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Friday, 6 November 2015

NATURE IN NOVEMBER: Give a hedgehog a home...


Amidst all the excitement of fireworks, toffee apples, bonfires and sparklers - Bonfire Night is a celebration that can sometimes have adverse effects on our pets and garden wildlife. As the 5th fell on a Thursday this year and with the weekend still ahead of us I'm sure there will be many more Guy Fawkes festivities happening over Saturday and Sunday, so if you're planning on hosting or attending a bonfire party over the next few days, here's a helpful link to the RSPCA site on how to keep your four-legged friends calm and safe over the weekend: Advice for Pet-owners during fireworks season.

However, as well as cats and dogs, it's important not to forget hedgehogs at this time of year. REMEMBER: if you've stacked up your bonfire heap ready to be burnt over this weekend, check thoroughly for any hedgehogs that might have taken up residence before lighting it! But for any hedgehogs that are still snuffling around our gardens looking for somewhere to cosy up for the winter, here's how you can help...




   MAKE A HEDGEHOG HOUSE THIS AUTUMN

Hedgehog's hibernate from around October time through 'til spring, meaning that the ideal time to carry out this activity is probably the month of September. However, as we've had such a mild autumn so far this year there may still be some late hedgehog hibernators who will benefit from a bit of help with their hedgehog home. You can either buy a hedgehog home, such as these ones from the RSPB or - like myself - you can have a go at making one from bits and bobs around the house! If you'd like to give it a go, follow the steps below! 
 YOU WILL NEED:
  • A cardboard, plastic or wooden box at least 30cm wide and 30cm tall. (Wood is ideal, but as you can see, I could only find plastic but any of the above will work well!) 
  • A medium sized plastic flower pot or a section of drainpipe 10-13cm in diameter (to make a tunnel entrance)
  • A waterproof covering such as a plastic bin liner, roofing felt or tarpaulin.
  • Dry leaves, newspaper, straw or moss

STEP ONE - CUT A HOLE IN BOX FOR THE ENTRANCE TUNNEL


  • Draw around the smaller end of your plant pot to get a guide size for the hole you need to cut. You will need to cut just outside of this line to allow the plant pot to fit snugly:


  •  Cut around your guideline marks. If you are cutting plastic then it is a good idea to wear protective goggles - especially if doing the activity with children - as hard plastic can shatter unpredictably.
  • Check that the plant pot fits through the hole as in the photo below. If it doesn't, adjust the size of the hole until it does:



STEP 2 - Cut out the entrance tunnel!

  • Once you have seen that it fits, cut out the bottom of the plant pot so that you have a hedgehog sized entrance tunnel!



  • Once you have done this, pop the entrance tunnel into place.


STEP 3 - LINE THE BOX WITH WARM, DRY MATERIALS

  • Next, you will want to line the box with newspaper and dry leaves to make it into a warm, cosy and appealing home for hedgehogs:





STEP 4 - WATERPROOF YOUR HEDGEHOG HOME
  • Now to make sure any hedgehog that takes up residence in your home stays dry, you will need to waterproof the box.
  • I used bin liner and secured it all around the box, creating a waterproof cover and giving extra protection to the sides. To make sure it doesn't blow away, you could weigh the liner down with stones either side or consider using an elastic band.
  •  Don't forget to cut a couple of small air vents in the plastic to make sure your hedgehog has enough air circulating inside the house:


A Hedgehog's eye view!

  • It might look a bit messy from the outside, but don't worry soon this hedgehog house will look like a conveniently perfect woodland hollow to even the most discerning hedgehogs out there.

STEP 5 - POSITION AND CAMOUFLAGE YOUR HEDGEHOG ABODE

  • The next step is to position your hedgehog home. Choose a quiet spot, facing away from prevailing winds and strong sunlight. Somewhere with lots of cover such as under a shrub or tree is ideal. I positioned mine under a low tree and nearby to a fence where I know there is a handy hole for hedgehogs to find their way to my garden. I also placed a concrete slab on top of my hedgehog shelter to provide extra protection against determined foxes:

Sorry for the poor quality photo - it was low light when I took this!

  • Next is the fun part! Camouflage your hedgehog home with leaves, moss, twigs, branches and grass, leaving only the entrance tunnel on show. Your hedgehog home should now blend in to the surroundings:

Ta-Da!


TA-DA! YOU'RE HELPING TO SUPPORT THE WILDLIFE IN YOUR GARDEN!

 And there you have it! A warm and cosy hedgehog home, made with your very own hands from bits and bobs you can easily find around your house. Why not give it a go and support the wildlife in your area! If you're lucky, come spring/summer, a hedgehog might choose your hedgehog home as the perfect place in which to raise their young!

TIP: To draw hedgehog noses to the door of your hedgehog home, why not put a handful of hedge-hog friendly treats outside the door. Meal-worms, suet pellets and sunflower hearts will all go down well! To find out if a hedgehog is using your home, why not put a thin stick in the entrance tunnel and check next morning to see if it has been moved out the way. Or, to be extra sure, pat some damp mud or sand around the floor of the entrance and you can check back for footprints!

A handful of suet nibbles should attract hedgehogs to their new home!

If you would like to purchase instead of make your own hedgehog home, then the RSPB sell some brilliant ones hereOr, if you're looking for a bigger challenge, why not follow the RSPB's guide to making your very own wooden hedgehog house from scratch!




Thank you as always for reading this post! If you enjoyed the post, have any thoughts or want to share any of your own wildlife tips then please don't hesitate to comment in the box below!!! I love to hear back and I'd love to see photos of any one else's hedgehog homes!

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