The hedgehog is a prized species in the UK with its spiky spines and cute little nose. However, numbers have been declining and in 2022 they were listed as critically endangered in the UK.
A report released in February 2022 by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) showed numbers in the rural countryside had declined by 30% to 75%, with the worst falls recorded in the US became regions of East Midlands and East of England. In contrast, hedgehog numbers in urban areas appear to have stabilized and may even be recovering.
Gardeners can help hedgehogs by providing food and shelter and making holes in fences (and encouraging others on their street to do the same).
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What is a hedgehog house?
A hedgehog house is an artificial structure placed in a garden to encourage hedgehogs to hide or hibernate in it, and perhaps even for a female to build her nest in. A house is usually designed to be insulated and used in the winter, ventilated in the summer.
“Hedgehogs are in decline so we must do everything we can to help them in our gardens and green spaces. Offering a hedgehog house or a natural shelter in the form of an undisturbed woodpile are good ways to welcome them and ensure they have a safe place to sleep. It’s also great to offer them meaty cat or dog food and water.” Fay Vass, Managing Director of the BHPS.
Homes can be inspected for cleaning and maintenance, but the general advice is to only do this once a year – and of course not if you know it’s currently in use.
Hedgehogs build their own nests, called hibernacula, given the right materials and locations.
How to build a hedgehog house
Hedgehog houses can be built from scratch out of wood. The BHPS recommends that if you plan to use treated wood, only use water-based preservatives, and “under no circumstances should the hedgehog house be creosoted or treated with non-water-based preservatives as the fumes linger for a long time and can be very harmful.”
The roof should be removable so you can clean it when not in use (or if you need to rehabilitate and check on hedgehogs), and the entrance and/or tunnel should be narrow to prevent predators from gaining access.
Where to put a hedgehog house:
Hedgehog houses should be placed in a quiet, sheltered and shady spot, out of the prevailing wind (and not facing north or northeast) and ideally under shrubs where the hedgehog will not be disturbed. It can be camouflaged with leaves and twigs. Short pieces of dry grass and leaves can be placed inside as nesting material.
Hedgehog protector and author Hugh Warwick on hedgehog houses:
One of the Hedgehog Street campaign citizen science projects was the Hedgehog Housing Census. I was skeptical as to the value of these structures – not helped by showing hedgehogs ignoring them and building nests against the lovingly built or purchased houses! But I was wrong. The survey showed that hedgehogs actually use them, both bought and built; with a fondness for built.
It can take a while for hedgehogs to start using nest boxes, so don’t be discouraged if you install one and it’s not immediately occupied. They are more commonly used in back gardens and in sheltered spots. Providing food (in the garden, not indoors) and bedding increases the chances that it will be used.
Best hedgehog houses
Hogilo hedgehog house
This is a top quality hedgehog product made from recycled agricultural plastic (a great way to reuse old plastic material!) and FSC certified wood. The entrance is smaller than a 5 inch square space, preventing predators such as badgers and foxes from gaining access.
The lid can be lifted and pivoted to allow easy access for cleaning or to inspect rehabilitated hedgehogs. There is built-in ventilation and an internal tunnel.
The dimensions are: 230 x 520 x 385 mm (and 4.36 kg).
RSPB Silhouette Hedgehog Home
A very neat and stylish hedgehog house, made in the UK from FSC certified pine, with an overhanging and sloping roof and a hedgehog silhouette to the side. The roof is secured to prevent it from being pried off by potential predators or removed during gardening, but it can be removed for cleaning. It comes with ventilation holes and an internal tunnel.
It also comes home with a pre-drilled camera if you’re thinking of installing a trail camera to keep an eye on your hoggy residents.
The measurements are:
- External dimensions (including walls and roof): 53 x 40 x 23.5 cm.
- Interior dimensions (hedgehog living space): 43 x 34 x 17 cm.
Cameron Bespolka Trust Igelheim
This hedgehog house is handcrafted by the Minstead Trust, a Hampshire based charity that supports people with learning difficulties. It is made from untreated, recycled wood and features a concealed interior entrance to protect its occupants from predators. It is embossed with the Cameron Bespolka Trust logo and raised on slatted feet to prevent rot.
It can be delivered in the Winchester area. If you are outside the area you will need to contact the Trust for publication.
The dimensions are: 33 cm high x 41 cm wide and 52 cm deep.
National Trust Luxury Pine Hedgehog House
Manufactured by CJ Wildlife for the National Trust, this hedgehog house is made from FSC certified pine and stands on slatted feet to resist rot. The tunnel entrance prevents predators from gaining access.
The dimensions are: 39.5 cm length x 38 cm width x 31 cm height.
RSPB Classic Hedgehog House Kit
Cheaper than the other RSPB hedgehog house (see above) this hedgehog house comes as a flat pack kit that you can build at home (note: the screwdriver required for construction is not included). Manufactured in the UK from planed FSC certified timber, it has a pitched roof with ventilation holes and an interior tunnel. The roof can be removed for cleaning.
The dimensions are 52.5 cm x 20.5 cm (including the roof).
Henry Bell Hedgehog House
With a slatted and pitched roof, this wooden hedgehog house from British family business Fourth generation Henry Bell is part of their new wildlife collection and can provide shelter for your garden hedgehogs. It doesn’t have an internal tunnel or tunnel entrance, so concerned gardeners may want to widen it to make it harder for predators like badgers and foxes to access the hedgehog residents. It also comes without a base. The house is made in China from FSC-certified European pine.
The dimensions are 37 cm x 35 cm x 22 cm.