Friday, April 17, 2020

My Hedgehog Lecture. Please Feel Free and Spread The Word

                                                                               Granny Weatherwax Taken 14 May 2018

This is the lecture I give. please feel free to spread the word and also to do your bit.

Do you believe in Hedgehogs?

In the 1950's there were approximately 30 million hedgehogs, today about 1 million or even reports of as low as 500,000.
All down to us.
We built houses and industry on their land and roads where thousands are injured or killed each year, mainly because drivers think a hedgehog will run away like other animals not realizing a hedgehog will simply curl into a ball.

Do you have a garden?
If yes then excellent what type?
Is it enclosed nothing in nothing out or is it one with hedges , a fence or walls?
If it has hedges do you have gaps where hogs can get through?
If it has fences what type, vertical or upright planks?
Excellent, let's talk about how you can contribute to your local hedgehogs?

If you have a fully enclosed one with nothing able to get in or out how about finding out where your local rescue is and offering your garden up as a  safe environment for a disabled hedgehog that cannot be released back into the wild such as a blind one.
All you will be required to do is support feed them and provide a hedgehog house for them to sleep and hibernate in and, if you are lucky maybe you will be offered one of the opposite sex and maybe you will get babies that can be released into the wild.
You can experience the joy that comes from helping an amazing creature who is also a gardener's best friend as it eats slugs and insects which could eat your prized plants.

If you have an open garden with hedges they shouldn't have too much of a problem getting in but a quick check to make sure they have room underneath to get through.
Now, if you have a fence it is slightly different.
What you could do is cut a 13cm x 13cm hole at the bottom of your fence to allow them to get in and out, you can even buy little signs saying hedgehog highway.
If you really don't want to damage your fence then you could dig a little tunnel underneath to allow them through.
You could also rope your neighbors in and have everyone opening up their gardens.
If you have never seen a hedgehog live or don't think they visit your garden, you may be surprised.
If you find little piles of black poo then you probably have a hedgehog, then congratulations!
You could even get together with your neighbors and have a thoroughfare for your local hedgehogs.
Talk to your council about making sure builders include access areas in fences to allow hedgehogs to travel.
Also ask about road signs for your street if you have hedgehogs.
Heck even bug your council regarding builders ripping up hedges when building new estates, hedges which support all sorts of wildlife.

If you do have a hedgehog or think you may you can do your bit and support feed which is what I do and over the last 2 years I have had over 50 visit.
I mark them all with different colors of nail polish and in different locations so I know who is who and as they visit I bring them in for a weigh and health check to look for signs of injury, spine loss or dry scabby skin also with spine loss which could be mange or ringworm, ticks or a heavy flea burden.
Personally I de-tick and de-flea (Johnson's small animal spray only as anything else will kill them) as required and, if it is hedgehog sexy time I check my ladies for weight gain so I can tell if they are pregnant.
Everything then goes into my diary so I can keep track of who is who and if they are pregnant, reaching hibernation weight for the late fall hoglets or losing weight and might be ill.
The joys of having worked with a wide variety of animals for 15 years before I got M.E and then more recently sciatica and fibromyalgia and 6 buggered discs in my back. Almost 2 lines on my bingo card hehe.

Support feeding is super easy.

Introducing Magrat,above, a late fall hoglet Oct. 2019

Firstly I would suggest buying a storage box from Wilko or similar, a transparent one is best so you can see if you have a visitor.
Upend it and cut a 13 x 13 cm hole in the front and cover the sharp edges with some duct tape.
Place something heavy on top such as a brick just to keep it in place rather than blowing down the street.
It is embarrassing chasing your feeding station down the street. although it will keep the neighbors amused.
Next you will need a food dish and water dish.
Personally I use a large metal shallow puppy dish for food and a large metal water dish.
I keep the water dishes (I have 2 so it saves squabbling over who drinks first) outside the station as hogs like to paddle through it/sit in it, poo in it or just knock it over often into the biscuits making them all soggy.
If it is outside, they can do all the above and it doesn't matter plus other animals can drink from it such as birds (who will also help themselves to any remaining biscuits) 
You can feed hedgehogs either meaty cat/kitten/puppy/hedgehog food or what I prefer is meaty cat/kitten or puppy biscuits which are the perfect size for hoglets, nothing fishy or a propriety hedgehog food such as Spike's  or Brambles as I have fussy hogs.
Biscuits are better as in the summer they don't go off in the heat or attract flies or any local cats and doesn't freeze in the winter.
Find what works for your hedgehogs.
You can google feeding stations if you want to make it harder for cats or other animals from eating all the food such as placing a brick to one side of the hole so hedgehogs can get round it but bigger animals can't.
I have several water dishes around my garden as well as a shallow water trough, the kind of saucer thing for the big plant troughs.
Hedgehogs can all have access to it at the same time plus birds bathe in it as well as drink from it, especially when we have really dry summers with little rain.
Make sure to give your feeding station  and water dishes a regular clean as hedgehogs can be messy eaters as well as pooing in the dish (I don't know why unless it is their version of leaving a trip advisor review) and around it and we don't want maggots.
Do not feed wild hedgehogs bread or milk as they are lactose intolerant and bread has little nutritional value.
Do not feed them dried meal worms as they are high in phosphate and can actually cause a painful bone disease in hedgehogs and, in worst case scenarios, result in them losing their ability to walk.
The high phosphate levels in theses worms are sapping hedgehogs of calcium and reducing the strength of their bones.
The hedgehog will, given the chance, eat these to the exclusion of all other foods Sunflower hearts and peanuts are very fatty, and hedgehogs enjoy them for this reason, so feed them only as a very rare treat or within a balanced diet.
Preferably not at all
Hedgehogs can often be seen foraging under bird feeders, and it's believed that it's the food that attracts them, it is more likely the insects and critters that fallen bird food attracts.

When their food dish isn't as full as they would like or I am late refilling it and I leave my back door open they invade my kitchen and chow down on the cat biscuits in my 3 cats food bowls.
These aren't even related, they all turned up at the same time.
I must be doing something right and word has gotten round about the fine dining to be had at Chateau Hobnob/Goose.
I have a 5 Prickle rating

Now, if you have a hedgehog visitor, how about providing a hedgehog house?

As well as them sleeping under sheds, logs, compost heaps and the like, a hedgehog house is always nice plus you won't be strimming it or sticking a garden fork in it unless you are a really really bad gardener.
They use it for sleeping obviously, moms use it for when they have their babies and then we have them using it to hibernate.
Hedgehogs by the way don't sleep all the way through like bears, they can and do wake up when it gets mild.
They will have a drink and a munch and then head off back to continue their snooze, this is why it is important to support feed during the winter months as well as during the rest of the year.
This is where dry biscuits come in handy in a feeding station as they don't freeze or go off quickly and keep the water dish filled.
Also birds will eat the food and have a drink as well so it is win win for your local wildlife.
You can buy hedgehog house in a variety of styles and price ranges and if you have a DIY bent or you know someone who does, build one yourself, Google will have a variety of plans on how to make your own.
Straw, Leaves and Hay are all recommended for nesting material so it is worth saving those leaves.
Place it out the wind and where it will be sheltered such as under shrubs and where it is quiet and shaded and with an  entrance hole out of the weather (ideally facing East to South)
Part fill it with some of the above to initiate a nest and see if you get occupants.
Make sure to give it a good clean in the spring once the occupant has vacated the premises even if it is between occupants.
Think of it as a hotel and providing the equivalent of fresh bedding and a room clean with you as the room maid.

Now, if you have done all the above, when it comes to gardening, everyone likes the perfect lawn and borders, usually.
Before you go charging in with your garden forks and strimmers, gadgets and gizmo's, always check whether the long grass, borders or compost heaps, especially around shrubbery is clear of hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs make messy nests and what you think is a pile of grass and leaves to be cleared away is actually some poor hogs nest.
All too often rescues are getting severely injured hogs with missing legs or head injuries caused by strimmers or puncture wounds from garden forks.
Last year, one of my ladies turned up with a lot of very short spines on her head and neck.
Someone somewhere had strimmed their garden and she had had a very lucky escape.
All too often such severely injured hogs have to be euthanized especially those with head injuries or injuries to their noses as hedgehogs use their noses to find food.
No nose will mean it will find it near impossible to find food and will starve to death.
Leave an area of long grass and leave those leaves come Fall and lets the local wildlife make use of them plus the leaves will break down and form compost which is great for your garden.
When it is Fall and Winter, your garden doesn't need to look perfect.
If you decide to have a bonfire for example bonfire night build it on the day rather than a day or days before hand as to you it s a bonfire, to a hedgehog it is home and far too many get burnt alive before they wake or can escape.
Always check first be careful though as hedgehogs blend in well.
How about using one of those metal dustbin things with the holes in, far safer for the wildlife and less damaging to your garden.
Also why not plant flowers that attract the bees and butterflies which are also rapidly disappearing?
I have a peanut feeder which I fill with raisins which I hang at the end of my garden which attracts all the wasps and keeps them away from my house, also wasps eat aphids which is good news for your flowers.

If you have a garden pond then I would advise putting in a small ladder or some stones to make it easy for anything that falls in to be able to get out again.
Although hedgehogs are good swimmers, if they cannot get out they will tire and drown and there is nothing sadder than pulling a drowned animal from your pond.
Stones are better as it also allows animals to get access to the water to drink and also for birds to have a paddle without needing water wings.
I have a shallow trough which the birds use, my cats love drinking from this trough, I think because it might taste of bird and they think they are drinking cold bird soup.

Hedgehog sexy time is usually April to September although last year (2019) because February was so mild and warm hedgehogs were getting frisky early which meant rescues were getting a lot of hoglets earlier than usual when the weather changed.
During this time the male will circle the female in an attempt to woo her.
Usually she will tell him to bugger off by huffing at him, in my garden the ladies are usually eating and I advise the males to at least wait till she has finished eating before trying to woo her.
Hedgehogs can be noisy animals huffing and puffing as well as pushing and shoving and even biting each other and violent shaking, typical males really.
Hedgehog ladies can have a 2nd litter in the Fall and sadly, often these don't survive as they can't eat enough food to safely hibernate through winter.
Hedgehogs need to be around 650g plus to survive winter.
If you find hedgehogs that are clearly smaller than that then see above about contacting your local rescue or British Hedgehog Preservation Society, again bringing them in and doing as above.
Don't leave them outside as they would be vulnerable to dogs and birds or die from cold or hunger.

A Typical hedgehog Hibernaculum

Hibernaculums are often built under bramble or scrubby vegetation to provide structural support but, as here, they can also be relatively unassuming piles of leaves. Hibernating hedgehogs are often disturbed by gardeners clearing up piles of leaves during the autumn and winter.
- Credit: Colin Brown

If you accidentally disturb a hedgehog nest, and it does happen since hedgehog nests are a tad slapdash and may look like a random pile of leaves and grass or sadly even bits of plastic which is another good reason not to liter and to recycle everything you can.
If a nest is disturbed the mother may abandon her hoglets or kill them.

Carefully cover it up again and if there are hoglets, do not touch them as the mother may simply abandon them or worse, kill them.
Keep an eye open and see if mom reappears.
She may return or may move the nest and hoglets 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, in which case contact the British hedgehog Preservation society who will point you to your local rescue.

Some ladies have a second litter. although the average litter size can be four or five, often they only manage to successfully wean two or three.

If you have hedgehogs in your garden or think you do and you have a dog, even if you have the world's nicest dog, it is always best to wait until the hogs have toddled off to wherever before letting the dog out or keeping your dog on a lead in case it decides to attack the hedgehog or try to 'play' with it.
Even if you think the hedgehog hasn't been injured, it could have internal injuries or puncture wounds which if left untreated can kill a hedgehog directly or, especially in the summer, attract flies and you get fly strike which will appear as areas of tiny whitish blobs.
These will hatch into maggots which will proceed to eat the hedgehog alive.
Flies will lay their eggs in their ears, eyes, nose, mouth, genitalia and are difficult and time consuming to remove.

Now, what if  you find a hedgehog out during the day?
Then it is in trouble and needs help.
Hedgehogs don't sunbathe.

Pick it up using gloves/a tea towel/oven gloves and place it in a high sided box as hedgehogs are excellent climbers and you don't want to be playing hunt the sick hedgehog.

Offer only a shallow dish of water, no food.

 A sick dehydrated hedgehog should not be offered food, it can do more damage than good.

 Fluids are more important.

Food will only shut the body down quicker if dehydrated.

If you have a hot water bottle place it warm (not hot) underneath the hedgehog and do not allow the hot water bottle to go cold, it can have the reverse effect and do more harm than good if left to go cold.

 If you don't have a hot water bottle then a plastic drinks bottle will suffice.

Allow room for the hedgehog to move away from the hot water bottle if it wants to.

Keep in a quiet room away from noise and call your local hedgehog carer/rescue or wildlife hospital for further advice.

To find your nearest rescue; please call: The BHPS on 01584 890801.

Don't leave it outside or dump it outside a rescue who may not be there at that time or not expecting it.
Time is important and by leaving it outside or dumping it outside a rescue could result in one dead hedgehog that could have been saved.

Also don't try and treat it yourself, you can do more harm than good and hedgehog care can be hard work.
They are noisy, smelly and can poo for Britain.

Now, if you don't have a garden, firstly my commiserations but you can still do your bit for your local hedgehogs.
What you could do is offer your services as a volunteer at your local rescue.
Cleaning out, feeding, helping to apply treatments all get you up close and personal with hedgehogs and your help will be much appreciated especially if there are 40 or more hedgehogs to clean out, feed and medicate.
You could also offer your services as an 'ambulance' and collect a hedgehog from someone who has found an injured hedgehog or a juvenile in need of help.
Also taking them back to where they were found when they are ready for release which is always best as they will be familiar with the area.
You could also donate to your local rescue either money or supplies.
Many rescues have a wish list on Amazon  telling you what they need and would like as some items they get through a lot of such as puppy pads, gloves, food etc and every little bit helps.
Also donations of money are an excellent idea as the rescue could buy a new incubator or whatever else they need which can be expensive
You could also go to council planning meetings where they are looking at building new homes and demand the builders make provision for hedgehogs by making gardens hedgehog friendly such as gaps in walls or fences.
Also bring up when council workers are cutting the grass and ask the council to get the workers to check first before strimming/mowing or  ask if they can leave certain areas to grow Au naturel which will be beneficial for animals and insects.
Also ask about hedgehog signs for roads where there are hedgehogs saying things like "Slow Hedgehogs" so drivers are aware.
If they won't or can't, ask about being allowed to make your own for your road.
If you are receiving help from your local council concerning garden services where council workers cut your grass, make sure they are aware you have hedgehogs and to be careful when cutting your grass and perhaps even have a sign or signs in your garden such as beware hedgehogs.

Easiest of all?

Spread the gospel according to hedgehogs to your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and random strangers you may encounter.
In my case, pretty much anyone I talk to, visitors, taxi drivers, strangers, shop staff, my telephone bank and when I was in hospital after nearly dying of sepsis (my kidney function dropped to 6%) the consultants, nurses, doctors, cleaners, other patients in my ward when I was moved from ICU.
I was also talking about hedgehogs in my sleep according to the 5 ladies in my ward and the night staff.

So endeth my lecture.

Please feel free to use this lecture.
You can either take out the personal bits about what I do etc or you can leave them in and say this is what my friend does/has done/has.

Have a great day honeys, Be safe, keep washing your hands and big hugs xx.

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