The hedgehog, the ally of gardeners

The hedgehog, the ally of gardeners

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You garden with passion during the day and you dream of being assisted at night by an economic and ecological assistant.

By offering food and shelter to a hedgehog, your wish could become a reality.

Immersion in the universe of this useful and endearing animal and practical advice on how to invite it with kindness in your garden.

All about the hedgehog

Small insectivorous mammal (Erinaceae family) and omnivorous (its digestive system allows it to absorb food of plant and animal origin).

  • Hedgehog female : the hedgehog
  • Little of the hedgehog : without a specific name, some call it the choupisson or the hedgehog.
  • Hedgehog weight : very variable depending on the season. Between 400 g and 1800 g.
  • Hedgehog size : 20 to 30 cm in length and 10 to 15 cm in height.
  • Longevity of the hedgehog : from 7 to 10 years in optimal conditions. The average is 2 to 3 years.
  • It has a tail and 36 teeth.
  • His eyesight is poor, but his sense of smell and hearing are excellent.

The common hedgehog is found mainly in Europe.

The hedgehog has 5,000 to 7,000 quills 2 to 3 cm in length which have a lifespan of 18 months. They grow continuously like hair. It's the contraction of the orbicularis muscle (which goes all around its spiny helmet) that tightens the hedgehog's armor and turns it into a ball of quills with every threat. The rest of his body is covered with long hairs. Its color gives it good camouflage.

  • Particularly noisy when moving, it hisses, chews and growls when eating. Its cries resemble those of the pig when it is afraid. It is said that he squeak !

Predators and dangers : badger, red fox, marte, golden eagle, eagle owl, swimming pools, plastic, insecticides, cars, deforestation.

  • Hibernation of the hedgehog : from November to April. He can reach a weight of 2.2 kg to get through this delicate period during which he burns 2 g of fat per day. Note that he wakes up about 20 times to urinate or eat. Each awakening is exhausting and erodes its reserves. At the slightest disturbance, the hedgehog has the reflex to curl up, spines erect.

Reproduction of the hedgehog

Reproductive period of the hedgehog : from April to September.

A solitary animal, the male and the female meet only to mate. The secretion of the temporal gland (flow of substances and pheromones that act as an identity card) allows them to be avoided. Monsieur roams his territory in search of a receptive lady. Then begins "the hedgehog carousel" or love parade that can go on for hours.

Monsieur turns around Madame, urinates, kicks his muzzle or paws waiting for the hedgehog to stretch out its hind legs behind and place its quills behind its back. Monsieur can then climb onto his back and mate without stinging himself. Once his little business is over, the hedgehog produces a kind of gum that closes the genital tract of the hedgehog, which prevents him from any other partner. Sexual maturity is reached at one year of age, but the female appears unable to properly rear her young before the age of three.

Baby hedgehogs

After a gestation period of 31 to 35 days, the hedgehog gives birth to 4 to 7 young (she has ten udders).

They are born blind, with blistered skin, without pricks.

Within hours, their backs become covered with white, soft thorns.

Over the next four weeks, they fall off to reveal brown quills. The death rate is 3 in 5.

At the age of 2 months, they must leave the nest. The hedgehog no longer recognizes her babies if she crosses them.

Welcoming a hedgehog in your garden

The hedgehog is protected by the decree of 23 April 2007. It is forbidden to destroy it, transport it, keep it in captivity, naturalize it or put it on sale. You can encourage him to live in your garden if it is conducive to his well-being.

Its role is crucial in biodiversity and the balance of green spaces, because it feasts on insects. To vary its diet, it eats lizards, young rodents, young birds, eggs, fruits or mushrooms.

Allow him access to your garden:

  • It needs a passage 12 cm wide and 12 cm high to get through (under a gate ...). If you have a hedge that is of a reasonable size, he will be able to get over it easily. Eh yes ! he is an excellent climber. After climbing it, it will curl into a ball and drop to the ground. His spiky armor will cushion his fall and he will start again. His speed is estimated at 7.5 km per hour if he wants to take the trouble.

Hedgehog shelter

If you have a compost, you can set up a nest nearby. With very fine hearing and an excellent sense of smell, he will quickly appreciate this pantry.

Confidently, he will set off to explore his new territory, becoming the gardener's friend. No need to use pesticides anymore with this aid that eats all pests. You will make a great saving and find an ecological space. Her hut can be achieved with breeze blocks, wood logs, plywood sheets Or other.

The important thing is to place it in theshelter from the sun and the sunt and cover it with dead leaves. It must be large enough to accommodate a family. It is especially important not to arrange the interior. Our guest will do it very well on his own. He will line it with leaves and twigs that he will shape by rolling in them. Its quills allow it to pack it all down to its liking.

The entrance should be wide enough to allow a hedgehog to enter, but too narrow for a cat or dog to intrude.

Feeding a hedgehog

To make the place nice, offer animal nuggets or cooked chicken breast and water. Each night, he will consume about 70 g of food. Use dinner plates. To prevent other animals from eating this food, it can be covered by a cup. The hedgehog will lift it easily.

ATdo not do :

  • Give him cow's milk, raw meat or fish, bread or chocolate. He would die of dysentery.
  • Light a brush fire without checking for a hedgehog's nest.
  • Use pesticides.
  • Place nets to protect yourself from birds.

Tips about the hedgehog

  • If necessary, use gloves to catch him, as he may have scabies or ringworm. These diseases are transmissible to humans.
  • Fleas found on hedgehogs will not lodge on your cat, dog, or on you, as they are unique to their species.
  • If you have to give him medicine, slip it into a madeleine. The hedgehog is greedy and this treat will not hurt him.
  • To be able to keep hedgehogs (rescue, etc.), you must have a certificate of competence issued to the prefecture.
  • You have the right to move a hedgehog only if it needs care (veterinarian, etc.).
  • Some associations for the protection of hedgehogs:
  • The hamlet of hedgehogs
  • The hedgehog sanctuary
  • ASPAS (association for the protection of wild animals).

The hedgehog, an endangered species

The hedgehog is in dangerand could disappear. Let's make a place for it in our gardens. It's wonderful to meet him and watch him. If you discover black, shiny, cylindrical droppings and the grass is lying down in places, watch your garden as soon as night falls. The hedgehog is docile and can easily be approached. She is a lovely creature. It has its hours and its habits, you will quickly discover it!

To meditate : "Animals wash by licking themselves, except hedgehogs and sea urchins."

Philippe Geluck


© Denis Nata

Video: Gardening together with Diarmuid Gavin S01E02 (June 2022).