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Saturday, 20 April 2013

A Happy Hedgehog Story

Sometimes you get up in the morning just expecting it to be an ordinary day and then, in an instant, and totally unexpectedly, something can lift it out of the ordinary and turn it into something really special. This is what happened to me a few weeks ago when the phone rang and my friend Jan asked

"Would you like two hedgehogs?"
Who could say no to that? Certainly not me! Especially as we've lived in the same house for over twenty years and in that time have only spotted 2 hedgehogs in the garden. But, because of the very cold weather in the U.K.,  we had to wait - and wait until they could be re-homed. But finally, last weekend, the weather warmed up, and the ground softened which means there will be enough food around for the hedgehogs to eat and so they arrived. They are huge! This is Jan holding one of them.

 We have called them Joyce and Mildred - I would explain but it is complicated!
Jan is a volunteer for the Leicester Hedgehog Rescue and has been looking after Joyce and Mildred since last October. They were handed in at the end of July 2012 when someone moved a shed. There was a hedgehog nest underneath containing five babies and unfortunately the disruption meant that Mum scarpered. To begin with the hedgehog babies are hand-reared, fed every 2 hours with colostrum from goats. After they have been fed you have to rub their tummies to make them pee and poo. Those volunteers really are dedicated people! I am overcome with admiration for them. Jan takes over the rearing when they are a little bit older and fattens them up so that they can survive hibernation. They need to be a minimum of 800 grams and preferably weigh 1000 grams before they can be allowed to go to sleep. 
The hedgehog is on the list of Britain's 10 most endangered species and there are estimated to be 300,000 less in the U.K. than there were a decade ago. As well as being attacked by predators thousands die on our roads.  In some places there are actually signs warning people to be careful of hedgehogs when driving. This one is in the West Midlands. But we could do with more of them.

Hopefully the only hazard in our garden is the pond and we have put in extra stones so that if Joyce and Mildred do fall in (and apparently hedgehogs can swim quite well) they can get out easily.

The word hedgehog derives from around 1450, hog because its snout looks a little like a pig and hedge because they like to scurry around under hedges. Another name for them is hedgepig. There are loads of children's books written about hedgehogs. Two of the best known must be:- 
The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-winkle - Beatrix Potter
The Hodgeheg - Dick King-Smith
But there is also Fuzzypeg in Little Grey Rabbit by Alison Uttley and there are hedgehogs in the Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem. And of course there is Sonic the Hedgehog.Then there were those  poor little hedgehogs in Alice in Wonderland which were used as croquet balls and I do love the toy hedgehogs from Sylvanian Families. Maybe I'll even write a hedgehog story of my own one day.
In the 1960's and 70's in the U.K. we had The Tufty Club which was part of a road safety campaign for children  and a more recent campaign for has featured hedgehogs singing the Bee Gees Stayin' Alive
On a happier note our hedgehogs have a little house which we have placed at the top of the garden under the shade of some rhododendron bushes.

 It is close to our vegetable patch and I imagine them patrolling at night, snacking on slugs and protecting my produce. But if they can't find enough to eat or are feeling lazy they have a feeding station which contains a saucer of cat biscuits.

There are lots of hedgehog friendly places at the top of our garden and in the garden next door too so I do hope they'll stay around. But hedgehogs are fickle and like to live in 5 or 6 different places so if they find somewhere they like better I won't take it to heart. I'm just grateful that through Jan and the Leicester Hedgehog rescue they've at least had the chance of a happy life.

 From 5th - 11th May it is hedgehog awareness week and there will be lots of hedgehoggy activities going on around the country. Hopefully with everyone's help we can get the hedgehog off that endangered list.
 Thank-you for reading. Maybe you have hedgehogs in your garden? I'd love to hear about them.


  1. oh what a lovely story...I hope your hedgehogs will be be very happy with you!

    1. I hope so too! Would love them to stay around, meet some handsome male hedgehogs and have lots of babies!

  2. I was going to ask how you were going to stop them escaping but of course you're not. I suppose you're fostering them until they up and away or up and hang around if they choose. Can't wait to see them. Hedgehogs have such cute faces.

    1. No, can't force them to stay with us. But our garden is pretty wild at the top so hopefully they'll like it. Something is coming and eating the food so hopefully it's the hedgehogs and not mice!