What the Hedgehog eats.
In the wild
Hedgehogs, as can be seen from the chart above,
are carnivores. Gardeners like to have hedgehogs about the
garden to help keep the slug and snail population down. However,
the main food source for the hedgehog is beetles and
caterpillars. They do sometimes kill small mammals, especially
if other food sources are scarce and can attack the chicks of
ground nesting birds. This last fact, makes the hedgehog a
menace amongst colonies of some seabirds.
The question of whether hedgehogs are at risk
from eating slugs which have died after consuming slug pellets
is much debated. Since the poisons in the dead slug can rapidly
decompose to form a harmless residue, generally the biggest
danger to hedgehogs is if they eat the actual pellets
themselves. Therefore it is always advisable that if you have
to use slug pellets, place them under slightly raised slabs
where slugs will hide from the sun during the day. This will
also mean that hedgehogs will not be able to get to them. But,
in general, it is better not to use slug control pellets at all.
What to feed them on.
You can put out food for a hedgehog. Do not
put out bread and milk, however. Although the hedgehog will
enjoy it, the swelling of bread in the stomach and the fact that
cows milk gives hedgehogs diarrhoea, means that it is not the
best thing to give a hungry hedgehog. The best thing to put out
for your garden hedgehog is cat or dog food. Perhaps also mix in
some of the cat / dog biscuits to help the hedgehog's teeth.
I've found that cat food based around beef is usually accepted,
although they didn't like fish or rabbit flavours!
Please remember though, that putting out food
during the night can attract cats, so you may need to construct
a hedgehog enclosure to place the food safely away from feline
mouths. You can put your food under a concrete slab supported by
4 bricks laying on their long sides. This will mean the cats
cannot reach the food, but the lower hedgehogs can easily slip
underneath for a feed.
One further thing, if you suffer from mice or
rats in your area, putting food outside is not
a good idea fullstop.
Please remember that hedgehogs need water too!
Especially in the summer when warm nights mean that moisture
evaporates quickly. I recently noticed one hedgehog in my garden
slurping around the end of the hosepipe spreyhead. Needless to
say, it appreciated a drink of water from a proper bowl! There's
a picture of this chap on the gallery