Many of us met our first badger in a bed-time story, whether it was the kindly and wise Mr Badger from The Wind and the Willows, Fantastic Mr Fox’s legal-minded Clive Badger Esq. or The Chronicles of Narnia’s loyal Trufflehunter. But anyone who’s woken to find their bins knocked over and holes dug in their lawn by badgers in search of supper may have a less rosy view. Badgers and their dwellings (setts) are protected by law, but there are some steps you can take to protect your garden.
Badgers are nocturnal mammals, sleeping by day and coming out to hunt and forage at night. They live in groups known as clans and make their homes in underground burrows called setts. Generations of badgers will use the same sett, extending it as needed, so some setts can grow very large. If you suspect there’s a sett in your garden, the Badgers Trust can provide advice on what to do.
But most badgers seen in gardens are just looking for a good meal, and that meal usually involves earthworms. Lots of earthworms, in fact – badgers can eat several hundred in a night. They also eat fruit, birds’ eggs and occasionally even small mammals. They dig holes in lawns to root out worms and in beds to get at bulbs, and they’ll happily steal carrots and sweetcorn from vegetable plots.
How to stop badgers digging up your garden
To stop badgers damaging your garden, the first step is to remove food sources. Don’t leave out pet food dishes containing uneaten food, avoid filling bird feeders with peanuts and make sure food recycling bins are secure.
Keep your lawn healthy by aerating it twice a year, spiking holes in the lawn at regular intervals with a garden fork or a hollow tine aerator. This helps to reduce compaction and improve drainage, allowing the grass to build up a strong root structure and making it harder for badgers to dig up worms. Peg chicken wire down on the soil above new bulb plantings or over newly lain turf.
If you like seeing badgers in your garden and you can live with the damage, leaving a small amount of food may distract them from eating your favourite plants. What to feed badgers:
- Raw (unsalted) peanuts
- Dried dog food
- Unsalted, sugarfree peanut butter
Leave small amounts of food now and then as a treat – a handful of food per badger is a good rule of thumb and means the badgers are less likely to start relying on you as a food source. Remember to leave fresh water, and if you’re putting out dry food, leave some soft, moist fruit such as grapes as well.
If your garden is suffering after a visit from the badgers, visit our garden centre for help and advice on lawn care and repair as well as all your other garden queries.