Hedgehog feeding Advice
The natural diet of a wild hedgehog
The natural diet of a wild hedgehog 'Erinaceus europaeus' can vary accordingly to the variety and availability of prey items in their habitats. Their diets are so vast and flexible, that its even been considered that one hedgehog may have a completely different diet compared to another individual residing just a few streets away.
What we do know however, is that their diet or 'prey' mainly consists of insects. Therein classing the hedgehog as an insectivore.
Hedgehogs are opportunistic creatures, and as well as insects have been known to predate on amphibians, juvenile birds, eggs and carrion.
Hedgehogs - A Gardeners best friend?
Its long been believed that a hedgehog will get rid of slugs and snails from your garden. But this is now confirmed to be simply not true. Slugs and snails make a very small part of their diet (please see chart above). The truth is, when other more desirable prey items are not around in plentiful supply, then yes a hedgehog will have no choice but to feed upon them. However, this concentrated diet may help with the protection of your valuable Delphiniums short term, but it will not play in the favour of the hedgehog.
Slugs carry the intermediate stage of lungworm. When a hedgehog picks this up it can be life threatening, resulting in bronchial pneumonia and even death. Slugs, snails and earthworms also play host to Capillariasis (roundworm) which can cause severe intestinal problems.
The other issue, is the use of slug pellets and whilst you may or may not be using them, there is nothing to suggest that a neighbour down the road isn't.
There are different types of slug pellets on the market but the ones that have been banned are the ones that contain a compound called metaldehyde. This is a type of molluscicide which, sadly, is available to buy in a variety of formulations such as liquid, granules, sprays, grains, and dust. Thankfully, these are being removed from sale following the ban due to the risks of contamination towards our wild birds and mammals.
What is safe to put out for feeding hedgehogs
Below is a selection of suitable food items that are safe to put out for feeding wild hedgehogs.
Tinned Dog Food
Tinned Cat Food
Below is a selection of unsuitable food items that are NOT safe to put out for feeding wild hedgehogs.
Mealworms (dried or live)
Chicken (cooked or uncooked)
Beef or other meats
Fruit (dried or raw)
Some marketed 'hedgehog food' *please see below for further reading*
Seeds, Pulses and Peanuts
Specialist Hedgehog foods....
There is currently 'to our knowledge' 2 mainstream companies that are selling dedicated hedgehog food, that is actually ok and perfectly safe for hedgehogs to eat. The rest however, is completely unsuitable for hedgehogs to eat. The current issue here is, that the market for wildlife food, is not regulated at all, and therein lies the issue where companies can put just about anything into them, including bulking agents to keep costs down, unnatural amounts of salts, sugars, calcium, proteins, phosphorus and even food items such as dried mealworms, seeds, peanuts and even dairy products have been seen.
All of which can potentially kill a hedgehog.
We are not sponsored to name the 2 reliable companies, however, for the safety (and safety alone) towards hedgehogs, the two brands we have found to be ok are Brambles wildlife food and spikes hedgehog food. We are not promoting these companies, but simply suggesting we have found their products to be safe for the hedgehogs to eat.
Fish flavoured Cat food.
There seems to be a recent trend suggesting that fish flavoured cat food is not suitable for hedgehogs to eat. However, in our experience, we have found the fish flavoured cat food to be exactly just that.. flavouring. There is nothing else different in the ingredients to suggest that hedgehogs couldn't eat it. The reason why rescue centres may ask not to have fish flavoured cat food is that some hedgehogs can be picky and might choose not to eat the fish flavoured food at all. Again, from our experiences, there has not been any such cases where fish flavoured cat food has proved to be toxic or indigestible with hedgehog patients.