Attracting hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are very inoffensive and completely harmless to humans.

The old wives’ tale that they carry fleas is only partly true – yes they do have them, but their fleas are very very fussy, and will not transfer to or survive on other animals such as dogs, cats or (you may be relieved to know) humans !

Sometimes at night you might not see them but you will hear them !

Sometimes at night you might not see them but you will hear them !

Wild hedgehogs are very wary of humans and animals, and it takes a long while to gain their trust. I’m now at the stage where hogs will march up to me and happily munch away with me sitting on the back door step – they eat their food, sniff my foot, then scuttle off.

The trick is to remain still and quiet, and you will soon find yourself watching hedgehogs for hours on end in gloomier and gloomier light (eventually they become black, moving blobs making them stand out from everything else in your garden – they do tend to crash around in the undergrowth, however, so you can track them through sound rather than sight !).

Hedgehogs can move very quickly, up to 5 mph at times. However, if they are disturbed their first instinct is to freeze and then curl up. This is why many hogs get injured by lawnmowers and strimmers, or in bonfires and compost heaps.

What to feed hedgehogs

One of the most damaging pieces of advice is that hedgehogs love bread and milk. Whilst they may love them, they are the worst possible types of food to feed hedgehogs. Their tummies are not capable of digesting cows’ milk, and this results in a runny tummy. If this continues the hog will eventually dehydrate and die. In the same way that bread isn’t the best thing to feed birds, this food is low in nutrition and high in bulk thus filling the hogs up – it’s rather like us eating a Big Mac : it may be filling, but it’s nutritional value is negligible ! See this St Tiggywinkle’s fact sheet (PDF file) about why milk and bread should not be fed to hedgehogs

So, please don’t feed bread and milk, but do feed some of the following :

  • Spike's Relish

    Spike’s Relish

    the easiest food to give hogs is white-meat dog or cat food in jelly (not gravy) – examples are chicken, turkey, rabbit, even duck flavours. Younger hogs prefer the mushier kitten or puppy version. Serve in a saucer or shallow dog bowl (hogs also happily eat from the half food/half water plastic feeding bowls which Wilkos sell for 69p)

  • it is possible to buy special wet hedgehog food, called Spike’s Relish : ask your local pet shop to order some in for you !
  • It is important you add dried food to a hog’s diet when serving up wet food, to aid dental care of the hog’s teeth. The easiest to get hold of are little cat biscuits (I find the IAMS kitten biscuits – purple packaging – go down quite well, no matter how old the hog is). In the wild, hogs eat beetles for the same purpose – to keep their teeth healthy ! You can either add the biscuits to the wet food or sprinkle nearby. What the hogs don’t eat, other wildlife will !
  • I have yet to meet a hedgehog which doesn’t like dried mealworms. Wilko’s sell 100g tubs for £2.49. I get through a tub every two days, but then I do attract lots of hedgehogs !
    Dried mealworms - lots of crunchy goodness for hogs !

    Dried mealworms – lots of crunchy goodness for hogs !

    I scatter little piles of these around the garden (to encourage natural foraging behaviour). The sound of four hogs munching dried mealworms at the same time can be deafening !

  • Wild Things dried hedgehog food – I have only just started using this, and at first the hogs seemed a bit reluctant to take it. However, the levels in the bowls do now seem to be going down, and I know for a fact birds and cats won’t touch this stuff. Pets At Home in the Castle Marina retail park sell 2 kg bags for about £8
  • Hogs may also eat : sunflower hearts (for birds from Wilko’s), chopped nuts, sultanas, tiny pieces of cooked chicken, bits of fairy cake, raw mince, cooked potato. Hedgehogs are traditionally very fussy eaters, so some will like one thing and hate another, whilst a different hedgehog will have opposite tastes. You should only really put these foodstuffs out as occasional treats
  • The most important thing to provide hogs is a shallow dish of water. Hedgehogs drink loads every night, especially when eating food provided by humans – try to have more than one bowl on the ground if you can

Don’t worry if you miss a night or two – your food will not be the only thing hedgehogs eat during the course of a nightly forage. They walk miles each night in search for food, but your supplementary feeding will give them the boost they need to find more, especially critical when mothers have recently given birth, or when the ground is very dry.

How to give hedgehogs a home

Hedgehogs should never be taken from the wild and kept in an enclosed garden : indeed, to do so is actually illegal.

I have heard stories of people deliberately taking a hedgehog from its natural habitat and placing it in their garden so that it will eat all their slugs and snails. This is wrong on so many levels – snugs and snails only make up about 5% of a hog’s diet and, if truth be told, they’d rather not eat them, as they can make hedgehogs very ill (especially if the slugs and snails have eaten metaldehyde pellets, or are carriers of parasites such as lungworms).

Provide hedgehog houses and you'll have friends for life !

Provide hedgehog houses and you’ll have friends for life !

However, if you are leaving food out you’ll soon find that word will spread in the hedgehog community, and if you’re lucky you’ll be visited throughout the evening by a whole gang of marauding pricklies, who will include your garden on a long list of places they visit each night during their foraging activities.

But what about going one step further and making them somewhere cosy to rest up ? Hogs are very nomadic about where they sleep, especially during the summer, so often will rest up in very informal nests. If you can provide either suitable habitat (a good wild area in your garden, such as piles of logs, or bushy evergreen vegetation such as bramble, tall grass, etc) or even a hedgehog house, you may find your garden becomes a valuable pitstop.

Some may surprise you and stay on for even longer – I had one hibernate in one of my garden boxes all winter long, and made sure he had access to dried food and water throughout the winter (although I suspect the resident blackbirds nicked a lot of the food !)

You can buy hedgehog houses or even make your own – see the BHPS website for some good ideas


  1. Bonnie says:

    I put out a dish of dried hedgehog food and for some reason it seems to attract lots of slugs and snails,and I mean lots.Should I change the type of food I am putting out or is this normal.

    1. Freya aged 9 says:

      I heard that you should put out water and dry cat food try it from freya

    2. I have about 5 hogs visit my garden they started visiting me last year and im pleased to say they are back again this year i love to watch them and stand outside watching them mooching round the garden after theyve had their supper im still learning about them but myself and family have also become intrested in the little pricklies and yes! They have names well 3 of them do but they are wonderful little creatures a pleasure to have visit our garden.

      1. Kate says:

        we found an orphaned baby hedgehog hes called squeek because when we found him stuck he was squeeking like mad we fed him up and is in a rabbit run in the backgarden hopefully to be returned to the wild as soon as possible we feed him cat food and he loves bell peppers we put an apple core in is run every night and he takes into his little house hopefully when he is big enough to go back into the wild he will come and visit us sometimes

  2. clayts says:

    Depends what’s in the dried food – they are generally attracted by the meaty bits.

    Not a lot you can do as the current damp weather we are having brings out the slugs and snails.

    You could try putting the dried food inside a plastic crate, like the feeding station spoken about at

    Alternatively you could set up slug barriers although these will need to be maintained – some good examples from include :

    …sand, ashes, broken eggshells and soot are physically difficult for slugs to get across either through being scratchy and sharp or by drying up the mucous glands that are necessary for their movement. …

    Please don’t be tempted to use slug pellets though – these cause more harm than good for our prickly friends.

  3. LUCY says:

    we picked up a fly blown hedgehog yesterday. I have cleaned/toothbrushed all the fly eggs off. Ears etc all clear today and hog doing very well on a mix of dried cat food suet shreds and minced morcel dog food. He only weighs 400g so we are keeping him in and warm, I assume for the winter. The only problem is that his faeces smells dreadful, I am a nurse so trust me, it smells! Is this normal or has he maybe got an underlying problem which is why he weakened enough to be flyblown and out in the open. He does not appear unwell. Stools loose but not frequent. regards guardian of maurice the malodorous

  4. clayts says:

    Any hog which is flyblown may well have an underlying problem – have you checked for wounds (as best you can, not always easy with a ball of prickles). Bad smelling faeces could well be a gastric problem (there are reports of a gastric problem in some areas of Peak District affecting hogs at present, esp Derbyshire) or at best an infection. He really needs to be seen as soon as possible at best by a vet who knows about hogs or failing that an experienced carer/wildlife sanctuary – where are you located ? Please also join the Hedgehog Forums and report the same again there – a whole wealth of experienced carers on there who can assist.

  5. becky says:

    I recently discovered a prickly visitor in my garden, i watched him climb two steps, run along the path, along the edge of my lawn then back along the fence out of my gate.

    I’ve built a shelter ( a paving slab on bricks ) placed water outside the shelter and a dish with dry cat food and small pieces of chicken, but he didn’t seem to find the food.

    Am i doing something wrong? will he come back later? I noticed alot of ants under the bricks i put down, would they affect the hedgehog?

    1. clayts says:

      Keep leaving the food out each night (change the chicken daily of course) and eventually he’ll get the message there’s free food going – you could try smaller kitten biscuits as hogs seem to prefer these.

      This weekend was a bit special because of the torrential rain we had, so hogs were feeding up on natural prey items such as beetles and earthworms, which have been in very very short supply due to the warm, dry April. They pretty much ignored all the food I left out on Saturday night which was a first (and I have quite a few regular visitors here at the Lodge) !

      Once hogs know there is a regular supply of food they become very loyal visitors and will keep returning night after night (well, most nights anyway) and you can even get to the stage where you can anticipate the time your visitor. will arrive. They’re creatures of habit, and will start to include your garden as part of their nightly forage. Ants should cause no problems to hogs.

      Thanks so much for the donation – this will go towards providing more pre-release pens for the Lodge.

  6. Freya aged 9 says:

    if hedgehogs have milk they could get injured or die. and if you put bread out flies will come and lay eggs and then the hedgehog will eat the food with the eggs on it and they can die.

    We need to protect hedgehogs or they will be extinct.


  7. clayts says:

    Hi Freya

    You are quite correct – you should never feed hedgehogs bread or milk.

    Bread fills up their tummies but doesn’t give them the healthy things they need – it’s rather like us eating too many sweets or crisps : very tasty, but not very good for us at all.

    You are also right in saying that bread does attract flies and can make hedgehogs very ill. Milk also makes hedgehogs’ tummies very poorly indeed.

    I hope you tell all your friends at school about this – make sure their mums and dads aren’t feeding hedgehogs bread or milk.

  8. Nickie says:

    I have several hogs visiting the garden each night. Fresh water is always available along with mealworms, peanuts, a few sultanas, dried chicken flavour dog biscuits (small bite) and occasionally chicken dog or cat food. There are large areas of wildlife garden; long grass, brambles, logs etc and a couple of hog houses, one of which was used through the winter. We get so much pleasure from these wonderful little creatures, it’s a great privilege to share our garden with them. However, we have found three dead hogs in the last three weeks. None of them had any obvious injuries and only one had a tick on it. I assume there must be quite a few hogs passing through my garden each night as it is about three quarters of an acre and very hog friendly. Is this level of mortality normal? Is there anywhere to send the poor little things for autopsy to find the cause? I realise that it could be slug pellets in neighbouring gardens but also that it could be parasites. Is there anything I can do to help my surviving hogs? Thanks!

    1. clayts says:

      Hi Nickie
      Congratulations on having many happy visitors to your garden.

      Sadly, 2012 has been a truly dreadful year for hedgehog fatalities, which are seemingly related to the poor weather, allowing for a particularly nasty parasite to literally worm its way inside our prickly friends.

      The thorny-headed worm is particularly insidious, even for hedgehog rehabbers because, unlike other types of parasite which are detected in their poo, these little alien invaders are undetectable – the first we know about it is when a hog collapses, and sadly dies within a few hours, without any warning. The only way to find out is for a PM (something I cannot do myself nor afford to pay for, but the symptoms are unmistakeable).

      Whilst primarily it is affecting new-borns and juveniles, there are reports of it affecting adult hogs too.

      As a consequence, all reputable rehabbers (and yes, that includes us) are now carrying out preventative worming treatment on admission to all hoglets and juveniles – before we did this we lost two hoglets, since we started we’ve not lost any, so hopefully we’re on top of it now.

      Whilst I could not rule out slug pellet (or other) poisoning for your poor hogs, I would suspect it is more likely to be the thorny-headed worm causing the problems.

      See this news story

  9. marion says:

    August 30th 2012 Two adult hedgehogs here in the Spring. – now one adult and three half grown hoggies. Eating Spike dried food sunflower hearts and a few scraps of chicken and cooked potato.
    Just pray they dont get the awful worm!
    I live on a housing estate next to a churchyard and a hay meadow.
    Obviously they dont touch the slugs which try to snaffle the food!
    Guess they find plenty of beetles and worms in my wild garden.
    Location Hampshire coast edge of New Forest.

  10. Katie says:

    We have two adult hedgehogs and one rather very small hedgehog which looks like it must have been from a late litter. We were advised to feed them digestive biscuits with some water which they seem to love and return every evening at around the same time. However I am a little worried that the little one might be too small to make it through the winter and a friend said that mealworms help fatten them up. How many would you advise putting out for them? Is there anything else that might help?

    1. clayts says:

      Digestives are okay for very occasional treats but hogs really need feeding good quality protein diets at this time of the year – kitten biscuits (either IAMS Kitten or Babycat Kitten) together with dried mealworms, which hogs absolutely adore, usually go down well. If you can also put out wet food as well in the evenings Pedigree Chum puppy food (in pouches from Wilko 50p each – chicken, or in tins) does go down well too, but watch out for rats/foxes if you choose to go down that route. If you have cats, mix the mealworms in with the biccies and the cats will leave them alone (well, my two do anyway).

      October is always a tricky month to give advice on what is best for the little ones as there are so many factors we have to take into account – their weight, current temperatures, whether they have access to food and water. If the little one is visiting every day, there’s every chance it will make it to a safe weight (600g) for hibernation – remember your garden is one of many they will visit during the course of the evening. along with their normal foraging in their natural habitat.

      What you need to do is make their journeys to your garden worthwhile – the more food you leave out, the more they will come (although don’t worry if you can’t do it every night – it’s supplementary feeding only and they will get food elsewhere), and the more energy they will have to forage more food of their own.

      Does the young one come in with one of the larger ones ? If so that is perfectly normal as the mother will be showing the little one where to get food. All you can do is safely monitor from a distance – I’d personally be grabbing it, weighing it, putting a blob of Tippex on it’s back and closely monitoring it, perhaps weighing it every few days to see if it is putting weight on, as it’s far better for the little one to keep foraging and to try to make it to a safe weight itself than put it through the stress of human overwintering.

      If you can let me know the little one’s weight (in grams) that would be helpful

      1. clayts says:

        Oh, in terms of volumes of food, I tend to scatter my mealworms all round the garden and get through tons of the things (bulk buy on eBay is cheapest), but for rehabbing hogs a cat bowl full of mealworms and biccies mixed usually disappears and ensures a healthy weight gain. I’d say two bowls for your visitors should be ample, but ensure you leave two bowls of water out too as dry foods make hogs drink tons of the stuff. Wilko’s do plastic cat bowls for about 70p and hogs have no problem with them.

  11. Katie says:

    Have been feeding them the kitten food and mealworms for the last two nights. They love the mealworms and they have been going down really well. However they barely touch the kitten food which has led to another problem. They pick out all the mealworms and then the local cats make an appearance as they think free food is going. Felt really guilty as the hedgehogs kept coming back and just looking at the bowl of cat biscuits and walking away, so put out some more mealworms and some digestives again which dissapeared in half an hour. I think I have spoiled them but felt really guilty especially so close to winter.
    The liitle one usually comes with his/her mother and usually makes a couple more apperances later alone during the evening. Will try and weigh him/her over the next couple of nights. However the little one is quite small he/she often sits in the food bowl(rabbit food bowl, so not very big) whilst eating so you can imagine quite how small he/she is.

    1. clayts says:

      I’d put a hold on the digestives, seriously – these are overloaded with salt and sugar which can cause problems with hogs. They are fine as occasional treats (once a week) but if all the hogs that visit you are taking are dried mealworms keep doling them out – they are great for fattening up hogs this time of the year – full of protein and fat. You may wish to bulk buy off ebay (try Maltby Stores – they are very good) as shop bought ones are ridiculously expensive (although if you have a B&M Bargains, Poundland or Home Bargains you can pick up 100g bags between £1 and £1.50 although stocks tend to be very erratic. Wilkos charge £8.99 for a 3 litre bucket (works out at about 450-500g I think) which is expensive but not as bad as some places (eg Pets At Home, Kennelgate) charge.

  12. MickyT says:

    Actually stumbled upon this site after seeing a hog about 19:45 tonight & then searching what is best to feed them. Turns out I was already doing ok as I feed the birds mealworms along with seeds & suet. I guess the hogs have been hoovering up what the birds scatter to the floor. Anyway, I left a pile of worms for them after reading here & at 21:45 I spotted another hog munching on the feast! I live on a modern housing development but luckily my house fronts directly onto woodland so we get all sorts of wildlife – owls, foxes & muntjac deer to name a few but from now I’ll look to help the hogs through the tough times with some good food whilst watching quietly as they snuffle about for a treat!

    1. clayts says:

      Fantastic place to be, next to a woodland. We are located right next to one, Snape Wood, and even though the back garden here is tiny, it’s usually full of wildlife. I had four squirrels in there this afternoon, ridiculous for a garden of its size, along with the usual cast of birds. We also have tawny owls in the woods, and should start seeing the foxes again soon.

      Hedgehogs will definitely appreciate all the help you can give them at this time of the year – the more mealworms you leave, the more hogs you’ll get, and that’s fact ! I don’t care what people say about animals, something definitely ‘happens’ when you start leaving food out, and ‘word’ spreads amongst members of the same species !

      Keep your eyes peeled for little ones as they may need extra help as October turns into November (see my comments on Katie’s post)

  13. MickyT says:

    I did chuckle when I read your earlier post about “word getting around!” It seems to as a lot of the worms had been munched through when I checked this morning. I could also hear them last night snuffling about in the woods! Yes we are really lucky here in an urban part of Hertfordshire but with this woodland right on our doorstep. My Mrs thinks I’m a loony but I can watch & wait for hours for a sight of the wildlife. With the colder weather coming this weekend I’ll make sure it all gets some food to stock up on!

  14. Katie says:

    The mealworms are going down really well with all three of our hedgehogs. The mother has a huge appetite and is the biggest out of all the three. The other hedgehog is considerably smaller but eats nearly a bowl of mealworms in one go, is that ok? The little one is also making regular appearances and eating lots, we are going to try and catch him/ her tomorrow for a weigh in. This evening we noticed he/she had three ticks what is the best way of removing them. Someone mentioned if you couldnt remove them try putting teatree oil on them and they said they would drop off however is this ok when he/she is so young? Will the mother be ok with the scent?

    1. clayts says:

      Please don’t use any form of oil to remove ticks, as whilst this kills the ticks it also makes them regurgitate the contents of their stomach back into the hog, which is not good. Two or three ticks isn’t a problem – the ticks will drop off when they are full usually within a few days, so don’t worry too much about it: almost all hogs have some sort of parasite burden.
      It’s when they have over about 20 that it’s a problem….! The easiest way to remove ticks is with a tool or a pair of tweezers (but there is a knack to it and I wouldn’t advise it!)

  15. Claire Ross says:

    I have thought for weeks and weeks we have had hedgehogs coming to eat, we feed a lot – a lot – of cats, and Always have cat food and water out. I saw a hog last night and he was huge! I did not know they grew so big! I watched him from the conservatory and he was munching away good style. So I watched for them tonight and eventually I was rewarded by two coming for their supper, the big one and a smaller one. I am enchanted and will keep feeding them!

    1. clayts says:

      Excellent news – yes, keep leaving the food out and they’ll come, although a lot are now entering into hibernation. If the little one starts coming in on its own you may need to grab it and weigh it – if it’s below 650g it will need to be rescued

      1. Claire Ross says:

        How do you get hold of him and weigh him? Gloves and a canvas bag? I don’t want to hurt or scare him. The big one is about 25plus cm long and a fatty, the little one is about 15 cm long and looks quite well rounded, as I said we have been feeding them for weeks – we saw hedgehog droppings every morning – and if I pick up the little one where will he go? We live in SW Scotland.

        1. clayts says:

          Advice for rescuing hogs can be found at
          In terms of your nearest rescue, I don’t know how far you are from Beith, Ayrshire, which is where are based – failing that try the BHPS carers page at

          1. Claire Ross says:

            Weighed my prickly visitors last night – tricky but worth it. Fatty hog is almost 1500g and the wee one is just over 800g, they were on IAMS anyway but I have now added dried mealworms and lots of fresh water which is always out for the cats anyway.. Whilst it is cold here it is not yet icy and we live with fields, the river and a forest all a stones throw away so lots of cover for my hog friends.
            Really enjoying watching them and getting to know them, they seem to come about nine o’clock, have a meal then scoot away. Great fun to see!

  16. Katie says:

    Just weighed the little one and he is only 300g should I be looking at finding somewhere nearby to take him/her over winter?

    1. clayts says:

      Absolutely yes – he’s far too small to be out and needs taking to an experienced carer – whereabouts are you ?

  17. Katie says:

    Tadley near Basingstoke

    1. clayts says:

      My personal recommendation if you don’t mind the drive would be Hedgehog Bottom in Thatcham, Berkshire – although there are others signposted on their carers page at

      Gill, who runs Hedgehog Bottom, is superb but always very busy : phone ahead

  18. Katie says:

    The liitle one is happy and healthy and settled in at hedgehog Bottom

  19. Annie says:

    An ant colony has established itself near our hog-house, which has been untroubled by ants since we set it up a couple of years ago. They are the common black garden ant variety. We have a trail of maybe ten hogs who call for dinner most nights, and a couple who sleep over, so are reluctant to upset their routines if it can be avoided. So are the ants bad for the hogs? If so, how do I deal with ants safely (and humanely if possible). Thanks

    1. clayts says:

      The simple (but not necessarily humane !) solution is to pour boiling water on the nest. However, ants shouldn’t really cause a problem to hogs at all

  20. Geoff says:

    I put out some spikes dinner dried hedgehog food out for three young hedgehogs that frequently visit my garden, they seemed tottally disinterested, they walked over it, through it and stood in it but I didnt see them eat any of it, is this normal?

    1. clayts says:

      The answer is yes ! A lot of hedgehogs are very picky about food, and we’ve never had any success whatsoever with proprietary hedgehog foods. The best advice is to leave out IAMS kitten biscuits or cat food in jelly (pref white meat eg turkey, chicken, rabbit), the latter in the evening only – hogs like this !

  21. Geoff says:

    Thanks clayts I got it initially so I could leave it out all weekend when Im not there, I will try the dried kitten biscuits to leave out over the weekend and the food in jelly for week nights when im there. I have some dried mealworms also, one question do you dampen the dried biscuits first or put out as they are?. I want to make sure these three are nice and porky for the winter after the poor advice I got from a “hedgehog rescuer” last year, thanks again

  22. clayts says:

    No need to dampen the biscuits beforehand – they’re the closest thing to beetles, believe it or not, and hoggies seem to love them – they do also cram on the weight with these. To deter cats, I recommend mixing the dried mealworms in with the biscuits ;)

  23. Geoff says:

    Thanks for that, the position that the food is in is such that cats cant get to it so no problem there, will also purcase a hedgehog house and make sure they have somewhere to overwinter if they choose.

  24. Geoff says:

    I have to be away for 4-5 days soon and there is nobody here , i.e neighbour or family to feed the hogs, I can put enough food out for a couple of days but there is a chance the trip will roll over to 6 days, any ideas anyone???, thanks

  25. clayts says:

    It’s important to remember that hogs do not solely rely upon food put out by humans – if they did they would have been extinct many centuries ago!

    What we do is ‘supplementary feeding’ to give them the extra energy to forage more for themselves. The hogs shouldn’t suffer because you’ve gone away for a few days – with the recent rainstorms, there should be their normal prey readily available again.

    Just make sure you leave loads and loads of dishes of water out everywhere – that’s the one thing you can never ‘over-do’ !

  26. Geoff says:

    Thanks clayts, will leave some food out when I leave, hopefully that will last then a couple of overnights, not had any rain here yet but there is water left in shallow bowls all round the garden which I see them using every night, cant beleive how much food three young hungry hogs get through every night, thanks again

  27. Rowan says:

    Hi Clayts, thank for your helpful page and comments. Started leaving mealworms out for my 10pm visitor and 5 nights on we now have 4 including a very large and seemingly tempramental prickly (Big Bertha) who tends to run around everywhere and snuff and huff at the smaller ones and try and herd them! Will check back for more tips, thanks again!

    1. clayts says:

      Great to hear – the smaller ones may be Big Bertha’s hoglets, which is a good thing because she is showing them where to get food ! Either that or she’s a big girl being harrassed by male suitors ;)