musings of a scottish smallholder

Hedgehog Survival February 21, 2012

one of the handlers showing us one of their po...

Image via Wikipedia

Hedgehog found during the day

We recently found a hedgehog on our smallholding.  This is unusual because it was found during the day, and in February.  In the Autumn we discovered a dead hedgehog  -that we had also seen during the day in our woods- which we now  know was probably underweight.  We therefore resolved to actively do something to help this little one.

If you have found a hedgehog here is a website with links to organisations who will care for a hedgehog who needs help. 

Weight of a hedgehog is crucial to its survival and your intervention

The minimum weight for a hedgehog through the winter is 450gms (1lb) and any hedgehog below this weight is likely to have problems. If you find a hedgehog that you are concerned about this will indicate to you whether it may need some assistance.  Although 450gms is the minimum weight, many hedgehog carers prefer to get their autumn juveniles up to 600gms (1lb 6oz) or more to give them an extra edge. Autumn juveniles are youngsters found alone under this critical weight after the end of September, and will need extra help even if it is just additional feeding in the garden.

call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for further advice on 01584 890 801

Initial caring advice for a vulnerable hedgehog

If the hoglet is very young (under 160gms/6 oz) it should be given extra warmth with a hot water bottle wrapped in towelling or a blanket, or a heated pad. It should be placed in a box with plenty of clean, fresh straw, crumpled newspapers or old towelling for bedding. Out buildings are fine if heated but don’t put hedgehogs on a metal grid or wire floor or straight onto concrete – they have sensitive feet and cold will permeate through.

Why is ‘my’ hedgehog ‘sunbathing’ or staggering?

Sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs are very susceptible to hypothermia. When they become cold they are lethargic and go off their food. This makes them even colder! The staggering (or wobbling and rocking) is a sign of hypothermia, and they may look like they are sunbathing as they spread themselves out in the sun in an attempt to get some heat into their bodies.

When they are spotted in this state they need help quickly. They should be taken indoors on a box with a well-wrapped hot water bottle placed underneath them. The bottle must not be allowed to go cold or it will undo the good it has done. Once you have the hedgehog settled and warming up, call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801 for further advice.

Food for hedgehogs

Wild food 

In the wild, damp grassland is the hedgehog’s favourite hunting ground. Hedgehogs will eat the following:

  • Beetles
  • Caterpillars
  • Earthworms
  • Birds Eggs
  • Small Mammals
  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Millipedes
  • Earwigs
  • Bees
  • Birds

Human feeding of hedgehogs

If feeding wild hedgehogs in your garden then a shallow (non-tipping) dish of chicken-based cat/dog food, along with a shallow dish of water, put out each night will help them enormously.

A good hedgehog diet would include tinned pet food, chopped peanuts (not whole ones) or crunchy peanut butter, raw or cooked meat leftovers, muesli and a small amount of vegetables.

Hedgehogs should not be fed on bread and cows milk if they are captive and cannot find other foods; this gives them diarrhoea .

Other food includes:

  • based pet food (not in gravy)
  • cooked chicken (excluding bones)
  • minced beef or lamb
  • a little bran or unsweetened moistened muesli cereal
  • banana
  • raisins
  • unsweetened crushed digestive biscuits
  • dry cat or hedgehog biscuits

Fresh water should ALWAYS be available. Cows milk SHOULD NOT be given.

Hedgehogs are full of fleas and other parasites 

This is the first thought of many people, and may put them off helping a sickly hedgehog.  If it is necessary to remove fleas from a hedgehog, then a commercially prepared mite powder suitable for caged birds or chickens can be dusted amongst the spines (taking care to avoid the eyes of the animal) as an adequate treatment, but do not use on very young hedgehogs.

Blood-sucking ticks are often found on hedgehogs and after taking their fill of blood, will drop off the host in order to complete their life cycle. Removal of these ticks is a difficult task but can be accomplished by dousing the ticks in olive/almond/cooking oil. Removing these ticks with forceps is to be avoided as the inexperienced may leave the mouthparts and head in the skin that may turn septic.

Will my dog/cat get fleas from the hedgehog?

Hedgehog fleas are host specific, which means they will not usually live on any animal other than a hedgehog. Not all hedgehogs have fleas.


Hedgehogs avoid the coldest times of winter by hibernating, usually between November and early April, depending on the weather. If it is warm enough and there is enough food, hedgehogs do not hibernate at all.

click here for a link to a hibernation leaflet.  Or if you want information about a specific time of year or month then here is a good link to the hedgehog year.

If you would like to read more of my articles under the heading of nature click here.

Information sites used in the construction of this post:


The Spice Of Life November 19, 2011

Filed under: articles archive,Poultry,smallholder — fifesmallholder @ 11:28 pm
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moulting hen

Benefits of Cider Vinegar, Garlic, and Poultry Spice to a Smallholder

Some of my hens are moulting, and today I gave them some things that I feel will help them to replace their feathers, and maximise their health, going in to winter.  I don’t mind a drop in egg production over the winter because I think it gives them a bit of a rest, and helps them to stay strong over the long dark, cold, damp days till spring.

The hens seem to stay in their sheds more over winter, and particularly during a cold spell when the ground is frozen or covered in snow.  They therefore have less access to minerals and food that they would normally consume whilst out free ranging in the field or woodland.

Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is an age old product beloved by many traditional chicken keepers to promote all round health and vitality in poultry (and many other animals).

What does it do?

  • Aids digestion, helping to break down minerals and fats and assists the bird to assimulate proteins and convert food better.
  •  Lowers the Ph of the digestive tract, rendering it to be 90% less welcoming to Pathogens.
  •  Provides a natural source of Potassium and other important trace minerals. Helps to improve fertility and general well being.
  •  Depresses the growth of Algae in the drinker (use only in a plastic drinker).
  •  Helps clean the plumage of grease and old bloom, when used in baths. Hence is excellent for show birds.
  •  Clears respiratory tracts
  • Can also be used to treat minor wounds and skin irritations (at a dose of no more than 1 part to 10)
  • cleans feeding and drinking equipment and is often sprayed into and around housing as a very effective fly and insect deterrent.
  • will help chickens with stress which is one of the main contributors to their immune system lowering and letting in disease

How much do I use?

 Add to the drinking water at the rate of 5ml per litre of clean drinking water.
As a guide I would suggest 10ml of Apple Cider Vinegar per litre of fresh water – be careful not to add to much as it may stop the hens drinking which would be a problem.


Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is not an alternative to regular worming. It has been shown to improve resistance to internal parasites but is no substitute. Many keepers use ACV to improve resistance to coccidosis in particular.


Times of stress for a chicken may include:
  • Moving house
  • Introducing new birds or mixing up the pecking order
  • If snow falls on the ground (a stressful change in environment for chickens)
  • After a fright – e.g. fox or dog attack
  • After injury

What is the difference between cider vinegar I get in the supermarket and others?

The difference is that the ACV sold in the supermarket is filtered and pasturised to preserve the product and kill off bacteria. This also kills off the beneficial ‘good’ bacteria. The equine / animal feed ACV is unpasturised and unfiltered.

What about cider vinegar and worms?

Personally, I believe they help make the gut an unpleasant environment for worms but cannot replace a chemical wormer if you have a confirmed case of worms.  If in any doubt, if you don’t want to use a licensed wormer (Flubenvet) then do get a worm count done. As well as the health implications for your birds when not worming correctly, finding a worm inside an egg is unpleasant for you and your customers.  Check out this link for more info on worms and their treatment.
Poultry Spice
Give your birds a boost in Spring or after the moult with this natural nutritional supplement plus extra minerals in a spice base. One teaspoonful to be given in the usual wet or dry mash for every 10 fowls. In cold weather a little more of the powder may be given. Specially recommended for improving all round condition and performance. Invaluable for rearing Poultry, Ducks, Geese, Turkeys and Game birds.


Garlic is supposed to keep the mites and lice away

Photographic opportunities are endless on our smallholding October 22, 2011

Photographic opportunities are endless on our smallholding mushroom at fife smallholder


Scottish Wild Mushroom Code September 26, 2011


Image via Wikipedia

Scottish Wild Mushroom Code – Wild mushroom, what and how to collect?

It’s a very good year for fungi, and we have quite a range of mushrooms in our wood that I like to look at but am too cautious to try to eat.  But for those of you who are more adventurous than I am here is some useful information:

What to collect

  • Wildlife, especially insects, need mushrooms too, so only pick what you will use.
  • Some mushrooms are poisonous and others rare and should not be collected – only collect what you know and take a field guide with you to identify mushrooms where you find them.
  • Some species are vulnerable, so please consider whether there is an alternative species that is more common that might suit your purpose.

How to collect

  • Allow mushrooms to release spores, do not pick mushrooms until the cap has opened out and leave those that are past their best.
  • The main part of the mushroom is below the surface; take care not to damage or trample it and not to disturb its surroundings.
  • Scatter trimmings discreetly in the same area as the mushroom came from.

Check out these links if you want to know more


Wild bird seeds September 11, 2011

Filed under: articles archive,autumn,Nature — fifesmallholder @ 12:34 am
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Our smallholder garden has a big grass plant that the birds enjoy the seeds from in the autumn. There is a delicate balance going on – the sparrows are quite heavy and bob about in the wind.  This is a resident flock that live on our smallholding, but we also get migrant and seasonal birds that visit to eat from the range of berries, nuts, and seeds that are available naturally.


Read more…………

Wild Food September 9, 2011

Filed under: articles archive,autumn,free food — fifesmallholder @ 12:42 am
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Wild Food

I love this time of year (autumn)  on the smallholding, when there are lots of free wild food to eat, pickle, and add to desserts.

wild autumn raspberries