The tawny owl that fell down my chimney

Tawny owl who fell down my chimney
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Flashback to the day that this gorgeous Tawny Owl fell down my chimney.

You can imagine my shock when I walked into the lounge and found an owl staring back at me! I wasn’t yet fully awake and it gave me the fright of my life!

We have a modern fireplace but it is open so the owl had managed to find its way all the way down the chimney and into the lounge.

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I imagine something had frightened the owl or it was trying to find a home. It was a young Tawny. Luckily it was completely unharmed and not even dirty from its ordeal.

I keep a strong pair of gloves in the house for picking up hedgehogs and I managed to throw the fleece blanket over the owl to keep it calm, before picking it up with the gloves.

The gorgeous little visitor inspired a range of heart owl jewellery, celebrating one of my favourite creatures.

Silver owl pendant with peridot birthstone pebble thinner chain

Handmade silver heart owl pendant with peridot pebble and green Swarovski crystal

 

Silver owl earrings, sterling owl earrings, silver heart owl earrings by Little Silver Hedgehog

Handmade silver heart owl earrings

You can take a look at my heart owl jewellery here.

After a health check, he returned safely to the wild. I still hear tawny owls calling in the trees outside and wonder if any of them is my little friend who fell down the chimney.

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. My work is entirely self-funded. You can find out more about how to support my work here.

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Releasing rehabilitated hedgehogs back to the wild

Wild hedgehog
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It has been a very busy few weeks as the over-wintered hedgehogs are returned to the wild. I’ve released 38 so far since the start of Spring!

It has been late releasing them this year due to the cold night time temperatures until May. It has to be 5 degrees or above at night for at least 5 days in a row after release for them to be able to go. If it is too cold and frosty, there wont be enough insects around for them to eat.

Where possible, the hedgehogs are returned to where they came from. They will remember the area and the food sources and nest sites. Sometimes this isn’t possible though if the area has dangers – for example, if a hedgehog has been attacked by a dog in the garden or if it was found in a pond. I have strict criteria for new sites.

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Derek was found in early Spring struggling after hibernation. He had a high worm burden and ringworm.

To give them the best start back in the wild, the hedgehogs are all supported for at least the first few weeks. They are provided with food and water daily and they are given nest boxes filled with hay to give them shelter whilst they seek their own homes.

It is a bittersweet time because they have been cared for over winter for many months and I will miss them deeply but it is what hedgehog rescue is all about – getting them back to the wild to play their part in maintaining the wild population. Keeping them too long can cause them to get stressed, particularly males so, as soon as they are fit and well and the temperatures are okay, they are off!

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Autumn was found out in daylight – which 99% of the time means there is a problem. She had a wound, was missing an eye and had a high roundworm burden.

People often ask me if rehabilitation is successful. Well, I mark them all with a tiny bit of nail varnish which should last at least 12 months. So far, not a single hedgehog has come back to me poorly. Beyond the 12 months though is unknown….

Good luck out there hedgehogs!

I run a hedgehog hospital in York – to support my work please visit Little Silver Hedgehog jewellery

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How to sex a hedgehog – how to tell if a hedgehog is male or female

male wild hedgehog
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Is my visiting hedgehog a girl or a boy? I’m often asked this question. The challenge of working it out often leads to many just being called ‘Spike’, which I guess works for either…..

There are a few ways you can tell what sex your hedgehog is. The first does depend on the hedgehog being cooperative and uncurling for you. You could also pop it into a see-through box so that you can take a sneaky look from underneath.

A male hedgehog has a large ‘belly-button’ about halfway up its tummy. This isn’t really a belly button but is actually his penile sheath. You can see this clearly in the pic below.

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Alex with his manhood proudly on display

You can tell a female hedgehog because her vulva is directly above her anus. You can see this in the pic below. Although it looks as if she has a protruding part, you will see that there is no gap between it and her anus. If she were a boy, she would have a ‘belly button’ like Alex a couple of cm up in the area of belly that you can see exposed and a gap between that and the anus.

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Female hedgehog

Another way of identifying the sex of your visiting hedgehogs is to observe their behavior. If you aren’t able to catch your visiting hedgehogs physically ‘in the act’ (which makes it very clear which is which!), you are more likely to see hedgehog courtship behaviour. You will certainly hear it! The male will chase and circle the female. The female will be the one being circled around and making the ‘huffing’ sound. This brilliant film featuring David Attenborough shows you everything you need to know and more!

 

Many people wonder if male and female hedgehogs can be identified by their size. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible because there are so many other factors influencing the size of a hedgehog including age, nutrition and whether females are pregnant. Like humans, some hedgehogs will naturally be smaller or larger than others and some will eat more or less than others!

Good luck and do let me know how you get on!

I run a hedgehog hospital in York. You can read more about my work here and also how to support it here.

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

What to feed hedgehogs in your garden

Hedgehogs feeding in the garden
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Hedgehog numbers are declining at an alarming rate, with there thought to be less than a million now left in the wild. Supplementary feeding is crucial to help them survive.

What do hedgehogs eat?

It is a myth that hedgehogs solely or mainly eat slugs. Whilst they do occasionally like to get their teeth into a juicy fat slug, they mainly eat insects, including beetles and caterpillars. Hedgehogs are also opportunistic and will eat a wide range of other foods including birds’ eggs and small dead animals like mice.

wild hedgehog diet

wild hedgehog diet

Too many slugs, snails and earthworms are bad for them as they carry lungworm and roundworm which, in large numbers, can cause hedgehogs to become very poorly and die.

One of the best things you can do to help hedgehogs find their favourite food sources is to grow a wide variety of shrubs and plants to attract insects. Also provide plenty of piles of old logs and other hidey holes for beetles.

Providing extra food and water helps to keep hedgehogs fit and healthy and to put on weight for hibernation. It also stops them resorting to worms and slugs. Supplementary feeding is particularly important in the Spring as hedgehogs are emerging hungry from hibernation and in the Autumn to help them get up to weight for Winter. Leave out a shallow bowl of water year round.

NEVER feed hedgehogs bread and milk. They are lactose intolerant and it can make them very ill.

Also avoid dried mealworms, peanuts and sunflower hearts – they can cause serious bone problems. You can find out more here. There is also a great article here that explains the reasons and busts the myths about some other foods that you can and can’t feed to hedgehogs.

Suitable hedgehog foods include:

  • Meaty cat or dog food (including gravy and fish flavours). I go for loaf varieties.
  • Cat or kitten biscuits
  • Specialist hedgehog food e.g. Spike’s or Ark Wildlife

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Watching hedgehogs feeding is a popular pass time for all members of our family, including our cat Alfie!

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

I also make silver jewellery inspired by nature to raise funds for my rescue work (which is entirely self funded). You can visit my jewellery shop here.