What do hedgehogs eat?

The European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) eats a variety of invertebrate food such as worms, insects (particularly beetles), caterpillars and small slugs. They will also sometimes eat carrion such as roadkill, frogs, small rodents, and birds’ eggs.


Do hedgehogs eat slugs and snails?

Hedgehogs do eat slugs and snails but not as many as we gardeners would like them to! Hedgehogs have small mouths so large slugs and snails are generally avoided. What's more, slugs and snails often carry the parasitic worm lungworm, which can infect a hedgehog's lungs and potentially make them very ill and even kill them. It's therefore best for hedgehogs that our gardens have a balanced natural supply of beetles, caterpillars, worms and other invertebrates to choose from.

Do hedgehogs eat fruit?

Hedgehogs do not have a cecum, a pouch in the digestive tract used to digest plant material. Fruits and vegetable matter therefore pass through their gut quickly, without providing any nutrition. This means hedgehogs might eat bananas, strawberries, pumpkins, apples or any other fruit or vegetables, but they can not digest them, so they are useless to them. Indeed, these foods may give hedgehogs an upset tummy, which can cause dehydration.

What do hedgehogs drink?

Hedgehogs drink water. They will drink naturally from ponds with sloping sides, or from bird baths placed on the ground. They also benefit from additional water placed in water bowls near a source of food.

It was once thought that hedgehogs enjoyed milk. While they will drink milk, milk can give hedgehogs an upset tummy, which can dehydrate them.

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What to feed hedgehogs in your garden

The best way to feed hedgehogs in your garden is to ensure there's a good variety of natural food such as beetles and caterpillars. This means creating habitats such as log and leaf piles, large open compost heaps, native shrubs and long grass. Never use slug pellets or any other insecticide that's designed to kill insects, as this will remove natural food for hedgehogs and could also harm hedgehogs that eat any infected food.

If you want to supplement their diet then dog or cat food is best, ideally dry kitten biscuits which are designed for small mouths. Food that claims to be designed specifically for hedgehogs is available but isn't necessarily best for them – unlike pet food, wild animal food isn't regulated and can therefore contain anything, including honey, fruit, seeds, nuts, fruit or mealworms, which aren't safe for hedgehogs to eat. Always check the label on hedgehog food and ensure the main ingredient is meat, and that there's no honey, seeds, nuts, fruit, mealworms or calci worms included. Cat and dog food has been rigorously tested and is safe and nutritious for hedgehogs. It's usually much cheaper to buy than hedgehog food.

How to make a hedgehog feeding station

Alfie the rescue hedgehog leaving hedgehog feeding station. Paul Debois
Alfie the rescue hedgehog leaving hedgehog feeding station. Paul Debois

Leaving food out for hedgehogs can attract them into the garden but it can also attract other animals, such as cats, foxes and mice. By making a hedgehog feeding station, you can ensure only hedgehogs are eating the food you leave out for them.

Hedgehog feeding stations are simply a box with a hedgehog-sized entrance hole that prevents other animals from getting in. It often includes a tunnel system that prevents cats from swiping the food and disturbing the hedgehogs, and usually has a heavy brick on top to prevent foxes from gaining access. You can buy ready made hedgehog feeding stations or make your own, using either a plastic or wooden box. Plastic storage boxes work well as they often come with a lid so you can make the hole and create a self-contained feeding station that's easy to clean. Wooden boxes (or plastic boxes without a lid) can simply be turned upside down and the 'base' of the feeding station is the ground.

You will need:

  • A plastic or wooden box
  • Strong scissors or jig saw
  • Ruler and pencil
  • Strong tape or sand paper
  • A brick
  • Small but heavy ceramic bowls for food

Step 1

Choose where you want the hole and measure it out, using the ruler and pencil. Aim for a hole around 13cm x 13cm.

Measuring the size of the entrance hole. Paul Debois
Measuring the size of the entrance hole. Paul Debois

Step 2

Depending on whether you have a plastic or wooden box, use the scissors or jig saw to carefully cut out a hole around 13cm square. Sand away any splinters or use tape to cover them if using plastic.

Removing the wood from the new entrance hole. Paul Debois
Removing the wood from the new entrance hole. Paul Debois

Step 3

Position your box in place, ideally in a quiet part of the garden. If the box has a base, line it with newspaper and place the food at the far end of the box. Alternatively, use bricks to make a 'wall' or 'tunnel' that the hedgehogs can travel along but which will prevent a cat from getting to the food.

Preparing cat food for hedgehog. Paul Debois
Preparing cat food for hedgehog. Paul Debois

Step 4

Place a heavy brick on top of the box to prevent the box being moved by a fox.

Hedgehog leaving hedgehog feeding station. Paul Debois
Hedgehog leaving hedgehog feeding station. Paul Debois

Please note: the hedgehog used in this photoshoot is a rescue that was not able to be released back into the wild due to injury, and was allowed to be photographed under strict supervision from the rescue centre. Visit our page on helping hedgehogs for advice on what to do if you see a hedgehog out during the day.

What to avoid giving hedgehogs

Avoid feeding hedgehogs bread and milk. Both of these are bad for hedgehogs – the milk can upset their tummy, which leads to dehydration, while the bread fills them up without providing them with any nutrients.

Mealworms, seeds and nuts, including sunflower seeds and peanuts, are found in bird food and are sometimes added to hedgehog food mixes. They are not safe to feed to hedgehogs because they have high levels of phosphorus and low levels of calcium, which leads to brittle bones and fractures known as Metabolic Bone Disease. Most hedgehogs found with Metabolic Bone Disease have to be put down. If you feed garden birds then fix a tray beneath your feeders so the food doesn't spill on to the ground, which may then be eaten by hedgehogs at night. If you buy 'hedgehog food' then read the list of ingredients to ensure none of the above foods is included in the mix.


Other ingredients sometimes added to 'hedgehog food' include honey, sugar, cereal and fruit. These are useless to hedgehogs because they can't be digested, and can cause tooth decay. Some mixes contain a mealworm alternative called 'calci worms' which are said to contain more calcium than mealworms and are therefore considered 'safe' for hedgehogs. This has not been proven so why take the risk? Feeding them a scientifically balanced meal, such as cat or dog food, is best.

Advice on buying hedgehog food

  • Remember that hedghog food isn't regulated and can therefore contain ingredients which are bad for hedgehogs
  • Always check the ingredients list and ensure meat is listed as the main ingredient
  • Cat and dog food – particularly biscuits – are highly regulated and nutritionally balanced, perfect for hedgehogs

Where to buy hedgehog food 

The following foods have been checked: they all list meat as the main ingredient and don't contain any insects, seeds or nuts.