Native hedgehogs are vulnerable and should be treated with care, says Grace Johnson, hedgehog officer for Hedgehog Street, a nationwide campaign now celebrating its 10th anniversary, launched by wildlife charities People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS).

While hedgehog charities urge householders to encourage these prickly visitors to their gardens, many of us are making fundamental mistakes that may cause hedgehogs stress or even poison them.


Common dangers to hedgehogs

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when encountering hedgehogs in your garden.

Don’t keep them as pets

“It’s best not to handle native wild hedgehogs. Evidence shows they can get quite stressed if they are handled unnecessarily,” says Johnson. “A lot of the pictures you see on social media are of African pygmy hedgehogs, which people keep as pets and often you see them dressed up doing cute things. The wild species we have in the UK and Ireland is the west European hedgehog, which is a dark brown colour.

“African pygmy hedgehogs are much paler and quite distinct. They are a common pet in America. People here also keep them as pets, but you won’t find them in the wild. We don’t recommend them as pets.”

The RSPCA echoes these sentiments, noting that African pygmy hedgehogs are solitary wild animals that are naturally nocturnal and have complex needs that can be difficult to meet to keep the animal healthy and happy.


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Conny Chiwa (@connychiwa_at)


Don’t pick them up unless you think they are injured or sick

“If you see a hedgehog out and about at night, you are very lucky. As long as it’s not trapped, or caught in netting or drains, leave it and watch it from a safe distance,” says Johnson. “They don’t have a fight or flight reflex as we do. If they are feeling threatened they will curl up into a ball. They can bite, they are wild animals who will try to protect themselves if they need to.

“If you need to handle an injured hedgehog, wear thick gardening gloves to protect yourself and the hedgehog. Bring it inside and put it in a high sided box lined with an old towel or fleece that it can hide under because it will be scared. Also, put a hot water bottle filled with just warm water in there so the hedgehog can warm up if it needs to.”

Don’t move them too far away from the road

If you move a hedgehog that is precariously close to a road, it may disorientate the creature, Johnson warns. “In the summer months, that might be a mother who now can’t get back to her nest because she’s been moved away from it. Sometimes people might put them in a garden, but if that garden doesn’t have good access to other gardens and to their original nesting site, it can be dangerous. You could maybe steer it a little way from the road but not too far.”


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Brambles Pet and Wildlife Ltd (@bramblespaw)


Don’t ignore it if you see a hedgehog during the day

“If you see one out and about in the day, it can be a warning sign and it often means there’s something wrong with it. As a guide, we say, if hedgehogs are moving quickly and look like they know where they are going, keep an eye on them from a distance.

“It could be a disturbed nest or a mum gathering nesting materials. But if it looks like it’s sunbathing or is wobbling on its legs, or if it has flies around it and looks injured, call the BHPS to check.”

Don’t use dog or cat flea powder on them

“Hedgehogs can be full of fleas, but they are host-specific so they can’t live on people or pets. If you see one in your garden covered in fleas, don’t use commercial pet treatments because they are generally going to be too strong,” says Johnson. “Seeing a hedgehog scratching is completely normal. But if it’s scratching loads and has lots of tics on it and you think they are potentially affecting its behaviour, again, call the BHPS for advice.”

Don’t give them milk or bread or fishy flavoured pet food


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Clare Griffith (@clare_griffith)


“We don’t recommend bread or milk or any human food. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so the milk will upset their tummies. Bread doesn’t provide any nutritional value for them.

“Feeding hedgehogs is a good idea – we recommend meaty cat or dog food – but try to avoid fishy flavours because they can sometimes upset the hedgehogs’ tummy. Dried kitten biscuits and things like that are fine. You can get hedgehog mixes – but some are padded out with wheat and rice. Go for a high meat content in mixes. And leave water for them too.”

Don’t think that they will keep your slug population down

Some gardeners might create what they consider to be a hedgehog feeding station using slug and snail-loving plants such as hostas, but slugs and snails can give them internal parasites such as lungworm, warns Johnson. “Slugs and snails don’t form a major part of the hedgehogs’ natural diet. They’d rather feed on earthworms, beetles, caterpillars and earwigs.”


Slug GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


Don’t go mad with the strimmer or mower

“Have a mixture of long and short grass, leaving a patch of the lawn to be a bit longer. Try to plant native wildflowers and mix annuals such as cornflowers and poppies with perennials like trefoils.

“Rethink weeds a bit. Dandelions are good for insects and pollinators, while low dense shrubs such as hebes and UK grown fruit trees will attract insects as the fruit falls.” And if you are strimming, check first that there are no hedgehogs hiding in the long grass.

Avoid chemicals

Finally, “don’t use slug pellets or chemical fertilisers,” says Johnson. “Try to keep your garden organic, to encourage insect life.”

For more information visit the BHPS at and

Best-selling hedgehog food

Stuck for inspiration? Check out our list of best-selling Amazon products!

Bestseller No. 1
Spike's | Hedgehog Food, Delicious Crunchy Dry | High in Fibre, with Fresh Chicken | Suitable for...
  • DELICIOUS CRUNCHY DRY - Spike’s Crunchy Dry Food is packed with nutritious chicken and suitable for hedgehogs of all ages. It can be fed on its own or mixed with other foods from my range.
  • FEEDING GUIDE - Place in a shallow dish and put out before dusk in a quiet area of the garden, along with a shallow dish of water. A mature hedgehog can eat about 20g each night.
  • HEALTH BENEFITS - High in fibre with no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Ideal for maintaining healthy teeth and gums
Bestseller No. 2
Extra Select "Nature" Complimentary Hedgehog Crumble Feed Tub, 5 Litre
  • A delicious chicken based food for hedgehogs of all ages.
  • Its packed with nutrition and can be served on its own.
  • Fed regularly it will encourage visits to your garden all year round.
Bestseller No. 3
Maltbys' Stores 1904 Limited 5kg COMPLETE HEDGEHOG FOOD
  • Maltbys’ Stores 1904 Limited Complete Hedgehog Food s is a high protein pellet fortified with vitamins and minerals, This diet is scientifically formulated to meet your hedgehog’s vitamin,...
  • Analysis Formulated with 50% chicken, whole grain cereals and an optimum blend of omega 6 and 3 from linseed and fish oils.
  • At Maltbys’ Stores 1904 Limited we specialise in wild bird foods and supplies. We pride ourselves on selling top quality products all year round. Please search for Maltbys’ Stores 1904 Limited to...
Bestseller No. 4
Hedgehog Food 2kg - I Love Hedgehogs - rich, nutritious food for garden hedgehogs. Safe new formula...
  • SAFE & NUTRITIOUS complement to hedgehogs’ natural diet - updated in line with latest research
  • NO STICKY FRUIT that can harm teeth
  • PROTECTS BONE HEALTH - calcium/phosphorus ratio of less than 1:2 avoids any risk of metabolic bone disease
Bestseller No. 5
PETBLIS Spikes Semi-Moist Hedgehog Food, 1.3 kg
  • Item display weight: 1300.0 grams. Age range description: All Life Stages.

Last update on 2021-06-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

You may also be interested in…

Wise Living Magazine may receive a small commission to help support the running of this site from purchases made from links on this page, or some links may have been sponsored to be included in the article. Affiliate or sponsored links do not influence our editorial or articles published by Wise Living.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.