hedgehog hiding in autumn leavesIf there’s one thing that’s for sure; there’s nothing cuter than a teeny, tiny hedgehog. These enchanting creatures have it all; they’re totally adorable, a bit mysterious in their ways and a great garden visitor to have. We’re willing to bet there’s a few things you don’t know about these prickly little critters. Read on for the top 10 things you didn’t know about hedgehogs:

1. Their table manners aren’t the best

If you’ve ever heard a hedgehog eating, it may come as a surprise that they chew so loudly! Next time the tiny creature visits your garden, listen out for that telltale sound of them enjoying their dinner.

2. Shakespeare was a fan

Referring to them as ‘hedgepins’ and ‘urchins’, William Shakespeare has included hedgehogs in plays such as The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. If Shakespeare is a fan then so are we!

3. They have A LOT of spines

It may come as a surprise but adult hedgehogs have at least 5,000 spines. 5,000 spines of prickly cuteness to be exact. They even have a small tail, which is generally hidden by the needles so a lot of people don’t know it’s there.

4. They like to do the rounds

That hedgehog you’ve affectionately named Steve might not be the regular you think he is. Hedgehogs like to visit different gardens each evening, so Steve might actually be Jack or Harry.

5. Their favourite food is insects

Hedgehogs enjoy beetles, caterpillars, earthworms and slugs, making them the ideal garden visitor. Say goodbye to those pesky insects when Steve/Jack/Harry is in town! To supplement their natural diet, you can also buy hedgehog food from WildThings. These little critters can’t get enough of it!

6. They like things messy

Good news; creating a safe space for hedgehogs is a great excuse to not trim your hedges. These critters love wild and overgrown greenery, as it offers them a safe space to nest. If there comes a time when you do need to do a bit of garden maintenance, especially in the winter, keep an eye out for any hibernating hedgehogs.

7. They sleep A LOT

Hedgehogs hibernate between November and March and need a soft cosy place to remain warm through the winter. Their favourite places to go down for the long nap are beneath garden sheds, under bushwood and snuggled up under bountiful garden hedges.

8. Their eyesight isn’t the best

It’s true, hedgehogs can’t see very well at all. To make up for this, their sense of smell and hearing are both exceptional. This enables them to find a safe place to nest, avoid predators and sniff out a tasty treat.

9. They’re lactose intolerant

If you want to leave a drink out for your garden visitor, you’re probably best staying clear of milk. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant which means they struggle to digest lactose, the main carbohydrate in dairy products. Opt for clean, fresh water instead.

10. They have strong personalities

When it comes to hedgehogs, you never know what you’re going to get. Some are charming and sociable, while others may be much more wary and want their own space. It’s important that you respect each individual hedgehog’s boundaries so you don’t frighten them. Your best bet is making sure they have plenty of food to eat and going in for a cautious pet once you’ve established a relationship.

Feeding the ducks is a much loved activity for many, but over recent years there’s been a lot of debate about what you should feed ducks – and it raises a question, what do (and should) ducks actually eat?

Well, ducks are omnivorous birds which means they eat a wide range of different foods, both plant and animal, and often forage for meals and snacks. Feeding ducks, swans and geese is a great way to enjoy getting close to them and a really good way to connect with nature. But what can you feed ducks at your local park? Here are a few tips…

What do ducks eat?

In the wild, a duck’s diet will vary depending on their breed and habitat. Ducks that live near grasslands and parks will eat seeds, grass, and weeds, whereas ducks that live in wetlands will eat amphibians for example frogs, fish, and salamanders. If needs dictate, ducks will also eat molluscs, fish eggs, algae, worms, and insects.

In addition to these nutritious foods, some ducks consume sand, gravel, pebbles, and small shells to provide grit that aids their digestion. Grit can also contain trace amounts of vital minerals, such as calcium that help form part of their healthy diet.

Ducks and swans that live near ponds, parks and lakes often rely on supplementary feeding by the public and can be at risk of starvation without the extra food. If you can visit your local waterside, we would encourage you to take along some food and offer them a helping hand. You never know it could save their life.

Should ducks eat bread?

Feeding bread to swans and ducks is a fond pastime for people but, in some cases, this can be harmful to the birds.  There are many healthier alternatives which are safer for both the birds and the environment.

When ducks and swans eat bread in excess, it can cause nutrient and vitamin deficiencies which have been linked to the development of Angel Wing. This condition causes structural issues and strain on the muscles, causing their wings to twist and drop open. In most cases of Angel Wing, excessive intake of carbohydrates, lack of Vitamin E and Magnesium have been present and this correlates with the lack of nutrition white bread provides. It is also important to note that bacteria can breed on any uneaten bread and this can attract rats and other unwanted vermin.

However, this doesn’t mean we have to stop our trips to the lake to feed the ducks. Giving birds the right food is good for both them and the environment. So next time you go down to the pond, why not take a healthier alternative such as our Swan & Duck Food and do your bit to protect our wildlife!  You can read more about our ‘Better Than Bread’ campaign here.

What can I feed ducks?

There are many healthy, safe, and nutritious foods you can feed ducks, swans, and geese. The best foods contain minerals and vitamins that birds need for growth and development.

Some good foods to feed them include:

  • Rice (This can be plain, brown, or white and it doesn’t matter if it’s cooked or un-cooked)
  • Lettuce
  • Peas
  • Oats (rolled or porridge oats)
  • Grapes (cut them in half first to avoid choking)
  • Vegetable trimmings or peels
  • WildThings Swan & Duck Food

WildThings Swan & Duck Food is an environmentally friendly and wholesome alternative. It is also extremely tasty, so you will quickly become the most popular person at the lake!

Following the recent outbreak of Coronavirus and the current guidance to self-isolate and practice social distancing, we know that you may be worried about the amount of fresh air and spring sunshine you will (or will not) be able to enjoy whilst staying at home. At WildThings, we love all things wildlife and have put together these crafty ideas of how you can enjoy your garden and the wonders that it can bring!

Craft DIY Bird Feeders

What better way to enjoy some peaceful time at home than to watch a beautiful array of birds visit your garden to enjoy some food. There are plenty of bird feeders that can be bought, but have you ever tried to make one for yourself? Creating a DIY bird feeder can be a great activity to do alone or you can include your children or family members and everyone can enjoy the results – you could even have a contest to see who’s bird feeder is the most popular with your garden guests. For a simple bird feeder, all you’ll need is a plastic bottle, two sticks, some string and birdseed! Check out this handy video guide for how to create your feeder.

Build a Hedgehog Hotel

Our hedgehog friends are now more likely to be seen around your gardens, as they will be getting ready to raise hoglets and make up for the fat loss that they will have experienced over the winter. Sadly, hedgehog numbers are in decline and they rely on our communities to support them and help them stay safe. Whilst you have some extra time at home, you could take this opportunity to play a part in the conservation effort for our spiky friends. One way you can do this is to create an appealing space for them in your garden – If you’re lucky, you may just get a recurring visitor to keep watch over for the foreseeable future! To create the perfect palace for a hedgehog, it needs to be made up of the following

  • A tunnel for entry
  • A dark and dry enclosed space inside with dry leaves and straw (make sure the space is ventilated)
  • Surround with logs to attract insects (hedgehog prey!)
  • Leave out a shallow dish with hedgehog food and a second dish with water

With regards to what the house is made of, get creative with what you have around the home! Maybe an old plant pot or plastic box that could be turned upside down to create a cosy place to sleep. Are you an aspiring carpenter and fancy creating a wooden mansion for your hogs? We’ve seen successful houses from the simple to the extravagant, but the most important thing to remember is that you need to have an access point to your garden for the hedgehog to find your hotel. Therefore,  make sure there is a hole or gap in your garden fence (AKA a Hedgehog Highway) so that your little friends can find their way in.

Want some more guidance on how to build one? Check out this guide from Gardeners’ World.

Create a Wild Corner

Choose a corner of your garden to go wild! The key to a great wild corner to attract an array of wildlife is variety – create open areas, enclosed and shaded areas and lots of levels to appeal to the masses. If you are able to get some seeds, try planting some new wildflowers in the area and watch them grow.

  • Create a pile with different rocks and stones to create lots of hiding places for creepy crawlies, you can also add any leaves and sticks you can find too to create more variety in the space
  • Add some kind of water to the corner, try submerging a half-barrel, trough style planter or even a small tupperware tub below the surface and filling with water, this could appeal to birds to take a refreshing sip and bath, or even to some of our bigger wild friends like badgers and foxes to come and rehydrate too.
  • Why not add some of your veggie kitchen scraps to the corner too, this will act as a natural fertiliser for your garden as well as offering an appealing snack to some wildlife.

There are plenty of great ways to stay active and experience fresh air, enjoy the spring sunshine and the beauty that nature has to offer whilst still remaining safe at home. Try to create lots of interest in your garden by repurposing everyday household items and see what wildlife turns up! If you’ve got children, why not download our wildlife activity sheets to keep them busy too. We’d love to see what beautiful wildlife your garden has to offer, share your photos and ideas with our WildThings community on Facebook.

With natural habitats declining in Britain, gardens are more important now than ever for birds. But first, you need to attract birds to your garden. Here are a few ways you can achieve this…

 

Regularly fill bird feeders

This may sound like stating the obvious, but regularly filling your bird feeders will keep your feather friends always coming back for more. Knowing that your garden has a consistent supply of food will make them want to visit more often. Using a mix of foods will also help attract birds, as a variety of tastes will encourage birds to come back for something different each time. Try a mix of sunflower seeds, canary seeds, hemp and husk free oats. If you want to avoid pesky pigeons, avoid using foods that contain a lot of wheat, which they love.

Protect bird food from predators

It’s important that you keep your feeders safe and out of reach from predators at all times, as birds won’t want to visit your garden if they know that it’s unsafe. Try putting your feeder next to some cover to hide it from predators like cats or squirrels, such as a tree, a hedge or a climber-covered fence. Also, hanging it above a prickly shrub can help deter cats. You should also try moving your feeder now and then to keep predators returning to the same spot to take food.

Put a nest box in your garden

This time of year is perfect for putting up nest boxes, as birds use the winter to scope out spots to breed for the springtime. Providing with a safe and secure nest box for the winter will encourage them to return to your garden, as they’ll have made themselves at home in your box. You should also make sure to regularly clean your nest box each winter. Remove old nests and clean the boxes with hot water to kill parasites. This will help encourage birds to return to your garden each year.

Put a birdbath in your garden

Birds need a supply of water at all times to drink and bathe in, but a birdbath is especially useful for your feathery friends in the winter. Bathing makes their feathers easier to preen, keeping them waterproof and insulating, which will be helpful during the cold winter months. Make sure to regularly change and refill with cold water, and keep an eye out for the water freezing over. If this happens, defrost with hot water.

Plant bird-friendly plants

Feeders, nest boxes and birdbaths are all well and good, but they’re no use if birds can’t feel like they’re in a natural habitat. There are plenty of bird-friendly plants to place in your garden that can help your local birds feel right at home. Mixed hedges of hawthorn and holly, ivy-covered arches and pergolas offer shelter and fruity treats for birds. You can also try specimen trees such as bird cherry or crab apple.

Many of us see badgers & foxes every day in our local areas, but there’s plenty of things about these furry little wonders that most people know nothing about. Here are a few of our favourites!

Charles Darwin discovered a fox species

During his expedition on the ship The Beagle at age 22, Darwin collected a fox that is now referred to as Darwin’s Fox. Originally thought to be a subspecies of the South American Gray Fox, this small grey fox has now been classed as its own unique species. Darwin’s Fox is a critically endangered species and lives in just two parts of the world: a small population on the island of Chiloe in Chile, and a small amount at the Chilean national park.

Badgers have a lot of relatives

Badgers belong to the Mustelidae family, which also includes otters, weasels, polecats and wolverines. Many species in this family have similar body types, as they can be identified by their long bodies, round ears and short legs. Members of the Mustelidae family also have scent glands and give off a strong, musty smell.

Foxes are solitary creatures…

Even though foxes are part of the Canidae family, which means they’re related to wolves, dogs and jackals, they aren’t pack animals. Though they will live in small families, or “skulks”, when raising their young, foxes tend to hunt and sleep alone.

…And badgers are more social

Badgers live together with other family members in a clan called a “cete”. While some badgers can be solitary and will move from home to home, cetes can be made up of 2-15 badgers living together. They also share jobs in their living area, including digging and cleaning. All badgers in a clan know each other’s smell and will mark each other so that the whole cete has a shared smell.

Foxes use the Earth’s magnetic field to hunt

Animals like birds, sharks and turtles have a connection to the Earth’s magnetic field, but the fox is the only known creature to use this connection to hunt its prey. According to experts, foxes can see the field as a “ring of shadow” on their eyes that darken as they head towards the magnetic north. When the shadow and the sound the prey is making line up, they’re ready to attack.

A Badger’s home is called a “sett”

Badgers are territorial creatures, with the size of their territory depending and have a number of setts in their chosen territory. They also have a main sett which is the biggest, with some being hundreds of years old and having a number of entrances.

The smallest fox weighs under 3 pounds

The Fennec Fox, which resides in the Sahara Desert, is roughly the size of a small kitten. This cute little creature has elongated ears and a creamy coat and sleeps through the day to protect itself from the burning desert heat. Its long ears have benefits such as better hearing for hunting prey and radiating body heat, allowing it to keep cool. Its paws are also covered with fur so that it can walk on the hot sand.

Badgers keep their “setts” clean

Badgers are incredibly tidy creatures and work hard to ensure that their sett is as clean as possible. Badgers will not defecate in their sett and will have special communal toilets made of shallow pits away from their sett on the edge of their territory. They also will not bring food into their sett, choosing to eat food where they find it or somewhere else in their territory.

Arctic Foxes can survive in extreme cold

As they reside in the northernmost areas of the hemisphere, the arctic fox has adapted to survive the harshest of cold weathers. It doesn’t feel cold or shivers until the climate reaches -70 degrees. Its white coat also camouflages it against predators, and as the season changes, its coat changes too. Its colour will turn to brown or grey so that the fox can blend in with the rocks and dirt.

Where a badger’s habitat is

Most badgers will form their setts in broadleaved woodland areas, but you can find setts just about anywhere. The main reasoning for where a badger will reside is access to food, so the ideal habitat will have plenty of good worming pasture. This is why they sometimes choose gardens for their setts, as the soil is easy to dig through and has a good supply of worms.

As the nights get darker at this time of year and the cold weather produces distractions like rain and snow, it’ll be harder for drivers to see what’s ahead of them on the road. This creates a number of risks for your local wildlife, as animals will often find their way from the woods to highways and residential streets. So, to avoid any potential hazards, here are a few ways you can help keep your local wildlife safe on the roads this winter.

 

Stick to the speed limit

The most obvious, but also most important way to avoid accidents with wildlife is to always stick to the speed limit. Doing this will lessen the impact in the event of a collision. It will also give you more time to see any animals that may be ahead of you, and will give you more time to break and prevent a collision.

 

Keep your eyes out for animals

The best way to make sure no animals are harmed on the road is to always look out for any animals nearby. When driving at night, look out for any reflections in animals’ eyes as you’re driving. This is known as “eye-shine”. And if you have any passengers in your car, let them know to keep an eye out for animals whilst your attention is on the road.

 

Be aware of peak areas and times

It’s helpful to know about any areas you may be traveling through that are popular with wild animals. Do a search of areas you’ll be travelling through to see if they’re popular animal areas and which animals you’re likely to come across. Also, it helps to keep in mind times of the day that animals are most active. For instance, deer are most active between 6pm and 9pm. This is when the day gets darker and it will be harder to see. Knowing when animals are most likely to be near the roads will help you remain alert for any wildlife that darts into your line of vision.

 

Avoid tailgating

Road safety doesn’t just apply to your local wildlife. It’s also essential that you keep yourself safe from other drivers getting into a collision with an animal. If you’re sticking close to the car in front of you, you’re more likely to bump into them if they have to stop suddenly for an animal. That’s why it’s better to keep your distance if you’re in a wildlife populated area to avoid any crashes.

 

Use your brights

Your high-beam lights are there for a reason; don’t be afraid to use them. As the roads are harder to see in the darker winter days, using your full high beams will you give a better view of the roads ahead. Now, you’ll have a better chance of seeing any wildlife to cross the road. Be sure to always be mindful of other drivers when using your high-beam lights so as not to mistake visibility difficult for them.

During this time of year, many wild animals will be hard at work preparing themselves for the cold winter months. This will include foraging for food supplies, building up their body weight and looking for safe and secure spots for hibernation. But with the darker nights and busy activities over the next few weeks, these animals will be more open to risk than usual. That’s why we’ve put together a few instances where you‘ll need to be extra careful of wildlife, and what you can do to help them.

 

Halloween

With all the excitement of Halloween, it can be easy to forget about your local wildlife. As it will be dark by the time you and your little ones are out trick or treating, it’ll be hard to spot any small animals like hedgehogs or foxes that may be wandering through the streets at night. That’s why it’s important that you are always careful of any wildlife that may be nearby, and bring a torch with you if you are going to be walking through particularly dark areas.

Bonfire Night

Bonfire Night may be a fun night for us, but it is one of the biggest risks of the year for many animals. As hibernating animals like hedgehogs, frogs and dormice continue to search for the most secure and safe place for them to hibernate through the winter, they may come across a bonfire and think this is a safe hibernation spot. That’s why you must take precautionary measures to ensure that no wildlife has found their way into your bonfire before the night’s celebrations begin.

This includes regularly checking your bonfire throughout the day to check for any small animals and putting chicken wire around the bonfire to prevent them from getting in. It would also help to get wire that will slope outwards at an angle to make it difficult for wildlife to climb the wire. And once the celebrations are done, Make sure you that you clear any litter and firework debris, as many of these items can be harmful to both the local wildlife and the environment.

Be careful when tidying the garden

It’s not just bonfires that hibernating animals will turn to for shelter. There’s plenty of places in your garden that local wildlife will think is suitable for hibernation, such as log piles, leaf piles and compost heaps. That’s why it’s important that if you are tidying up around the garden, you need to make sure to check areas like this for any hibernating animals that may have snuggled themselves in there.

Make shelter for your local wildlife

Of course, one alternative to worrying about disturbing hibernating animals in your garden is to make some shelter for them yourself. Creating a secure hibernation spot is the perfect way to ensure that your local wildlife is safe throughout the harsh winter months. For hedgehogs, this can be done by making your very own hedgehog house. For amphibians like frogs, you can read more here about how to make a hibernaculum. And though they aren’t hibernating animals, birds will still struggle with the cold nights through winter. For this, you can build yourself a nest box to provide your local birds with somewhere warm for the night.

 

September means it’s time for hibernating animals to get themselves ready for their long slumber. This will include building up weight for warmth through the cold months and looking for shelter. One species that are well known for their hibernation habits are hedgehogs, however, badgers also take part in hibernation practices to help them through the winter season. Here are a few things you need to know about hedgehog and badger hibernation to help them through their long sleep.

 

What happens during hibernation?

It’s a common misconception that hedgehogs sleep through the winter for hibernation. In actuality, hedgehogs will drop their body temperature to match their surroundings and enter a state of torpor. This will allow them to save a lot of energy but slows down all other bodily functions making normal activity impossible. Before this process begins, hedgehogs will be spending their time building up their body fat as much as possible. That’s why you must provide your local hedgehogs with as much food and water as possible before hibernation begins.

Badgers don’t hibernate, but similar to hedgehogs, they do spend the autumn/early-winter period building up their body weight. This is done to help them through the winter when food sources are scarce. They do also spend more of their time underground, however, they don’t sleep through the winter and will regularly leave their sett to find whatever food they can. This is why you should continue to leave out food for badgers throughout the year, as they will be struggling to find food sources during the winter months.

Where does hibernation happen?

Badgers are creatures of habit, and so they will usually find a home for themselves underground, or as they’re known, a “sett”. Though badgers will leave their setts regularly to continue looking for food sources, they will spend most of their time underground where it is warm and safe.

Hedgehogs will have to be more selective about their hibernation spot, as they don’t have the luxury of digging underground to find themselves a home. Typically, hedgehogs will use warm secluded areas around the local areas, and sometimes even in your garden. This can be places like log or leaf piles, compost heaps and underneath sheds. So make sure you check areas like this for any hedgehogs hibernating before moving them, but also be sure not to disturb them. If you want to go the extra mile to help hedgehogs during hibernation, take a look here to discover how to build your own hedgehog house, providing your local hoggies with a safe, secure and warm hibernation spot.

How can I help during hibernation?

As badgers don’t sleep through the whole hibernation period and are still looking for food, you must regularly put out food and water. The winter weather will take its toll, and so badgers will need as much food as they can get to keep their body weight up and remain warm.

As hedgehogs will be in a state of torpor and won’t be leaving their hibernation spot, you won’t need to put out food as much as you do through the rest of the year. However, some hedgehogs may wake early from their sleep on mild days when the cold isn’t as harsh. Therefore, you should still regularly put out water and food on warmer days for any early-waking hedgehogs.

What are the features of a badger?

Badgers are relatively small mammals, but are easily recognisable with their distinct black and white striped pattern head. They are nocturnal animals, meaning that they are most active at night, so will rarely be seen throughout the day.

A badger has an excellent sense of smell. They will use their powerful scent glands in order to send messages to the rest of the group. Badgers can give off scents to symbolise many things, for example, mating status and warning signals.

How do badgers live?

Badgers have extremely sharp claws and strong paws which aid them to dig in the ground. These black and white beauties will dig long tunnels in the ground in order to live and raise their young. This is called a badger’s sett. A badger’s sett will be made up of many tunnels and chambers and can be spread across many meters of land.

Within their underground sett, UK badgers will live in groups of between four and eight. These groups are known as a cete or clan. As well as living in a group, badgers are also independent animals. They will venture off on their own in search of food and tend not to stay as a group when foraging.

What do badgers eat?

As a species, most badgers are omnivores, which means they feed on both meat and plants. If you are attempting to attract badgers into your garden, the WildThings Badger & Fox Food is a great complementary food for a badger’s diet and, when fed regularly, can encourage badgers to visit your garden.

When can I expect see baby badgers?

Badgers typically give birth only once a year. This happens around mid to late winter (January-March). One to five baby badgers, also known as cubs, can be born in one litter.

With reference to

https://www.badgertrust.org.uk/badgers

According to a survey completed by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species, the population of wild hedgehogs has halved in the last decade, with less than a million hedgehogs existing in the UK today.

Why is this happening?

There are multiple contributing factors as to why our spiky friends are in decline in the UK. Some of these include:

  • Destruction of habitat – Hedgehogs thrive in hedgerows, and as we growingly use land for human resource, i.e. housing, farmland, roads, more and more disruption occurs to wildlife and in particular, hedgehogs.
  • Excessive use of pesticides – These are very harmful to invertebrates which provide a valuable food source for hedgehogs.
  • Garden fences – Hogs need to have access to gardens to look for food. However, many of us now have fences in place which stop hogs from entering our gardens completely, therefore they have no option but to navigate the roads.
  • Busy roads – Sadly, a lot of our hedgehogs are suffering fatalities as a result of our busy, intrusive roads.

How can we help?

In order to help our native hogs thrive again, the best place to start is in your own garden. By completing the steps below, you can ensure that you are doing your bit to secure the future of these iconic creatures:

  1. Cultivate a wild corner in your garden to make your hedgehog feel at home. It will love to hide and also to look for wild food sources.
  2. Avoid using slug pellets and other strong pesticides if possible. These are extremely harmful to hedgehogs.
  3. Leave a ramp or slope out of your pond so hogs can climb out
  4. Avoid handling baby hogs unless orphaned, as the mother will abandon them. If you do have to handle a sick or injured hedgehog, ensure you are wearing protective gloves i.e. gardening gloves or thick plastic ones
  5. Hogs seen in daylight are usually hungry, thirsty or ill. When in doubt, contact your local hedgehog hospital
  6. Leave food and water out in shallow dishes each evening at dusk
  7. If you have a fully fenced garden, ensure that you create a ‘hedgehog highway’ by cutting a small hole in the bottom of your fence so that hedgehogs can come and go as they please.

Further advice and info on hedgehogs

If you would like any further information on how you can help our UK hogs, or you have found a hedgehog in your garden which you suspect needs your assistance, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801.