At Leicestershire Hedgehog Rescue we always "soft-release" our recovered hedgehogs by asking owners of the release site to provide a nest box and a nightly top-up of food. Our hedgehogs spend the last weeks with us in our own design nest box and to move into an identical box will make his transfer as stress-free and successful as possible. Boxes can sometimes be purchased from us priced £25 or can be made from our plans. If you do decide to D.I.Y., please leave yourself enough time for this.
We keep a record of releases into our boxes, and are always pleased to receive any feedback. Should he move on, but wild hedgehogs will still visit your garden, and we can always release another some time.
Site in a shady corner among foliage and backed up to solid walls or fences. A corner is ideal. Pile logs around the sides to deaden noise and provide insulation. Make sure the ventilation holes are clear.
Cover the base with a layer of wood shavings (not sawdust), then fill to the top with good quality chopped hay or straw from a pet shop. We recommend Wilkinson's mini-bales. A loose fill in the tunnel entrance will indicate "comings and goings". If we are releasing a hedgehog into your box, he will come with his suitcase packed with his own bedding "smelling nicely of home" to help him settle in.
For newly released hedgehogs, leave plenty of food initially, gradually reducing as less is taken. A nightly top-up will encourage regular visits and will not interfere with his natural foraging habits. This feeding is especially important in a drought, in early spring, and in the autumn. We recommend good quality chicken based cat biscuits, small puppy type dog biscuits, or "loaf" type (meaty) tinned chicken cat or dog food. Chunks in jelly or gravy are sometimes too rich, and fishy types should also be avoided. Always leave a bowl of clean water. NEVER give bread and milk. Hedgehogs cannot digest the fat in cow's milk. It can make them really ill, and often be fatal.
You will need to organise a cat/fox proof feeding station. These can be purchased from us priced £5.00, or we have plans for D.I.Y. Alternatively, a large slab on four bricks, or an upturned waterproof box with a hole 4 inches high x 5 inches wide could suffice.
Is Anyone At Home?
It is alright to occasionally check inside your box. Wear gloved hands and work slowly. If you encounter crisp packets and other garden debris, or disturbed hay in the tunnel entrance, you probably have a resident. A hedgehog will have several nests and dive into the nearest one at dawn.
Cleaning Your Box
While he is in residence, do not change the bedding. The disturbance and new smell could drive him away, or cause mums to desert their babies. Only empty it if you find a dead hedgehog, or if the bedding is very dirty and the box has been empty for a month. Scrub out with detergent, rinse with a mild bleach solution, rinse again and leave to dry naturally.
Let Us Know
Information regarding everyone who buys a box, or has our plans to make their own, will be kept in our records. If we have released into your box, we hope your hedgehog stays and earns his keep. Please keep us informed of developments. Should he move on, but hedgehogs still visit your garden, we can always release another some time.
And Last But Not Least
Please "think wildlife" when working in your garden and visit the Safer Gardens page. Remember, a hedgehog out in the day has a problem, do not ignore him. Put him in a box with old towels, somewhere dark, warm and quiet, away from flies, and give us a ring.
Plans for D.I.Y are available here.