Caring For A Sick Or Orphaned Hedgehog

by Raintree

This page describes what to do if you find an injured, orphaned baby or sick hedgehog.

Hedgehogs are in decline and increasingly cannot live in native hedgegrows as they are fast disappearing. So we may well find hedgehogs in our gardens or wandering between sites. It is important for us to understand the normal behaviours of these wonderful creatures and when things are not quite right.

If we find a sick, injured or abandoned hedgehog it is important that we know the things we can do to help them have the best chance of survival. It is so easy to make mistakes with wildlife so here are a few things anyone can do to help our gorgeous hedgehog.

Image credit Amazon.com Hedgehog in the Leaves - 52"W x 35"H - Peel and Stick Wall Decal by Wallmonkeys

Would You Know What To Do With An Orphaned Baby Hedgehog?

Would you know what to do if you found an orphaned baby hedgehog|?

Until a few weeks ago I did not know and I realised that it was a big failing on my part. 

You see we found a very tiny, very scared little baby hedgehog in our garage. He or she was out of the nest and crying. He was the only one and Mom was nowhere to be seen. 

Have you ever heard a baby hedgehog cry? I hadn't but he sounded like a bird chirping very loudly. His little mouth was wide open and he was trying to curl up to protect himself. It was a heartbreaking sound.

 

We thought and hoped that Mum would be back soon so we waited - almost unbearably- for a while out of sight to see if she came back. However she did not and there was no sign of her in the local area. It was daytime so she should have been close by her baby.

It is difficult seeing any wild animal in distress and I so wished I had known what to do 

Video Of Rescued Orphan Baby Hedgehog

First Steps To Caring For A Baby Hedgehog

We could not just leave the abandoned baby so I rang a local dog rescue service to ask if they knew what to do or where I could ring for help. They gave me the phone number of a local hedgehog rescue.I didn't even know we had one! 

I rang them and they were very helpful, quickly assessing through a series of questions that we did need to take action and now. 

This is what they told me

Prepare a box - like a shoe box with a soft lining like a towel and another towel or blanket to cover the baby.

Fill a hot water bottle or a empty plastic milk bottle with warm water. The water should be warm enough so that you can put it directly on your own skin with out feeling too hot or burning. Place the hot water bottle in the shoebox covering it with a towel and allowing enough room so the baby can move away from the heat if it wants to. 

Wear oven gloves and pick up the baby. Even though a baby he still has spines that are sharp! 

Put the baby in the shoebox and bring him as quickly as possible to the rescue. 

They said judging form the size of the baby and the time of year that there was no point us trying to get him to drink or eat as he would not yet be weaned from his mum and may distress him further.

It was a mercy dash to the rescue! I was so afraid he would die on the way but he didn't. In fact as soon as I picked him up he stopped crying and then snuggled up to me and then once in the shoebox cuddled up tot he hot water bottle and went to sleep. 

I have never been so close to a wild hedgehog, it was amazing. 

 

When we got to the rescue she had already fifty baby hedgehogs there but ours was by far the smallest. They thought he was three weeks old. She put him in a heated box with coverings and prepared special milk for him.

A baby this size requires special care and MUST be looked after by an experienced rescue centre .

However he was in good health and had probably only been without mum for a day and was not invested with fleas or anything so he had a good chance. 

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Life Of A Hedgehog

In brief a hedgehog baby is born with soft spines usually white to make it easier for Mum to give birth. He is dependant on her for the first 4 weeks of life for milk and shelter and security. He is very vulnerable during this time. If he loses Mum, with out specialist human care and attention he will certainly die. 

If he survives this phase then Mum will start to take him out on foraging trips with her at night. She will teach him for 4 weeks then he is on his own in the world. 

Sadly too many babies or hoglets as they are known, are dying as mum gets killed on the roads or poisoned by slug pellets or impaled by forks when people are turning their compost heaps or slashed with strimmers. Mum dies and the babies die a slow and often horrible death. 

Hedgehogs are mainly solitary creatures, preferring to be alone only being together when they are babies and when they are seeking a mate. 

In UK in Spring they usually have hoglets from three to seven in number.  In August/September there may be another birth. Male hedgehogs play no part in the raising of the young. 

In UK November to March they are usually in hibernation. 

Hedgehogs can live  to six years old but this is rare given all the hazards they now face. 

 

More information on the lifecycle  of a hedgehog Over The Garden Gate

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Signs Of Serious llness

It is important we know what sickness look like in a hedghog and its no always easy to tell

 

What essentially you are looking for is behaviour that is not normal for them. So if you see a hedgehog out and about during the middle of the day, or in UK between November to March - when they should be hibernating- that is a red flag.

Sometimes hedgehogs who are not fat enough will come out of hibernation to try to eat and build up their reserves but often there is little food around mid winter for them. Many die if they cannot find food quickly.  

 

You can certainly put out catfood and mealworms and water if you see one mid winter  out and about but do also contact a rescue for advice. 

 

If the hedghog is bleeding or missing a limb or unable to curl up on your approach or run away that is also a bad sign. 

 

If on a hoglet- a baby hedgehog you can see flies buzzing around it then the baby is in a lot of trouble. It is gross but flies will attack a lone hoglet without its mum, lay its eggs in the baby and the eggs hatch and essentially eat the baby alive. It is a horrible death. If you see a baby covered in flies or eggs or worse maggots please get it to a vet or rescue  as a matter of urgency. Do not wait. 

Pictures Of Hedgehogs From Flickr

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Wild Hedgehog

Wild hedgehogs are wild. We should not in my opinion,  be attempting to make wild hogs into pets. Let them live a natural life as they were intended. Now they live so close to us we can enjoy them without making them domestic.  

When a hedgehog is taken in to rescue they rehabilitate them and if they live as soon as possible and practical they release them back into the wild. If it is too late into the year they may keep them safe until the next Spring to release them.

They look for safe areas away from roads and heavy machinery and preferably where some sightings of hedgehogs have been reported and where the is a good food source, shelter and peace. 

 

 

Wild Hedgehog Food

Never feed hedgehogs bread and mik. Rather give them hedgehog food, dogfood, catfood (except fish) and fresh water.
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Hedgehog Rescue-Devoted People.

Sick Or Injured Adult Hedghogs

Hedgehogs are nocturnal, they sleep during the day and come out at night to forage, mate, eat, drink etc. If you see a hedgehog out during the day there may be something wrong...

However do not jump to conclusions. Sometimes a mum will be about just before dusk or just after dawn to forage for her exceptionally hungry babies. Sometimes a hedgehog may have been disturbed from its resting place and is seeking out another one. Just wait and see if she disappears off to a nest or cover somewhere. If however she is staggering about, disorientated, bleeding or covered in flies  or clearly injured you may need to take some action.

If she is a mother then there will be babies so if you take a mother away look for them to see what condition they are in and tell the rescue service. Listen for a loud peeping or chirping noise and look for nests in the corners of garages, outhouses, under plles of logs and in hedges. Do not disturb the nest if you find one and all are sleeping and looking well just tell the rescue for now. 

If the hedgehog is injured you can either get him to hedgehog rescue or to a vert. Many vets will not charge for a wildlife treatment.

The same applies as for a baby hedge hog. Find a large box big enough to accommodate hog. Line it with a blanket, towel or paper. Have another towel ready to cover up the hog. Fill a water bottle with warm water and place in the box. Get to a rescue as soon as possible 

 

 

With an adult hog you can offer water and a little catfood, dogfood or mealworms. Try to offer chicken not fish based food.

NEVER GIVE  A HEDGEHOG BREAD AND WATER- it can make them very sick

Get to a vet or rescue as soon as possible.  

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Hedgehog In The Garden

Hedgehog, Climbing up into Flower Container
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Updated: 01/05/2016, Raintree
 
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Do You Think We Should Protect Our Wildlife?


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Raintree on 03/02/2016

Yes excellent ideas for food choices for hedgehogs. I agree it is probably best to try to put food into a container like the one you describe. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting Shawn :)

Shawn on 01/29/2016

You can make your gardens hog friendly by providing a little food for them. If cats visit your garden you will need to put it out of their reach either by putting it in a large round pipe or I use a 40 ltr plastic box with a hole the size of a CD in the side. They like meat based dog and cat food. They will also eat meat based kitten biscuits which can be left in the feeder without going bad. As a small treat mine get mashed banana, crunchy peanut butter, dried fruit or meal worms but only in small quantities and not every day.

Raintree on 12/29/2015

Hedgehog rescues do an amazing job! They are so dedicated. Hedgehogs are in severe decline in UK and need all the help they can get . We do not want to lose these wonderful creatures.....Thank you for visiting Rose :)

Rose on 12/04/2015

I'm so glad the rescue service existed! I wouldn't have known what to do either.

Raintree on 11/07/2014

For hedgehogs the big danger in our gardens is slug pellets. The slugs eat the pellets, the hedgehogs eat the slugs, the hedgehogs get sick ..or die. I do not use slug pellets, ever and we have hedgehogs visiting who control the slugs with no cost or effort on my part! Everything in nature has a part to play, a place in it , even if we do not always see it. I commend you for trying to save the bees, they are crucial to our survival. Thank you for visiting. I will find your page. Come and join me on my FB page Diary of A Wild Country Garden.

Olivia on 11/06/2014

Yes, on my FB page Weekend Gardeners, Weekend Warriors, I am forever trying to help save the bees that are being killed by use of chemicals......I'm sure the poor hedgehogs have been affected by this too! What isn't?

Raintree on 08/25/2014

Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate that :) Yes in my opinion they are best left in the wild and we need more wild hedgehogs.

happynutritionist on 08/25/2014

This is such a thorough and helpful page. I think these are adorable, and it has been tempting to want one as a pet, but I've not done so for reasons you mentioned, they are best left to the wild. I do think this page is going to be VERY helpful to people who live where there are hedgehogs.

Raintree on 08/25/2014

Yes they were wonderful. I was so worried the little guy or gal would die on the way but it was a resilient little one and when we left was all cosy in its little heated home and as so small she was going to hand feed it ever few hours -even through the night! Thank you for visiting :)

Sylvestermouse on 08/25/2014

Oh, I am so very glad you saved the baby hedgehog! What a wonderful blessing to have the rescue center so close and also so very helpful!


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