If you are lucky enough to have hedgehogs in your garden, feeding them is a great way to help to support them, to see them more regularly, and keep them coming back! It is extremely important, however, to make sure you are providing them with the correct nutrition.
What not to feed
Mealworms and/or sunflower seeds
Though mealworms may seem a great food for wildlife, as it is sold as such by many places, excessive consumption of them by any animal can lead to malnutrition and even metabolic bone disease. When hedgehogs consume mealworms as a main staple in their diet, they
experience a deficiency in their calcium and phosphorous levels. These deficiencies cause the bones to lose density and become softer and weaker, and in some cases this may even cause deformities. The bones can grow so weak from this condition that hedgehogs can barely stand up. Feeding hedgehogs sunflower seeds as part of their diet has the same effect.
Though hedgehogs may seem to adore mealworms, this is very alike our desire for chocolate and unhealthy foods over healthy ones. They may enjoy the taste of mealworms but they are extremely detrimental to the health of hedgehogs. We recommend to not use them even in small amounts when feeding the hedgehogs in your garden.
Fruit is not a usual part of a wild hedgehogs diet and their teeth are not designed to deal with the excessive sugars that some fruit contain. As a result, hedgehogs can experience severe tooth decay from eating fruit, which in turn affects their ability to catch and consume other types of food that they need to survive.
Milk and/or bread
Once a commonly put-out food source for hedgehogs, and other wildlife alike, evidence shows that being fed milk and bread can cause extreme gastro-intestinal discomfort in hedgehogs, and can in some cases cause them to become dehydrated. Dehydration is a common ailment we see in hedgehogs admitted to the rescue, and causes hedgehogs to become extremely weak and unable to defend themselves.
Nuts are not a part of a hedgehogs natural diet. Though they may seem beneficial as they are great sources of protein, they can get caught in hedgehogs mouths and throat, causing choking.
What to feed
Dry cat biscuits are a great staple for feeding the hedgehogs in your garden, and are also used by many rescue centres. It is recommended to use a good quality brand; hedgehogs prefer meat flavours.
Specially formulated hedgehog food
There are many brands of specially formulated dry hedgehog food available online. They are made especially to keep hedgehogs in good health.
Put out a large shallow dish of water for the hedgehogs in your garden. It is so important to keep hedgehogs hydrated, especially during heatwaves such as the one we are currently experiencing!
Spacing If your garden is big enough, you may be able to install multiple feeding stations! Though hedgehogs aren’t typically territorial, they do fight over food. It is advisable to place feeding stations at distance of 2 metres or over away from each other.
One final thing to mention is the danger of overfeeding. Hedgehogs vary greatly in size and weight, but can become overweight if they eat too much food (even cat or hedgehog biscuits!). When hedgehogs become too overweight, they are unable to fully curl up into a ball – one of their most important defence mechanisms. This renders their spines useless, as their soft underbellies will be exposed to predators, massively decreasing their chance of survival should they be predated upon.
The recommended amount to feed per hedgehog is roughly a handful of dried cat or hedgehog biscuits per day.