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What to feed hedgehogs – The do’s and the don’ts
Last Updated on January 21, 2020 by John
Many people love attracting wildlife to their gardens and will go far out of their way to attract specific animals that are natural predators for common pests, especially slugs. One such animal which is great for our gardens and in much need out our help are hedgehogs. But what foods can you put out in your garden to attract and more importantly help the hedgehogs? In other words what foods are safe for hedgehogs?
Well, first and foremost, proprietary hedgehog biscuits can be found for wild hedgehogs but many of us already have some of the food they need in our homes. You can even use high-quality dog biscuits or cat biscuit if you cannot find hedgehog biscuits specifically but you can buy hedgehog biscuits from Amazon.co.uk here (link open in a new window). It is of course always recommended that you have a bowl of freshwater which is a shallow but never milk and sided dish offered next to the food. Cooked, meat-heavy dog or cat food is a suitable alternative but never fish meat or fish flavoured biscuits if you don’t have proprietary hedgehog biscuits.
A quick summary of what to feed hedgehogs
- Provide fresh drinking water in a shallow dish
- Feed any wet meat-based cat or dog food such as those in tins and pouches
- Specialised hedgehog food or biscuits sold online or in local retailers
- Kitten biscuits in chicken flavour, NOT fish flavour
- Sunflower seeds and harts
- Suet pellets with insects (usually sold as bird food)
- DO NOT FEED – Bread or milk or any fish flavoured food
What can hedgehogs eat?
Realistically there are different things that hedgehogs can eat and different things that hedgehogs naturally eat in the wild. Hedgehogs are insectivores which means they eat insects primarily but they are able to digest other foods. Insect and animal proteins specifically are best for hedgehogs but hedgehogs, of course, need fibre. Normally in the wild, they would get fibre from the snail shells and insect bodies they consume. To that end, you don’t want to give them any overly processed foods.
Don’t want to give them excessively fatty foods or overfeed them.
When putting food out for wild hedgehogs in your garden be cognizant of the fact that hedgehogs are nocturnal which means they can process vitamins without the use of sunlight, whereas humans need sunlight to produce things like vitamin D. To that end any extra additives in certain pet foods might have high levels of things like vitamin D or vitamin A. As hedgehogs can metabolize fat very quickly, and gain weight equally as quickly, you don’t want to give them excessively fatty foods or overfeed them.
Limit mealworms as they can cause health issues
You want to avoid just feeding mealworms to hedgehogs and they should only be feed in small quantities along with other food as they don’t offer much feed value but they will gorge on them like most people so with chocolate. The problem here is that wild mealworms have a great number of amino acids and proteins which would otherwise be beneficial for the diet of an insectivore, they don’t have good calcium and more importantly, hedgehogs are addicted to them. If you offer mealworms hedgehogs will eat those exclusively and will forgo all other more beneficial and important foods. Long-term this results in malnutrition and illness and disease.
What do hedgehogs eat in the wild?
Again, hedgehogs are insectivorous which means they eat insects. You might see them in the wild foraging for things like fallen fruit or berries. They are able to digest these items but it’s not a critical part of their diet. You also shouldn’t give them things like dried fruit or raisins because there is a great deal of sugar in there compared to fresh fruits that they would eat in the wild and dried fruit doesn’t attract them nearly as much as other foods.
Hedgehogs might accidentally ingest things like greens in the wild while they are eating worms or other invertebrates but vegetables are not a natural part of their diet, so if you are trying to find something to feed the local hedgehogs, you can rule out vegetables.
Hedgehogs typically eat things like worms, beetles, slugs, and bugs but they will also eat seeds. So you can put out things like sunflower seeds or peanuts as long as they are balanced with other Foods. You might notice local hedgehogs foraging underneath your bird feeder because they certainly do enjoy sunflower hearts and peanuts, however, you have to be cognizant of the high levels of fat included in such foods and try to put out different food for the hedgehog to better balance its nutritional intake if you are providing food.