How To Feed Hedgehogs Without Attracting Rats

How To Feed Hedgehogs Without Attracting Rats

So you know you have hedgehogs visiting your garden at night. You’ve seen them and love them and want to feed them too right? But you may also be wondering how to feed hedgehogs without attracting rats too.

The last thing you want to do is attract a ton of rats just because you want to feed a visiting hedgehog in your garden.

So then what do you need to know about how to feed hedgehogs without attracting rats? To feed hedgehogs without attracting rats, put out food such as cat food, that hedgehogs will eat, but rats won’t. You can also put food out later at night, supervise the hedgehogs eating, and clear away any leftovers once finished. Make sure food is stored away safely so that rats can’t access it.

These are some very quick tips on how to feed hedgehogs without attracting rats to your garden. Below I’ve gone into some more detail about how to feed hedgehogs without attracting rats, and how you can also prevent them from coming to your garden in the first place. Read on for more information.

How To Feed Hedgehogs Without Attracting Rats

So you have these cute little guys visiting your garden, and you want to know exactly how to feed hedgehogs without attracting rats. There’s no two ways about it, leaving food out for one animal is absolutely going to attract other animals too.

Now hedgehogs, you love them right? They look cute, they make no noise and they get rid of some of the creepy crawlies that you hate in your garden. That’s all well and good, but how do you feel about having rats as visitors too? Probably not so hot on that idea right?

Now there is a very real need to feed hedgehogs, certainly in the UK. I love facts and statistics as much as the next animal lover, so here is one I took from a BBC report about the ever dwindling number of hedgehogs in the UK:

At a rough estimate the hedgehog population in the UK is around 1 million, in comparison to a reported 30 million in the 1950s.

So we need to save our hedgehogs right? A drop from 30 million to 1 million in roughly 70 years means that they are in danger of becoming extinct!

Now let’s compare this to the amount of rats in the UK, this time sourced from my trusty friend Wikipedia:

Over recent years reports suggest that the rat population is still on the rise, with an estimated 81 million rats living in the UK.

Wow! There are 81 times more rats in the UK than there are hedgehogs. I always remember as a kid having the life scared out of me by grown ups, who were always very keen to point out that:

You are never more than 6 feet away from a rat!

Where the hell do these things come from anyway? Well this particular nugget comes from the ratio of reported rats to humans when looking at the area of a particular country.

This research actually comes from a book written in 1909 called ‘The Rat Problem’ by WR Boelter. Now alarmingly this book quoted 40 million rats, and now we are saying 81 million, so it could be more like 3 feet!

Please note this is pure guess work, conjecture and tongue in cheek reporting on my part. I have no idea what the stats would be on that now.

Now some gardens see plenty of hedgehogs, and never ever see any rats. At least not out in the open. So for many of us leaving food out for hedgehogs may not attract rats at all. It really depends on a number of factors, not least where exactly you live. If you live in a more urban area, you are more likely to see rats.

There are also some factors that would make it less likely that feeding a hedgehog would attract rats. Rats more commonly need to scavenge and hunt for food during the winter time, as there is less available to them then.

As it happens, you will not be feeding a hedgehog then as they generally tend to hibernate between late November and March.

There are some things you can do as to how to feed hedgehogs without attracting rats, and some ways you can keep rats at bay whilst keeping the ever declining hedgehog safe.

Types of Hedgehog Food To Leave Out That Won’t Attract Rats

The first thing you can think about is what type of food to leave out for the hedgehog. It’s about leaving food out for them that they will be attracted to, and that is good for them, that rats will also not be keen on.

Hedgehogs will normally scavenge for bugs such as beetles, earwigs, worms, caterpillars and slugs among many other garden creatures.

They will also eat other fruits and vegetables that they come across that may have fallen in their path. There are some fruits, such as pumpkins that hedgehogs should not eat. This is bad for their stomachs, and too much can cause diarrhoea.

Hedgehogs Can Eat Cat Food
Hedgehogs can eat cat food.

Many people don’t know this, but you can actually feed a hedgehog both cat and dog food, and you can also buy specially made hedgehog food. They can also eat cooked meats, as long as they don’t contain too much fat. Stay away from red meats, and stick to things like chicken. You can also feed a hedgehog rice, as long as it is cooked, and not seasoned or salted.

Now leaving out chicken, rice and fruit is probably a sure fire way of attracting rats. Now as I said, hedgehogs like cat food, and as long as it is a dry variety, high in protein, this will be good for them. Many people report that rats are less keen on cat food, so you could give this a try.

The best way to ensure that you can feed a hedgehog without attracting rats really is to leave out foods that are as close as possible to their normal diet.

That means the bugs that I mentioned such as beetles, caterpillars, snails and slugs. Rats really will not be interested in these, so you can easily solve the issue of how to feed a hedgehog without attracting rats with this simple step.

To do this you can find ways to encourage these kinds of bugs to be in particular parts of your garden. You can do this by setting up log piles, or allowing a part of your garden to grow wild. This will encourage these types of bugs to hang around here.

You can also buy them from some specialist shops. Be sure to buy natural bugs that you are 100% sure are free from any kinds of pesticides or preservatives. This will also upset a hedgehogs stomach, and can potentially kill them.

Time Of Feeding Hedgehogs To Keep Rats Away

If you don’t fancy encouraging a whole load of bugs to congregate in your garden, or are not sure about which bugs to buy for them, you might want to think of some other ideas as to how to feed hedgehogs without attracting rats.

Feed Hedgehogs Late At Night

If you are going to be leaving food out that could potentially attract rats, getting the timing of this right can help a little here. We all know that hedgehogs are solitary nocturnal creatures, and like to come out to find food at night time. Hedgehogs have a good sense of smell, and will be able to easily find anything you leave out for them.

Leaving it as late as possible to put food out will ensure the hedgehogs get to it. Now unfortunately rats are nocturnal too, so this will not deter them. But they are much more sensitive to humans than hedgehogs, so if you are out and about and putting out food there is more chance they will be scared away just enough to allow the hedgehogs to get to the food first.

If you do this fairly regularly, you will get to know the routines of any hedgehogs living in and around your garden. You will begin to know the times they come out for food, and can ensure that the food is out just in time for them.

Supervising Hedgehogs At Meal Times To Keep Rats Away

This sounds like something that you would do in a school and not your garden right? However, supervising meal times is the logical next step to getting the timing of feeding the hedgehogs right.

It also give you a great chance to observe the hedgehogs behavior and see what they get up to at night time! Keep a safe distance so that you do not disturb them. Hedgehogs more than likely won’t attack humans, and will run away leaving the food untouched.

Making sure that you are around while the hedgehog feasts on what you have left out for them means that you can ensure the food is eaten by them, and not by any unwanted night time visitors such as rats.

Any food that has not been eaten should then be cleared away so that rats and other unwanted visitors don’t come looking for leftovers!

Storing Food Safely Away From Those Annoying Rats

The above takes care of most of the information you would need to know on exactly how to feed hedgehogs without attracting rats. There are however, a couple of additional things you may want to consider.

Perhaps you have special hedgehog food or other things such as cat food that you regularly leave out for hedgehogs. You need to think about where you will store this.

Rats are notoriously tricky creatures that can find their way into anything given half the chance. Make sure you store any food in a sealed container that rats will find difficult or impossible to chew through.

I would really be storing these in the house, but if they are in a garage or shed, make sure there are no small gaps for rats to squeeze through. They can make themselves wafer thin when it comes to squeezing through gaps.

Keeping Rats Away From Your Garden Safely

Honestly the best way I can think of to make sure that rats are not attracted by you feeding hedgehogs is to keep your garden or living area rat free. There are some simple things you can do to try to minimize the risk of rats hanging around where you live. some of which I’ve already mentioned.

  • Ensure that any food is stored in such a way that rats either do not know it is there, or are completely unable to get to it!
  • Many people say rats hate the smell and taste of mint, whilst hedgehogs seem to be quite partial to it. Plant plenty of mint in your garden, or lightly sprinkle peppermint oil in various places around your garden.
  • Get a cat! Seriously, there is not too much chance of your cat fighting with the hedgehogs. However, they are well know rat catchers. A nice furry and sometimes fierce cat would be the ultimate rat deterrent!
  • Stay away from rat poison! I’m guessing if you are on this site, and a hedgehog lover, you probably don’t wan’t to kill rats if you can avoid it! There is another reason to avoid rat poison, which I will discuss below.

Will Hedgehogs Eat Rat Poison?

Rat Poison Kills Hedgehogs
Rat poison kills hedgehogs.

If rats are a problem around where you stay, you may well be tempted to use rat poison to get rid of them. Please don’t do this! Will hedgehogs eat rat poison? Yes hedgehogs will eat rat poison, and it will absolutely kill them! They can either eat it indirectly, or by eating other creatures that have eaten the poison too.

Remember the statistic before about the declining number of hedgehogs in and around the UK? 30 million down to 1 million! Well one of the biggest killers of hedgehogs comes in the form of things like rat poisons and other pesticides.

Not only will a hedgehog eat rat poison if it comes across it, but guess what? Other creatures in the garden seem to quit like it too! Not only could you kill other animals in the garden by using this, but this can also be done indirectly too.

Snails and slugs will eat rat poison, and seeing as hedgehogs like to eat slugs, this will then be digested by the hedgehogs too. Rat posing will not kill a slug, but it will kill the hedgehog if it eats the slimy creature after it has eaten the rat poison.

Can Rats Kill Hedgehogs?

There are many reasons for you to keep rats away from your garden. They carry disease and also make a mess if they go through your bins and can scatter litter everywhere. If they find a way they will also try to get into your house too.

But can rats kill hedgehogs? Yes rats can kill hedgehogs. If they find where they are sleeping they can attack them and chew at their legs or even bite at their throats. Even if they do not kill them initially, hedgehogs could certainly die from their wounds.

Keeping rats out of your garden can help to ensure the safety of any hedgehog visitors. As I said, they are a declining species and there are a number of dangers to them in your garden. For example, even though hedgehogs can swim, they will often find ponds and pools dangerous as once they enter, they can’t climb back out again.

Should You Feed Hedgehogs Every Night?

So you know you have hedgehogs visiting your garden, and you do want to feed them without attracting rats.

But should you feed hedgehogs every night? You absolutely can leave food out for hedgehogs every night. If natural food sources such as different types of insects are in short supply in your garden, you can leave food out each night. Hedgehogs are normally good at finding food sources so you probably won’t need to do this every night.

Summing Up

I hope all of the information above gives you some useful tips as to how to feed hedgehogs without attracting rats.

In summary, you should think about the types of food you leave out. Try to leave food like cat food, or other foods that you think rats won’t be attracted to.

Also try to leave food out later at night, and supervise meal times, so that you can help to keep rats way if you do spot them.

Make sure you store any food in such a way that firstly does not attract rats, and secondly they can’t get access to if they do come sniffing around.

You can also think about some preventative methods such as leaving mint around your garden, or you may even go to the extremes of getting yourself a cat!

If you have any questions, or would like to add anything to this article, then please eave a comment below. Thanks for reading.

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