Slugs, snails and hedgehogs
Although this is not a hedgehog pet post, It’s something I’ve been meaning to write for quite some time. It also serves as a warning to hedgehog pet owners who allow their spiky friends to run around in their gardens.
It’s quite amazing how many people, and gardeners in particular, believe that hedgehogs love eating slugs and snails. They think that all they need to do is get one of these pest terminators into their gardens and their slug and snail problems will be over. Unfortunately, especially for gardeners, this is not the case. While it is true that hedgehogs will eat these slimy plant destroyers, they will only do so when they are really hungry and nothing else is available.
In nature most of a hedgehog’s diet consists of beetles and caterpillars and only about 5% will be slugs or snails. If a hedgehog can only find slugs and snails to eat it will eventually die. One of the reasons for this is that slugs and snails carry lungworm which is one of the biggest killers of wild hedgehogs. Once inside the hedgehog, lungworms quickly multiply and cause pneumonia, amongst other things.
If you want to attract hedgehogs to your garden and help them to avoid lungworm, the best way is to do it is to offer them additional food so that they don’t have to bother with slugs. They’ll still benefit your garden as they will happily devour other pests, such as grasshoppers and crickets.
What should you feed them?
Although hedgehogs will happily scoff it up, (they’re not called omnivores for nothing), the first thing you shouldn’t feed them is bread and cow’s milk. Hedgehogs are unable to digest bread and milk will give them a bad case of diarrhea.
You can feed them tinned dog and cat food. They prefer chicken flavours. Do not feed them with fish flavoured pet food or tinned dog or cat food with gravy or jelly, as doing so will make them ill. They’ll also eat small cat biscuits, but again avoid fish flavours and, if your purse will allow it, use the premier brands such as Hills or Iams as the cheaper ones are not as nutritious. Chopped peanuts, of the kind you use to feed wild birds (not the salted kind we eat) are another favourite.
It is also possible to buy specially formulated wild hedgehog food from online shops such as Spike’s Dinner or Wildthings Hedgehog Food. Hedgehogs are thirsty animals, especially in summer, so put out lots of water.
All said, it doesn’t really matter why you would want to attract a hedgehog to your garden, let’s face it they’re undeniably cute. Seeing one snuffling around in a garden brings pleasure to both young and old alike.