General gardening topics

What to feed hedgehogs – The do’s and the don’ts

Last updated on March 21st, 2022

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Many people love attracting wildlife to their gardens and will go 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 of our help, are hedgehogs. But what foods can you put in your garden to attract them 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, however, many of us already have some of the food they can eat in our homes. You can use high-quality dog or cat biscuits if you cannot find hedgehog biscuits specifically, but you can buy hedgehog biscuits from here (link opens in a new window). It is of course always recommended that you have a bowl of fresh water that is shallow, but never use milk, and is offered in a separate dish next to the food. Cooked, meat-heavy dog or cat food is a suitable alternative, however, never fish meat or fish flavoured 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 at local retailers.
  • Kitten biscuits that are chicken flavour, NOT fish flavour.
  • Sunflower seeds and hearts.
  • Nuts.
  • Suet pellets with insects (usually sold as bird food).
  • DO NOT FEED – Bread, milk or any fish flavoured food

Learn how to attract hedgehogs into your garden in this article.

What can hedgehogs eat?

Realistically there are different items that hedgehogs can eat and different things that hedgehogs would 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.

What can hedgehogs eat - specially made hedgehog biscuits, cat and dog food but not fish, nuts, seeds and meal worms in smaller quantities

Don’t want to give them excessively fatty foods or overfeed them. 

When putting food out for wild hedgehogs in your garden be mindful 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 metabolise fat very quickly, and gain weight equally as quickly, you don’t want to give them excessively fatty foods or overfeed them. 

Hedgehog eating meal worms. Only feed hedgehogs small amounts of meal worms as they offer no benefit and can cause issues. Mix a few meal works along side other food such as cat food or biscuits.

Limit mealworms as they can cause health issues

You want to avoid just feeding mealworms to hedgehogs and they should only be fed in small quantities along with other food because they don’t offer much feed value but they will gorge on them as most people do with chocolate. The problem here is that wild mealworms have a great number of amino acids and proteins that would otherwise be beneficial for the diet of an insectivore, they don’t have good calcium levels 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, 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.

What hedgehogs eat in the wild. Hedgehogs typically eat things like worms, beetles, slugs, and bugs but they will also eat seeds.

Hedgehogs need a place to sleep and hibernate over winter, read our guide here on some of the best hedgehog houses (opens in a new window)

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 mindful of the high levels of fat included in such foods and try to put out different foods for the hedgehog to better balance its nutritional intake if you are providing food.

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