The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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If you have hedgehogs in your garden, you may want to feed them without attracting rats. People who keep hedgehogs in cages in their homes shouldn’t have a problem.
Rats live out in the wild, and they have been living with humans for many centuries. They are clever and have a sense for finding any food that you leave out.
That said, there are ways that you can feed hedgehogs without attracting rats. You need to work at it because some rat deterrents will also deter the hedgehogs.
Start by Considering What Is Attracting the Rats
The rats may be coming for other food sources in spite of the hedgehogs. Rats look for three things: food, water, and shelter. If they can find them in your garden, they will move in.
Start by looking at what else is in the garden. If you have bird feeders, the seeds they drop on the ground is a magnet for rats.
Another draw for rats is a compost pile. If you have food in your compost, this will provide rats with food and shelter, and they will likely build nests there.
You might even consider using a bin for your compost with a lid that rats can’t get into. You can also turn the compost pile regularly so that rats aren’t able to take up residence there.
If you have rats in your garden, start out by eliminating any sources of food for the rats. Then you can create a space that is friendly to the hedgehogs.
Any food that is stored in your garden needs to be secure. You should use metal or glass bins because rats can easily gnaw through plastic, cardboard, paper, and wood.
If you have waste bins outside, you need to secure them with a lid as well. You can always place a brick or a concrete block on top to prevent wild animals from getting inside.
Finally, you need to keep the garden clean. Clean up any bird seed or hedgehog food at the end of the day, and don’t leave spilled food on the ground.
The more you can clean your garden and remove food sources, the less rats will want to make it their home.
How to Feed the Hedgehogs and Not the Rats
Once you are certain that other food sources aren’t drawing the rats to your garden, there are ways that you can feed the hedgehogs to deter rats from coming and eating their food.
Rats prefer to eat while they are somewhat hidden, while hedgehogs don’t mind eating out in the open space. You should start by moving your hedgehog feeding area to an open space in the center of your lawn.
You should also feed later in the day, as hedgehogs prefer to eat at this time. If you can feed them in the early evening, you may be able to catch them as they are coming to ear.
Then, you can put the food away after they feed. Hedgehogs won’t mind if you watch them eat, while rats prefer to sneak around undetected.
You can also try feeding cat food to the hedgehogs. Although rats will eat it, they don’t like it as much as they like dog food or hedgehog food.
You can also try putting out food that is part of the hedgehog’s natural diet. Rats won’t be nearly as interested in eating beetles, slugs, caterpillars, or snails, and hedgehogs love them.
How to Deter Rats Without Deterring Hedgehogs
If you have tried cleaning up the garden and choosing your feeding times to deter the rats, but you still have them eating your hedgehog food, you may need to try to deter the rats. There are several different things you can do, and a few you should avoid.
You don’t want to try to block holes under the fences because the hedgehogs travel through them to get into and out of your garden. However, you can take peppermint essential oil and sprinkle it in the holes.
Rats can’t stand the smell of mint, and they are likely to go somewhere else, while hedgehogs are attracted to it. You can also plant mint in your garden to keep rats away.
You should never use rat poison because it will poison all kinds of wildlife and can be dangerous for your pets. You can use a humane rat trap, and then take the rat and release it far away from your garden.
Hedgehogs are nocturnal, and they move around between two and three kilometers each night as they look for food. During the day, they make nests where they sleep.
Their nests will be in areas around hedges, low lying bushes, and shrubs. They are considered omnivores because they eat all kinds of foods, with more than half their diet being beetles, earthworms, and caterpillars.
They also eat earwigs, millipedes, snails, slugs, insect larvae, and pill millipedes, as well as dead birds, hatchlings, frogs, toads, and small mammals. If they come upon a nest with bird eggs, they will eat them, and they will eat fruits, small twigs, bark, moss, and leaves.
Hedgehogs change their diets throughout the year. They enjoy earthworms all the time, but they eat millipedes, slugs, caterpillars, beetles, and earwigs from August to October.
Understanding Rat Behavior
Both black and brown rats are nocturnal, and they are most active at night, especially a half hour after sunset and a half hour before the sun rises. They are more agile than your average hedgehog, as they can climb over fences, crawl through holes, dig tunnels, and climb up straight metal poles.
Rats only go around 100 to 300 feet from their nest to find their food, which is why they always settle into places with food, shelter, and water. They will travel further during certain times, such as after a large harvest or when trash is collected and there is a lot of it.
One of the foods that rats prefer is cereal grains, but they will eat most discarded food, including eggs, poultry, milk, meat, vegetables, grass seed, fur, soap, leather, dog feces, and more. Rats can eat up to a third of their body weight each day.
Another characteristic of rats is that they hoard food. They pose a health risk because they can draw insects such as fleas and other disease carrying insects, and they can leave behind as many as 20,000 droppings each year.
For this reason, people do not want to attract rats to their yard when they feed the hedgehogs. Rats are dirty and carry disease (while hedgehogs generally don’t), and once they move into your yard, it is difficult to get rid of them.
Best Way to Make Your Garden Inviting for Hedgehogs Without Attracting Rats
When you want to attract the hedgehogs to your garden, but not the rats, the best thing to do is to create an environment that will have the natural foods that hedgehogs love to eat. You will want to create areas with brush and plants that cause these natural foods to be in your garden.
If you have organic matter, you will have earthworms, which are an important part of your hedgehog’s diet. You can plant hedges, shrubs, and bushes, which will provide a constant supply of dead leaves that turn into organic matter.
You can also choose a location in your garden for yard debris, such as dead leaves, weeds from the garden, and trimmings. This will encourage earthworms to live in these spots, and you can place a few large rocks of logs around them.
The best way to make an organic pile of leaves attractive to earthworms is to aerate it from time to time, but don’t turn the pile. You may want to water it if it gets dry because earthworms love moisture.
You should avoid putting any food in these piles because they will attract rats. You can still compost food waste, but you need to do it in a metal or glass bin.
Another way to make your garden attractive to hedgehogs is to plant flowers that attract butterflies. Focus on plants that caterpillars love to eat since hedgehogs eat caterpillars.
Include flowers such as thistles, holly, ivy, dog rose, hops, willows, and blackthorns. To draw insects that hedgehogs eat, plant other flowers, such as crocus, sedum, snapdragons, summer lilac, and geraniums.
If you plant the garden densely, there will be safe spots for beetles and millipedes underneath the leaves, which are two of the hedgehog’s favorite snacks.
Most people are aware that if you put food out in the garden, it will attract more than hedgehogs. Rats are scavengers and they will move in if they can find food, water, and shelter.
The best way to deter rats and still attract hedgehogs is by feeding them things that are in their natural diet. They love caterpillars, earthworms, millipedes, and beetles, so you should create a garden that produces these critters for your hedgehogs to enjoy.