Orphan hedgehogs – how to care for them
Writer, The Archers
currently has some unscheduled guests – a family of orphaned baby hedgehogs
(hoglets). Fay Vass of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society has been
advising us on the story. Here is her advice on what you can do in similar
If a hedgehog with young is disturbed, she may well harm or abandon her young. So please take care and try not to damage any potential nest, taking special care during peak baby season (May – August).
If there has not been too much disturbance and the mother is still around she may well move her hoglets to a new nest. However if she does not return overnight then the hoglets will need to be rescued.
If you do disturb a nest, give the British Hedgehog Preservation Society a call as soon as possible, for more detailed advice on how to help the family stay together.
Any hoglets found out in the day will need to be rescued. Remember they do not come in ones, so do search for other orphans. Listen for a high pitched squeak. This is their distress call.
Watch out for domestic and wild creatures that are interested in a certain spot in the garden. They may have spotted a potential meal in an abandoned hoglet.
Care of the hoglets
A hedgehog should not sunbathe or wobble as it walks. Both of these are signs that it is very cold and poorly and needs warmth. Mum is the heat source for hoglets, and so orphaned hoglets need this warmth too. A wrapped hot water bottle in the bottom of a high-sided box will help. Make it a temperature that is comfortable to keep your hand on, and ensure it stays warm. If allowed to go cold, it will undo all the good it has done.
Offer an old towel or t-shirt in the bottom of the box for them to hide under and bring the box indoors somewhere quiet where there are no flies. Flies are a real problem for poorly or vulnerable hedgehogs. They lay eggs on them which, if allowed to hatch, cause all sorts of horrific problems.
If the hedgehog is able to eat, you can offer meaty cat or dog food and just water to drink. Very young hoglets will be feeding only from mum, so will need a substitute for that as soon as possible. They also need stimulating to toilet, so the sooner they get to an experienced rehabilitator the better.
In the garden
If a pile of leaves appears overnight in the garden, this may be an indication of a new nest. Sometimes female hedgehogs move their nursery nest at the last moment. They can be seen gathering nesting material and making a new nest. This can even be seen in the daytime. However the hedgehog will be moving with a purpose. Unlike most hedgehogs seen out in the day, it will not need to be rescued.
Watch the area. With luck, around four weeks later the hoglets may be seen venturing out of the nest for the first time.
Try to make your garden safer for hedgehogs. The BHPS leaflet Gardening with Hedgehogs gives lots of ideas on helping your local hedgehogs stay safe. If in doubt about whether a hedgehog needs to be rescued, give the BHPS a call. It is better safe than sorry and the sooner one is rescued the more chance it has of surviving.
If you are concerned about any hedgehog that you see, contact the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801. If you can weigh the hedgehog first that is always helpful.
Fay Vass is chief executive of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society
All images are copyright British Hedgehog Preservation Society and are used with permission