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Many wild animals have found a new habitat in human settlement areas, including the hedgehog. The spiny mammals are incredibly adaptable. In the wild, the cute animals can usually take care of themselves very well. Feeding the hedgehogs is therefore not necessary and can even harm them. While hedgehogs are not an endangered species, in some cases they could use a little help.
Hedgehogs (Erinaceidae) are among the mammals that occur in 24 different species worldwide. Almost exclusively brown-breasted hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) live here. The northern white-breasted hedgehog (Erinaceus roumanicus), which can occasionally be found in the eastern outskirts of Germany, is rarer. hedgehogs are loner and normally roam large territories in search of food. As a typical culture follower, however, they can also be found more and more often in house gardens, even in the city parks of large cities. The animals have a very wide range of food, but they are neither vegetarians nor omnivores. On their menu are:
- insects and their larvae
- be crazy
- Butterflies and moths as well as their larvae and caterpillars
- bird eggs
- frogs or small snakes
- occasional small mammals
- rarely carrion
The small mammal does not need any food over the winter. It feeds on its fat stores while it hibernates during the cold season.
When do hedgehogs need help?
Normally, the animals find enough food in the wild. In a varied habitat with bushes, hedges and meadows, your table is always richly set. However, there are times when the animals may need assistance.
Spring (March to April)
When the first warm rays of sun hit the garden ground in spring, the hedgehog wakes up from its long hibernation. As a rule, older male animals are a few weeks earlier than young animals and females. In order to gain strength, they now need a lot of food. If spring is mild, you will find this easily in your environment. If the temperatures drop again or if the food supply is still unsatisfactory, many of the animals crawl back into their winter quarters.
Autumn (October to November)
Food can also be scarce in autumn. During this time, however, it is very important that the animals are sufficiently winter fat nibble on, otherwise they will not survive the cold months. Mainly affected dams, who have lost a lot of energy by giving birth and raising their young. Finally, young animals look for a comfortable hiding place for the winter. They need a little more time than adults to gain a sufficient weight for hibernation.
In both periods it may be necessary to feed the hedgehogs.
tip: Take seriously weakened or injured animals to a veterinarian or a wildlife sanctuary immediately!
Not every hedgehog that roams around in the garden in spring or autumn is in need of help. However, the pretty beady eyes and the cheeky face awaken the urgent need in many people to feed the hedgehog in general. The natural hedgehog food is very changeable and can hardly be replaced by cat food or commercially available hedgehog food. Since the animals are quite lazy and greedy, they almost never turn down such additional offers of food. However, supplementation can cause the following problems:
- In nature, Erinaceidae go into hibernation when they can hardly find anything to eat. If you ensure a richly laid table, this cycle can be disrupted and the animal will not go into hibernation.
- Incorrect nutrition can have serious health consequences for the animals. In addition to malnutrition, there is often one adiposity. Skin problems, spine loss and malformations are among the harmless consequences.
- In order for the wild animals to be able to survive in the long term, hedgehog children first have to learn where to look for their food and what they are allowed to eat. However, they don't learn this if they are given enough food every day.
time for feeding
Feed hedgehogs that live in the wild preferably in the evening. The spiny mammals are crepuscular and nocturnal, foraging at sunset. From September they can also occasionally be seen during the day, as they are now eating more to build up fat reserves for hibernation. An exception to the feeding time are weakened individuals, especially late-born hedgehog cubs. They should always have enough food available from the end of October. Multiple small portions throughout the day are more suitable than a large amount of food.
The right hedgehog food
Discover one in late autumn or early spring when temperatures consistently drop below 6°C underweight hedgehog in your garden, then you should offer the animal something to eat and drink. Don't give the echinoderm just anything, however, provide it with a diet that will keep it healthy and strong. In principle, during this time they mainly use food sources high fat and protein content to need. The animals normally hardly eat any plant-based food because they cannot digest it well. Place the food in a flat, non-tilting bowl and place it in a sheltered spot in the garden or on the patio where no other animals can get to.
- Wet cat food (without sauce)
- boiled eggs
- unseasoned scrambled eggs
- seared, unseasoned ground beef
- cooked poultry meat (pure)
As long as an Erinaceus can also feed on insects or earthworms in the garden, there is no risk of malnutrition. However, is the food you offer predominant or even sole source of food, you should change the composition every two days at the latest to prevent an unbalanced diet. In addition, small amounts of fiber are important for a balanced digestion. Mix in about one to two teaspoons of the following components per 100 grams of basic food:
- wheat bran
- special hedgehog dry food
tip: Make sure the hedgehog food is at room temperature when you feed it.
You shouldn't feed that
Although Erinaceidae prefer to eat insects, snails and worms in the wild, you should avoid these food sources when feeding them. They can transmit parasites and diseases and further weaken the underweight animals. In general, hedgehogs do not hate food when it comes to their food. They try almost everything that can in principle be eaten. However, they don't get every feed for a long time. The following foods are not suitable as hedgehog food:
- Dairy products (yoghurt, cheese or quark)
- only dried hedgehog food (contains too many carbohydrates)
- Dog food (contains too little protein)
- Insects or worms (can carry parasites)
by the way: Never add additional vitamin supplements to the feed.
The cute garden dwellers absorb most of their moisture from their food, which is why they only need to drink small amounts in the great outdoors. However, the need for drinking water can increase significantly with supplementary feeding. Especially if you offer dry food or other food that only has a low water content. Give never milk to drink, for the animals are fundamental lactose intolerant. Hedgehogs get diarrhea from dairy products, which weakens them unnecessarily or can lead to death in sick animals.
- flat, non-tilting shell
- change water daily
Garden ponds or streams in the garden should have at least one shallow spot where an echinoderm can drink safely. Alternatively, you can create an exit so he can easily get back to solid ground if he falls in. Hedgehogs are good swimmers. However, if the walls are too high, the animal will eventually sink exhausted. Just put a few big stones in the shore area or use a board that you put in the water at an angle.
When feeding the hedgehog, make sure it is clean. Dispose of food leftovers, stray food and also droppings near the feeding station at least once a day and rinse all bowls with hot water or in the dishwasher.
Make the garden hedgehog-friendly
The best way to help hedgehogs is to design the garden in a way that is close to nature. The more diverse you use your garden, the richer the food sources and hiding places for the prickly mammals. Of course, you should refrain from using any poison. When preparing for the winter, you can support the wild animals perfectly by offering them a suitable place to sleep:
- dense hedges or bushes
- pile of brushwood
- dry cavities (in the woodpile or under stairs)
tip: Be sure to leave fallen leaves in a corner of the garden in the fall. Hedgehogs use it to insulate their nests.