To help or not to help
Everyone will have seen a hedgehog shuffling around their garden at some time or another. These small animals with an insatiable appetite are nocturnal, meaning that they only become active in the evening and spend the night searching for food. The most distinctive feature of hedgehogs is their spiny coat. If danger approaches, the hedgehog can ward off attackers by rolling itself into a spiky ball in the blink of an eye.
Hedgehogs also curl up into a ball to hibernate throughout the cold winter when food is scarce. As soon the nights turn frosty, a hedgehog will dig down deep to create its own winter burrow.
Although they may appear cute, you must remember that hedgehogs are wild animals and must never be kept as pets. Of course, this shouldn't stop you from helping sick or needy animals. If you do want to look after a hedgehog in need, you must first seek out information about the best way to handle these animals and ensure that it is provided with suitable accommodation. You must ensure that you provide food suitable for this animal.
How can I tell if a hedgehog needs my help?
- In autumn, an adult hedgehog should weigh 800 – 1500 g. Young animals weighing less than 500 g at the start of November will have trouble surviving the winter without supplementary feeding.
- Any hedgehogs that you spot outside once winter sets in will also need your help. Something must have caused them to awake from hibernation too early (an inquisitive dog, early gardening work or just hunger) and they will now be cold and on the hunt for food.
- Hedgehogs with injuries or orphaned baby hedgehogs running around alone with closed eyes need to be taken in and cared for.
- Any grown hedgehogs that you encounter during the day are likely to be ill. Although hedgehogs are usually nocturnal, sick animals will seek out the heat from the sun. Sick animals will also stagger about or appear apathetic and lie on the ground. You should take them to a vet immediately. But remember: Hedgehog mothers who are still nursing their young often go out in search of food during the day. Young animals that still need to build up sufficient energy reserves for winter may also be out and about in daylight hours.
Protecting and caring for hedgehogs
How can I help hedgehogs?
The best way to help a hedgehog is to provide a healthy living environment:
- Ensure that there are plenty of natural hiding places in your garden or build/buy a special hedgehog box.
- Avoid fine-mesh fencing, cover any small holes in the ground and refrain from using chemical pest control agents, rat poison, slug pellets etc.
- Set up 2 – 3 feeding areas in your garden. This will help younger animals to reach the weight they require to survive winter in good time. By putting out hedgehog food, you can also save the lives of some grown hedgehogs as this will avoid them having to cross dangerous roads in their search for food.
- Always provide enough fresh drinking water in your garden (e.g. in a bird bath placed on the floor). Note: Do not put out cow's milk for hedgehogs as this tends to cause problems with digestion.
Looking after a hedgehog indoors
If you take a sick or injured hedgehog into your house to care for, create it a suitable home and provide room for it to run about. For example, you could use newspaper to line a cardboard box measuring 200 x 100 cm with a height of around 60 cm. A 30 x 30 cm box with a small entrance makes an ideal hedgehog bedroom when filled with ripped and scrunched up paper and placed in the "enclosure". You should clean both the sleeping and exercise areas on a regular basis. Please note that hedgehogs are very sensitive to noise, so kitchens and children's bedrooms are not suitable locations.
Hedgehogs living in the wild often have fleas and other external parasites. This can easily be remedied using a suitable spray. However, any hedgehog you are caring for will also need rapid treatment to kill internal parasites. It is best to take the animal to a vet for an initial examination. If you find a hedgehog suffering from hypothermia, you must warm it up. To do this, wrap a terry towel around a hot water bottle filled with lukewarm water and place this in the enclosure. Lie the hedgehog on top of this and cover it with a hand towel. If the hedgehog gets too hot, it can always move away from the hot water bottle.
Provide the right food
Hedgehogs are insect eaters. In the wild, their diet consists of caterpillars, earthworms and all types of beetle. Contrary to popular opinion, however, they only rarely eat fruit.
When feeding a hedgehog, you need to provide foods that meet its dietary needs. Hard-boiled eggs or, better still, scrambled eggs make ideal hedgehog food. Since hedgehogs love variety, you could also feed them cooked chicken or fried mince. You should avoid spices, milk, milk products and bread.
And Vitakraft makes it even easier to feed hedgehogs: Vitakraft hedgehog food is a hearty, varied natural feed that provides a healthy diet and increases the survival changes of weakened hedgehogs. Its ingredients include meat, insects, berries and nuts, supplemented with vegetable and animal fats, vitamins and pure bee honey. A varied mixture for hedgehogs that reflects their natural diet.
You can supplement dry food with the meals mentioned above. If you do not want to do any cooking yourself, Vitakraft wet food for hedgehogs is an ideal alternative. This special food for hedgehogs has been developed on the basis of scientific research and will soon have your little patients back on their feet.
- Before taking in a hedgehog, you should seek out information about how to look after these animals.
- Remember to provide the hedgehog with sufficient water at all times.
- If your hedgehog loses weight despite being fed, take it to a hedgehog shelter or vet immediately.
- Once the animals you are looking after have matured or winter has passed, you must return them to the wild as soon as possible.