Fostering a hedgehog

One of our biggest challenges at Hedgehog Bottom is overwintering. Late in the year, December or into January, 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 specific 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 hedgehog to live
No loud noises, no TV, Radio, Washing machine. No children rushing in and out, doors banging etc.
Dogs and cats
You must be able to keep the hedgehog away from your domestic pets especially dogs. A hedgehog going back to the wild thinking dogs are friends is likely to be torn to ribbons. Cats are not so much of an issue for an adult hedgehog but a female that doesn't defend her nest and babies against a cat will lose them therefore we need her afraid of them.
Preferably heated
Not all hogs can be allowed to hibernate, the small ones need to be kept awake and that means warmth. If you can't provide heat then we need to know in advance.
Suitable housing
A cage, hutch, deep crate or plastic box for them to have as a run. Deep means deep. We get many calls from people who think a shoe box is deep enough. It isn't. You need at least 18 inches deep and you also need to take into account the height of anything in the box. If a hog can reach the top with its front paws it will be out and gone.
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.
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. Under NO circumstances do you give 'treats' nor do you give live food or things you have dug up from the garden. If we discover anyone has been doing this, and yes, we are able to tell, we will take the hedgehog away from you. Live and wild food gives them internal parasites or toxins. Junk food causes a number of illnesses.
Cleaning equipment
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.

Please note:

You cannot stick the hedgehog out into a hutch and assume it will hibernate while you go away for Christmas or on holiday. These animals need to be checked daily and cleaned and fed as necessary. They can and do wake from hibernation and come out to eat and drink. If you have left them they may well starve to death.

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.

We will not send hogs further than 20 miles from the hospital. If anything does happen to them we need them back here immediately. They cannot wait until you have a day free to bring them in. We ask for foster carers on our Facebook page as they are needed but please check our catchment area in the map below before applying.

20 miles from Thatcham map

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.