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What Should You Feed Hedgehogs? And Which Foods Are Bad For Them?

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Hedgehogs are the Homer Simpsons of the animal world. They will munch on just about anything. But is ‘just about anything’ good for them? Nope. Surprising foods, including some treats that are very commonly fed by most well-meaning people, are actually really, really bad for them. 

Find out what you should definitely not feed your spiky friends, and which foods make happy, healthy hedgehog tummies

What do hedgehogs eat

Homeless Hedgehogs

Public awareness around global warming is on the rise – finally and thankfully. But partly linked to this climate crisis, we’ve also got a more silent crisis going on here, under our very noses. Natural habitats for native animals are rapidly declining, causing a massive fall in population numbers for many species such as skylarks, red squirrels, the small blue butterfly, bees and hoverflies, long-eared bats, and wildcats.

Among the seriously struggling species is our beautiful hedgehog. Sir David Attenborough mentioned it in his conference presentation of The State of Nature report: hedgehog populations have already halved over the past 25 years

One of the causes? As much as 90% of meadows have disappeared from the British countryside, rendering them homeless. And hungry.  

Hungry hedgehog

Going To Town

With the loss of meadows and hedges, hedgehogs have come to rely more and more on survival in urban areas, that’s right, in our parks and gardens. They travel many miles each day to find food, often going the extra mile to find wild spots like piles of leaves etc. to hide in. Facing the perils of lawn mowers riding by or unaware gardeners raking them up. They are also at high risk of being run over by cars, especially if they can’t find safe passageways from garden to garden and are forced to cross the roads daily. 

wildlife conservation

With nature also being increasingly deprived of insects to eat, they depend on the munchies we provide them. Big shout-out to everyone who is doing their best to help them! 

But food aid, with the best intentions, may be causing damage as well. The effects of a poor hedgehog diet can be pretty severe, the main one being Metabolic Bone Disease.

Life-Threatening Hedgehog Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease, or MBD, is already a familiar issue within aviary, bird, and reptile communities. It is relatively new when it comes to hedgehogs. Recent years show a sure increase of MBD diagnoses in hedgehogs.  

Hedgehogs are at risk of MBD once they start having a calcium/phosphorus imbalance in their body, which makes them suffer and will eventually kill them. 

Symptoms of MBD in Hedgehogs: 

  • Disruption in calcium metabolism 
  • Weakening of the bones
  • Joint abnormalities
  • Reduced nerve transmission
  • Weakened muscle contraction and tremors, including in the heart
  • Blood may lose ability to clot
  • Resulting in paralysis, seizures, and cardiac arrest

Hedgehog MBD Causes 

There are several causes for Metabolic Bone Disease, such as:

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Underlying illnesses
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Lack of exercise
  • Calcium/phosphorus imbalance 

One of the main culprits is poor diet, especially when there is too little calcium in relation to too much phosphorus in their food, or vice versa. And that’s something we can have a direct influence on. We can stop feeding them mealworms and sunflower hearts, for example. 

..But they love mealworms! 

Yes, because they are total Homer Simpsons! They’re all for munching on the yum stuff. Especially the stuff that’s bad for them: anything extra salty, sweet, or fatty. A bit like us, really. But unlike us, they don’t know it’s bad for them. 

Which foods are bad for hedgehogs

What Not To Feed Hedgehogs 

The ideal hedgehog’s total diet would have a calcium to phosphorus ratio of  2:1 to 1:1. Anything outside that range can quickly cause them a whole heap of health hazards. 

Take sunflower hearts, they have a disastrous ratio of 1:15! And mealworms one of 1:7. Furthermore, mealworms are highly addictive to hedgehogs, soon making them only want to consume those. Other poor ratio foods are beetles, peanuts, and crickets

It’s best not to give these at all, not even as a snack. Chances are they find some of those treats in the wild already anyway, and with a lack of decent, suitable insect nutrition in the wild, we can help them at least get their regular fill of proper food.

calcium phosphorus ratio
Avoid food with an improper calcium/phosporus balance

Besides poor calcium:phosphorus ratio grub, another big no-no is dairy. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant. Milk and cheese will give them bad diarrhoea and can lead to serious illness as well. 

As for sweet treats like raisins, sultanas, currants, dried berries and the like: go easy, or better still, leave it out completely. Hedgehogs will take any chance they get to daily gnarf down food with high sugar content, giving them serious tooth decay and further digestion issues

Bread: no, hedgehogs can’t digest it. 

No large chunks of meat either, especially not red meat: their tiny teeth can’t tear or chew large pieces.

No bacon or corned beef: too salty. 

Fish is hard to digest, they don't come across it naturally either. 

Eggs are not recommended as they have a calcium:phosporus ratio of 12.12:1.  

No cheap cat or dog food as they can contain lots of chemical additives, sugar, and again, a poor calcium/phosphorus balance

Let’s table it up. So you can quickly check what not to put on a hedgehog’s dining table. Foods that you should not give to hedgehogs: 

BAD food for hedgehogs

Reason

Mealworms 

Poor calcium:phosphorus ratio: 1:15

Sunflower hearts

Poor calcium:phosphorus ratio: 1:7

Peanuts

Poor calcium:phosphorus ratio: 1:6

Crickets

Poor calcium:phosphorus ratio: 1:6

Beetles

Poor calcium:phosphorus ratio: 1:3

Cheaper cat/dog food brands

Poor calcium:phosphorus ratio

Chemical additives

High sugar content 

Dairy (cow’s milk and cheese)

Lactose intolerance 

Raisins, sultanas, currants, berries

High sugar content

Bread

Hedgehogs cannot digest this well

Large chunks of meat

Hedgehog teeth are too tiny to tear or chew big pieces 

Bacon or corned beef

Too salty

Fish Hard to digest, not natural
Eggs Poor calcium:phosphorus ratio of 12.12:1
Fruit/veg High sugar and/or starch content

What To Feed Hedgehogs 

So what should you feed hedgehogs? What foods can they actually eat? 

Foods that have a you guessed it  good calcium:phosphorus ratio for example. This will maintain good hedge-health and keep away scary diseases like MBD. It will also not be sugary or salty and won’t contain dairy, wheat, or nasty additives. 

There are some good folk in the world, some of them working on creating healthy and tasty hedgehog food. Among them is the lovely team Brambles: a local, family-owned animal welfare company with a background in Biological Sciences. They designed food especially adapted to hedgehogs with an ideal balance of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals

We are delighted to now sell their Brambles Hedgehog Biscuits: organic, quality kibble with a proper calcium:phosphorus ratio of 1.9:1. Its crunchy texture is also very good for dental health so it gives them healthy toofs. What’s more, it really spikes their appetite! 

In addition, you could also feed hedgehogs some quality wet food such as Brambles wet food of high-quality dog or cat wet food (like James Wellbeloved). hedgehog foodOccasionally giving small pieces of low-fat meat such as chicken breast works too, as a snack (no more than a teaspoonful a day). 

Do make sure to replace wet food daily as it can go off quickly in the summer. And it’s best to stick to dry food in winter as wet food can freeze

And of course, last but not least: leave out a shallow bowl of fresh water every day! 

Feeding Guidelines

  • Every evening, leave out a handful of food per hedgehog in a shallow dish.  
  • For extra protection, you can serve the food in a feeding station.
  • Always make sure there is a shallow bowl of fresh water available, especially during warm weather, and make sure it is not frozen during wintertime. 
  • If feeding additional wet food, make sure to replace it daily in case it goes off during warm weather or freezes in the cold.

In Short: 

Do Feed 
(refresh daily)
Do Not Feed
  • Daily fresh water in a shallow bowl

  • Specially designed hedgehog kibble with a calcium:phosphorus ratio between 1:1 and 1:2 such as Brambles Hedgehog Biscuits or high-quality cat/dog dry food (such as James Wellbeloved)


  • Specially designed hedgehog wet food or high-quality cat/dog wet food (such as James Wellbeloved)


  • Small pieces of low-fat meat like cooked chicken breast or turkey
  • Milk 
  • Cheese
  • Sunflower hearts
  • Mealworms
  • Peanuts
  • Crickets
  • Beetles
  • Fatty/salty/red meat
  • Large chunks of meat
  • Raisins, sultanas, currants berries
  • Cheaper dog/cat food full of additives/sugar/bad calcium:phosphorus ratio
  • Bread
  • Fish
  • Egg
  • Fruit/veg

Help Hedgehogs

Besides feeding hedgehogs healthy meals, there is lots more you can do to help hedgehogs live hedgily-ever-after.  

For example: 

 

Thank you for reading and big hogs to you for helping our spiky garden friends 🦔💚🦔

hedgehogBye! 

playing hedgehog


About The Author

Esther Hamelink

Wild about wildlife and writing, I merrily make the blogs for Green Feathers since April 2019! Besides writing chirpy features, I’m responsible for the content and social media posts for Green Feathers and SpycameraCCTV, including the latest product pages. Fancy reading some of my other blog posts? Here’s one about facial recognition, and on here you can find lots more about your giddy garden visitors. Any comments, questions, ideas, and camera footage to share (yes, please!) are always welcome: do get in touch.

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