Caring for visitors to your garden
You'll be surprised and delighted to know that as many as 10 different hedgehogs can wander into your garden over several nights, so that means your new hedgehog buddy might actually be a number of different ones!

How about making them a home by leaving areas of the garden wild, you can pile up leaves, compost or logs to make an appealing nest and this also encourages invertebrates to come into your garden too, which hedgehogs absolutely love to snack on. Making your hedgehog a home can be as easy as placing a piece of board against a wall. You can also treat them to a purpose-built hedgehog house, or even try to build your own!

Hedgehogs are actually quite the roamers and can travel around a mile in a night. You can help them get into your garden by cutting some holes in your fence, removing bricks from walls, or digging tunnels under the garden edge, ask a parent or guardian before doing any of these so they can help you get it right. Hedgehogs can travel through gaps as small as 13x13cm, so these gaps don't need to be big ones. If you have a hedge not a fence, then even better, your little prickly friends will just find their way through.

Feed your hedgehog visitors by leaving out food and fresh water, they love things like tinned dog or cat food and crushed up cat or dog biscuits. If the hedgehog is very young and around the size of an apple, you will need to soak any dry food in water first so they can eat and digest it easily with their soft mouths. You can also get good quality, meaty hedgehog food from wildlife food suppliers.

Never feed hedgehogs milk or bread - milk can cause diarrhoea and bread isn't very nutritious! Check the food and water bowls each day to top them up with fresh water and food, and remove any food that hasn't been eaten. Always clean the dishes (or ask your parent or guardian to) just like we clean our own - do this outside (not in the kitchen - yuck!) every day using hot, soapy water and rinse well. This will help to reduce the risks of spreading disease between different hedgehogs that might eat from the same dish.

If you disturb a hedgehog that's hibernating, gently put it back into its nest, re-cover it with the nest material and leave it alone. If this isn't possible - for example, because the nesting site has already been destroyed - then place the hedgehog in a part of the garden where it will be safe and sheltered, with as much of the original nest as possible. If there's not much natural shelter available, you could use a large box instead, but make sure the hedgehog will be able to get out of the box easily when it next wakes up. Learn more from the RSPCA.
Birds are also a common night time visitor. Approximately 30 species of bird are regulars into your garden, although more than 140 bird species have been spotted in total! Some are seasonal visitors such as house martins in summer or redwings in winter. Others such as robins and blackbirds are resident year round and can become very familiar faces. A good population of birds are part of a healthy garden, helping to keep caterpillars in check which can damage garden plants.

How to choose seeds and feeders: Use wire mesh feeders for peanuts and seed feeders for other seed. Specially designed feeders are required for the small 'niger' seed, which is a favoured food of goldfinches. Food placed on wire mesh held just off the ground will entice ground-feeding birds such as robins. Remember, plastic nets around fat balls must be removed as birds, such as woodpeckers, can get caught up in them. To help limit the spread of infections and diseases keep feeders clean, refill little and often (1-2 days worth of food) and you may want to also keep changing the feeder position in the garden so that your bird friends don't keep pooping in the same spot underneath.

Many birds have ‘favourite’ foods, so choosing certain types can affect what you see feeding in the garden. These are just some of the preferences: Insect cakes for tits. Berry cakes for finches. Finely chopped animal fat and grated cheese are welcomed by small birds, such as wrens. Sparrows, finches and nuthatches enjoy prising the seeds out of sunflower heads. Niger seed is liked by goldfinches. Peanut cakes for starlings. Fruit is favoured by thrushes and blackbirds. Scatter over-ripe apples, raisins and song-bird mixes on the ground for them. Consider planting berrying shrubs and trees, including favourites such as Malus, Sorbus, Cotoneaster and Pyracantha Mealworms are a favoured food of many garden birds. Learn more from the RHS.