What Do Hedgehogs Eat?

Discover what hedgehogs like to eat and drink with this comprehensive guide. Learn all about the hedgehog diet in the wild, and what to feed them in your garden.
What hedgehogs eat and drink
Discover what hedgehogs like to eat and drink with this comprehensive guide. Learn all about the hedgehog diet in the wild, and what to feed them in your garden.

What do hedgehogs eat?

Hedgehogs are considered insectivores. Depending on what is available in the environment they live in, a wild hedgehog in the UK will eat a variety of different bugs and creepy crawlies.

If you want to feed a hedgehog in your garden, then hedgehog food, dog biscuits and cat biscuits are all acceptable. Cooked meaty dog and cat food are also good alternatives. We stock a great range of hedgehog food, which means you don’t have to go making your own! Read more on what to feed hedgehogs in your garden here.

In this guide, we’ll be looking at what hedgehogs eat in the wild, alongside what they should avoid eating. Read on to discover a hedgehog food list, and have your common questions answered about their favourite nibbles.

What do hedgehogs eat in the wild?

In the wild, when there are no handouts on offer, beetles, caterpillars, earthworms, millipedes, snails, and slugs are a hedgehog’s favourite food.

Hedgehogs are fairly flexible when it comes to their diet. As well as chicks, bird eggs and even frogs, they will sometimes eat berries and other fruits if they come across them. Here, we will go into more detail about what foods hedgehogs like to eat and answer your common questions about foods that are enjoyed by our spikey friends.

Hedgehog face close up

Hedgehog diet

Like many wild animals in the UK, hedgehogs face disappearing habitats, as well as predators and various other threats, so their numbers continue to decline. As a result, they have learned to be adaptable, right down to the foods they eat.

Hedgehog diets often change depending on the time of year and what’s available. Invertebrates account for approximately 75% of the diet of a hedgehog in the wild. Although earthworms are a staple all year round, the insect intake differs across the months and seasons they are actively foraging. As you can see below, the autumn months are more abundant ahead of hibernation.

  • April: Caterpillars, leatherjackets, earthworms
  • May: Caterpillars, coleoptera, leatherjackets, earthworms
  • June: Earthworms
  • July: Earthworms, carabids
  • August: Carabids, scarabs, earwigs, earthworms
  • September: Carabids, scarabs, leatherjackets, earwigs, slugs, millipedes, earthworms
  • October: Earthworms, caterpillars, scarabs, earwigs, slugs

Hedgehogs are now including more slugs in their diet when other species dwindle. This comes with its own risks if those slugs have been affected by slug pellet toxins. Also, some slugs and snails host parasites such as lungworm and fluke which can cause issues if slugs make up too big a portion of their diet.

Do hedgehogs eat fruit?

Yes, hedgehogs do eat fruit. Hedgehogs will eat strawberries, apples, bananas, blueberries, watermelon and pears. They’re also partial to mangoes, peaches and cherries. However, fruit does not make up any substantial part of the hedgehog diet. Dried fruit such as raisins and banana chips should be avoided as it has a much higher sugar content.

Hedgehogs eating fruit

Do hedgehogs eat nuts?

Nuts and seeds can be consumed by hedgehogs safely, but only when they’re eaten alongside other foods to balance the calcium/phosphorus ratio. Hedgehogs can often be seen foraging under bird feeders, and it’s believed that it’s the food that attracts them. However, it’s thought hedgehogs enjoy all the invertebrates that spilt food attracts: worms, slugs, bugs and beetles, every bit as much, if not more, than the seeds themselves. Also, whole nuts like peanuts can get caught in their teeth and cause suffering, so show caution if given as a treat to a hedgehog.

Do hedgehogs eat frogs, mice and birds?

Hedgehogs are opportunistic feeders and will eat frogs, mice or birds that are small enough or slow enough to catch. So, if you’re wondering “Do hedgehogs eat meat?” While they do possess sharp canine teeth, meat is only a small part of their diet and is normally only obtained by scavenging from carcasses.

Do hedgehogs eat eggs?

Birds' eggs are sometimes eaten by hedgehogs. They will gobble them up from ground nests or those that have fallen from tree nests, making a high protein treat for a hedgehog. However, in general, hedgehogs should not eat eggs, especially raw eggs too regularly. 

Hedgehog eating an egg

Do hedgehogs eat maggots?

Hedgehogs can eat maggots on occasion, but they do not offer any nutritional value and should always be part of a wider nutritional diet.

Do hedgehogs eat woodlice or spiders?

Woodlice and spiders are a rare part of the hedgehog diet in the UK. Whilst they can and may well be eaten by hedgehogs in the wild, they don’t generally forage for these creatures.

Mealworms for hedgehogs

Hedgehogs should not eat mealworms. Mealworms contain excellent proteins and amino acids that are beneficial in an insectivore’s diet. However, they have a poor calcium: phosphorus ratio meaning they should only be fed as part of a balanced diet. The problem is hedgehogs seem to become addicted to mealworms, eating them to the exclusion of other foods. In the long term, this can result in illness and disease and it is therefore probably better not to feed them at all.

How much do wild hedgehogs eat?

Portions vary depending on the time of year. An adult hedgehog will need around 130 calories a day to survive, and most hedgehogs will eat about 8% of their body weight in food each night. With all that foraging and eating of bugs and insects, it’s easy to understand why hedgehogs are brilliant for pest control in the garden.

How do hedgehogs find their food?

Hedgehogs forage for their food by sniffing through undergrowth. Their keen sense of smell can detect a tasty worm up to three inches underground. So although they may not have fantastic eyesight, they are able to forage through leaves and dig to find suitable food.

Hedgehogs have even evolved to uniquely enjoy one of their favourite foods - slugs. They even have a special way of rolling them up to remove their slime before eating them. Ingenious!

What do hedgehogs drink?

Hedgehogs will drink water from natural sources such as puddles, but leaving out a shallow dish of fresh, plain water is the best way to ensure they stay hydrated all year round.

Hedgehogs need drinking water daily

What do baby hedgehogs eat?

Hedgehogs will nurse their babies with their milk for up to eight weeks. Food such as insects are introduced slowly at around six weeks old and mothers leave their young to fend for themselves at around eight weeks old.

What can hedgehogs not eat?

While hedgehogs are quite adaptable when it comes to their diet, eating both meat and fruits, there are some foods you should avoid putting out for them. The food hedgehogs should not eat includes:

  • Milk
  • Bread
  • Raw meat
  • Citrus fruit
  • Oats
  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Onion
  • Avocado
  • Sunflower hearts

Bread is something that many people have traditionally given to hedgehogs, as well as birds, of course. But it has little nutritional value and only serves to fill them up, meaning they won’t then go in search of more nutritious foods.

Milk is another foodstuff traditionally left out for hedgehogs. However, it will do them more harm than good due to their lactose intolerance.

Are sunflower hearts and peanuts dangerous for hedgehogs?

Sunflower seeds and peanuts are not dangerous food types and provide a major contribution to many animal feeds, as well as being widely available in health food shops for humans. Sunflower hearts and peanuts are very fatty, and hedgehogs enjoy them for this reason, so feed them only as a treat or with a balanced diet.

What is Hedgehog Metabolic Bone Disease? (MBD)?

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) is caused by a hedgehog consistently eating foods which are too low in calcium and too high in phosphorus. This can result in the hedgehog’s body leaching the calcium stored in its bones into the bloodstream to try to counterbalance. But this means that their bones then don’t get enough calcium, causing the bones to break or become misshapen. If a hedgehog fills up solely on peanuts, mealworms, oats and sunflower hearts, they won’t have a balanced diet, and this can lead to MBD. MBD in hedgehogs is harrowing: it’s a debilitating, excruciatingly painful condition that can lead to death.

Much like we have to eat everything in moderation and only indulge in unhealthy foods as treats, hedgehogs should do the same. Hedgehogs need good-quality food with the appropriate calcium balance to avoid this condition.

For more information, take a look at A Guide to Hedgehog Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). To help hedgehogs in your garden, you can supplement their diet with specialist hedgehog food or meaty dog or cat food using a feeding station.

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