School’s out for the summer, and for those now at home what better way to spend a sunny afternoon than by creating a hedgehog house, to help the nation’s favourite mammal from further decline, especially during the current heatwave.

The Hedgehog Street team is urging people to help hedgehogs by building them the perfect home, providing a safe haven that’s cool, cosy and comfortable during this unusual summer weather.

Last year, Hedgehog Street launched the first ever Hedgehog Housing Census, which looked at how, when and why hedgehogs use either homemade or artificial hedgehog houses in gardens across Britain. Between August and October 2017 more than 5,000 people responded to the Hedgehog Housing Census and the secrets behind what makes a perfect hedgehog home have been revealed. The results, analysed by the University of Reading, show that:

• Hedgehogs prefer homemade houses, but artificial houses are still a good alternative if they have the right features

• Hedgehogs need time to get used to a new house before they use it

• Feeding hedgehogs, putting water in your garden and providing bedding (such as dry leaves, pet straw or both) increases the chances of a resident hedgehog moving in

• Hedgehogs prefer houses found in back gardens, in shaded areas

• Pets or badgers don’t appear to put off a ‘hog from moving in

The results also showed that houses positioned less than five metres to the homeowners’ house are most frequently used, indicating that hedgehogs have become accustomed to human activity.

Also, of those who responded to the questions about usage for daytime resting and hibernation, 81% found evidence that their hedgehog house was used for resting during summer daytime, 59% noted that it was used for hibernation during winter months and 28% said it was used for breeding.

Emily Wilson, Hedgehog Officer for Hedgehog Street explains: “Until now we didn’t know what type of hedgehog house was best for hedgehogs and if they were even really used at all, as this area of hedgehog ecology simply hadn’t been studied.

"These results tell us that hedgehog houses are helping ‘hogs find a place to rest, hibernate and even breed. We can use these results to help conserve these animals and give the most accurate advice to anyone wanting to provide shelter for wild hedgehogs through our Hedgehog Street campaign.”

Emily continued: “It’s interesting to see that hedgehogs seem to prefer houses that have been in a garden for some time, but we hope that people won’t be disheartened if they have a newer hedgehog house, it just means hedgehogs need a little time to get used to it.

"If hedgehogs are provided with food and water in the garden (especially during this unusually hot weather), and the correct bedding in the house, this really encourages hedgehogs into your area, and they could become regular night-time visitors.”

Abigail Gazzard, Postgraduate Researcher for the University of Reading adds: “Further analysis is required to investigate why hedgehogs seem to prefer homemade houses to artificial ones. This could be to do with the type of materials they are made from, its physical size, or whether it has other features such as tunnels and internal partitions, so the next step for us is to look into this aspect specifically.”

The Hedgehog Street team is run by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES).