How to attract hedgehogs into a hedgehog house

Hedgehog poking its nose out from entrance of hedgehog house
Hedgehog emerging from hedgehog house during autumn.

Hedgehogs are valuable allies for gardeners seeking natural solutions to pest control. They eat a wide variety of insects and other invertebrates that cause so much damage to garden plants. An adult hedgehog will eat roughly 8% of its body weight each night. That's potentially a lot of unwanted pests taken care of!

Sadly, hedgehog numbers are declining in the UK. Providing a hedgehog house in your garden can be a great way to improve the habitat for hedgehogs, helping to support their numbers.

How to make a hedgehog house

Hedgehog houses are relatively easy to construct. Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital provides a free guide on how to make a hedgehog house out of wood. Alternatively, you can buy a readymade hedgehog home.

When to put hedgehog house out

The best months to put a hedgehog house out are April and October, either side of hedgehogs' hibernation and nesting seasons. If there's an unusually cold winter, you may need to wait a few weeks for temperatures to rise before putting out a new hedgehog house.

Where to put a hedgehog house

Firstly, it's important to make sure hedgehogs can access your garden. If you have a fence or wall, make sure there's a gap in the bottom at least 5” x 5”. David Domoney provides a template for making a hedgehog highway hole. You can also purchase a hedgehog crossing to strengthen and reinforce your fence after cutting the hole.

Hedgehog house positioned under shrub
Positioning the hedgehog house under a shrub or hedge offers protection from the elements.
The best place for your hedgehog house is in a quiet, sheltered area of your garden, where it's protected from the elements and predators. If possible, place the hedgehog house in a corner of the garden left to grow wild - the vegetation will provide shelter and privacy, as well as habitat for insects, a dietary staple for hedgehogs.
  • Choose a sheltered spot: Hedgehogs prefer to nest in sheltered areas, away from strong winds and rain. A location under a hedge or shrub is ideal, as it provides natural protection.
  • Avoid direct sunlight: A hedgehog house should be placed in a shaded area of the garden, away from direct sunlight. If it gets too hot, hedgehogs may avoid it.
  • Keep it away from hazards: Hedgehogs can get trapped in swimming pools or ponds, so avoid placing the house near these. Also, make sure there are no sharp edges or protrusions nearby that could harm the hedgehogs.
  • Check for potential predators: Hedgehogs are vulnerable to predators such as badgers, foxes, dogs and cats. Try to place the house in an area that is difficult for predators to access.

What to put in hedgehog house

Hedgehogs like to nest in warm, dry places, so providing soft and cosy bedding is important. You can use a variety of materials such as dry leaves, straw, or hay. If you're putting out a hedgehog house in the spring or summer, you can also provide nesting materials such as grass or dried moss. This can encourage female hedgehogs to use the house as a nesting site.

Hedgehog nesting amongst dry leaves
Adding natural nesting materials to your hedgehog house can encourage a hedgehog to take up residence.

Hedgehogs like to feel hidden and protected, so adding some natural materials such as twigs, leaves, and branches to the entrance of the house can help them feel more at home.

Avoid leaving hedgehog food near the house as it can attract predators and also creates competition for the house’s resident.

When to clean out hedgehog house

It's important to keep your hedgehog house clean and hygienic to prevent the spread of disease and parasites. However, you want to clean the house at the right time to avoid disturbing hedgehogs during the nesting or hibernation season.

The best months to clean a hedgehog house are April and October. If you're not sure whether there are hedgehogs in the house, you can check for signs of activity such as droppings or footprints.

When cleaning the hedgehog house, wear gloves to remove any bedding and then wash out the box using boiling water. This will kill off any parasites. Avoid using strong chemicals or insecticides, as they can harm hedgehogs and other wildlife. Let the box dry fully before replacing it with some choice bedding for the new occupant.