As Winter approaches and the temperature starts to drop, it's too late in the year to release our hedgehogs back into the wild, as food sources are scarce and they are recovering from illnesses and injuries. We therefore need foster carers who can look after and care for some of our hedgehogs indoors until the warmer weather returns in Spring, when they can be returned to us for release back into the wild. We require our foster carers to love wildlife and to provide a safe, secure environment with food and water every day for a period of up to 6 months.
The hedgehogs that require fostering have been ‘fixed’ and are now awaiting freedom, but they might not be at the correct weight to be released, or need to be rehomed temporarily until Spring, to make room for new arrivals needing treatment at the rescue.
So, what do you need to become a Foster Carer…?
Below is a list of equipment and supplies that you will need in place before we can consider your application:-
6ft hutch - not all hedgehogs will hibernate in their first year (it’s all down to weather conditions and their weight), the more space they have the better, as the hedgehogs will require room to exercise or stretch during the winter months if not in hibernation. Build your own hutch by following our "DIY hutch plans".
Somewhere quiet – no loud noise or children rushing in and out/doors banging etc.
Natural daylight - sheds or garages with windows, hedgehogs are nocturnal and knowing when it is day and night is essential. An opening window and airing occasionally is also necessary.
Warm bedding (fleeces, flannelette sheeting, towels or old dressing gowns) or 'snugglies' as we like to call them. Cut bedding or straw is not suitable bedding material as the loose threads and long strands of straw can wrap around toes/ legs of the hedgehog and cause serious damage if not removed.
Newspapers - used to line the hutch floor, these will need changing daily when cleaning out the hutch. You can also use torn up newspapers as added bedding for extra warmth/insulation.
Food and water bowls, at least 2 per hedgehog – cleaned/washed daily.
Food - cat biscuits and wet meaty cat food (dog food contains too much protein and can upset their tummies); we will advise you on what the Hedgehog eats before you leave with the Hedgehog.
Cleaning equipment and rubber gloves - Hedgehogs are quite messy and the daily cleaning is a necessity. All cleaning materials need to be safe for use with hedgehogs/animal friendly. The rubber gloves are purely for your protection.
Accurate weighing scales (weight to be documented in grams). You will need to weigh and record the weight weekly on a sheet provided. Any weight loss should be reported asap. You can cease weighing weekly but only if the hedgehog goes into full hibernation, then switch to once per month.
If the hedgehog does not go into hibernation, you need to do a weekly bed check and remove any soiled/damp bedding and replace with clean and dry.
If the hedgehog does go into hibernation, DO NOT disturb them, just visually check bedding and gently replace any damp bedding where necessary, but without any disruption to the sleeping hedgehog.
You will still need to put out fresh food and water on a daily basis, as being in a state of torpor (hibernation), they may still become temporarily active to supplementary feed from time to time.
So, what's involved in being a foster carer?
With our hedgehogs at crisis point and a protected species, we need to ensure that you are not only aware of what’s required to be a foster carer, but that you share the passion that we have for saving these beautiful, endangered, spiky little hoggies. We require a high level of commitment and time from you, as well as the necessary equipment to temporarily house the hedgehog(s) and supplies to ensure that the Hedgehog is cared for to an extremely high standard.
A minimum of 1 hour training will be provided at the rescue centre where you will learn how to safely handle the hedgehogs, weigh and feed them and clean them out. You will also be shown the signs to look out for when spotting a poorly hedgehog, so you can ensure your 'hog stays healthy in your care.
If you are happy to proceed with becoming a foster carer, you will be entrusted by Chorley Hedgehog Rescue in caring for one of our very precious hedgehogs. Whilst you have a hedgehog in your care you will be required to monitor it for any conditions and report back to us if any untoward signs are seen, returning the animal to us if necessary.
We will require you to maintain weekly contact with us to report on weight gain/progress, to discuss any issues or concerns you may have and to give us a general quick update to ensure that you are happy with how everything is going. We are here to help make this a very pleasant and enjoyable experience for you. Getting to know your foster hedgehog we hope will be a fun experience, as no two are the same and each has their own prickly personality.
Don't worry, you are not left on your own to cope; we are here to support you and the hedgehogs. We will offer guidance and support where necessary all through your hedgehog fostering period.
What can I expect as a foster carer?
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, just put in a few cooked chicken drumsticks, they love these. Fostering a Hedgehog 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 over handle 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, under no circumstances do you allow them to take the hedgehog out to ‘play with’, or handle it, this is not acceptable under any circumstances. These are endangered and protected wild animals covered by the Wildlife Act and it is an offense to handle any hedgehog without the correct training or knowledge.
Please note: All of our hedgehogs have come from the wild and 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 have all had problems which can range from serious injuries or illness. We have spent a lot of time and money getting them better, so you will understand that we will only allow the hedgehogs to go to the right person, who has completed our training session and has been accepted on our fostering programme.
All our hedgehogs will go back to the wild where possible. We do not hand out hedgehogs to people who wish to keep them as pets, or to anyone that doesn’t have the correct respect and concern we share for hedgehogs.
In Spring, you will return the hedgehog back to Chorley Hedgehog Rescue for us to release back into the wild, after final assessments and health checks. We have some amazing release sites in readiness for next spring. If you have healthy hedgehogs already visiting your garden regularly, we may consider you as a future release site.