How to make a DIY hedgehog house

Make lodgings for a welcome winter visitor by building a hedgehog house for your garden; you’ll be supporting local populations of an at-risk species.

A DIY hedgehog house in a garden under a fir tree

How to help hedgehogs hibernate

Hedgehogs hibernate through the winter, so in late autumn they start looking for a safe, sheltered place they can get comfortable in. Old tree trunks and piles of leaves or sticks make good natural lodgings. So, if you spot a pile of leaves in your garden late in the year, leave it alone until spring: a hedgehog may already be living there. Take extra care when mowing and hedge trimming too, as hedgehogs are nocturnally active but like to spend their days under bushes and shrubs.

Before winter begins, as you get your garden ready for the cold weather, why not take a little extra time to turn it into an inviting spot for hedgehogs? You can simply pile up grass cuttings and leaves in a corner of your garden to provide a place they can rest undisturbed. Alternatively, use our instructions to build a DIY hedgehog house out of wood. The project is not too complicated and it’s really satisfying to provide a safe habitat for a declining native species. 

Hedgehog among autumn leaves

Should I feed hedgehogs in winter?

Hedgehogs build up a layer of fat to sustain themselves through hibernation, so they need plenty of food in advance. Young hedgehogs and females, in particular, spend the period from September to December busily searching for food, though male hedgehogs start to hibernate as early as October. 

You can help hedgehogs bulk up ready for winter by providing small amounts of cat food and water for them in your garden. You should never give them milk, as it causes severe diarrhoea. Bear in mind though, that the food you supply should only be considered emergency rations. Like any other wild animal, a hedgehog will – and should – find its own food and a reliable supply may distract it from hibernating.

If your hedgehog house is occupied you may be surprised to see a hedgehog out and about when it should be hibernating – but they do occasionally wake up and even stray from their shelter. If you see an active hedgehog in winter, check whether it shows any signs of disease or other injuries and contact a specialist if it does.

UK hedgehogs: vulnerable and of principal importance

The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) makes it illegal to kill or capture hedgehogs, while the Natural and Rural Communities Act (2006) lists them as a priority species in the UK. So it’s worth knowing how to properly take care of a hedgehog although you should not be tempted to bring them inside. Creating a comfortable natural habitat outdoors is the best way to support a healthy hedgehog population.

Exceptions include sick, injured, malnourished hedgehogs, and hedgehogs infested with parasites. Abandoned baby hedgehogs which appear to be too small (less than 500 g in weight) as winter approaches, will also need help. You should contact an expert or a wildlife vet for advice.

Don't bring hedgehogs indoors: Keep wild animals wild!

Remember that hedgehogs are outdoor creatures and that’s where they feel at home. They should only live and hibernate indoors in exceptional circumstances. Supporting wildlife should always be done with a view to keeping animals in the wild.

How to make a DIY hedgehog house

Our guide tells you how to build a safe, warm DIY hedgehog house in just a few steps.

DIY hedgehog house tools and materials: STIHL GTA 26 cordless garden pruner, wood panels, hammer, nails, and other tools

DIY hedgehog house: materials and tools

Before starting to build your house, prepare the following materials and tools: 

  • Garden pruner, e.g. STIHL GTA 26
  • Gloves and safety glasses
  • 4 wood panels – 40 x 25 x 2 cm
  • 1 wood panel – 30 x 20 x 2 cm
  • 1 wood panel – 50 x 40 x 2 cm
  • 2 wooden battens – 39 x 2 x 2 cm
  • 3 x 30 mm wood screws
  • Small screw eyes
  • Roofing felt nails
  • Roofing felt
  • Cordless screwdriver
  • Small clamps
  • Sandpaper
  • Pliers
  • Utility knife

Does the hedgehog house need a base?

You can decide whether to build your hedgehog shelter with a base or open at the bottom. The priority is to keep the hedgehog and filler material dry throughout winter – so if you opt for an open floor, don't place the house in a ditch or on low, damp ground. A layer of gravel or wood chips on the ground offers extra insulation.

Our instructions are for a hedgehog house with an open base.

DIY hedgehog house: finished dimensions

  • The interior cavity measures 35 x 28 x 20 cm.
  • The entrance should be 10 x 10 cm to allow a large hedgehog to pass through.
  • The hedgehog house has two sections: there is a 12 cm entrance chamber that leads to a larger sleeping chamber, which is around 23 cm wide.

Committed to your safety: protective equipment

Always make sure you wear the right personal protective equipment when working with your pruner. With the GTA 26, you should wear safety glasses, gloves and sturdy shoes. Make sure you also wear snug-fitting clothes and tie back long hair. More details are available in the operating instructions for your product. Fully familiarise yourself with the tool before you use it for the first time, and check it is in flawless condition before each use. On request, your STIHL dealer will be happy to prepare your tool for its first use, and will also advise you on models and sizes of protective clothing that you can try at your leisure. Please remember that personal protective equipment is no substitute for safe working techniques.

STIHL GTA 26 cordless garden pruner, STIHL safety gloves and glasses on a wooden bench

DIY hedgehog house: instructions

With your tools, materials and safety equipment on hand, you can now follow our step-by-step guide to building a hedgehog house!

A finished hedgehog house in place under a fir tree

Where should I put my DIY hedgehog house?

The ideal location for a garden hedgehog house is on an elevated patch of ground to prevent water getting inside when it rains or snows. It’s also best to avoid a position in direct sunlight, so the animal can rest properly and is less likely to wake up early from hibernation. The best place to put a hedgehog house is on the north side of your home, tucked under evergreen bushes, trees, or under a porch. The entrance should be positioned so that wind and rain can’t get in.

Once you’ve put the house in place somewhere suitable, cover it with leaves and twigs. These materials add an outer layer of protection and camouflage the shelter from curious animals.

And that’s the final step! Your new winter accommodation is ready to welcome its first guest.

Summary: how to make a DIY hedgehog house

  • Hedgehogs hibernate from October to April/May, when food may be scarce. Ideal winter shelters include piles of leaves and sticks, old tree trunks or man-made hedgehog houses.
  • It is illegal to trap hedgehogs or bring them home. Exceptions include creatures in need: sick, injured, malnourished hedgehogs or young abandoned hedgehogs need expert help.
  • Wild hedgehogs should largely be left to forage for food. You can put out bowls of water and a little cat food as emergency rations.
  • Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment according to your power tool’s operating instructions.
  • Use a garden pruner, wooden panels and roofing felt to make a cosy and waterproof DIY hedgehog house in which a hedgehog can hibernate.
  • If your hedgehog hibernation box has an open base, cover the bare earth with gravel or a layer of wood chips to keep it warm and dry.
  • Put some straw in the hedgehog house, as this makes the perfect nesting material. If necessary, add some dry leaves.
  • The ideal location for the winter shelter is on the north side of a building, under evergreen bushes, trees, or a porch. The entrance should not face into the rain.
  • Place the hedgehog house on dry, level ground, and cover it with a layer of leaves and twigs.