16 October 2017

What do you feed hedgehogs?

The introduction of the internet in the modern world has granted us access to any amount of advice, guidance and knowledge we could ever hope for and need. With just a few clicks, we can find ourselves well on the way to discovering endless amounts of interesting facts or putting answers to those questions that just needed to be solved.  It is hard not to be impressed with this monumental wealth of information; however as with everything there is usually a hitch. The internet though indisputably essentially and predominantly accurate can sometimes be misleading and it is important to not take everything you see, hear or read for the exacting truth.

This goes for any topic, discussion or subject and wildlife welfare is no different.  It can be very difficult to filter down the ‘rights’ and the ‘wrongs’, the ‘dos’ and the ‘don’ts’ especially on subjects that are more unique and specialised; such as caring for Wild Hedgehogs. That’s why we decided to write a straightforward, factual and accurate blog all about feeding hedgehogs, so you can be sure you are helping them and providing the right kind of care this season.

If you are new to the idea of feeding hedgehogs, one of your first thoughts may be why? Why it is important to feed hedgehogs and what should the outcome be? Simply put, hedgehogs need to weigh at least 600 grams before they can safely and securely hibernate. This is critical because if they weigh anything below this, they are at huge risk and are very unlikely to survive hibernation and live through the winter.  Crucially however, the monumental problem hedgehog’s face is that at the time of hibernation in the late autumn; there is much less natural food around. Slugs, insects and other feeds are sparse this time of year, meaning that the task of sourcing food, preserving energy and gaining weight becomes a very difficult challenge.  Considering these struggles, providing feed for hedgehogs really is the best and kindest thing you can do and it will go far to ensure that are of a sufficient weight and have all of the energy and nutrients they need to survive the harsh winter.

You may now be considering the question of; what exactly should you feed a hedgehog? Similar to birds and all other wildlife, hedgehogs eat a mixture of natural food and specially formulated, species specific food.  A hedgehog’s natural diet consists of substantial, meaty ingredients such as Beetles & Insects, Caterpillars, Worms and Slugs & Snails, which are all rich in energy, protein and calories. Such feeds are designed to fuel Hedgehogs through the year and especially as they prepare for the challenge that is hibernation.  Luckily many of these food sources can be found within your own garden, meaning that the perfect hedgehog diet is right at your finger tips. Ensure where you can that there are plenty of natural areas in your garden and preferably leaf areas or piles. These will attract insects and slugs which will provide an instant and ideal food source for your hedgehogs.

While creating natural sources of food in your garden is an admirable start, it is unlikely that hedgehogs will be able to get all of their nutrients, energy and calories from this. Hedgehogs ideally need to consume 100 grams of feed a day to maintain their weight goal of 600 grams before hibernation.  In this case, the extra feed you provide for hedgehog visitors to your garden is vital.

Similar to birds and other garden wildlife, it is best to feed hedgehog specific food as this will provide them with all of the right kind of energy and nutrients they require. Like all creatures, hedgehogs have special dietary requirements and ideally need feed that is nutritious and high in calcium. Calcium is an essential for maintaining their health and wellbeing as well as to prevent them from contracting diseases they can be prone to, such as metabolic bone disease.

Metabolic bone disease is a distressing condition which occurs when a Hedgehog experiences calcium deficiency. It has the effect that it causes bones to become very brittle and thin as it strips them of calcium and leaves Hedgehogs weak; often unable to walk and in some cases even stand up. They contract this disease when there is a lack of calcium in their diet and therefore what we feed to hedgehogs is crucially important.  

Many feeds contain mealworms which are a great option as they provide hedgehogs with a meaty, tasty, nutritious boost however it is wise to be cautious and limit the amount of mealworms in a hedgehog’s diet. This is because mealworms extract calcium from hedgehog’s bodies meaning that if hedgehogs consume too many, they are at risk from the onset of contracting MBD.  However, this does not necessarily mean that Hedgehogs should avoid mealworms all together as they are rich, deeply beneficial and they would need to consume a tremendously large amount before they are at risk from MBD.  Providing mealworms are fed responsibly therefore, they can go far to maintain a hedgehogs healthy and balanced diet.  The best way to provide them is within a mix, preferable a Hedgehog specific mix. This is because the other feeds in the mix substitute the calcium and balance out any loss they may experience. Similarly, if Hedgehogs are foraging in a mix, they have to pick through the different feeds so are unable to over load on just the mealworms. This way of eating is also a natural method so is ultimately the ideal way to feed hedgehogs.

When it comes to choosing a mix, it is best to pick one that has a low ratio of mealworms and one that contains other high quality feed. Our Hedgehog Biscuit Boost for example contains only a 10% ratio of mealworms which are mixed amongst crunchy, pea sized nuggets that are the absolute ideal size for hedgehogs. These meat based biscuits are tasty, nutritious, packed with energy and provide hedgehogs with a quick and essential energy burst. Also availble without Mealworms as plain Hedgehog Biscuit.

Similarly, our Fruity Hog Snack is a rich, tasty and nutritious feed that are uniquely formulated to provide Hedgehogs with energy, calories and nutrition. Including peanut grains, sunflower hearts, raisins and a small amount of mealworms, this feed is a great addition to a hedgehogs diet, is easy to feed and will go far to provide an extra boost for Hedgehogs in their lead up to hibernation.

Either of these feeds are a great choice when it comes to caring for Hedgehogs this autumn and hopefully if you are thinking about providing for them over the next few weeks, our blog has helped answer some of your most sought after, hedgehog related questions.  It is a good idea to feed from a small dish or tray and provide a couple of tablespoons worth of feed each evening.  As with all animals, make sure there is access to a fresh supply of water alongside your feed also.

Hedgehogs begin their hibernation generally around late Autumn so now is the perfect time to think about feeding them in time for the Winter. By providing tasty, nutritious food and water, you are sure to attract one to your garden and make the most out of having them around this season. 

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posted by Brinvale