Hedgehog courtship behaviour

Wild hedgehogs courting
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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

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Hedgehog with foot and limb injuries

Hedgehog with foot injuries
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Meet Legolas. He looks gorgeous and bright eyed but this was not the case when he arrived into my hedgehog rescue.

Sadly, I am seeing an increasing number of hedgehogs coming into rescue with foot and leg injuries. If only hedgehogs could talk and then I would know for sure what had caused them. I do know that they face many dangers out there in the wild. They can get attacked by foxes or dogs. They can get their feet trapped in things including the log edging that is popular for use around borders. Road traffic accidents can cause broken legs and also getting caught in rat traps.

 

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Legolas arrived with both feet badly swollen and infected. He also had a large wound on his left hand side. He smelt strongly of infection.

Legolas injured feet on arrival

On arrival, I washed his wounds with antibacterial agent (Hibiscrub) mixed with saline solution. Legolas was then treated over many weeks with antibiotics, pain relief (with added anti-infammatory ingredient) and daily topical would treatments.

Legolas with feet almost healed

It took months but you will see above that his feet eventually started to fully heal. He lost a few nails during the treatment but most eventually regrew. On release, he was only missing one nail – where the nail bed had been destroyed.

Legolas was lucky and he managed to keep his legs. Others are not so lucky. This is Rupert. He arrived with half a rear leg missing and just a stump left behind. He could not be left like this. The stump would drag on the ground and keep opening up the wound. He would be at risk of constant pain and infection. The only option for Rupert was amputation of the remainder of the stump.

Stump leg

I have also recently admitted this hedgehog with a swollen front leg. Unfortunately hedgehogs cannot survive with an amputated front leg. It is also virtually impossible for a vet to pin these kind of leg breaks due to the way the hedgehog curls and particularly if the fracture is not fresh. The first thing required for any hedgehog with a swollen limb like this is an x-ray. It is vital to know whether the leg is broken and infected or just infected. Luckily for this hedgehog, there is no break. I am treating him with pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs, along with an antibiotic that is good for wounds.

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Hedgehog with swollen and infected front leg and foot – around 4 times normal size. He has been x-rayed to make sure it is not broken.

It is hard to prevent these injuries but you can do your bit by keeping your dog under control in areas where there are hedgehogs and not letting them out at night. Take a close look at your garden and check for potential hazards, such as gaps between log roll edging or holes that a hedgehog could fall into and get injured.

If you do spot a limping hedgehog, seek urgent help. Fresh injuries are easier to treat before they become infected.

Leg injuries are also amongst the most expensive things for a hedgehog rescue to treat. They require many weeks of drugs and wound treatment. Amputations also have to be paid for, along with antibiotics to prevent infection. You can find out more about my work here and can also support my work here.

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

Please join me in wishing Legolas a safe return to the wild.

Thank you for reading!

How to identify 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!

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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. It is vital to keep the feeding stations clean (just like you would with bird feeders).

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

If you’re still not sure if the poo is from a hedgehog or a different visitor, please also check out my guide to other common wildlife poo….

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. If you’ve found this blog post useful, you can read more about my work here and also how to support it.

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

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Hedgehog with metabolic bone disease – why mealworms, peanuts and sunflower seeds are bad for hedgehogs

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Meet Benjamin. He is very poorly.

Benjamin was admitted to my rescue at only 330g. He has been surviving by eating bird seed over the Winter.

Benjamin has metabolic bone disease. Basically, his bones are very thin due to calcium deficiency. This is why he has problems walking. He will be in a lot of pain – it is like a human who has rickets or osteoporosis.

He was fed on a mix of sunflower hearts, mealworms and hedgehog biscuits but he has been seen picking out his favourite bits and leaving the hedgehog biscuits. This means that he will not have got enough calcium in his diet. Mealworms actively strip bones of calcium and sunflower hearts also have a calcium/phosphorus ratio that is too high.

There is a brilliant article here that tells you more about the calcium/phosphorus ratio and busts some of the myths about things you should and shouldn’t feed hedgehogs.

There is little natural food around at this time of year and so his diet will not have been enriched by natural foods, such as the exoskeletons of beetles, that hedgehogs eat in the summer.

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The wild hedgehog diet. They will get calcium from the exoskeletons of beetles

Benjamin is receiving calcium injections and a high calcium diet. He has to be handled very carefully because his bones are so brittle, they can break easily. The thinnest bone is on his front right leg and this is the one that he struggles most to walk on.

It will be a long road to recovery for Benjamin – for the nutrients to build up in his bones. He will also require extensive hydrotherapy to build the strength in his bones and muscles.

As well as metabolic bone disease, he also has a high burden of internal parasites – fluke and roundworm which he also needs to fight but his immunity will be low due to his poor nutrition.

To avoid problems like this, please feed wild hedgehogs only cat/kitten biscuits, meaty cat or dog food (not gravy or fish flavours) or specialist hedgehog food. This diet will contain all the nutrients they need to supplement wild food.

Benjamin’s problems were diagnosed by a vet following an x-ray. It is vital not to self-diagnose or give hedgehogs supplements without a professional diagnosis. Giving too much vitamin D or calcium can cause many problems in wild hedgehogs that do not have metabolic bone disease.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England. You can find out more about my work here and also how to support it.

I also make silver nature jewellery to raise funds for my hedgehog hospital and you can visit my jewellery shop here.

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Ethical gifts for wildlife lovers

Ethical handmade Christmas gifts
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I originally wrote this post for Christmas but all these items make fabulous gifts for wildlife lovers all year round!

Please think about buying handmade and ethical this Christmas. You not only get a lovely gift but charities also benefit. There are lots of charities that sell products to raise funds for their work. My hedgehog rescue is entirely self-funded and I make jewellery to raise funds. I make all of the jewellery from recycled silver.

Here are some other ideas to help you shop ethically this Christmas, all of which support wildlife; from adopting a hedgehog through to being a wildlife rehabilitator for the day. I’ve also included some gifts that don’t give to charity but will help wildlife in other ways. Why not give a hog a home?

Happy shopping and thanks for buying gifts that give back!

If you have any other suggestions for great ethical gifts for wildlife and nature lovers, please get in touch!

British Wildlife Gifts – proceeds support wildlife conservation and rescue charities

Be a wildlife rehabilitator for the day – gift

Adopt a hedgehog – Wildlife Trusts

Sponsor an animal in rehabilitation – Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary

Creature Candy – 10% of proceeds support wildlife rescue

People’s Trust for Endangered Species – Christmas gifts

Adopt a Bee

Give a hedgehog a home

Little Silver Hedgehog – raising funds for hedgehog rescue

Seedball – gorgeous tins of seeds for growing a wildlife meadow and bee/butterfly friendly borders

Provide a beautiful mosaic drinking bowl in your garden for visiting hedgehogs and other wildlife – I love these wildlife inspired designs and they are the perfect height for wildlife.

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Little Silver Hedgehog Jewellery

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Some of the hedgehogs that I have rehabilitated and released

I run a hedgehog hospital in York. My work is entirely self funded. You can also support my work here.

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Treating a hedgehog with a strimmer injury

Hedgehog with strimmer injury
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The sound of people people using a strimmer sets my teeth on edge. I hate them! They do so much damage to wildlife including hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

This is the story of Holly and her journey to recovery from a terrible strimmer wound. She was found at the end of July with her head sliced open, underneath a Holly bush. You can see from the pictures where the strimmer blade has cut deep into her head.

Holly is lucky – a few mm closer and the blade would have entered her skull.

When Holly was found, it was Summer and flies had laid eggs in the wound and hatched into maggots. These had to be painstakingly removed one by one and then the wound washed out with antimicrobial wound treatment and saline.

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You can see where the blade has cut across Holly’s head

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Flies had laid eggs in the open wound, which had hatched into maggots

Holly was put on a course of antibiotics and pain relief. The wound was cleaned daily to stop infection and a special wound gel was added to aid healing.

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Holly’s wound after around 10 days of treatment. It has scabbed over but needs cleaning daily to prevent infection.

Eventually, the wound healed and new spines started to grow through where the wound was.

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New spines starting to grow though – around a month after treatment started

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Holly fit and well and ready to go back to the wild.

Holly is incredibly lucky. Sadly, injuries like Holly’s are far from uncommon. Many hedgehogs are not so fortunate and strimmer and mowing injuries are a major cause of suffering and death. It also took me 6 weeks of intensive care to nurse her back to health. To help prevent injuries and suffering please:

  • Check all areas of long grass carefully before mowing or strimming. Hedgehogs nest in long grass.
  • Ideally keep areas of grass long for wildlife and don’t strim at all.
  • Encourage everyone you know to check before they mow – a simple check can save hedgehogs as well as frogs, toads and other wildlife that loves to nest or forage in long grass.

I run a hedgehog rescue in York, England and have nursed hundreds of hedgehogs back to health. You can find out more about my work here and also how to support it.

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

My blog is full of tips and advice on helping wild hedgehogs – please take a look around my other blog posts and see what you can do to help our spiky friends.

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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 4.5″ 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.

You can also decrease the risk of cats getting into the feeding station by placing the entrance up against a fence or wall with only a hedgehog sized gap behind it….

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. My work is entirely self-funded. You can also make a donation to support my work here.

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