Last week, Wince the Gardener was cutting grass outside the north wing (heh) when the mower stopped working. So he had to haul it back, which wasn’t easy, and he found that the fan belt was slipping and put it right, but then had to finish the job this morning. LT was in the kitchen and I was in here, when Wince arrived at the door. LT was a bit puzzled when I shot through the kitchen, calling out “they’re usually asleep at this time of day,” but I explained later – I’d been looking for a box to put in a dismal hedgehog which had been disconsolately wandering about on the grass.
I put it in a big plastic crate with a bowl of water and one of cat food, and watched it for a while. It had a lot of fleas, as hedgehogs often do, and it was long and thin and looked miserable. It seemed unable to open its eyes but found the water, had a drink and fell asleep with chin in water. A while later, I put the food in front of it and it sniffed keenly and climbed into the bowl.
I went and sent a Facebook message to a friend, asking for advice. He gives sanctuary to hedgehogs and knows what to do. And he kindly said he would come round in the afternoon to pick it up.
Soon afterwards, Wince arrived again, clutching a baby hedgehog. I put that one in another box with more food, but it curled up and slept. Meanwhile, the bigger one had worked out how to eat and was hoovering up the cat food and opened an eye. Later again, it opened the other eye, which was very good, but it still didn’t curl up, which was a bit worrying.
My friends arrived with a box full of shredded paper and were quite happy to take both hedgehogs. S agreed that the bigger one was in need of some help – it’s a she – and surmised that she might be the mother of the other. Moments later, Wince turned up carrying two more babies. That seemed to confirm it, and also explained why she was so thin – she’s been feeding babies and has lost weight, the hot weather made it hard for her to find enough to eat and drink and the subsequent cold and very wet conditions were no better. But she didn’t seem to be injured, so should be all right with good treatment. Wince went back again and arrived with another baby hedgehog. So S and L have taken off all five and will bring them back when they’re big and strong enough to fend for themselves in the long term.
The hedgehog population has plummeted nationwide in the last few years and, even here, I rarely see them any more. I don’t know why – this is a big garden, surrounded by fields, well away from the road and you’d think it would be perfect for them: in fact, I’m sure it is and their relative scarcity here just reflects the general drop in numbers. I keep a drinker for them in the kitchen garden, for dry weather, which is low enough even for babies to use, and tops itself up automatically. I’d put out food if I knew where they were, but there really should be plenty of food about.
I found the smallest egg yet in the nest box. It weighed 22 grams, which is three-quarters of an ounce. So sweet. It must have been laid by Jet, the tiny black Serama. I love her fearless expression when she runs up to me, hoping for treats. I absolutely refuse to give them mealworms twice a day, however, and occasionally they just get layer’s pellets, which they’re always a bit disappointed by. I’ve been known to top them with grated cheese, just to please them.