It seems like a good idea to pass on information, ideas and pitfalls to those of you who have been inspired to look after hedgehogs or any other animal come to that. I had worked at the local Seal Hospital so I had seen things that worked and things that didn't and had a few thoughts of my own but, even then, I sometimes felt I was struggling.
FIRST You need to ask yourself Are you squeamish, do you want to go on holidays or weekend breaks, can you manage without sleep sometimes, can you afford it?
If you are squeamish either forget the idea or you have to get over it. You may need to handle live food, look after that food and actually deliver that live creature to another one to eat. Any animal has to go to the toilet and hedgehogs do make a terrible mess.
There may be wounds to bathe, injections to give, ticks to be removed and dead hogs to be buried. Sometimes you simply have to watch an animal passing away. All you can do is keep it comfortable.
CAN YOU COPE WITH ALL THAT? THEN READ ON
HOLIDAYS AND BREAKS
Generally these are really difficult to arrange unless you have supportive family and friends or take on volunteers.
STILL HAPPY? THEN READ ON
Baby animals and really sick ones often need treatment or feeding all day and all night. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and it is necessary to remember that. If you are at work, it is unlikely that you will be able to care for babies or the really sick animals.
KEEP READING..THERE MAY BE HOPE YET
CAN YOU AFFORD IT?
Start small and try to use bits and pieces you already have but it is going to cost. I spent £1500 setting up my place. I have recouped that now but it was very hard work.
HAVE YOU PASSED THIS TEST?.............READ ON
FAILED?...Don't give up hope. There may be a centre nearby who would be glad of your help or you may be able to foster some of their hogs until their release. Look on British Hedgehog Preservation Scy web site to see if there is a centre near you.
MORE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
DO YOU LIKE BEING IN THE PUBLIC EYE?
As people get to hear of what you do, it is likely you will be asked to give talks and visit schools. Sometimes radio and TV interviews can crop up unexpectedly. You can always say "No" but talks are a good way of helping to fund your project. The radio and newspapers do not normally pay but are very good for getting the message across if you have something important to say. Some TV programmes pay but it is very hard work and takes most of the day for a 5 minute slot. I have usually found the people very nice but one very popular programme rang me wanting to do a live slot. I was booked to do a talk that night so I jiggled the timing, sent out e-mails to all my friends to tell them to watch then, just as I was leaving to do my talk, the show rang me to say they were not coming and had forgotten to tell me. They said they had a bigger story in the area and that I would always be here for them to come back to! Well, guess what, should they ever ring me, I would be very surprised if I were here for them.
HOW BIG DO YOU WANT TO BECOME?
It is worth having some idea of how much of your life you wish to devote to your project because the bigger you are, the more money you need and the more help you need.
NOW YOU HAVE THINGS CLEARER IN YOUR HEAD IT IS TIME TO TAKE THE FIRST STEPS
I have assumed that you already know that there is no-one else doing the same thing nearby who maybe upset by "competition" and that there is a need for your centre. (No point setting up a rescue centre for an animal that is not residing in the local area.)
Hedgehogs are not covered by any laws requiring a licence as yet but it may be an idea to talk to your local council and to your neighbours to make sure no-one objects. It is illegal to keep the European Hedgehog (our own wild one) as a pet it is also illegal to sell them so, when people ask you for a hedgehog for their garden you cannot sell them one. The answer to that one is generally the hedgehog roams 2-4 miles a night so will not stay in the garden, only disabled hogs are released into walled gardens and, if there are no hedgehogs in the area...why not? The walled garden is problematical too, if the hedgehog is disabled it will still need checking over, a small garden is not suitable, what if the owner moves and hedgehogs are born escapologists. The only walled garden I use is 6 acres so the hedgehogs cannot be very disabled to live there. In fact, as they are breeding, I cannot release there now.
Talk to your Vet and find out if they are happy to treat hedgehogs. Not all are. You really need an Exotics Vet. If you register with the British Hedgehog Preservation Scy, they will send you a comprehensive booklet on treatment of hedgehogs and there will be one for your Vet too. They will also send you a heat pad for free. This is a must for babies and very sick hogs.
INDOOR CAGE(S) I use the large plastic cages with clear lids so the hogs have room to move and I can observe them. In this picture you can also see one of my incubators.
They are really expensive so wait until you are
established. Use the heat pad to start with. Rat cages
are also suitable but the hogs will climb the bars and
hang from the ceiling.
OUTDOOR HUTCHES My hogs go from indoors to my garage where they live in converted kitchen units but rabbit hutches will do nicely and people will often donate those when they got to know you. Some may need to be used indoors and the better ones can be used outdoors.
These are a selection different types of accommodation you are going to need or you may be able to make your own. As you grow you will get new ideas and maybe work differently. My centre has recently been re-vamped after 10 years and I have purpose built blocks of cages.
Remember that hedgehogs are great escapologsts, digging, climbing and wriggling out of the tiniest holes.
You will need dishes for food and water. Pet bowls are suitable and for treats you can use tops from coffee and Options jars etc.
Good slim but long tweezers for removing ticks, eyebrow brushes are good for removing fly eggs.
Gardening gloves and old towels for handling the hedgehogs.
A good steraliser. I use Vetaclense from the Vet. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me!
Stacks of old newspapers to line the cages and to scrunch up for the bedding.
Pipettes or syringes for feeding babies, sick hogs or administering medicines
Milton (or the equivalent) to steralise the pipettes
Esbilac puppy food as a standby for babies and sick hogs.
Goats Colostrum. Both of these can be kept frozen in ice cube bags.
Flannels are good for holding the babies in.
Pieces of fleece or woolly hats for babies to nestle in when very small.
You will also need to devise some kind of record card, numbering and naming, medical notes. My records are hand done, not computerised. The reason is that I like to fill them in right away, jot down my observations as I see them and the card goes to the Vet with the animal.
Two excellent books that are advisable to have around are
THE NATURAL HEDGEHOG by JANE DURRANT available on Amazon and
HEDGEHOG REHABILITATIONN by KAY BULLEN available only through British Hedgehog Preservation Scy.
Be careful looking up medical information for hedgehogs on line because they may be talking about the African Pygmy.