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Hedgehog hibernating in damp hay – does it matter?

Home Forums Champions’ chat Hedgehog hibernating in damp hay – does it matter?

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  • #18940

    I am a newbie with hedgehog care. I have never done anything with hedgehogs before this year. We saw and heard a hedgehog in the garden in late summer, so I began to feed it with bought dry hedgehog food, plus put water down, inside a small bought ‘igloo’ type shelter. Very quickly it found the food and began to eat it. I wasn’t entirely sure it was a hedgehog eating it until I found hedgehog poo in there eventually.

    A couple of weeks ago I bought some hay and stuffed it inside the shelter and 2 days later the hog moved in and was asleep in there in the day every time I looked. Now it is buried very deep in the hay and I think it’s hibernating, not just taking a nap, and the food is not being eaten as far as I can tell.

    However I noticed that the hay feels damp though it did feel dry in the igloo when I put the hay in there as the igloo is supposed to have plastic under the roof. The hay was dry of course when it went in and the hog is buried deep in it, but just wondering if damp hay will make the poor creature ill. Not a lot I can do without turfing it out and waking in and replacing it all, and I don’t think that would be a good idea!! I have now put an old empty plastic compost bag on top of the igloo to give it even more waterproofing but it’s already damp of course now.

    #18952

    Nic

    Hi Aggie

    As you say, there’s probably not much you can do about it, i.e. you can’t disturb the hog and probably what you’ve done (put some more waterproofing over the top) is the best you can do. But think of it this way – if the hog was building a nest in the wild, it wouldn’t have the shelter of the hogilo over the top, so the material near the top would almost certaintly get damp, even if it was under good cover of bushes, etc. But hopefully the hay further down is still dry.

    For future reference, it’s best not to combine a sleeping/hibernating nest with a feeding area. For their nests, they really need somewhere that they won’t be disturbed, which you obviously have to do if you have to change food, etc. So ideally, I wouldn’t put any hay or bedding of any kind in a feeding box/house, as it might give the hog the idea to nest in there. Hogilo type hog homes aren’t ideal for feeding in, because you have to lift the whole thing up and they normally have no floor. You are better off using a box with a lid which you can lift up and floor that is easy to clean for feeding in. Alternatively lots of people use underbed stores.

    Good luck. I hope the hog is o.k. and, if hibernating, reappears in the Spring safe and well.

    #18955

    Thank you Nic for your helpful comments. Indeed I had come to the same conclusion over the dampness issue myself that it would be hard for a hedgehog to exclude the wet and the cold entirely in our climate.

    I am still a bit confused over how to separate the eating and sleeping arrangements. I agree that that the ‘igloo’ house is not at all ideal when they are sleeping in it with having to lift it, though I have now managed to do it very quickly by lifting the edge and put in a very small dish away from where the hay is to do my best to alleviate the issue for this winter. I did lift it quickly yesterday and the hog had woken up and was sitting in there with eyes open for the first time, having previously been fast asleep deep in the hay. Someone was cutting down trees locally and I think the noise may have disturbed him.

    I guess the igloos are intended for hibernating – hadn’t realised that when I bought it. It seemed to work very well for feeding and cats can’t get in it and so far no sign of rats or squirrels having gone in. The bought boxes are very expensive, at £40ish, so I didn’t want to buy one first in until I was sure that the hedgehog would stay around and with the rain we have here, feeding outside seems an impossible idea – food would get wet the whole time. I am not really capable of making anything – no car so hard to buy the right materials and just not very handy at this kind of thing.

    What is an underbed store please?

    #18956

    Hi Nic & Aggie

    I have lurked here for many years and have really enjoyed reading about everybody’s prickly visitors. I am an avid hedgehog watcher and feeder too!

    I have been prompted to register in order to support the use of a Hogilo as a feeding station. There is absolutely no difference between lifting a whole Hogilo up and moving a brick/un-clipping a lid off an under-bed storage box. I feed hedgehogs in the middle of my lawn due to an occasional rodent problem (the latter don’t like venturing into the middle of my lawn I find). A Hogilo type feeding station allows me to easily move it to a ‘clean’ piece of grass and furthermore, it means I don’t end up with scorched grass through the usually clear plastic nor yellowed grass. I am always amazed at my visitors’ ability to find the new position straight off – it’s generally only a yard or so.

    I watch my hedgehogs off my house security cameras so I get a grandstand view. There were two separate visits last night, a total of 56 minutes was spent inside the feeding station and 2 hours 14 minutes foraging in the garden. It’s a good job I can watch back at 16 times speed.

    I have always used this type of feeding station rather than a wooden/plastic box which requires cleaning. If the grass needs cleaning, easily dealt with by a hose/in the dog poop bin. I wouldn’t though use one for a hibernating home as I would be concerned that it was potentially causing a hedgehog to hibernate on a damp surface.

    Happy hog watching!
    Kippy Ben

    #18957

    Hi Kippy Ben
    An unbend store is just a plastic storage container with a lid, that fits under a bed. The ones used for hogs have a hole cut out at one end to allow the hogs entry.
    I use one in my garden and I got my hubby to cut the whole due to my arthritis – the hogs use it on a nightly basis. However I also put a brick inside to stop the cats. The brick is far enough away from the entrance to let the hogs in but too near the entrance for the cats to squeeze in.
    Not sure if you have internet? I bought one of my wooden hog houses online, it’s quite good and currently has an occupant – it cost approximately £20.
    Sounds like you’ve got the hog bug! 😂 we are truly blessed to have hogs visiting and taking up residence – But be warned if your anything like me it may just take over your life! 😂
    Best wishes x

    #18958

    Just realised I should have directed my post at Aggie rather than Kippy Ben ! Sorry for any confusion 😂

    #18961

    Hi Aggie,
    The main thing is that Hedgehogs need separate houses for feeding and hibernating/sleeping/having babies.
    You will probably get more than one hog and if it’s hibernating it shouldn’t be disturbed by another hog coming in to feed or by it being lifted to put food in.
    There was a post on here about how the temperature is very important for a hibernating hog so lifting the hogalo could be detrimental to the hogs welfare.
    Hogs can move nests during hibernation so he might move on.
    If he is still hibernating I would not do anything to disturb him and would not put food in there.
    When it comes to feeding you will need another house or an underbed storage box. It’s also important to make it cat/fox proof.
    Do you have someone that could saw a hole for you in a storage box?
    Alternatively I have read NIC has made a food station using plant pots.
    I will see if I can find the post.
    Keep us posted how you go.

    #18978

    Apologies Hettihog for causing some confusion. I posted a comment and then tried to edit it after I noticed a minor typo. On re-submitting it, I lost my post in the ether! Further apologies if I end up posting twice.

    Here is the gist of my post and it was addressed to Aggie and Nic re a differing opinion on the use of a Hogilo as a feeding station. In my experience, it is just as easy to lift up a whole Hogilo as taking a brick off and unclipping a lid from the rest of a crate in order to gain access to a feeding station.

    I use an igloo type feeding station which is placed in the middle of my lawn due to occasional rodent problems – rats tend not to venture too far out onto the lawn. Cleaning is simple, I just move the igloo to another patch of lawn, dog poop bag/a hose down of the grass takes care of any cleaning – rarely required. Also, it always amazes me how a change in location never fazes the hogs. Straight there at a gallop. If I were to use a clear plastic crate, I would most likely end up with scorched or yellowed grass.

    I watch my hogs via my house security cameras so I get a grandstand view. Last night there were two separate visits with 56 minutes in total spent in my igloo feeding station and 2 hours 14 minutes spent foraging around the lawn and flower beds. It is a good job that I can watch back at 16 times speed. My hogs’ domestic arrangements must suit.

    Conversely, I personally wouldn’t use an igloo as a hibernation home. It is difficult to check for occupation without more intrusive checking unless you have a camera/employ a telltale stick across the door. With no base, I would be concerned about wet patios and damp soil.

    Wholeheartedly agree though about not combining both feeding and hibernation activities in the same house.

    Happy hog watching everyone. My hogs disappeared on October 19th last year (yes, sad enough to keep records) so fingers crossed that I can enjoy them a bit longer this year.

    Kippy Ben

    #18981

    Nic

    The main thing is not to confuse feeding houses, hogilos, whatever, with hibernation nesting places. So that if you want to use a hogilo as a feeding ‘house’ don’t put hay in it (which might encourage hogs to nest). But you will also need to somehow fix it to the ground so that predators or cats can’t gain access (whether for nesting or feeding). Personally, I think boxes are preferable as both nesting boxes or for feeding, even if hogilos tend to be cheaper. It’s not really a good idea to have a feeding station near to nesting places, as it might attract predators.

    You don’t have to use the lid of an underbed store, KippyBen, just use it upside down, so that it could be used in the same way that you are using the hogilo. But, would of course need weighing/pegging down, like a hogilo to avoid cats/predators. They have the advantage that you can get see through ones.

    It isn’t a good idea to check for occupation by disturbing a nest of any kind, so I don’t think a hogilo is a problem in that respect. In the wild hogs would be building their hibernacula on the ground. They build a layer of vegetation at the bottom as well as on top inside the structure. To the hogs, a hogilo is not a hogilo, just a structure, within which they can build a nest if they choose. Similar to a network of branches in hedge.

    But likewise, Aggie, if there is any chance the hog is hibernating in the hogilo, it isn’t a good idea to lift it up at all. (not a good idea to disturb any nesting hog). It should be left, otherwise you could be not only disturbing the hog, but also altering the temperature. If hogs have made a proper hibernating nest, it should be well insulated so that the hogs can maintain a pretty constant, if fairly low, temperature during hibernation. But they will have taken into account the actual hogilo as part of that. The hog there may not actually be hibernating yet, if it is still eating food, but I would not disturb it in the nest anyway.

    Hogs put down two types of fat before hibernation. One type keeps them ticking over and the other gives them energy to arouse from hibernation. Hibernation is not sleeping, it is a slowing down of bodily functions. A useful mechanism to allow them to survive when their natural food sources are not so readly available. But if they are disturbed unnecessarily, they could be wasting some of that fat.

    As well as feeding boxes, I use a sheet of perspex type material resting on 4, 2 litre earth filled posts with bricks on top to stop the sheet blowing away/cats lifting it. You could use any sheet of material. I just use perspex type material as it’s see through (and I hapened to have some around!) Some hogs aren’t keen on going in boxes, but seem to think this arrangement is still outside. It also, of course helps keep the food dry if it rains. Because it’s quite low, the cats aren’t keen on going under it. The larger the sheet of material the better – the further cats will have to go to reach the food. If you place this arrangement against a wall, it means they can’t access it from that side, so makes it more difficult. But the hogs would still have escape routes in all other directions if they needed it. The sheeting is easily removable for daytime.

    #18984

    Thank you so much to Hettihog, simbo65, and Kippy Ben for your helpful messages.

    Clearly I have made a beginner’s mistake with the sleeping/eating arrangements for this year, and so cannot properly put it right at present. What I am now planning to do though is to buy a little wooden hedgehog house for sleeping in, ( the hog not me ha ha!) as I have now discovered that some are not as expensive as I thought, and will locate this elsewhere in the garden with some hay in it. I don’t really have anyone to sort out the underbed hole needed, and I quite like the wooden ones anyway.

    Then if the little hedgehog goes for a wander this autumn or winter he might find it and decide to move in there instead, or another hedgehog might do (though I sense that there is only one at the moment). It seems that after his recent sleep he DID go for a walk maybe yesterday as my husband found a giant poo on the path as a present for all the food he has been stuffing recently!

    I will keep the ‘igloo’ for a feeding station, next Spring when I am able to clean it out after the winter, assuming that the hedgehog stays in there, but I don’t have enough places to move it around.

    All the time he had been feeding in there I had been checking it for poos etc, and it had actually stayed pretty clean. This hedgehog seems to be house trained and only left one in there on a couple of occasions. It is set on earth but as it’s got plenty of hay in there, I am assuming that the hedgehog used some of it underneath him, as I guess they have to do with leaves in the wild. I had hoped to put some dry leaves in there, but no sooner than I thought of it, than it began to rain here, and hasn’t stopped for weeks so everything outside has been sopping wet. In fact if it dries up a bit next week the hog may well go for more wanders again before settling down properly.

    #18986

    Nic

    Hi Aggie

    If I were you, I would leave the hogilo for the hog to nest in, as it clearly likes it in there, and use the new box as a feeding box. I think you were right, when you mentioned above that the hogilos are really designed, if not only for hibernation, at least for nesting. It might become a problem if you don’t have much room to move it around, using it in the way Kipppy Ben does. But you might also find that the hogilo doesn’t last very long. They aren’t designed to last as long as a box does.

    Another problem with using a hogilo for feeding, is that they have all sorts of nooks and crannies for parasites or their eggs to hide. Ideally with a wooden feed box/container, where you might have more than one hog coming and going, you would want to clean it out with boiling water from time to time to get rid of parasites and/or their eggs, etc. Hogilos don’t really lend themselves to that. Plastic storage boxes, don’t have the same corners, and places for parasites to hide, so are easier to clean, even though you can’t use boiling water on them.

    Until you get a box, or as an alternative, you could use the sheet balanced on pots arrangement, which I mentioned above. Most people have flower pots around and you might have something which you could use as a roof. I would put this on some sort of paving, so that it’s easily cleaned. The hogs won’t mind what it looks like.

    I know you mentioned it’s been raining a lot there, but hogs normally like to take their own nesting material in themselves to build their nests, so if you leave a supply of suitable material (leaves, long grasses, etc.) nearby to the hogilo, under some bushes, or the like, they can select what they would like to take in. Some hogs apparently even take nesting material out of hog houses if they don’t approve of it! But the hog might like to add to what you have already put in the hogilo. They use an enormous amount of material for a hibernation nest. Apparently in the wild they can measure about 50cm in diameter!

    Good luck with the hog. I hope it decides to hibernate in your garden.

    #19005

    Thank you Nic. I had a chat with one neighbour this morning and it turns out that they too are feeding ‘our’ hedgehog. We think it’s the same one as apparently it comes through our hedge to them. I thought that was very funny and explains the huge poo it left us the other day. At least there is no chance of it being short of food if I don’t feed it.

    I have now taken the food dish out of the hogilo and found a temporary shelter for it nearby. It’s actually a potting tray which is leaning at an angle of 45 degrees resting on a firm surface and where I had first found the hedgehog sheltering about 2 months ago though it had climbed inside a plastic bag where I was storing my cardboard and paper to go into the compost bin. It was curled up asleep and very dry but I thought it was dead! I have moved out the bags now and put a feeding dish underneath with the water dish nearby. I will think of a more permanent solution but this will do for now as it’s a big tray and the food should stay dry.

    As for the hogilo and the damp hay well, I think I will be reported to the hedgehog authorities for being a bad landlord re his/her housing debacle. I was pretty sure that the hedgehog had departed from it, maybe scared off by the noisy tree cutters the other day (and me lifting the hogilo to get the food dish out). I gently checked and the hog had gone, so have removed all the damp hay and put a little dry hay back in with a bit outside too, and done a double cover on the top of the hogilo with an empty compost bag to ensure it doesn’t get so wet in there again. Everything is sopping wet in our garden from the constant rain, but we are supposed to have a break from it now.

    Meanwhile I will buy a little wooden house too as I still think that might be useful for either our hedgehog or a 2nd one maybe since the hogilo will no doubt rot quite quickly in our weather down here.

    #19006

    Nic

    Hi Aggie

    That so lovely that your neighbour is feeding the hogs as well. I say hogs, because it’s quite likely (when it is not hibernation time) that if there’s one hog around, there will be more. It saves the worry of trying to get someone to feed the hogs when you go away as well!

    Your new feeding place sounds a good solution. That hog sounds as if it’s lucky to still be around – had a few adventures by the sound of it! It shows how easy it could be for them to end up in the rubbish by mistake. Lucky that you found it and gave it some tlc.

    To be honest, I’m not terribly keen on those hogilos. I got one as my first hog abode, but it was never very successful and they just don’t last so long. So it saves money in the long run getting a box instead. But you can never have too many hog houses, I don’t think! Well, as long as there’s room for other wildlife friendly features as well. Gives the hogs a bit of choice if nothing else.

    Good luck with the hog. Wishing a happy and successful hibernation to all hogs everywhere.

    #19016

    Thank you Nic. In fact this hog has 9 lives as my neighbour on the other side first found it in August (well we assume it’s the same one) INSIDE his watering can which he claims was standing up at the time, but luckily with no water inside. I guess the poor thing was looking for water. I am trying to retrain this neighbour not to put down the toxic slug pellets next growing season but not sure if he will comply. I plan to buy him some of the non toxic variety in the hopes that will persuade him.

    I will post separately about the new little house that is arriving and how best to preserve it without damaging the hedgehog.

    #19022

    Nic

    Hi Aggie

    That sounds like one lucky hog! Very unfortunate about the slug pellets, though. Do you know any friendly sheep farmers, because wool is quite, good, although you do have to change it from time to time. But from what I’ve heard, if you use slug pellets, all that happens is more slugs move in – beer traps likewise. I’m not sure the non-toxic slug pellets really are safe either. There are lots of alternatives i.e. copper tape/mesh, garlic water. But it depends what he’s trying to protect.

    There was another conversation about slugs recently but I can’t find it at the moment. People will add things onto the end of other topics, which makes it very difficult to find them later! Not sure if that one was, but they often are!

    P.S. Just found that conversation – near the end of this topic https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/forums/topic/feeding-station/page/2/

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