Nature and Wildlife

12 Fun Facts about Hedgehogs

With their cute snuffly noses and tiny little feet, it’s no wonder that hedgehogs are one of our most loved creatures. They feature in everything from ancient sculptures to the stories of Beatrix Potter and were voted the United Kingdom’s favourite mammal in 2016. But how much do you know about these elusive nocturnal garden visitors?

Did you know?

  • There are 17 species of hedgehogs in the world.
  • Hedgehogs are found in Europe, Africa, Asia and New Zealand.
  • The European hedgehog was introduced to New Zealand by settlers wanting a reminder of home.
  • The cutest term for a group of hedgehogs is a ‘Prickle’.
  • Baby hedgehogs are called ‘hoglets’.
  • Although known as voracious ‘slug-munchers’, the number one food for European hedgehogs is actually beetles. Their poo glistens due to all the insect wings they consume.
  • Hedgehogs can roam up to 2 miles a night on those tiny little feet.
  • The name hedgehog dates back to the 1400s and the Middle English word ‘heyghoge’. The name refers to their love of foraging and sleeping in hedgerows and pig-like snouts. They also make a grunting noise like a pig when courting.
  • Hedgehogs are born live with a protective membrane over their spines. The spines emerge within a few hours of being born and are initially white.
  • Hedgehogs have over 5000 spines, which are made of keratin, the same material as human nails.
  • Hedgehog winter nests are called ‘Hibernacula”.
  • Hedgehog hibernation is not always continuous. They can wake up during milder periods for a bite to eat or even to move nests.

Sadly though hedgehog numbers are in sharp decline in the UK and other parts of Europe. There are lots of causes of this decline including hazards like roads, pesticide use and habitat loss.

With so much love out there for these cute creatures, campaigns have been started in the United Kingdom to try and save them and help halt their decline. Hedgehog hospitals have also sprung up to help treat sick and injured hedgehogs. They treat hundreds of hedgehogs each year including orphaned baby hoglets. Many of these hedgehogs will be successfully rehabilitated and returned back to where they were found.

If you are lucky enough to live in an area with wild hedgehogs you can help by:

  • Creating a ‘hedgehog highway’ to link your garden with others. A 5-inch square gap at the bottom of any fences is all that you need.
  • Remove any garden hazards that can kill and injure hedgehogs including garden netting, slug pellets and herbicides. 
  • Create log piles for insects and leave an area long and wild for hedgehogs to forage.
  • Plant lots of ground cover and use native hedging rather than fencing, if you can.
  • Put out some kitten biscuits, specialist hedgehog food or meaty cat or dog food for your spiky friends at dusk and a bowl of water all year round.
  • Seek urgent help from a hedgehog hospital if you find a hedgehog out in the day. Hedgehogs are nocturnal and don’t ‘sunbathe.’

Emma Farley runs a hedgehog hospital in York, England. She rehabilitates sick and injured hedgehogs with the aim of releasing them back to the wild once they are well again. She lives in York with her husband and two rescue cats. She also makes silver nature jewellery to help raise funds for her rescue work and to raise awareness of the plight of European hedgehogs. You can find out more about her work including lots more ideas for how to help hedgehogs at www.littlesilverhedgehog.com and on Twitter.

A Day in the Life of a Hedgehog Hospital

Nature and Wildlife

A Day in the Life of a Hedgehog Hospital

Hello, I’m Emma and I’ve been running a hedgehog hospital in York since 2013. I care for sick and injured wild European hedgehogs, make them better and then release them back to the wild. Of course there is no such thing as a typical day for a hedgehog rescue. Every single day is different with different challenges, joys and sadness. But I love it. So, here is a day in the life of my hospital.

6.00am I get up and start my hospital rounds. I collect all the empty bowls of food and water and place them in the sink to sterilise. Then I clean each hedgehog cage. They are all in their own individual hutches with a separate bedroom and food area. I remove all the soiled bedding and replace it with fresh.

I weigh every hedgehog daily. This is Meghan who is currently
receiving treatment in the hospital.

6.15am  I manage to grab a quick breakfast on the go.

6.30am I start the hospital rounds. Each hedgehog needs to be weighed and given specialist treatment. The treatments vary between the hedgehogs and I keep record cards for each hedgehog detailing their weight, conditions and what treatment they are receiving. Some hedgehogs will require injections to treat internal parasites. Others have wounds that need to be cleaned and treated. Some have skin conditions that mean they need to be bathed in a special liquid.  They might also have pneumonia and need to be treated in a nebulising chamber. I update all the medical records for each hedgehog, including their daily weights.

A pile of food bowls after they have been sterilised.

7.30am  I check all my social media and email accounts and respond to people asking for advice about hedgehogs or looking for a rescue place.

8.00am  I try and fit in a couple of hours of freelance work. I used to have a full time job but it was impossible to fit it around the hedgehogs. Freelance wok gives me greater flexibility and much of it can be done from home.

9.30am  I visit the vet with any sick hedgehogs that need x-rays, operations or specialist treatment. The majority of medicines I use must be prescribed by a vet, including antibiotics and worming treatments.

10.30am I receive two calls about poorly hedgehogs and make arrangements for them to be brought to the hospital.

11am I check on stocks of food and medicine and order any items that are running low. Hedgehogs eat a huge amount for a small animal and I am constantly ordering kitten biscuits and cat food.

12 noon I admit the two new hedgehogs into the hospital. First, I undertake thorough checks to identify whether they have any injuries and I also weigh them. I put the hedgehogs into the intensive care unit to warm up.

1pm. I fit in some more freelance work in between following up leads about potential release sites for hedgehogs. I check out the locations first using Google Earth and then I arrange to go and visit them in person if they look suitable.

2.30pm I undertake a final health check on a hedgehog that is ready for release. I test its poo to make sure it is parasite free. I also make sure it is a suitable weight. The hedgehog is then marked with a tiny amount of blue nail varnish and I add the details of the mark into my logbook. This helps me identify the hedgehog in future if it ever comes back to the hospital. I also test some poo samples for people all over the country who have been caring for hedgehogs and want to know if they have internal parasites. The postman is amused by the poo that arrives by post!

Studying hedgehog poo under the microscope to
look for internal parasites that can make them sick.

3.30pm I respond to a message from a member of the public asking for advise about a hedgehog nest that has been disturbed. My initial advice is to cover the nest (wearing gloves) and to monitor it.

A hedgehog nest that has been disturbed. Normally mum and the babies
would be covered up.

4.00pm I make some jewellery. I make silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife to raise funds for my rescue work. The hedgehog hospital is entirely self-funded and very expensive to run and so it is vital to be able to fundraise. 

I make silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife
to raise funds for my hedgehog hospital.

5.00pm I clean down and sterilise all the surfaces in the hospital, including sweeping and washing the floor. Good hygiene is essential with poorly animals. They can pass things on to each other and also to humans! I start my evening food rounds, making sure that all the patients have their dinner. Depending on their ailments, the hedgehogs may have different types of food, including intensive care food.

6.30pm I greet a member of the public who has come round to pick up a hedgehog for release.

A hedgehog marked and ready for release
back to its garden in a hedgehog box

7.00pm I manage to grab a quick bit of dinner but it is interrupted by a call about a sick hedgehog.

8.30pm I admit a hedgehog that has been found trapped in plastic netting. It takes an hour to remove all the netting. The hedgehog is placed into intensive care for monitoring.

9.00pm I check on all the hedgehogs in intensive care and administer medications.

10.30pm I make the final hedgehog checks of the day – although I don’t always get to sleep at this point. If there are poorly hedgehogs in intensive care, I may also have to get up during the night.

Emma Farley runs a hedgehog hospital in York, England. She rehabilitates sick and injured hedgehogs with the aim of releasing them back to the wild once they are well again. She lives in York with her husband and two rescue cats. She also makes silver nature jewellery to help raise funds for her rescue work and to raise awareness of the plight of European hedgehogs. You can find out more about her work including lots more ideas for how to help hedgehogs at www.littlesilverhedgehog.com and www.twitter.com/littlesilverhog.

12 Fun Facts about Hedgehogs and how to help preserve them.