Do you love hedgehogs? Gardeners are supposed to love hedgehogs because they voraciously eat large quantities of slugs and snails. However recent research indicates that this might not be the case.
Discovering what they do eat will give us an indication of the best way of feeding hedgehogs ourselves.
What Food Do Hedgehogs Prefer?
Beetles, larvae and caterpillars seem to be top of the hedgehog menu, closely followed by earthworms, millipedes and earwigs.
Before you get to slugs and snails there's eggs and small dead mammals! Slugs and snails seem to only occupy 5% of a hedgehog's diet.
They are eaten as a last resort due to one very good reason. The slimy gastropods carry lung worms.
These pesky parasites are passed on to the hedgehog and can be fatal, causing respiratory problems and death. Because of this, hedgehogs will only eat a lot of slugs and snails when there isn't much else available.
Why Feeding Is Important?
Feeding hedgehogs is therefore essential if they are to avoid lung worm infestation.
As they're omnivorous the list of snacks you can leave out is fairly lengthy. Every food needs to be chopped up finely as hedgehogs cannot chew or tear up large pieces. It's also best to place food in a shallow dish that won't tip over.
The easiest way of feeding hedgehogs, particularly if you have pets, is dog or cat food that doesn't contain fish, and biscuits. Choose the better brands that aren't packed out with cereal.
Hedgehogs love any food which available to them and any cooked left over chicken, lamb, turkey or beef (without gravy) will be snapped up, but avoid salty bacon. Chopped unsalted peanuts and sultanas are good together with lots of water especially in hot weather.
Other appreciated food offerings include most vegetables, bananas, apples, mango but not citrus fruits.
Why Not Give Hedgehogs Milk Or Bread?
Do not feed hedgehogs with milk or bread, the former can't be digested properly and can lead to dehydration and death, while the latter even in large quantities contains little useful nutrition.
The best time for feeding hedgehogs is at night. This makes sense in two ways: a) they're nocturnal and b) flies won't be attracted to the meat (their maggots can cause serious harm to hedgehogs).
Any food should be removed in the morning and the dish washed ready for the evening.
Hedgehogs are decreasing in numbers every year from poison's food, this is why we should feed them the correct food and treats. You can visit out Wildlife Page for help with caring for Hedgehogs. If you have any ideas for food for hedgehogs or photos of your hedgehogs I would love to see them!
Read my previous blog on How to Encourage Hedgehogs to Your Garden.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is a great source of information.