birds and fruits in their diet. And they are well-known regarding the “superpower” of eating some venomous snakes.
This is my territory
Habitat isn’t only about the food and climate. It’s also about spreading out on the territory and needing (or lacking the need of) social contact with other animals of your species. Hedgehogs are solitary with two exceptions: mating and raising a litter. Although, the latter is only the female’s responsibility; the male hedgehog won’t have anything to do with raising the small one. They do have their own territories and usually, the boundaries are respected by fellow hedgehogs. In urban areas, they can easily cohabit the same territories with other animals, for example, cats.
Interplay with humans
As we are getting closer to the domestic habitat, it’s time to take a look at the role that humans play in shaping hedgehogs’ lives. Indeed, our planet is huge and there are loads of hedgehogs living in areas that don’t have much human activity. But, at the same time, there are many regions inevitably affected by people that are populated by hedgehogs. For example, in Ireland, you can find Western European hedgehog. It has been noted that hedgehogs prefer arable land before hibernation as they want to increase their fat intake. Otherwise, they avoid arable land and marshes. In Emerald Island, they love gardens, parkland, and pasture.
But no other animals besides humans have developed gardens and parkland. Therefore, we can see differences in hedgehogs’ habitation patterns between human-populated areas that result from our land use practices. Coming back to Ireland, people have discussed that part of the hedgehogs’ habitation patterns can be explained by the preservation of extensive hedgerows. These hedges are very important for building nests. Also, the hedgerows attract insects that are regarded as delicious food by hedgehogs.
How to create a good habitat for hedgehogs?
First, we’ll delve into the topic of garden hedgehogs. Many hedgehogs visit gardens all over their worldly habitat. In turn, we can take practical steps that will make their life easier. Even though you won’t see them during the daytime, you can still be sure that they are roaming around after the sunset.
Make your garden a safe haven
Numerous ways are available to make your garden hedgehog-friendly. These spiky creatures need thick undergrowth for feeling safe. If you know that there you are living in an area full of hedgehogs, then you can make practical choices to make their life easier. Food and water supplements? Yes, please! Since hedgehogs eat a variety of foods, you are bound to find something tasty in your home. Just be careful not to leave any milk for them! And the same goes for bread. The former has been burned into the minds of many generations. Children’s books featured countless of beautiful illustrations that show hedgehogs drinking milk from a bowl. In reality, that’s not nice at all! They will get serious stomach issues if they eat milk and bread.
Leave something delicious
What’s the best food to leave for the hedgehogs? Try to buy actual hedgehog food. If you don’t have a pet hedgehog, it may come as a surprise to you. Many pet shops, and nowadays even regular supermarkets, might have hedgehog food in stock. But if there’s none available where you live, you can always substitute with the cat or dog food that’s big on meat. Even nutritionally complex cat biscuits do the trick. Also, remember that hedgehogs love to eat slugs and snails. Having hedgehogs in your garden means it’s better not to use any poison against bugs or slugs. There are two reasons for that: hedgehogs would love to eat the bugs themselves and the hedgies could accidentally eat the poison.
Give them freedom
Hedgehogs love to mix it up a little. Mostly, they won’t stay in one garden all the time. Should your garden be heavily fenced or walled, try to make a little opening for them. Encourage your neighbors to do the same. The small opening will be really handy for them. This way, they can find more food and discover brand new areas. If you are just settling down in a new place and you heard there are hedgehogs around, then consider having hedges instead of fences. For example, wooden fences thrust into concrete leave zero room for hedgehogs (and other wildlife) to come and go as they please. When you opt for hedges that provide berries, you’ll do an extra favor for the birds that might visit your garden during the cold months.
Bonfires, ponds, and wilderness
And don’t forget to make the ponds safe. There should be something in the pond that helps hedgehogs to climb out if they fall in the water. Otherwise, they could get tired and easily drown. Bonfires are another thing to watch out for. Before lighting the fire, check if there are any hedgehogs inside the pile of wood and grass. They could be nesting inside. People lighting the bonfire without checking first is very dangerous for the hedgehogs! While some safety rules will make the hedgehogs’ lives better, try not to overdo it. The point is leaving a part of your garden totally wild. This area will have leaves, plant matter, and twigs that hedgehogs could use for nest building.
Always check the grass
Ideally, as noted, you’d have an unkempt part of the garden. Always remember to check long grass before mowing the lawn, though. Scared hedgehogs curl up, creating a spiky ball. When you start mowing, the loud sounds could easily startle the hedgies. Hence, they curl up and you won’t notice before you hit them with your lawnmower. Never forget to check before mowing if you know that your garden is located in a hedgehog habitat. Even if you don’t get many hedgehogs in your garden, checking the long grass is never a bad idea. There could be other wildlife seeking refuge under the grass as well.
Compost heaps for hibernation
Do you have compost heaps? Some hedgehogs love to use them for hibernation. Before turning any compost heaps, check them thoroughly. You could see if there are any entrance holes in the heap. Also, there might be some droppings around. Quietly rummage around before doing any big forking. The best plan is not to empty the compost before mid-April. After that time of the year, you can be surer that there won’t be any critters hibernating inside the bin.
Winters are harsh for hedgies, too
Winter is coming? Check if any smaller hedgehogs are in trouble. Hedgies regularly hibernate between the months of October and March. Before starting the hibernation, they store fat in their body. All of the fat helps their body to keep them alive until the spring comes. Not all hedgehogs will be able to put on enough fat before the winter. There are plenty of reasons why that might happen. But the one that needs your attention is the following. Some hedgies are born so late that they won’t find any natural food to eat. This is the time when your supplemental food and water left in the garden could make a big difference. Successfully creating that extra fat pad will definitely raise the late-borns’ rate of survival for the winter months.
Dogs and trash can be dangerous
Dogs love to run around the garden. And that’s their right as both puppies and mature dogs! Still, please keep an eye on the dogs when they are exploring the garden late at night. Getting into a fight with a hedgehog won’t leave either side unharmed. Another thing to look out for is any trash left in the garden. For example, plastic cups and bottles, netting, and barbed wire might all get hedgies into trouble. Some of the trash might trap them and other waste could outright injure them badly. As mentioned before, don’t use too many chemicals that could harm the hedgehogs. If you absolutely need to use pesticides, then consult experts for the products that wouldn’t be harmful to small animals. Better yet, try to see hedgies as natural enemies of the pests.
How to build an actual home for hedgehogs?
We had a look at some of the ways you are able to give a better environment for the hedgehogs. Now, we are going to have a look at how to build a useful habitat for your garden hedgehogs. This will need a bit of time, money, and effort. We strongly suggest to use the following as a general guide, and if needed, find more resources online to really make a perfect home for both adult hedgehogs and little hoglets.
What do you need to build a hedgehog home?
Try to find two sheets of exterior plywood that are at least 0.59 inches thick and 1 ft 11.6 inches wide by 6 ft 6.7 inches long. Of course, you’ll need practical tools like a hammer and both a big and small saw. Nails and narrow drainpipe are needed as well as some dried leaves.
How to build the home?
Use the blueprint by clicking on this link provided by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Every hedgehog home needs to have a compartment that’s big enough for the hedgies. This area needs total protection from both heat and cold. But the entrance needs to have a corridor that keeps away the hedgehogs’ enemies, including curious dogs and predatory wildlife. You must fill the main compartment with a layer of dried leaves. Smaller leaves are the most hedgehog-friendly choice.
Screw the roof in a way that will let you open it in the future for cleaning. The narrow drainpipe mentioned earlier is used for ventilating the hedgehog home. When you have finished the house, you need to be really precise about where to exactly put it. Hedgies can be quite picky. Most importantly, you should keep it out of direct sunlight. Also, make sure that the main entrance doesn’t allow any strong wind to enter the home. Cover all of the exteriors with leaves or even soil. Just don’t forget to make the main entrance and ventilation free from any obstructions.
How to maintain the home?
After every year, in April or October, it’s time to clean out the home. Aren’t sure if any hedgehogs are living inside? Leave something in front of the main entrance. That thing shouldn’t be blown away by the wind but has to be light enough for the hedgehogs to be able to move it. If the object’s been moved overnight, you can be sure there are some hedgehogs living inside the home. Furthermore, keep in mind that they won’t move during the hibernation period. That’s between October and April.
Any other options?
Actually, you are able to buy ready-made hedgehog homes online. The prices and the quality vary, so you are better off making some serious research before committing yourself to buy one. Please try to prefer brands that are using natural ingredients. Cheap plastic or wood that subject to treatment with harsh chemicals isn’t a good fit for the hedgehogs. Being part of the wildlife doesn’t mean that hedgies’ health won’t be affected by low-grade or outright dangerous living spaces.
How to provide a nice habitat for pet hedgehogs?
You might be wondering what you need to have in order for your pet hedgehogs to have the nicest life possible. No worries! We’ll take a look at some of the main things every pet hedgehogs should have in their cage.
No cage is complete without adequate bedding. You can find a wide variety of bedding and substrate options at your local pet store. Most hedgehog owners agree that recycled paper or pulp provides exceptional comfort for your pets. On the other hand, wood shavings aren’t the best option. Some of the shaving types might cause small injuries to their feet and undersides.
Always carry two food bowls in the hedgie’s cage: one is for the dry food and the other one contains wet food. Don’t buy bowls that are light. It’s better to have heavier or attachable ones that won’t easily spill.
Many pet shops carry hiding places. These are usually made of wood and come in different shapes and sizes. Sometimes your hedgehog might be afraid of something. Having a hiding area provides a safe place for them to gain some courage to venture out again.
Quite many hedgehogs have proven to be “potty” trained. Just buy a litter box meant for small animals. Just don’t use any litter that’s marketed for cats. You are better off using litter pellets produced by using recycled cardboard or paper.
Every hedgehog needs to have some fun every now and then. One of the most important toys is an exercise wheel. That helps your spiky friend to lose all the extra calories that would otherwise turn into unnecessary fat. Other possible toys include all sorts of things that could be suitable for small animals or cats.
Hedgehogs need to drink water just like us in order to survive. Buy a bottle that comes complete with a stopper. If your hedgehog doesn’t like a bottle, you can also buy a heavy drinking bowl. The latter would be the third bowl in the cage beside the dry and wet food bowls.
What kind of habitat hedgehogs need?
Hedgehogs’ habitat covers three dimensions: the world, an average garden, and your pet hedgehog’s cage. Hedgehogs distribute geographically across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Nowadays, you can find hedgehogs in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. People introduced them into these regions. Hedgehogs love tall grass, shrubs, and hedges.
There are many things you can do to make hedgehogs’ lives easier in your garden. Take some safety precautions when it comes to burning bonfires, removing the compost, and mowing the lawn. You can always leave some supplemental food for the hedgies to enjoy. Also, you may provide hedgehog entrances from your garden to the neighbors’ gardens if you are sporting a fence or wall to protect your garden’s privacy.
Having pet hedgehogs lead you to have a lot of control over their environment. Use this opportunity wisely! Make sure that your spiky family member(s) have adequate bedding, at least two food bowls, a nice hiding area, and a mandatory water bottle/bowl. No hedgehog cage is complete without an exercise wheel. And if you’d like to train him to use a litter box, then make sure to have that in the cage as well.