Why provide wildlife housing?
Most species need sheltered spaces to protect them from predators and unfavourable weather during breeding, resting and hibernation.
In natural areas, species use hollow trees, dense shrubs and all sorts of cavities in the ground, but these are often not present urban areas, especially newer housing developments.
As we’ve made our houses and gardens ‘tidier’, we’ve reduced the amount of natural areas with this vital cover for nesting - including piles of fallen leaves and logs, sandy banks and bare patches of lawn. There are things you can do within your Naturespace though to provide shelter for some of the UK’s most loved wildlife:
Installing your hedgehog house
To make you own DIY house, follow these simple steps from the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Society. Alternatively, there are lots of ready-made houses available online and in garden centres.
Place the hedgehog house in a quiet, sheltered part of your garden against a hedge, fence or bank.
To prevent cold winds being directed into the hedgehog house, avoid positioning the entrance in a south or south-westerly direction.
TIP: You can find north using the compass app on your phone, or have a look at an online map of your Naturespace – the top of the map will be north.
Maintaining your hedgehog house
There are two periods of time that are best for moving or cleaning out a hedgehog house:
In March and April, when the hedgehogs have finished hibernating and will have left the house. It’s important that you clean the hedgehog house around this time and before the breeding season, as disturbing a mother can cause her to abandon her hoglets
In October, when the young hoglets have been weaned and before hedgehogs settle for winter hibernation
Remove bedding and clean the inside of the hedgehog house with boiling water to kill any parasites, then let the house dry out before replacing the lid, or adding any new bedding materials.
TIP: To make sure the house is vacated, you can place a twig or other small object over the entrance - if it’s been moved you know someone has visited the hedgehog house.
House sparrow box
Naturehood would like to test whether sparrow nest boxes increase the overall population of these little birds over time - we can only do this with the help of members of the public installing boxes and monitoring the house sparrows in their area.
Installing artificial nest boxes provide extra areas for house sparrows to nest, potentially increasing the chance of successfully raising young.
Install two (or more) nest boxes
House sparrows are highly social and like to nest in groups, so one nest box on its own is unlikely to be used.
Make your own do-it-yourself house sparrow nest box by following our DIY Guide
Purchase a pre-made house sparrow nest box online. (Please make sure they are made from FSC certified materials and can be cleaned easily if required)
Where DO i PUT IT?
Attach the box to an open external wall or tree in the garden
Make sure it’s clear of obstructions which could stop birds being able to enter or exit easily when in flight
Include a round entrance hole 32 mm in diameter, at least 150 mm from the floor of the box
Install it at least 3 m from the ground
If possible, ensure it does not face between south and west, to maximise nesting uptake. This avoids prevailing wind direction and prolonged hours of direct sunlight
If attaching to a tree, attach it to the driest side of the trunk
Keep your sparrow box habitable
We recommend you clean boxes out between the 1st September and the 31st January, in line with bird protection laws, as birds will have vacated the box during this time.
Remove any old nest materials and wash the box out using hot water.
See further advice on how to maintain nest boxes from the RSPB.
Not all bees live in hives or big groups. Some of them will use spaces in your garden instead! Solitary bees are known to use bee hotels, which are sheltered spaces made up of hollow tubes that mimic a nest. This is where they breed and lay their eggs safely. Larvae hatch from these eggs and use the hotels as a safe space to grow over the winter months. The easiest way to tell if your hotel is being used is just to have a look - if the entrance to the tube is sealed with leaves or mud, it's occupied.
What to look for in a bee hotel
The tubes should vary in diameter between 2mm and 10mm and be 10cm deep. They should be smooth inside and have a solid back wall.
Bee hotels should be built from wood and other natural materials (preferably recycled or FSC certified), avoiding glass or plastic which can get damp and grow mould.
To prevent the spread of disease and parasites it is better to have several small hotels around the garden, rather than one big resort.
You can build your own bee hotel using this step-by-step RSPB guide.
Where should I put the hotel?
Your bee hotel should be securely fixed to a wall or a tree, not swinging freely, and have pollen rich flowers nearby.
Place the hotel at least a metre off the ground and ensure there’s no vegetation blocking the entrance. It should face fully into the sun (south or south east).
To keep the hotel dry make sure the tubes are horizontal or angled slightly downwards, to stop them from filling with rainwater.
Looking after your bee hotel
To keep your guests visiting every year:
Keep the hotel dry at all times. Move the hotel inside to a dry and unheated spot during autumn and winter (October to February) to protect the nesting bees for example, within a garden shed. Bring the hotel back out again in March in time for the juvenile bees to emerge.
Clean out the tubes that are still blocked once most larvae have flown in the spring to avoid growth of mould and mites.
Replace the hotel, or the tubes inside every few years.