So today, Spiky Norman came home.
There was no bunting or fanfare, which was just as well because, quite frankly, he displayed not a jot of recognition or gratitude.
He remained curled up in a big heavy spiky ball, like a somnolent mediaeval weapon, refusing to come out.
When I held him in my hands when he was maybe 10 weeks old, his spines were softer and his little feet had perfect, sensitive little leathery pads. Today, he was far too spiky to hold without gloves and no cute little toes were visible.
He may have been sulking. He had been sharing his outdoor quarters at the Vale Wildlife Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre with a hedgehog lady-friend but like Norm, she was due to go back to her original home this weekend. So he was allocated another pal.
Norman’s new girlfriend hails from Oxfordshire. She’s one of the Barford St Michael hedgehogs. I’m calling her Tiggy or Tigs for short. You can’t be surprised at my choice of name. She follows a long line of predictability including Woodie the woodlouse, Torty the tortoise, Puss the cat, Bluey the budgie and Scamp the dog. I feel it’s a mistake to devote too much energy and imagination on the names.
Funnily enough, I was just going to pick up the phone to call Vale Wildlife Rescue this morning to enquire about Norm when the phone rang and a voice asked me if I would like to pick up hedgehog number 4351. They were releasing some hedgehogs this weekend as it was milder than of late. Spiky Norm! Why of course I’d go and get him!
Norm and Tigs the girlfriend, were handed over to me covered in hay in a big box. Tigs was also an autumn orphan and about the same weight as Norm when she was taken into rescue. She is now 900gs while Norman has topped one kilo.
I was originally intending to try and overwinter Norm in the dining room in a box with lots of cosy newspaper. I’d seen him and a sibling pottering about on the lawn and munching the food but they were obviously little more than babies. Then it got a lot colder very suddenly.
I saw him motionless on the lawn one night staring at the kitchen window as if it had all got a bit too much for him. He wasn’t worried about me picking him up, bringing him in and weighing him. He was too small to survive the winter outside but he could come in and it would all be fine as long as he didn’t mind the noise of the turbo-trainer in the dining room…
He was an enthusiastic eater and consequently, an enthusiastic pooper. Like other hedgehogs, he wasn’t worried about the poop. It wasn’t in a particular place. It was everywhere – near the food, in the bedding… The dining room was beginning to acquire a certain odour in spite of my frequent box clear-ups.
I couldn’t really see Norm and the family enjoying sharing a dining room on Christmas Day, so I called Vale Wildlife Rescue and they said “Bring him in. We’ve got nearly 300 young hedgehogs already.”
Shortly after checking in at his winter residence, Norm was weighed, checked for ticks and worms and settled into his new des res.
The weight gain was incredible. Between 11 December and 15th January he more than doubled his eight to 804gs. He was 864g when he was transferred to the hog unit where there is less human disturbance and hedgehogs are “hardened off” for the outdoors again. Their hedgehogs are all micro-chipped before release.
Going home, there was some rustling and movement in the hedgehog + hay box, but no-one tried to make a break for it in the car.
When I put the box down on the terrace, in contrast to sleepy Norm, Tigs was eager to explore. She uncurled and walked around the box, bumping into the spiky lump as if to say “Hey. We’ve arrived somewhere. It smells interesting.”
Her nose was quivering with anticipation at all the new outdoor smells and she sniffed the air through the hole in the side of the box as I prepared the new hedgehog house for the residents. I pushed a little hay inside the hedgehog home and tipped a good bucketful of dry leaves around and about that they could drag inside their home to get cosy.
Spiky Norman had a sibling of similar weight that I could not locate back in November and I have a theory that the sibling has carried on eating all through the winter and is probably still around, judging from the hedgehog food eaten every night.
I’m pretty sure Norm will like Tigs when he stops sulking. She has a fine skirt of light brown hairs and a cream patch on her nose. She is extremely inquisitive so there is always a chance that she will disappear on a big adventure tonight and we’ll never see her again. but I hope not.
I think Norm will recognise the smells of the lawn, the borders and re-discover the feeding station of his youth.
As instructed, I left them inside the hedgehog house and blocked the entrance for a couple of hours so they could get settled in. At 7pm, I opened up the hedgehog house and gave them their freedom.
There are two dishes of food out for their dinner tonight. The usual dish of dried hedgehog food and bowl of water, but also a dish of beefy cat food, as they’ve been used to eating wet food at the rescue centre. I stocked up with mealworms too but I’m giving those sparingly as it’s not good for juvenile hedgehogs to have too many at once.
The nice lady at the rescue centre who sold me the new hedgehog house warned me that there was no guarantee that the hedgehogs would stay in the garden.
“Some do stick around but others just disappear and are never seen again,” she said.
Just before writing this, I stood at the back door in the darkness, listening for signs of activity. There was loud chomping from somewhere near the back border. At least one of them is still here at the moment ….
I’ll keep you posted.
Spiky Norman. Thrilled to be home.
Tigs up and about and ready to explore…
So where’s this new house, then?