Lessons from a life of startups, coding, countryside, and kids
Last Friday I was out taking a photo of the sunset when I heard some shuffling around in the nettles separating our garden from the field. Sure enough, snuffling around in the undergrowth was the brown shape of a hedgehog. I couldn’t get a clear photo and he’d disappeared once I’d called my wife. But this was exciting! We live out in the country and I have to believe that there are plenty of hedgehogs around but we’d never had any evidence. I’ve seen foxes, rabbits, and stoats in the fields and roads around here, and even what I suspect was a badger sett down the road. But, until now, not a single hedgehog.
How could we attract the hedgehog back? How could we promote our garden as a place for hedgehogs? How could I get the kids involved? Sidenote: we were already the “Hedgehog family” as the kids refer to me as “Hedgehog #1” (because of my on-again/off-again “spiky” beard). The 6yo ordained herself “Hedgehog #2” even though she doesn’t have a beard.
I’ve rigged up a motion-sensitive camera trap with a Raspberry Pi (more on that in another post) but I wasn’t convinced that it was working reliably so I needed to go low-tech. I’d watched BBC Springwatch with the kids and we’d seen them put down a ‘footprint tunnel’ to confirm the presence of hedgehogs. A little googling, a quick doodle, a trip to the DIY shop and…
The aim is to build a triangular tunnel about a metre long that a hedgehog can walk through. It should be slightly wider than an A4 piece of paper at the base
The polycarbonate sheets are typically used for outdoor buildings like sheds, car ports, or grow houses. Ideally you’d only need one sheet but I couldn’t get one wide enough.
I’ve tried 2 different types of wet cat food and an apple over the course of a week with no luck. I’d previously used Nutella on rat traps so I smeared a bit on the panel and stuck loads of raw peanuts (bird food) to it. The next morning it was all gone and we had ourselves some lovely hedgehog prints. Now, I don’t really want to recommend Nutella as a frequent food (it was just an experiment) but peanuts are good and I’m trying out some small, dry kitten biscuits tonight. There’s lots of advice about feeding hedgehogs from reputable sources so try some of those suggestions too. Apparently they love freeze-dried mealworms if you can get them.
Apparently Hedgehogs drink a lot of water, and it can be hard to come by, so leave a good sized saucer out for him (I used a deep flowerpot saucer).
Do not feed hedgehogs bread or milk. Milk is especially bad for hedgehogs.
How do you know if the track were from a hedgehog? Look for three round toes out the front, and one either side further back. This page or this printable sheet are pretty good guides. There’s really nothing else of the same shape and size.