Baby hedgehogs!

Hedgehog orphans, orphaned hoglets
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Hoglet season is in full swing and I am inundated with little spiky orphans.

The reasons for them coming into care and many and varied. In some cases nests have been disturbed whilst gardening and mum has abandoned the babies. In other cases, it is likely that something has happened to mum – she has been killed or injured.

Each of the babies will be cared for until it is big enough to go back to the wild. That is likely to be at around 8 weeks old and 500g+.

Their treatment depends upon their age and what is wrong with them. Hoglets whose eyes have not yet opened will need hand feeding by syringe until they learn to lap by themselves.

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Hoglet being hand fed formula

Even tiny hoglets can pick up internal parasites if they have spent any period of time in the wild having to fend for themselves. If mum had internal parasites, she can also pass them on to her babies and these start to show up from a few weeks old.

It is hard but rewarding work caring for hoglets. Hygiene has to be scrupulous because they can be very vulnerable at a young age. All feeding equipment must be sterilised after every feed. Bedding needs changing frequently.

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Baby hoglet whose eyes have just opened. They can get covered in food and need cleaning regularly to avoid them having a build up of food on their skin

Once weaned, they make a huge mess stomping through their food bowls and so their cages can need cleaning several times a day. Like with adult hedgehogs, their poo needs testing regularly if they are not gaining weight or show symptoms of illness. This is to check for internal parasites that may need treating. Whilst some baby hedgehogs come into rescue and do not need any treatment, others can struggle with parasite burdens from a young age.

 

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Hoglets moving to an outdoor run to prepare for release back to the wild

Once they are ready to return to the wild, they are released to where they came from or to other suitable locations if that is not possible. They will be given food, water and nest boxes to ease their transition back to the wild.

Hedgehog behaviour comes naturally to them and being raised by humans does not disadvantage them as long as handling has been minimised during care. They soon learn to forage for themselves back in the wild.

The video below shows hedgehog behaviour at a very young age. The huffing is his natural warning to stay away and is used as a defense in the wild.

This year seems to be particularly bad for hoglets. Many are coming in at a much lower weight than is normal for their age, which suggests that mum may be struggling to give them a good start. I’ve also seen a 400% increase in admissions of orphans compared with last year.

There are many other factors that can influence the numbers coming into rescue, including increased awareness of the plight of hedgehogs, other hedgehog rescues in the vicinity closing and hot dry weather….

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can support my work at www.littlesilverhedgehog.com

 

Poo glorious hedgehog poo!

Hedgehog poo
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Hedgehog poo

Hedgehog poo – the morning after the night before!

Many people get excited about the first signs of Spring – daffodils raising their sunny heads and delicate snowdrops swaying in the breeze…. But for me, poo is the most exciting sign of Spring….

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and, unless you plan to spend endless hours camped out by your patio doors or invest in a wildlife camera, you are more likely to see hedgehog excrement than the creature that left it.

Hedgehogs emerge from hibernation any time from March onwards and the sign of fresh black droppings on the lawn is a wonderful sign that my spiky friends have emerged safely from their deep sleep. The ‘poo calendar’ reminds me that it is time to leave out fresh water and food every day to help my prickly guests.

Top tip: If you want to know if you have a hedgehog visitor, go on a poo hunt around your garden!

Healthy hedgehog droppings are black or dark brown in colour, solid and usually oval or tapered. They can be up to 5cm long. Stools also provide a vital insight into the hedgehog diet. Hedgehog poo will often ‘glisten’ due to being packed with the remains of invertebrates, such as beetle wings and other body parts. Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t just eat slugs. Beetles are their favourite foods and eating too many slugs can actually be bad for them as they are an intermediate host for lungworm. This horrid parasite can cause weight loss, breathing problems and ultimately death.

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Top tip: Help your hedgehogs to have lovely healthy shiny black poo by packing your garden with native plants and log piles to attract beetles. There more plants the better!

Wildlife gardening

Flowers in my wildlife garden

Hedgehog poo is also a vital indicator of health in other ways. Green slimy poo can be a sign that a hedgehog is poorly and in need of rescue, so keep a close eye on your hedgehogs if you see any dodgy poo around your feeding stations.

Hedgehog rescuers like myself also love looking at poo under the microscope. Parasites can be identified under the microscope that can then be treated, with the most common being lungworm (from slugs) and roundworm (from earthworms). Bacterial infections can also be identified. Studying poo is one of my favourite passtimes…

Looking at hedgehog poo through the microscope

Studying poo under the microscope

Roundworm in hedgehog poo under microsope credit Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Roundworm eggs under the microscope: courtesy Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Lungworm in hedgehog poo under microscope credit Whitby Wildlife Rescue

Lungworm under the microscope: courtesy Whitby Wildlife Rescue

So, poo glorious poo, my favourite sign of Spring!

I’d love to know when you spot the first hedgehog poo in your garden….

My hedgehog rescue is entirely self-funded. To support my rescue work please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

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Build a hedgehog feeding station

Hedgehogs feeding in garden
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Want to feed hedgehogs but not your neighbourhood cats? A hedgehog feeding station may well be the answer. It also helps to keep the food and the hedgehog dry when it is raining. Hedgehogs aren’t keen on rain!

There are lots of options for feeding stations. You can buy a ready made one, I use a wooden hedgehog house (see header pic) or you can also build your own very cheaply from a plastic box. Please remember that a feeding station should only be used for food – don’t mix dinner with bed and breakfast. Use a separate hedgehog box to provide a house.

You will need:

  • A plastic storage box with a lid. A minimum of 12″ wide by 18″ (but can be bigger)
  • A stanley knife or strong scissors to cut the hole
  • Measuring tape to measure the size of the hole
  • Strong tape to cover the cut edges of the hole
  • A brick
  • Small but heavy ceramic bowls for food

Building the box

  • Decide whether you want to have the box with the lid on or whether you want to turn the box upside down with the lid underneath.
  • Carefully cut out a hole around 4″ square.
  • Tape up the edges of the hole – they may be jagged
  • Line the box with newspaper
  • Put the food at the far end of the box
  • Place a brick on top to help prevent the lid being taken off by a fox/cat
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Feeding station lined with newspaper. Pic courtesy http://www.thehedgehog.co.uk

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Place a brick on top of the box. Pic courtesy http://www.thehedgehog.co.uk

Check the box daily and change the newspaper when it gets dirty. Wash the food bowls regularly to keep them clean.

If you want to check that your visitor is, in fact, a hedgehog, you can place a non-toxic ink pad at the entrance followed by a white paper lining. You should then be able to spot hedgehog footprints made by the ink….

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Hedgehog footprints. Pic courtesy http://www.hedgehogstreet.org

For suggestions of what food to put in your feeding station please read my blog.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York. I make silver jewellery to raise funds to support my work.

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Help – I’ve found a hedgehog

Hedgehogs out in daylight need rescue
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Hedgehogs out in the day are in need of help

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and should not be out in the day. A hedgehog out in the day is in urgent need of rescue. Hedgehogs never sunbathe.

Don’t delay, the faster you act, the greater the chance of saving the hedgehog. Speed in getting help is particularly important if the hedgehog is collapsed/not moving or is shaking/wobbling when walking.

What to do.

  1. Pick it up with thick gloves on.
  2. Contain the hedgehog in something with very high sides. Plastic recycling boxes from the Council are excellent. It may climb out of anything with lower sides.
  3. Place it somewhere warm. This is vital if the hedgehog feels cold to the touch or is shaking/wobbling.
  4. Fill a hot water bottle or a leak-proof drinks bottle with hot water.

Don’t use boiling water. Wrap the bottle in an old towel and place it at the bottom of the box. Then place the hedgehog onto the heat and cover it with an old towel or fleece. It is vital to make sure that there is room for the hedgehog to move away from the heat source. Keep checking on the bottle to make sure it is warm – if it gets too cold it will take heat away from the hedgehog.

5. Offer a little dish of meaty cat/dog food and a shallow dish of water.

6. Get some help. Caring for poorly hedgehogs is a specialist task. Don’t be tempted to try and care for it yourself without seeking advice.

If you have found a baby hedgehog/nest of baby hedgehogs do not touch them with bare hands. Always wear gloves. Seek urgent advice before picking up the babies – a hedgehog rescue can advise whether they are likely to have been abandoned or whether mum may come back.

Finding a hedgehog rescue

You can find details of hedgehog/wildlife rescues from the following:

www.helpwildlife.co.uk – the site also has more useful advice on what to do if you find sick/injured wildlife.

Top tip – put the above number into your phone NOW! Do it before you forget – then you will have the number handy if you ever need to find a hedgehog rescue.

A specialist hedgehog rescue is the best option but if you cannot find anyone else and especially if the hedgehog looks to be in pain/injured or is shaking/wobbling, take it to a vet. Most vets will treat wildlife for free.

Hedgehogs feeding in garden

Healthy hedgehogs will only be seen at night

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Top plants for your hedgehog haven

Wildlife gardening
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Help hedgehogs thrive in your garden with this guide to plants that are great for our spiky friends. Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs don’t mainly eat slugs. Their favourite foods are beetles and caterpillars. Growing plants to attract insects is therefore one of the best things you can do to help hedgehogs. Plus, you’ll help bees too!

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A garden full of plants looks beautiful and also provides a haven for insects – a hedgehog’s favourite food

As well as providing food and shelter for insects, plants also provide shelter for hedgehogs to forage and nest underneath. The more ground cover the better! Don’t be too tidy – when plants die back in the Winter, keep the remains on the ground to provide Winter hidey holes for insects. Don’t forget fences and walls – cover them with climbing plants and ivy.

Any native plants are good but here are a few plant ideas to get you started.

Wildflowers

  • Field Scabious
  • Ox-eye Daisy
  • Meadow Cranesbill
  • Red Campion
  • Common Knapweed
  • Wild White Clover

TIP: Many garden centres now offer native wildflowers as plug plants or you can grow them from seed.

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Scabious attracts bees and hoverflies

Wild corner of garden for wildlife

A wild corner left long and featuring Red Campion, Knapweed and Clover

Hedging

Hedges provide a great habitat for a wealth of wildlife including nesting sites and berries for birds. They also provide free access for hedgehogs between gardens, unlike walls and fences. Native species are best:

  • Beech
  • Field maple
  • Hawthorn
  • Geulder Rose
  • Berberis (not native but its flowers are great for insects and its berries for birds)
  • Hazel

Shrubs

  • Alder Buckthorn
  • Goat Willow
  • Dogwood
  • Buddleia
  • Pyracantha
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Buddleia in flower is a magnet for butterflies and other insects

Good luck with your planting and please share your pictures!

Please read my blog for more tips for hedgehog friendly gardening.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York and I am also a keen gardener. All the photos are from my own garden. My work is entirely self-funded. To support my work, please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com

 

WANTED – homes for hedgehogs!

Hedgehogs feeding in garden
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“I want a garden hedgehog!” If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard that, I would be a rich woman!

I’m on the lookout for suitable release sites for 30+ hedgehogs that have spent the Winter in care. I want the best of the best for these rehabilitated hedgehogs so please let me know if you can offer the perfect des-res. Below are the minimum requirements that all homes must meet. I am looking for homes within 5 miles of York but other hedgehog rescues will have similar criteria.

1.. You must already have hedgehogs regularly visiting your garden. This is the only way to know that the habitat is suitable and that the hedgehogs will find a mate. You can’t just release one or two hedgehogs and hope they will colonize an area. If hedgehogs aren’t in the area, sadly, there is a reason…..

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You must already have hedgehogs regularly visiting your garden

2. You must be well away from busy main roads – hazardous to hedgehogs.

3. You and your neighbours must not use slug pellets, pesticides or herbicides – all of these can cause poisoning and death. You must also avoid use of garden netting, check carefully before strimming and forking (and ideally not strim your garden at all)

4. Your garden must be linked to at least 10 large gardens via hedgehog holes/hedges/open fencing. The ideal garden will offer plenty of ground cover for foraging and nest sites.

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The perfect garden will offer wild areas for foraging and shelter

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The best release sites will be packed with native plants to attract insects – beetles and caterpillars are the top two foods for hedgehogs

5. You must provide a suitable escape route from any ponds.

6. You must provide some form of shelter. This can be anything from a homemade house  under a log pile, to a specially purchased hedgehog box. This will give your new resident a helping hand to set up home.

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A hedgehog house made under our log store from bricks, twigs and leaves. It provides great shelter from the elements and also a home for insects.

7. You must leave food and water out daily for at least the first month and ideally forever. For advice about feeding hedgehogs, read my blog

8. Not near badger sites. Badgers will predate hedgehogs where they live in close proximity.

If you didn’t get past the first essential requirement, many people find that if they leave food and water out regularly, they discover they do have hedgehog visitors!

If you are interested in being a release site, drop me a line via my Facebook page

My work rehabilitating hedgehogs is entirely self funded. I raise funds for medicines, food and equipment by making silver jewellery inspired by nature – great ethical gifts!