Herbie the Hedgehog’s winter hidey hole

Matt Lowe, Collections Manager at the Museum of Zoology, writes:

A couple of months ago my wife and I were tidying up the pots of herbs we keep next to kitchen door when we heard a shuffling noise and what sounded awfully like snoring. That was when I realised I had succeeded in giving an overwintering hedgehog a home.

Image of wooden steps holding pots of herbs, with a hole cut in the side for hedgehogs to enter.
I paraphrase but “In a hole [near] the ground there lived a [hedgehog]. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a [hedgehog]-hole, and that means comfort.” (Image credit: Matt Lowe)

In 2019, not long after we moved into our first home, I built an elongated wooden stand for some of our many potted herbs. I’d also realised that our neighbourhood had a healthy population of hedgehogs, a species which, of course, could do with a helping hand across the UK.

Using some leftover scraps of wood, and checking designs online, I built a little hedgehog house (complete with waterproof roof!) – essentially a box with a kinked entrance passageway to provide shelter from the wind. I cut a hole in the side of the plant stand, installed it, and then promptly forgot all about it.

Over the summer I had a healthy population of spiky critters visiting me, gobbling up any food I left out for them almost as quickly as I could put it out. I made sure any fences or gates had suitable access and built another pseudo-wooden box with a roof and passageway as a feeding station that prevented any neighbourhood cats from stealing hog based treats (and which allowed me a view better than anything lockdown television had to offer). The less said about the vast volumes of poo the better, but let’s just say I could tell they were healthy.

Hedgehog feeding in a hedgehog shelter. Filmed by Matt Lowe.

Over November, the visits became less frequent and increasingly there was leftover food to be found in the morning – so I assumed the hogs had started to settle down for the winter. But they are restless sleepers, often rousing themselves for the occasional midwinter snack. Since we heard our snoring friend I’ve been leaving little piles of hay for bedding and food nearby, which dutifully has been removed by the morning – but I haven’t seen a hedgehog for a while. So one night I placed my trusted trailcam outside and was rewarded this morning with a restless spiky critter popping out for a late night snack. Looks like my “hedgehog food budget” will have to cover winter too….

Nighttime image of a hedgehog exiting a hedgehog shelter.
Hedgehog coming out from the hedgehog shelter. Image by Matt Lowe.
Nighttime image of a hedgehog
Hedgehog caught on camera. Image by Matt Lowe.

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