Fostering a hedgehog
One of our biggest challenges at Hedeghog Bottom is overwintering. Late in the year many of our patients can't be released as they are either too small, too sick, or are ready to go just as the weather is too bad for them to leave.
In some circumstances we would welcome foster carers to take and look after pre-release hogs for the winter period.
All of our hedgehogs have been brought in by members of the public, sent to us by a vet or referred to us by other rescue centres. As such, they all have problems and that can range from injury to disease. We spend a lot of time and money getting them better so you will understand that we are pretty choosy about who we hand them over to.
What does fostering entail?
First and foremost it requires somebody who loves wildlife, no matter what, and who can provide a safe, secure environment with food and water every day for periods of up to 6 months.
We do not send out sick hogs to fosterers but there are occasions when a hog relapses for whatever reason. You would be required to monitor for any conditions and report back when any untoward signs are seen, returning the animal to us if necessary
You are not left on your own to cope, we are here 24 hours for the hogs and will always take your phone call unless we are too zonked to hear the phone. Thundering on the front door usually gets the desired result.
What you will need
- Somewhere quiet for the hog to live. No loud noises, children rushing in and out, doors banging etc.
- Preferably heated. Not all hogs can be allowed to hibernate in their first year. If you can't provide heat then we need to know in advance so we can choose the right hog for you.
- A cage, hutch, deep crate or box for them to have as a run.
- Shallow water and food dishes
- Bedding. This can be fleeces cut up into squares, torn up newspaper or chopped, dust extracted hay NOT straw. If you are housing indoors we don't recommend hay unless you love housework.
- Food. Most hogs will happily eat what they're given but some can be fussy. We will advise on what is required before you pick the hog up but usually cat biscuits or meat is sufficient.
- Cleaning equipment and rubber gloves. Hogs make a mess and daily cleaning is a necessity unless you have access to a good supply of gas masks. All cleaning materials must be safe for the hedgehogs and the rubber gloves are for your protection on the offchance that one has a skin condition that isn't obvious at the time of hand over
We can advise on any other concerns you may have as well as how to release in Spring if the hog doesn't have a home to go back to.
All of our hogs come from the wild and go back to the wild where possible. We do not hand out hogs to people who wish to keep them as pets, nor those who are intending shutting them up in an enclosed garden to act as a slug killer.
Very occasionally we have a disabled hog that can't be released and needs a secure garden to live in. Before considering you to take one of these we would need to closely inspect your garden to make sure there is no possibility of escape. We would also need to be assured that you will provide food and fresh water every day. A hedgehog in an enclosed garden cannot be expected to eat what it finds by itself. They have large appetites and will roam many miles in a night in order to find enough to eat. Your garden, without provided food, is not sufficient.
What can you expect
As you will be taking healthy animals you are highly unlikely to have to deal with the trauma of losing one. If a hog becomes sick we would expect to have it back at the hospital long before it becomes critical, therefore you get the good bits
Hedgehogs all have their own personality. Some are grumpy and to be honest they are the easiest ones to release as you know they'll avoid people and you don't get too attached.
Others will have you in fits of laughter as their antics can provide many hours of amusement and confusion. Fostering one of them gets you closer to a wild animal than you would ever have thought possible and these little guys are pretty much the only British Wildlife you can do that with.
Although we do our utmost not to overhandle them, even those that have needed intensive daily treatment will revert to wild as soon as they go back outside, with very few exceptions, so you don't need to worry about them becoming tame.
We do ask that if you have children they are not allowed to take the hog out to play with it nor handle it unless absolutely necessary but this is an ideal way for them to get to know our wild animals and to learn respect and concern for their welfare without the long term committment of having a pet.