Hand rearing baby hedgehog orphans

Hedgehog orphans, orphaned hoglets

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.


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. You can read more about me here and also how to support my work.

I also make handmade silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife to raise funds for my hedgehog rescue. You can visit my online jewellery shop here.



Disturbed nest, orphaned baby hedgehog hoglets

Hedgehog nest in pile of leaves

Summer means orphan season and a flurry of calls about abandoned hoglets.

Hedgehog nests are not strong and sturdy, they are frequently just a pile of leaves, in long grass or underneath a large plant. Underneath sheds and decking are also favourite spots.

I received a call after this nest was disturbed by someone raking leaves in their garden.

If a nest is disturbed, mum may kill or abandon the hoglets. Sadly mum did not return for one of the two hoglets.

The best way to prevent this happening is to avoid disturbing a nest in the first place. Learn to love your grass long. Cherish piles of leaves. Put off dismantling the shed.

If you do accidentally disturb a nest, cover it back up straight away.  DO NOT touch the hoglets with your bare hands. Wait and see if mum returns. She may return to the nest or may return and move the nest and babies to another site.

If she does not return and the hoglets are ‘peeping’ or are venturing out of the nest, then they will be in need of rescue.

There is a great page here where you can listen to the sound that hoglets make when they are in distress or hungry (as well as other fascinating hedgehog noises!)

You will find more information about how to find a hedgehog rescue here.


Hedgehog nest in a pile of leaves

Every year I rescue hoglets that have been abandoned or where something else has happened to mum – she could have been killed on a road or be injured or sick.

Hand rearing hoglets is expert work and you should always seek expert advice from a hedgehog rescue. It is not something to take on without any experience.

This little hoglet is around 11 days old. It can curl up but its eyes are not yet open. It will need hand feeding by syringe until it is able to eat by itself. They are fed a lactose-free formula and will then be gradually weaned onto a puppy mousse when their teeth emerge.

Baby hoglet in hand June 2016

Orphaned hoglet about 11 days old. Her eyes are still closed.

Once it can feed on its own, human contact will be reduced. The aim is for the hoglets to be released back to the wild once they are a suitable age and weight for release.

Pair of baby hoglets by Little Silver Hedgehog

Whole litters may need to be rescued if something has happened to mum

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. I have rehabilitated over 350 hedgehogs since 2012. I also work hard to raise awareness of the plight of hedgehogs and how you can help them. My work is entirely self funded. You can support my work by donating or supporting my jewellery, which raises funds for the rescue work.


Hedgehog courtship behaviour

Wild hedgehogs courting

It is that wonderful time of year when hedgehogs are courting. You’ll hear them before you see them – they make a really loud ‘huffing’ snorting sound that can keep your neighbours awake at night! Courting generally happens between April and September but, milder weather means that litters are now sometimes being born even in Winter.

David Attenborough sums it all up perfectly

Hedgehogs normally have four to five babies. They stay in the nest for around 4 weeks and then will accompany mum on foraging trips for around a fortnight, before leaving to go off on in their own directions.

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A female hedgehog with her baby on my patio

It is very important to avoid disturbing a hedgehog nest because mum may kill or eat her babies. Avoid garden maintenance, such as removing sheds or outbuildings, during the nesting season. If you do disturb a nest accidentally, cover it straight back up. Do not touch the babies. Check from a distance to see if mum returns. If she does not and you hear ‘peeping’ (like a baby bird noise) from the nest, the babies are in need of rescue. Seek advice from a hedgehog rescue urgently. Do not touch the babies with your bare hands and you need to keep them warm.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. To support my work please visit www.littlesilverhedgehog.etsy.com. You can also follow my hedgehog rescue stories at www.facebook.com/littlesilverhedgehog