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Tips and Basics of Hedgehog Care

Hedgehogs are fascinating and unique creatures that make wonderful pets. With their adorable looks and inquisitive nature, they have gained popularity as companions. However, hedgehogs require specialized care and attention to thrive. In this blog, we will provide you with essential tips to take care of hedgehogs roaming in your garden.

Housing


A hedgehog’s home should be a spacious and comfortable place for them to roam and sleep in. An appropriate size for the enclosure is about 2 square feet. Hedgehogs need good ventilation to stay healthy, so make sure the hedgehog house you choose is equipped with ventilation holes or a mesh panel so your hedgehog has enough fresh air to breathe. Once you have chosen a housing for your hedgehog, the next step is to choose the bedding material. Hedgehogs like burrow and snuggle so fleece liners are a good option as they are soft and cozy. Avoid using bedding made of cedar or pine as they can be harmful to your hedgehog’s respiratory system. Also, avoid using bedding with loose fibers or strings that your hedgehog can ingest.



Temperature


Hedgehogs are ectothermic, which means that their body temperature is regulated by the environment around them. In the wild, hedgehogs hibernate during the winter months to conserve energy. However, if the temperature drops too low, they may not survive. Moreover, hedgehogs can also suffer from heat stress if they are exposed to high temperatures for too long, leading to dehydration, overheating, and even death.

Therefore, temperature control is crucial for the health and well-being of hedgehogs. You can provide a warm and dry shelter and maintain a suitable temperature range of 75-80°F (24-27°C). To achieve this, use a heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter. Keep in mind that a temperature below 70°F (21°C) can lead to torpor, where the hedgehog enters a hibernation-like state. It’s important that you use a thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the enclosure to ensure that it stays within the ideal range. Besides, hedgehogs need access to fresh water at all times, especially during summer. Make sure to provide a shallow bowl of water, and clean and refill the water regularly.



Diet


A balanced and nutritious diet is crucial for your hedgehog’s health. Hedgehogs are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and plants. You can feed them a variety of foods including fruit, vegetables, and even cooked chicken or turkey. There’s a reason why hedgehogs are obese so only feed them in moderation and never give them anything that is salty, sugary or fatty. Avoid feed with fish content, as hedgehogs can develop an addiction to it, leading to malnourishment. Hedgehogs primarily rely on insects for protein. You can also enhance their diet by providing pre-dried or live insects like mealworms, crickets or small beetles.

Hedgehogs need a fresh and clean water supply. Place a shallow dish of fresh water near the feeding station to ensure they stay hydrated, but never give them milk as it can upset their stomach. Considering hedgehogs are nocturnal creatures, it’s better to provide food in the evening as they’re most active after dusk. Additionally, an adult hedgehog may consume around 100 grams of food each night so it’s essential to provide appropriate quantities. Avoid overfeeding to prevent food waste and potential spoiling. Make sure to wash the dish regularly and remove any uneaten food to prevent it from attracting insects or other animals.



Nocturnal Nature


Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals, so keep this in mind when placing their enclosure in your garden. Ensure their habitat is located away from excessive noise and direct sunlight during their sleep time. Avoid playing loud music, keep television volume low, and refrain from unnecessary disturbances near their habitat. Secondly, while hedgehogs are nocturnal, it’s still highly recommended to provide them with a light source during the day to help regulate their natural circadian rhythms. Natural light or low-intensity artificial light is typically suitable. Additionally, since hedgehogs can be easily scared or stressed, it’s best to observe them from a distance; if necessary, you can also install a nest box camera inside their habitat.



Wildlife Corridors


Wildlife corridors are vital for the survival of our nocturnal neighbors. Hedgehogs, in particular, are known to travel long distances each night in search of food and suitable habitat. However, urbanization and the fragmentation of natural habitats by roads, fences, and buildings can hinder hedgehog movements, making it difficult for them to access resources and find mates. By creating a “hedgehog highway”, they can do the roaming anytime they want. The wildlife corridors provide safe and connected spaces for hedgehogs to move, forage and reproduce.

To create “hedgehog highways”, the first step is to survey your surroundings to identify gaps or obstacles that hinder hedgehog movements and identify key areas or habitats on the map where hedgehogs are more likely to find food, shelter, and mates. Talk to local authorities or community groups about creating hedgehog-friendly holes or “hedgehog highways” in fences and walls to allow unhindered movement. These holes should be approximately 13 cm x 13 cm (5 inches x 5 inches) to provide ample space for hedgehogs. Then, plant native hedgerows, shrubs, and wildflowers along the corridor to offer natural habitats, food sources and cover for hedgehogs, and you can encourage your neighbors to do the same to create a hedgehog-friendly community. Once it’s done, you should regularly monitor the success of the corridor by checking for hedgehog presence and recording any sightings. Maintain the connectivity of the corridor by ensuring the hedgehog-friendly holes in fences/walls are kept open and that suitable habitat continues to be available.



Medical Support


When you accidentally find an injured hedgehog outdoors, you can note any signs of distress, such as lethargy, struggling to move, bleeding or unusual behavior such as staggering and walking around in circles and note it down. Before handling the hedgehog, you should wear gloves or use a towel to avoid any potential injury. Place the hedgehog in a quiet, dimly lit area (e.g. a high-sided cardboard box lined with soft bedding), to minimize stress and allow it to rest and recover. Avoid making loud noises or handling the hedgehog unnecessarily as this can further stress it. Contact a local wildlife rescue center, animal control or a veterinarian with experience handling hedgehogs. They can provide professional guidance on next steps and may be able to provide medical attention if required.

Remember, it is important to provide support without interfering too much with their natural behavior. Hedgehogs are wild animals, and maintaining a balance between helping and allowing them to remain truly wild is key.

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