Hedgehogs will need peoples care all year round, but the main times are between May and November. Hedgehogs will wake up in the spring once the weather has become warmer, and search for food to build up their fat reserves. Afterwards they will start to mate. October/ November time depending how cold it is they will go into hibernation.
Hedgehogs will get themselves in all sorts of trouble all year round. Injuries are one of the most common reasons that hedgehogs need our care. Injuries will range from a bite wound from a dog which just punctures the skin up to a strimmer injury which removes half of the hedgehogs back and spines. Many hedgehogs are found on the roads, but unfortunately, not many hedgehogs will survive a car incident. The hedgehogs main defense is to curl up into a ball, which of course is no defense when faced against traffic.
A job which is fairly simple, but very important, is feeding youngsters to prepare them up for winter. They are mainly found between June and September. This wide time scale is because of late litters that the mother has. The later that the litter is born, the more likely it is that the babies will not survive the winter without our help. A hedgehog which is able to hibernate should be at least 600g, otherwise it will not have enough fat reserves through hibernation and will starve.
Some late litters will also mean that the babies will scavenge franticly to try and find enough food, even during the day, which means that they need our help. If you ever see a hedgehog out during the day, there is something wrong with it, even if it looks healthy. It should be picked up and placed on a source of heat, unless there are obvious wounds or it is crying, in which case it should be taken to the vet. Any youngsters which are found out during the day should be put on a source of heat, because they may have hypothermia, if the weather is becoming colder.
One of the main problems for hedgehogs is flies. If a hedgehog obtains an injury, the flies will lay there eggs on and around the wound. Even a tiny puncture wound can attract them. All fly eggs and any maggots should be removed immediately from the hog using tweezers. If the infestation is to great then helped should be sought from another helper or the vet. If the eggs are left, they will turn into maggots, and they will start to burrow into the wound, and end up eating the hedgehog alive. If in any doubt about the severity of the wound or maggot/ fly infestation then it needs veterinary attention. If you have a hedgehog which has a small open wound which is healing on its own, you should keep a close eye on the area to check for fly eggs. This should be done daily.
Looking after hedgehogs is not a glamorous job. They are smelly when they are kept in care, because the cat food which they are fed make their droppings very soft and potent. They are messy and destructive when in a cage, because they get bored and start to rip up their newspaper, knock over food and water bowls, and do not have any objection to using their bowls as toilets! To look after hedgehogs, you need time, patience, and dedication.
A Hedgehog Cage
A hedgehog cage, should have a bed compartment, and a feeding and toilet compartment. The bigger the cage the better. A rabbit hutch or indoor cage would be I deal.
The bed compartment should have a good thick bed in, which should consist of hay ( straw can also be used, but they do prefer hay)
The front of the cage floor should be covered in newspaper, and this will need to be changed daily (preferably in the morning, after they’ve been through their destructive hours!)
If the hedgehog is a baby, it may need a water bottle to keep warm – especially if it has the sniffles. The water bottle should be placed in the bed under the straw, and should be wrapped in a towel so the hedgehog doesn’t burn himself. The water bottle should then be changed in the morning, about 4/5 o’clock, and about 10 o’clock. This will ensure that the baby is kept warm at all times. If you are looking after a number of babies, it may be worth investing in some electric heat pads. If you are unsure if a baby needs heat or not, please contact another helper or your local vet.
First of all you should start slowly with a couple of hedgehogs which will need to be looked after because they haven’t been able to go into hibernation, due to injuries, weight etc. This will get you accustom to the hedgehog traits, and allow you to find out if hedgehog care is really for you.
Following, is a list of everything you will need to cater for two hedgehogs. The hedgehogs will need to be weighed once a week to make sure that they are feeding well, and can help to detect occurring problems like worms.
You should keep a hedgehog diary, so you can log weekly weigh ins, general health checks, concerns etc, which will allow you to keep track of everything that happens, and a reminder if needed.
You Will Need:
2 Suitable sized cages
These will home the two hedgehogs that you have got from a hedgehog carer for a trail to see if looking after hedgehogs is for you.
Two food and water bowls
Hedgehogs have short necks, so they will need shallow dishes.
Hay and straw
This is needed to make up their bed, and this is very important for hedgehogs. This will need to be changed regularly, usually once or twice a week, depending on how messy they are! Some will go to the toilet in their bed and others wont, its just luck of the draw! If the hedgehogs start ripping up newspaper d putting it in their bed, it may be that they need a little bit more bedding. The bed should be thick and dense.
Long hay is the best.
Newspaper is needed frequently, because it will need to be changed daily. The easiest way of getting hold of old newspapers is to ask your neighbours to save them for you. (it is a good idea to get up a good stash before you get more
hedgehogs!) The newspaper should be laid over the food compartment of the bed.
It is a good idea not to put newspaper under the bed in the sleeping compartment, because this will soak up any moisture in the bed, and will make the bed damp. You should put your hand into the bed occasionally to see if the bed is very damp, it does slightly, but if it is a lot, the bed will need to be changed.
Bin bags will be used frequently because of all the newspaper usage. It is best to keep the bin bags in the shed, so they are close to hand
The food bowls will need to be wiped out each day, and kitchen roll is a life saver!. If possible they should be washed each day as well. Kitchen roll can be used for cleaning the inside of the cage when they go to the toilet other then on the
Bottle of water
Needed for refilling water bowls every day, easier than going to the kitchen!.
Tweezers are used when hedgehogs get ticks. Ticks are little insects which feed on an animals blood, and they form a white/grey bubble on their backs which get filled with blood. When removing a tick, you need to dig down to the hedgehogs skin, over the white bubble and pull. If the whole tick has come out, there will be a
red-ish insect on the end of the bubble. These insects should be destroyed,
because they are pests to hedgehogs and all other animals.
Johnsons Rid Mite
This is a flea powder for caged birds, and this is used to de-flea hedgehogs, because it is less toxic than cat and dog powders. This should be sprinkled over the hedgehog spines and belly (if possible), when they first come to you from the wild, or if you see small red/brown insects in between the hedgehog spines.
Hot water bottle
Hot water bottle should always be to hand just in case you find a young hedgehog, or you are given one, or if your larger hedgehogs become ill.
Kitchen scales are needed to weigh the hedgehogs, and this is important, because it allows you to make sure that they are making good progress throughout their stay with you. These are more for younger hedgehogs which need feeding up. After they reach 700g, the weigh ins should become less frequent, but they should be weighed if they have a loss of appetite, seem to be loosing weight, or putting to much on! (a fat hedgehog is as bad as a thin one, and shouldn’t really exceed 850g, if they do – decrease their portion sizes).
Hedgehogs should be fed once a day (there are some exceptions, but ill go through those after!)
It is all about getting to know the individual hedgehog to find out how much they generally eat. An average adult hedgehog can eat up to half a tin each night.
Start with 1/3 of a tin of cat food (flavours below)
Chicken, Turkey, Rabbit } All of which should be in jelly or supermeat (your hedgehogs
Game or Liver will let you know what they prefer) No Gravy or fish cat food.
Cat biscuits should be sprinkled on top of the cat food, and the flavours above apply to biscuits as well. Again, you will soon find out if they are a biscuit fan after a week or so (Newly brought in hedgehogs will take time to adjust to the new diet).
It is very important to supplement the hedgehogs diet with treats to make sure that they are getting enough nutrition, especially when they are trying to put on weight.
Below are some of the favorite treats that I have found that they like.
cooked chicken/turkey mince
Insectivorous bird food
The sweet biscuits should be given as a treat once or twice a week, because they will cause tooth decay, because of the sugar- they love them though!
All treats can be given in small quantities every day, and you’ll find out their favorites.
Meal worms – Available at some pet shops, are a big favorite, but they should only be given every other day or even less, because they do become addicted to them, they are very high in fat, and it turns out very expensive!. Some hedgehogs can also get diarrhea if fed too many – but they are the ultimate treat!.
NOT GOOD IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH, BECAUSE THEY ARE LIVE FOOD!
Should not be handled because they can bite so use your tweezers instead.
Some hedgehogs will sometimes get up during the day to have a little nibble. To find out if you have “nibblers”, Put teo bowls out filled with water and cat biscuits in. Do not put out cat food during the day, because flies will lay eggs on the food, which can give the hogs upset stomachs.