Two days after arriving home from our summer holiday I was phoned by a distressed lady. Their garden shed was in danger of collapsing due to the neighbours ivy that had grown over the fence and up onto the shed roof. They had begun dismantling the shed and had discovered a hedgehog had made a nest inside at the back of the shed. The mother hedgehog was there with five babies. The only thing that could be done was to put the nest into a lawn mower grass box but in doing so, one baby was crushed. As soon as the grass box was taken outside the mother hedgehog disappeared, leaving the babies. After another phone call when I was told that another baby was on it`s back not looking good I agreed that the best thing to do was to bring them to me. I told the lady to put them on a warm water bottle with a cover over them as warmth is more important than food.
When the three remaining hoglets arrived they were much smaller than I hoped they would be, in fact just 22grames each. They were like tiny pink cocktail sausages, ears no more than little flaps of skin and just a darker patch where the eyes would eventually form. They had a few rows of soft white prickles and were no more than 4 days old.
I had to be realistic and said to the lady that my chances of rearing them were pretty slim as they were so tiny. She said that she had always wanted to have hedgehogs visiting her garden and had never seen any in the 10 years that she had been there and was so sorry that this had happened.
While I was waiting for them to arrive I had set up the incubator with heat pad and soft pieces of fleece. The hoglets were put in and I said to my husband that I would have to feed them every hour and a half throughout the day and at 2am in the morning if I was to have any chance or rearing them. The best alternative to hedgehog milk is Esbilac milk in a tin, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant and this is much better for tiny hoglets than the powder as there are no lumps that could block tiny tummies. To my amazement they survived the first night and we gradually settled into a routine much like you do with a new born baby. As the days went by the hoglets weight increased slowly but steadily, there were two girls and a boy. Gradually the feeding times increased to 2hours and then 2and1/2 hours, once we got to 4hours I could actually go on a flying visit to the supermarket!
After getting up to do a night time feed for two weeks I felt that I could safely leave them till 6.30am.
As I had to identify them, the second one was marked with one spot of red nail varnish on the neck and the third one with two spots. Each one had the weight checked every day. At 16 days old the eyes began to open and the teeth soon began to come through, the skin was going darker and more prickles were coming through also all the hair on their faces and tummies.
I won`t say it was easy as I know that not everyone has success in rearing tiny hoglets, but these three had strong personalities which I think helped a lot. I was thrilled to be able to do it but I can`t say that I am anxious to repeat the experience, a mother hedgehog is really the best.
By Linda Clements