Ok so you want Grace in your garden, well here is 'Graces Five Point Charter' and it tells you some of the actions you can take to attract Grace and her spiky friends.See how many you can do. Take action NOW.
It all starts here. Can Grace physically get in and out of your garden?
Grace can roam up to two miles every night to find food, and also to find a mate during breeding season. She can eat 200 caterpillars in a single night, so needs to travel far and wide in order to find enough food. From when they are only a few weeks old, her hoglets will be following her on excursions. She will be teaching them places to find food and shelter. She needs to get into your space and that of your neighbours and your neighbours’ neighbours! You will need access for Grace - a grand entrance!
Can she get under your gate? Grace can flatten herself so you may get away with a three inch gap under your gate.
- Gates can either be raised at the hinges or have a 12 cm hole cut in at the base.
- If you have gravel under your gate, access could be given as simply as scraping the gravel away to leave a dug out big enough for Grace to squash through.
Can she get under your fence?
- Put in a tunnel or a hole. A hole in your fence the size of a CD (5 inches or 12cm across) is perfect. Ideally, you will have holes on all of your boundaries. If your layout is suitable, linking up your front and back gardens with a hole automatically opens up space for Grace. Front gardens can provide good opportunities for Grace and shouldn’t be thought of as second best. By making both of your gardens ‘ace for Grace’ you are improving her environment greatly. You will spark interest and awareness with your neighbours by decorating your hedgehog hole. Let’s pimp up those hedgehog highways!
- Can you drill a tunnel through your wall or put a pipe for her to go through under your fence? If you are in Surrey Heath, one of our Grace experts can come and drill a Grace sized hole through your concrete gravel board in order to make suitable access and egress. If you are replacing fencing, some manufacturers supply panels with hedgehog holes already cut at the base, which is a great initiative. Here at Amazing Grace, we wish that all fencing was produced with Grace in mind, but with every problem, there is a solution. We are happy and keen to to advise you, so please get in touch!
- You could remove a brick from your wall for access. Rebar blocks or hollow concrete blocks can be laid on their side and can be built in to the base of new walls to create a double entrance for Grace. The key is to think like a hedgehog. Get down to her level - where would the best place be to have a hole?
- If you have a metal gate you could cut off a section for Grace to get in and out. In the case of vertical members or spires of the gate, you may only need to cut one or two off in order to make a highway of the right size - 12cm is the magic number. If concerned about cat access, you can add a five inch drainpipe for a longer tunnel.
So, now Grace has a way into and out of your garden, let’s make sure she has some good food to eat.
Growing native vegetables and plants around your garden is the best way to bring in the invertebrates Grace needs. Variety is key. Like us, Grace needs a broad and varied diet in order to stay fit and healthy. Planting lots of vegetables in particular, is a sure fire way to encourage the bugs in.
- Wildflowers attract an array of bugs and provide food for Grace. These tend to prefer infertile soils and care should be taken to minimise work, that you buy perennial ones. Otherwise, you will be forever redoing it! The cheapest option is to buy wildflower seeds, but you can also buy them in plug form or as wildflower turf.
- Single bloom flowers are always preferred by insects as it is easy to access the pollen. Dog roses, Nasturtiums and poppies are great examples of bug magnets. Keep dandelions and common flowers for insects to eat - a weed is only a flower that grows where you don’t want it to and Grace wants them everywhere. Especially during the onset of Spring, leaving dandelions and weeds is key as they are nature’s first food. Pollinators will have been dormant over winter and much in need of a nectar energy boost! Remember pollinators are key to even our human survival. If bees become extinct, we will soon follow! Compost heaps provide homes for lots of worms and other invertebrates that Grace will eat. A compost heap could provide most of Graces food and also a warm place to nest and rest in. The rotting wood in garden wood piles will attract a multitude of invertebrates, especially the beetles that Grace likes to eat. Did you know that the wings and exoskeletons of beetles is the reason why Grace’s poo can sometimes appear to sparkle like unicorn poo? She really is amazing. So log piles and compost heaps can form her staple diet and double up as their home too - a kind of buy one, get one free!
- Companion planting is a great way of protecting your vegetables and also attracting insects. What grows together goes together, simple rules that helps Grace. Lawns provide much food and lawn treatments should be avoided. As you water them after treatment, the chemicals can leach into the water table as a poison soup.
- Grass cut at different heights is preferable - why not consider a mosaic cut? This is key if you have larger areas such as fields. Hedgehogs have the longer areas to hide and to nest and rest in, and the shorter grass to forage on.
- Shrubby, low dense borders that keep moisture in provide cover are great for both Grace and invertebrates (her favourite snacks). Growing fruit trees and vegetables will attract lots of bugs that Grace can feed on.
Now Grace can get in and out of your space and she has food, so now we need to make sure she can bring up a family there.
There are many places for hedgehogs to nest and rest in a back garden and size really doesn’t matter. You may have some of these in your space already or are able to provide them.
- Compost heaps can not only provide food but also warmth for Grace but are a great nesting site. Hoglets need to stay warm and compost heaps are usually naturally heated from the reaction of the decaying plants. This temperature is so good it is also used by grass snakes to hatch their eggs.
- Keep leaves in your garden for Grace to use for building a nest and to decompose. They are awesome worm food. You can put leaves in your compost heap or in a large sized drain pipe or a flower pot, all good resting sites for a weary Grace. Some people prefer to have a neat and tidy garden, and that is fine. Would you consider leaving an area with a leaf canopy down the end of the garden? It’s all about compromise, your needs against those of Grace. In reality, you can both have what you need.
- The space underneath a shed can provide a dry, safe space for Grace to have her hoglets. Care must be taken when dismantling sheds to do so out of nesting season, and also not to trap Grace inside if doors have been left open for a while.
- Buy, build or adapt an existing hedgehog house. Call us for advice. Some commercially available hedgehog homes can easily be adapted to be a perfect des res for grace and her growing family. Large plant pots on their side are often used by hedgehogs to sleep in during warm Summer days
- The space underneath decking can be dry and very suitable for Grace. Greenhouses provide a good resting place but doors need to be left open so that Grace can come and go and not get too hot or cold. Removing a lower pane of glass in the greenhouse or cutting a hole in the wood will allow her to get in and out.
- Dense hedges and hedgerows were always a favourite nesting and resting place. If you have a hedgerow, only cut the tops and sides to allow the base to to thicken out thus creating the perfect safe place for Grace. One reason that hedgehogs are in such steep decline is loss of habitat. The huge deep hedges of the past are now few and far between. Grace uses hedges to nest and rest in (hence her name) but also to escape predators. People say that we have more hedges than ever before. Numberwise, that may be true, but a foot high box hedge is no use to Grace!
- Sheds, man caves, wendy houses & summer houses may have nesting hedgehogs in already. If doors have been left open for a while, it is possible that Grace has already made her home there already. If you have been doing work in your garden and have bags of garden refuse in their waiting to go to the recycling centre, check carefully for Grace and her tiny hoglets before you go. Hoglets can only weigh between 3 and 25g at birth and camouflage well into their surroundings. The best option is to take your cuttings on the day of doing them and thus avoiding the issue. Composting your greenstuff is preferable, as this can also provide accomodation for a growing prickly family. If you would like to encourage Grace into your shed space, you can create access through the wall and have a hedgehog box inside. Multipurpose living with wildlife in mind!
So Grace is now in your garden and has a cool new home and food - but she still needs more! She needs to drink and it needs to be safe drinking.
Grace needs water to drink, so why not provide a shallow dish?
- We use terracotta dishes with gravel in - this enables it to stay topped up in the hot weather and Grace can dig in the gravel for water. It also makes the bowl shallow so that Grace’s hoglets who follow her around at just a few weeks old, can drink safely. They are naturally inquisitive and they can walk in and out of the water bowl without fear of drowning. We use terracotta pots as they are heavier and less likely to tip over. After all, a tipped water bowl is no water bowl at all!
- Large plant trays are also a great source. You can oversize your plant pot trays but make sure there are no chemicals in the pots soil or you will be creating liquid poison. By keeping the trays topped up, your plants will look healthier than they have in years, and they will be the envy of all of your friends! You can have great plants, and hydrated hedgehogs - a definite win-win!
- If you have a pond, it is absolutely vital that it is ‘safe for Grace’. Commercially prepared pre-moulded ponds if you have them can be fine to use but will need modifying in order to be a safe place for hedgehogs. Although well known to be good swimmers and climbers, hedgehogs cannot clamber out of these type of ponds if they fall in. In order to make them Grace-proof, sides should be made gently sloping, using boulders, stones or similar. A useful addition is a log secured in place as the rough bark means that a hedgehog can use its claws to gain purchase and lever themselves out. A ladder can be made from strong coated chicken wire attached firmly to a plank of wood using galvanised staples or u-shaped nails. The thing to remember is to regularly check the escape routes to ensure that they haven’t rotted and are still effective. Ponds should be kept topped up, and collecting rainwater in several butts is useful for this purpose. Tap water can cause an initial algae bloom which you would probably rather not have! If you need to use tap water, it is preferable to store it for a few days to dechlorinate it before adding it to your pond. Please ensure that other creatures cannot fall into your water while it is being stored - maybe consider covering any buckets or plastic trugs with a mesh cover until used. If your pool is in an isolated spot, it is imperative that it is checked each morning for hedgehogs and other wildlife.
- If you are fortunate enough to have a pool in your garden, a towel draped into the water secured under a slab is a cheap but effective escape route for your hedgehogs. The golden solution is to have a proper cover fitted while your pool isn’t in use. This will also keep your pond safer for humans and the wider hedgehog population.
- You don’t need to have a pond or a pool to be a lifeline for Grace. A shallow terracotta bowl with gravel in is of great value. The gravel slows down the rate of evaporation, but also makes the bowl shallower so that any hoglets that will be out and about with mum over the next few months can easily climb out. Simple steps like this will make you a life saver.
- A rock pile or stone slope will work too. Grace needs water to drink and it’s why she came to climb into your pool in the first place. Don’t let your pool be the last place Grace visits!
- Bridges can be used to allow Grace to climb out of any water hazard to keep her safe.
There are many everyday objects that will kill Grace and her family so please take care. Think like a hedgehog and you can’t go far wrong!
- Please check your borders and long grass prior to strimming and mowing as hedgehogs do rest in the semi open, especially young ones, and males during the hot, Summer months. It is best to do this in the middle of the day so that frogs and the like have warmed up enough to be able to hop out of the way. If the grass is very long, it is advisable to cut it to a metre high first, then check methodically through looking for inhabitants before cutting to ground level.
- Check that all your drain covers are secure as hedgehogs can fall in and will be unable to clamber out and simply fall further down and die. Grace and her friends are naturally inquisitive and will roam along linear features to find food and shelter. If there is an uncovered drain in her way, she is unlikely to see it - her sight is her poorest sense of them all. Her natural instincts will tell her to ball up as this is her main mode of defence, however this will make her even more difficult to rescue. Sadly, lots of hedgehogs die a slow and painful death in these situations. They may be pecked by birds or eaten alive by maggots. A terrible death that is so easily avoided with some forward thinking. Drain covers can be purchased or made cheaply and easily. Don’t let your drain become a grave for Grace.
- Netting of any kind can pose a hazard. Grace can easily get tangled and caught in it, so please make sure football nets, cricket nets, tennis nets and planting nets are at least 8 inches above the ground so Grace can go underneath without getting caught. Sadly, a hedgehog caught in netting will raise her spines which will result in her becoming even more tangled. If you find a hedgehog tangled in netting, she will need urgent treatment at a wildlife rescue. Cut the hedgehog out of the net but leave a border of netting all around her, leaving any netting touching the skin intact. Constriction injuries need careful treatment. As the netting is removed, the rush of toxins into the bloodstream can be fatal if not managed by a vet or wildlife professional.
- If you have a cattle grid, put a ramp in it for Grace to climb out on. As you are out walking in the countryside, check that all of the cattle grids you see have ramps built in. All new ones will have, but there may be a few that have slipped through the net. A temporary ramp could be made using a log or stones.
- Don’t leave garden chemicals or anti-freeze out in the open containers in case a thirsty Grace tries to drink it. Also worthy of note, is the treatments that you use on your garden furniture and fences. When Grace and her friends encounter a new smell, they will lick it and proceed to produce a foamy saliva which they cover their body in it in a process called self anointing. It stands to reason that toxic chemicals on surfaces will enter Grace’s blood stream with potentially devastating results!
- If you are turning your compost heap with a fork, please check for a sleeping Grace so she doesn’t get stabbed with a fork prong. Compost heaps are very popular resting and nesting places for hedgehogs and snakes. The warmth produced makes it a cosy space to bring up a family and the invertebrates produced are a valuable source of food. One stray fork prong can kill a hoglet outright, or cause serious injuries that could prove fatal. Strimmer and lawn mowers kill so always check grass and borders prior to starting
- Keep your ponds topped up so that they don’t create a well that Grace cant climb out of. Make sure that the pond has easy exits to stop Grace drowning.
- Don’t use pesticides as they kill the vital food that Grace needs to eat and they can also kill Grace herself. Poison is poison after all. (If pests are a huge problem, could you think about using biocides? Lacewing larvae are commercially available and these eat aphids so are a kind of biological bug control. Also, for the eradication of slugs and snails etc, what better than encouraging hedgehogs into our gardens? If slugs and snails are a huge problem, consider broken eggshells crushed around the base of target plants. Fine gravel and copper strips have all been credited with being successful in lots of cases.) Check out our companion planting page for different ways to deter bugs from your plants.
- Rat traps are not host specific so can trap and maim Grace. She can lose limbs and get stuck to glue traps. If you find a hedgehog stuck in a glue trap, don’t be tempted to remove her yourself, as you could pull off her skin and cause further suffering or death. Contact your nearest wildlife rescue ASAP and take the hedgehog there as a matter of urgency. Remove any further traps and think about how else you could eradicate your rats humanely. Poison should not be used as it is indiscriminate in its action. If you feed your garden birds, this is the first thing to stop. Rats like to have food and water available all the time. You will probably find that they move away quite quickly. If you feed your visiting garden hedgehogs, it is a good idea not to leave the food out all of the time. Consider putting it down at dusk, and lifting any left first thing in the morning and hopefully this will make your garden less attractive to rats.
- Bonfires are dangerous for Grace as she will be sleeping when you light them - always store wood away from the fire site, and then move it and burn immediately. It will be very hard to find a hedgehog just by looking. Bonfires are particularly attractive to hedgehogs; a big pile of branches, leaves and bits of wood looks like the perfect place to spend the winter. The inside is dry and warm - they are unaware of the incendiary nature of the bonfire!The best way - and one recommended by boy scouts and wildlife alike - is to build a bonfire on the day of lighting. Storing your wood and cardboard separately under tarpaulins until the big daya nd moving it to build. This is the safest way to ensure your wood is dry and any hibernating animals are safe. If your fire has already been built it may be possible to check, but the hedgehogs camouflage makes it very hard to see in the dark amongst the wood and leaves. You could try and check with a broom handle, gently lifting the wood pile whilst paying particular attention to the central/middle area, this will soon reveal if you have a hedgehog present. Listen too - hedgehogs will sometimes ‘hiss’ if disturbed so use this to locate them.
- Larger bonfires for school or public displays are sometimes built in advance. The most practical way of keeping hedgehogs out of large bonfires is to run chicken wire and wooden stakes - around 1 meter high - around the entire bonfire. The top end of the mesh must be rolled out to prevent a climbing hedgehog from entering. Still, the safest way is to build it on the night. If you are a local school or organisation having a bonfire in the Surrey Heath area, our #AmazingGrace team will check it for you free of charge. We can talk to the children and will even bring along some of our spiky guests to show you what we are looking for.
- Keep an eye on grumpy dogs and keep them on a lead late at night to prevent them from disturbing Grace. It may be that your hedgehogs follow a routine and you are able to predict times when they are likely to be there and keep dogs in at that time. If you have a light in your garden, consider putting it on before letting your dogs out to scare the hedgehogs away. Most pets and hedgehogs coexist in gardens quite happily. You know your pet best, make a judgement.
- Cars kill so please be vigilant when driving, especially at night when hedgehogs are more likely to be active. Grace’s defense of curling into a ball is no match for a car.
- If your garden door or shed door is open, please check before you close it just in case hedgehogs are resting inside.
- Use your wheelie bins and keep rubbish off the ground so Grace doesn’t get caught or nest in it. She will make use of whatever she can find to line her nest. It’s not hard to realise why crisp packets, rubber bands and can holders are not suitable. Can holders and rubber bands should be snipped around all sides before recycling. A hoglet can get though and stuck and as she grows, the plastic will embed into her skin. A hedgehog caught in anything should be taken to a wildlife rescue. Do not attempt to remove it yourself. If rubber bands are discarded in your area by delivery people, be proactive. Pick them up and email in to the culprits with your concerns. Normally companies will be onboard and do further training to all employees.
- Polystyrene containers, tin cans and cups can trap hedgehogs as they get caught on their spines when they try to get out - please make sure that these items are not left lying around for your night-time visitor.
- Fence preservatives. Please make sure that these are wildlife friendly before applying. When coming across new smells, Grace will often lick surfaces and do self-anointing. It is clear that unsafe chemicals will be directly ingested in this way, and could do Grace harm!
So… Grace can now access your garden, she can nest in peace , she can eat, she can drink safely and now you are hazard free. You are helping your area to become hedgehog friendly.
Tell us about the actions you have taken from ‘Graces Five Point Charter’ to make your space Grace safe!