Notes from St Tiggywinkles: No hedging – birth can be a prickly problem

Baby hedgehog being fed
Baby hedgehog being fed

I must give the hedgehog world credit for letting us know that their baby season is imminent.

I do not know how they arrange it but invariably the herald of that inevitable influx of orphans is a newly admitted mother who will give birth right before our very eyes.

If everything works out well, with mother and urchins, we will leave the family together, undisturbed, for at least eight weeks.

From now on orphaned urchins are going to be the top of our agenda until the autumn

They can be tiny, spineless newborns up to almost juvenile, the size of a ping-pong ball.

When Sue and I rescued our first orphaned hedgehogs, back in the 1970s, we had no idea how to raise them.

Nor did anybody else.

They were a new phenomenon, nobody had ever bothered with these tiny, helpless bundles of spikes.

No computers. No experience. No reference.

There really were no guidelines, so we had to call on the resources of our commonsense if we were going to succeed.

We could find out the biology and growth patterns from scientific papers but none of these gave any clue where to go from here.

I tell a lie. We did learn that urchins take colostrum (which builds up an infant’s immune system) from their mothers for up to 39 days.

That’s very bizarre, as almost all other mammals, including us humans, take our colostrum in either before birth, or a day or two after.

But that did give us a lead when in searching for a substitute we met goat’s colostrum and, a strong candidate for feed, goat’s milk.

We learnt we had to stimulate the tiny animals to go to the toilet.

We made up bottle feeds in one-mil pipettes with tiny teats fashioned out of needle covers.

Hardly cordon bleu but our recipe for “Glop” still holds good and still looks obnoxious, even after all these years.

At the time of writing we already have 37 orphans with more on the way.