Hedgehogs are adorable little creatures. I acknowledge that all of God’s creation deserves awe and respect and that it’s important to appreciate that every species has a valid role to play in our ecosystem. But hedgehogs, well, they’re lovely aren’t they? Sadly they’re endangered in the UK so I set about to help out some of these prickly little friends.
While there’s never been a reliable method for surveying hedgehog numbers over the years, it is widely known that their populations are in massive decline. We don’t know why but the it’s likely due to human activity and the BTO theorises intensified agriculture (loss of hedgerows) and “fragmentation of habitat in urban areas” (i.e. the fenced-off gardens we have) are reasons. An easy step to help out is to ensure that there are routes through gardens – just a simple gap in fences is sufficient – about 5″ x 5″ to allow hedgehogs to explore.
Another way to help is by feeding hedgehogs. You probably know that hedgehogs hibernate over winter; late December through to March. They need to have consumed enough food in order to hibernate so if you see them about during hibernation time, they probably need some TLC. There’s bound to be a local conservation group nearby to advise – we have one: Chesterfield Hedgehog Rescue & Rehabilitation. They are lactose intolerant so don’t give them milk but a bowl of water and some cat food (kibble) will go along way. Hedgehogs only need about 100 calories per day but they will gorge prior to December.
If you’re feeling particularly helpful then providing somewhere to live in the form of a hedgehog house is another brilliant way to help. So, that’s what I finally got round to doing. I like to re-purpose items and materials. It is arguably a much better approach, from a conservation point of view, than recycling material because a lot of energy is still required to recycle goods. It’s also much more satisfying – and that goes for ‘upcycling’ as well. I found some pallets being advertised locally for free. There will be loads around you, check out eBay and Facebook market place etc. and the worst case is, you pay a quid per pallet.
Pallets are a great source of timber for garden projects and at some point a neighbour and I will be getting a load to make some garden furniture. There are different qualities of pallet mind, so look around. I’ve used pallets before, when I built some racking for the garage, and I’ll be honest, they can be a little frustrating to work with. Fortunately I guesstimated that I would only need a couple for this project. I wanted to use my Dad’s workshop to complete this project and his services were included so we set about this together.
You’ll need to use either a crowbar or claw hammer to separate the planks and pull out any nails. We used a shortcut because I wasn’t too fussed about needing to preserve the length of each plank: We used a circular saw to cut off the planks and discarded the end pieces.
I wasn’t really working to a set plan because I had an idea of what I wanted the hedgehog house to look like – basically a cuboid with an opening and tunnel. I did later sketch out a rough design, mainly so Dad and I were on the same page. We ended up with a stack of planks and removed all the nails. This is the other tedious part compared to buying timber but its a small sacrifice for free timber (and safety).
Pallet timber isn’t exactly high quality timber but it is good enough to be out in the UK weather. You may be lucky enough to find hardwood pallets – we had a couple of planks in the mix. It is typically a soft timber so I decided to use screws and pre-drill holes to minimise the risk of the wood splitting. You could nail the wood with small nails, your call.
Inevitably, though, some wood did split and a notch came out – nothing dramatic though and some wood glue did the job nicely. Fortunately my Dad had a bit of shed roofing spare. This was ideal for the roof so we put it on; cut to size with a Stanley knife and tacked down. This was a nice touch but I’m sure you could easily get away without it – after all hedgehogs don’t naturally have houses with roofs.
I wanted a hinged or detachable roof for being able to inspect after March or even putting the wildlife cam inside etc. I went with detachable for though. Hedgehogs like tunnels for houses, to prevent predators getting in, and I had originally envisaged an external tunnel but actually ran out of wood. So the tunnel became internal. They need an opening of 5″ by 5″ (too small for a fox) but importantly the tunnel needs a right-angled passageway, again, to stop predators – namely cats. We really cobbled together the tunnel. The inside is below with the living quarters on the right.
It did take a few hours between us both to dismantle the pallets and construct this hedgehog house. We left it glued on the workbench and, by the time I returned to pick it up, my Dad had kindly added the ramp (and latch). The finished project:
I don’t think I will treat it though because pallet wood is fairly weatherproof anyway but also I don’t think the hedgehogs would appreciate the smell of Ronseal either. It would be nice if some hedgehogs take up residence in the house. Annoyingly, I’d cleared a patch of the garden a couple of weeks ago, due to a large Buddleia, which is where the house has gone. In hindsight, it would have been better to have left that area overgrown because Hedgehogs appreciate the shelter.
I am going to live stream the area via a Twitch channel I’ve just setup for the wildlife camera and you can view the stream when it gets started in a few weeks here: https://www.jameshatton.co.uk/blog/wildlife-cam