Four weeks ago, we found a tiny hedgehog that was outside, alone, during the day. Without help, it would have died (see Summer Hedgehog Rescue). We took him in and named him Tiggy. Over the last four weeks, he has grown from 125g to over 470g in weight. As it’s summer, young hedgehogs can be released back into the wild once they weigh over 450g and are at least 8 weeks old.
Though we couldn’t be sure of Tiggy’s exact age, his weight when we found him indicated he was somewhere between 4 and 5 weeks old. He was ready for release.
We prepared the hedgehog house with fresh hay and set up the feeding station. We put in place the wildlife camera to monitor what he did.
Next day, the food was all gone but there were no films on the camera. Most frustrating! I set the camera up a bit closer and refilled the food bowl. The following night, we got a great set of videos. Tiggy was coming out of the hedgehog house, having a meal and heading back. We were surprised, normally hedgehogs disappear off when released.
Three nights later, Tiggy is still around and we are leaving out plenty food for him (as well as keeping an eye on him).
Last autumn, I found a small hedgehog which we overwintered (see Hoggy Released). This can happen a lot, late litters mean they just don’t have time to put on enough weight to hibernate. Without help, they wouldn’t make it through the winter.
What’s a bit more unusual is to find one needing help in the summer. A few days ago, just as I was settling down for the evening, I got a phone call from a neighbouring farm. They had spotted a hedgehog in one of their fields and were worried about it. They had heard about us overwintering hedgehogs so we had sprung into their minds as knowledgeable.
I pulled my boots back on and set off, grumbling slightly to myself if I am to be honest. I was expecting to find nothing but as I arrived at the spot they had described, I found a tiny hedgehog just sitting there. All grumbles evaporated in an instant as I scooped it up into my hand. It must have got separated from its mother and I think it had been there for hours. It had done well to survive as the field was small and full of sheep and so it had been at risk of being accidentally trodden on. It was tiny, but fully formed. By that, I meant it had adult prickles. That was a good sign, it was likely no longer reliant on its mother’s milk.
It was so small it fit snugly into one hand as I ferried it safely back to the house. It was perfectly calm all the way, just sitting there quite happily.
On getting back, we weighed it and it was a mere 125g, tiny indeed. We also inspected it for ticks and fleas and found none, another good sign.
Now, having had Hoggy over the winter, this time we had everything we needed. I left Tiggy (which is what we named him) with Nicole and fetched the hedgehog rescue kit. I set it all up in the pantry displacing the homebrew.
That done, I prepared some food. We had a cupboard full of dogfood so no problems there. I set out about 100g of food, mixed in a little water and added some dried calcium worms.
As I was placing him in his new accommodation, I was suggesting to Nicole we might need to get a pipette and hand feed him. She started unwrapping one but before she’d finished, Tiggy had located the food and was tucking right in. That was a great sign. Once he’d eaten, we helped him find the bed all filled with fresh hay.
That night he ate just over 80g of food and put on a mighty 44g. He must have been really hungry. After, 4 nights , he now weighs 200g, so good progess indeed. He has settled in well and has begun trashing his run, typical hedgehog behaviour (they like to dig). Another good sign.
At this rate, he should be ready for release late August.
A while back I posted an update on the nesting birds we have here. One of the swallows’ nests is in our lambing shed and it was looking pretty crowded. A total of five fledglings were all vying for space. We kept an eye on it and one day Nicole found a fledging on the ground. It was fine. To be honest, it was a miracle the hens hadn’t eaten it as they spend a lot of time in that shed.
The problem we had is that there was no room in the nest. Even with just four fledglings, it was jampacked with young swallows.
Inspiration came and I went and got an egg box. It was quite simple to put a couple of egg compartments alongside the nest and into it went the fledgling.
We checked from time to time and sadly, the poor fledgling was turfed out again and didn’t make it. Nature can be cruel. However, even with four, room was at a premium and one moved in to an egg cup (see picture).
They have all fledged and flown the nest now and we sometimes watch them swooping around our house and fields. There are certainly plenty of flies for them this year.
We are lucky to have swallows and housemartins as regular visitors. The swallows nest in various sheds and the housemartins on the house under the guttering. They are not the only birds nesting here, there are nests all over the place. We have left a lot of areas covered in scrub and brambles and these make excellent nesting areas. In the last few weeks, we have watched fledgling sparrows and blackbirds hopping around on the grass to the front of the house.
The swallows like to nest in three of our sheds. In two of them, the roofs are quite low and you could easily reach up and touch the nests. They seem quite tolerant of us humans. The nest in the picture on the right is attached to one of the strip lights in the lambing shed. We think this could be a second brood because, in other nests, the chicks have long since fledged and flown off.
We also have some enterprising wrens. They have taken to moving into unused swallow nests and making their own version of home improvements. This means packing in lots of moss and making a small tunnel for an entrance. The one in the picture to the left is the other side of the beam from the above mentioned swallow nest.
This is not the only swallow nest that has been taken over, there are also wren nests in the other sheds perched on top of old swallow nests. Well done wrens, very clever indeed.
Last November, I found a tiny hedgehog wandering around the garden. It was too small (less than 300g) to survive the winter, so we took it in (see hedgehog seeks board and lodging). With a custom built run, house and a personal heater, Hoggy grew stronger over the winter months.
We set up a wildlife camera to capture what she did and placed a feeding station near the hedghog house we released her into. In the first week, only videos involving a mouse, a deer, a cat and a robin were captured.
I looked in the hedgehog house and Hoggy had gone. It’s what one would expect from a hedgehog, but for some reason the wildlife camera didn’t capture her leaving. Most annoying.
We kept the feeding station and camera in place. A few days later, we had our first video of a hedgehog. It didn’t go into the feeder, but it was a hedgehog in the vicinity nevertheless. It took a couple of days (or nights) before we finally captured a video of a hedgehog in the feeder eating.
We are pretty sure it’s Hoggy because she ate the dog food and dried calcium worms but left the specialist hedgehog food. This is what she had done in her winter quarters.
We shall keep replenishing the feeder to ensure she, and any other hedgehogs, have access to a tasty snack if they need it.
In our smallholding here, we have a small loch which attracts ducks, herons and other water birds including geese and even occasionally, a cormorant. We also have a duck house that we bought years ago. This year, we got our act together and rooted it out ready to go onto the loch.
We loaded it onto the quadbike and set off. We had plenty of nylon rope (for securing it). They can be attached to an anchor, but we don’t have a boat so we couldn’t take it out to the middle of the loch. Our cunning plan was to tie it to two trees, one on each bank. I also had to relearn a sheet bend, a knot I had failed to learn as a boy scout, a mistake which nearly cost me my advanced scout badge. It’s funny what we remember.
Anyway, first things first, we had to get the duck house on the water. It comes in two pieces, a floating platform and the house itself. It can be quite tricky to get this level, but we got there.
This plan started well with us securing it to the first tree. The idea then was to walk around the bank to the opposite shore. The problem was that there were other trees in the way making this tricky. Also, the first think to happen was that the duck house got tangle up in some branches. We couldn’t pull it free without knocking it and thus causing it to tilt. Nor could we reach it to push it clear.
So, it was boots off and into the water I went. By judicious prodding with a tree guard, I managed to get it free. By this time Nicole was half way round the loch and had come up against a rather tricky tree of her own. This one was in the middle of a marshy area which we couldn’t really walk on.
I nipped back to the house and got a plastic milk carton and some more rope.
Back at the loch, I joined the ropes, attached the milk carton (full of water) and lobbed it over the loch. This enabled Nicole to fetch it and tie it to a tree on the opposite bank.
The duck house was in place and ready for use. Now all we have to hope is that the ducks use it. There are a pair of ducks down there though they are quite nervous so we can’t go and look otherwise we’ll disturb them.
Last November, I found a tiny hedgehog wandering around the garden. At less than 300g, she would never have survived the winter. We took her in and she has overwintered in a special box in the pantry with her own personal heaters.
While the nights are still a bit chilly here, I have seen other hedgehogs out and about. Hoggy has also been very active of late, completely re-arranging her winter quarters every night. We decided it was time to release Hoggy back into the wild. The heaters have been off for the last week or so so she should be a little acclimatised to outdoor temperatures.
We had a hedgehog house set up under a bush and we stuffed it full of fresh hay. We also added some hay from her indoor bed so that she would recognise her smell. Next to it we placed a cat and dog-proof feeding station that I built years ago so we can continue to provide food.
In the early afternoon we took her out. Nicole did the honours, carrying her to her new home. We say “new home”, but there’s every chance Hoggy will leave and not come back. Like many wild creatures, hedgehogs don’t really have homes like us humans. That said, there are a couple of hedgehogs that nest under the pallets that support our hay, so maybe round here they like to have a nest.
Nicole introduced Hoggy to the tunnel into the hedgehog house. Hoggy needed no second invitation and was straight in. We watched her disappear into the bed area and said our goodbyes. We will be resisting the temptation to look in as hedgehogs don’t really like to be disturbed when they are sleeping.
We have set up the wildlfe camera to see what she does and will do our best to keep an eye on her, should she decide to stay.
In November last year, I happened upon a tiny hedgehog out foraging. At just over 300g, she was too small to survive the winter so we brought her in so that she could overwinter indoors (see Spending the Winter Indoors). Had we not done so, she would have perished.
Over the first few days, Hoggy put on weight at a phenomenal rate. Now, two months later, she is approaching 800g and so we have to be careful not to let her get fat. Indeed, we have been considering releasing her early. This can be done if the overnight temperatures stay above 5o for a week. In preparation, we have turned her heaters off so can get used to it being a little cooler. I say cooler, but it still averages around 14o in her indoor home, a good 10o warmer than outside.
January has been pretty mild, as it happens, but just not quite warm enough. On top of that, the rain has been relentless so we are now looking at a February release. A deluxe hedgehog house has been purchased so she’ll have good shelter (if she chooses to use it). I’m also repairing the hedgehog feeding station (cat and dog proof) so we can leave her food to help her get established outdoors again.
In the meantime, despite the strong temptation to sit with her on our laps, we handle her as little as possible. We change her bedding regularly and that is the only time we pick her up. It takes much willpower as she is undeniably cute and, for a hedgehog, incredibly tolerant of being handled.
OK, so I was out and about as usual around 8:30pm on a cold November evening when I saw the human and two dogs approaching. I wasn’t that worried as I’d seen them before and they always keep a respectful distance. However, this time, the human came over, crouched down and then PICKED ME UP!
“What’s going on?” I thought. Next thing, I’d been whisked to a place I’d never been before full of straight lines and strange smells. That said, it was lovely and warm and, truth be told, I was feeling a bit cold. I suppose that’s why I hadn’t curled up into my protective ball.
Anyway, there I was perched on the humans hands listening to the humans babbling on about something. I was a bit peckish and I was offered some food, but I was too distracted to eat anything. In fact, I was quite enjoying sitting in those warm, toasty hands. I even flattened myself out a bit so I could get maximum warmth into my feet and tummy. It was lovely.
Next thing, I’m being put into a dog crate. Well, I’m not having that I thought to myself. I waited a few moments and then sized up the bars. I could squeeze through them, I thought, so that’s just what I did. Only, I got halfway through and got stuck. Luckily, the humans cut me free and I was back in those warm toasty hands. Lovely.
I was soon quite warmed up and now the humans, having learned from their mistake, put me in a nice big box with lots of fresh hay, food and water. I scoffed the food and settled down for a siesta. I was a bit tired as it has been quite cold of late and so food has been a bit scarce. A full tummy was just great and I felt really sleepy.
Next day, I was moved into a larger area. It’s plastic so I don’t think I’ll be getting out in a hurry, but I now have my own little bedroom and a steady supply of food and water. I get cleaned out every day which can a bit of a pain, but there’s nothing quite like snuggling back into clean fresh hay.
It’s a lot warmer than outside, so, you know, though I don’t have as much space as I’d like, I’m quite happy really. Plus I’ve put on nearly 100g in just three days so that’s pretty good too.
It is our custom to take the dogs out in the evening to give them a chance to pee before bedtime. Often, we have been lucky enough to see a hedgehog. Given they are having a hard time of it, we feel quite privileged.
The other night, I spotted one in front of me and stooped for a look. I realised it looked quite small. Hedgehogs need to weigh at least 600g or they cannot hibernate. If they can’t hibernate, then they can’t make it through the winter. I know this because many years ago, I used to overwinter underweight hedgehogs quite often. At that time I had close links with Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital which was, back then, a set of sheds in a suburban back garden. These days it’s a fully equipped purpose built wildlife hospital (Tiggywinkles).
Anyway, I scooped up this little critter and took it back inside. Sure enough, it weighed only 300g. It would need warm winter quarters. On the positive side, it looked pretty healthy and there were no ticks or fleas that I could see.
The problem was, we didn’t have anything suitable to keep it in. All the rabbit hutches were long gone. While I sat warming up the wee hedgehog, Nicole scoured the house for a suitable container. Eventually, one of us remembered we had set aside a large cardboard box. Handing the wee hedgehog over to Nicole, I set about transforming the box into a temporary hedgehog home.
Making plenty of airholes and also ensuring it was escape proof, we put in dog food, water and plenty of hay. In my experience, hedgehogs make Harry Houdini look like a beginner when it comes to escaping.
Next day, we set off to get a better home. The box was fine but it would only last one, maybe two nights before it gave in to the relentless soaking from hedgehog wee. First stop was the only pet warehouse in the area, a mere 45 minutes drive. It had rabbit hutches, but these days they are multi level house shaped obstacle courses. I just wanted something with an area for a nest and and area for night time wandering. The only one they had which might have been OK wasn’t in stock.
So, next followed a trip to a country store and then a garden centre. Plenty of pet homes, but nothing suitable at all. This was not going well. So, I did what I maybe should have done in the first place, I sat in the car, got my phone out and went onto a hedgehog rescue site to look for ideas. Well, rabbit hutches are out, the new des res for an overwintering hedgehog is a large, deep plastic box. Thank you Hedgehog Rescue for that idea. I would never have thought of that.
Googling plastic boxes pointed me to Homebase where, after a long and gently dispiriting search (Homebase is not what it used to be) I found a massive plastic box and a rather attractive green bucket that would make the perfect nest box. I nearly did a little skip, but being from Edinburgh, I didn’t.
In fact we jumped in the car and headed speedily home to set it all up. And it has worked perfectly, a good nest box, enough room for food and water and space to do a bit of roaming. And it’s not far from a radiator for warmth.
Now it’s all about keeping it clean and providing plenty of food and water.
Oh, and if you are wondering why there’s no photo of the wee hedgehog, it’s because it has had a stressful enough experience already so we are trying to leave it in peace as much as possible. We’ll probably take a picture when we next weigh it in a week or so’s time.