Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:56 pm
Many wild animals have found a new habitat in human settlement areas, including the hedgehog. The prickly mammals are incredibly adaptable. In the wild, the cute animals can usually take care of themselves very well. Feeding hedgehogs is therefore not necessary, and may even harm them. While hedgehogs are not an endangered species, they can use a little support in some cases.
Hedgehogs (Erinaceidae) belong to the mammals that occur worldwide in 24 different species. In our country live almost exclusively brown-breasted hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). Rarer are the Northern White-breasted Hedgehogs (Erinaceus roumanicus), which are occasionally found in the eastern fringes of Europe. Hedgehogs are solitary animals and usually roam large territories in search of food. As typical cultural successors, however, they are increasingly found in home gardens and even in the parks of large cities. The animals have a very wide food spectrum, but they are neither vegetarians nor omnivores. On their menu are:
- Insects and their larvae
- butterflies and moths and their larvae and caterpillars
- Bird eggs
- frogs or small snakes
- occasionally small mammals
- rarely carrion
Over the winter, the small mammal does not need food. He feeds on his fat reserves while he spends the cold season in hibernation.
When do hedgehogs need help?
Normally, the animals find sufficient food in the wild. In a varied habitat with shrubs, hedges and meadows, their table is always richly laid. Nevertheless, there are times when the animals may need assistance.
Spring (March to April)
When the first warm rays of sunlight hit the garden soil in spring, hedgehogs awaken from their long winter hibernation. As a rule, older, male animals are a few weeks earlier than young animals and females. To regain their strength, they need a lot to eat now. If the spring is mild, they can easily find this in their environment. If the temperatures drop again or the food supply is still unsatisfactory, many of the animals crawl back into their winter quarters.
Autumn (October to November)
Food can also become scarce in the fall. During this time, however, it is very important that the animals eat enough winter fat, otherwise they will not survive the cold months. Especially mother animals are affected, which have lost a lot of energy by giving birth and raising their young. The last thing young animals do is look for a cozy hiding place for the winter. They need a little more time than adult animals to gain sufficient weight for hibernation.
During both periods it may be necessary to feed the hedgehogs.
Tip: Take severely weakened or injured animals to a vet or wildlife rescue center immediately!
Wrongly understood help
Not every hedgehog that roams around the garden in spring or autumn is in need of help. However, the pretty beady eyes and cheeky face awaken in many people an urgent need to feed the hedgehogs in general. The natural hedgehog food is very varied and can hardly be replaced by cat food or commercial hedgehog food. Since the animals are quite comfortable and in addition they are voracious eaters, they almost never refuse such additional food offers. However, supplementary feeding can cause the following problems:
In nature, hedgehogs go into hibernation when they can hardly find anything to eat. Provide a richly laid table and this cycle may be disrupted and the animal will not go into hibernation.
Incorrect nutrition can have serious health consequences for the animals. In addition to malnutrition, fatty degeneration often occurs. Skin problems, loss of spines and malformations are still among the harmless consequences.
In order for wild animals to survive in the long term, hedgehog babies must first learn where to look for their food and what they are allowed to eat. However, they will not learn this if sufficient food is put in front of them every day.
Time for feeding
Feed hedgehogs living in the wild preferably in the evening. These spiny mammals are crepuscular and nocturnal, and go in search of food at sunset. From September onwards they can occasionally be seen during the day, as they are now eating more to build up fat reserves for hibernation. Weakened individuals, especially late-born hedgehoglets, are an exception to the feeding schedule. Sufficient food should be available to them at all times from the end of October. Multiple small portions spread over the day are better than one large quantity of food.
The right hedgehog food
If you discover an underweight hedgehog in your garden in late autumn or early spring when temperatures are permanently below 6°C, you should offer the animal something to eat and drink. However, don’t give the echinoderm just anything, but offer it a diet that will keep it healthy and strong. Basically, what they need most during this time are food sources that are high in fat and protein. They usually don’t eat much plant food because they can’t digest it well. Put the food in a shallow, tip-proof dish and place it in a sheltered spot in the garden or on the patio where other animals cannot reach it.
- Wet food for cats (without sauce)
- boiled eggs
- unseasoned scrambled eggs
- fried, unseasoned minced meat
- cooked poultry meat (pure)
As long as a hedgehog can additionally feed on insects or earthworms in the garden, there is no danger of malnutrition. However, if the food you offer is the predominant or even sole source of nutrition, you should change the composition at least every two days to prevent an unbalanced diet. In addition, small amounts of dietary fiber are important for balanced digestion. Mix in about one to two teaspoons of the following components per 100 grams of basic food:
- Wheat bran
- Rolled oats
- special dry hedgehog food
Tip: Make sure the hedgehog food is at room temperature when you feed it.
You should not feed this
Although hedgehogs prefer to eat insects, snails and worms in the wild, you should avoid these food sources when feeding them. They can carry parasites and diseases and further weaken the underweight animals. In general, hedgehogs are not fastidious about their food. They will try almost anything that can be eaten. However, not every food is suitable for them. The following foods are not suitable as hedgehog food:
- Dairy products (yogurt, cheese or curd)
- only dry hedgehog food (contains too many carbohydrates)
- dog food (contains too little protein)
- insects or worms (can transmit parasites)
By the way, never add extra vitamin supplements to the food.
These cute garden dwellers absorb most of their moisture through their food, so they only need to drink small amounts in the wild. However, the need for drinking water can increase significantly with supplemental feeding. Especially if you offer dry food or other food that contains only a small amount of water. Never give milk to drink, as the animals are basically lactose intolerant. Dairy products give hedgehogs diarrhea, which can weaken them unnecessarily or cause death in sick animals.
shallow, non-tipping dish
Change water daily
Garden ponds or streams in the garden should have at least one shallow spot where a echinoderm can safely drink. Alternatively, you can create a means of egress so that he can easily reach solid ground again if he falls in. Hedgehogs are good swimmers. However, if the walls are too high, the animal will eventually sink, exhausted. Simply place a few large rocks in the bank or use a board that you place at an angle in the water.
Be sure to keep things clean when feeding the hedgehogs. Dispose of food scraps, scattered food and also droppings near the feeding area at least once a day and rinse all bowls with hot water or in the dishwasher.
Make your garden hedgehog-friendly
The best way to help hedgehogs is to design your garden in a nature-friendly way. The more varied you use your garden, the richer the food sources and hiding places for the prickly mammals. Of course, you should refrain from using any poison. When preparing for hibernation, you can perfectly support the wild animals by offering them a suitable place to sleep:
- dense hedges or bushes
- brushwood piles
- dry hollows (in wood piles or under stairs)
Tip: In autumn, be sure to leave fallen leaves in a corner of the garden. Hedgehogs use it to insulate their nests.