Around six weeks ago, we spotted a small hedgehog wandering around on the lawn in the middle of the afternoon. It's a bad sign seeing any hedgehog out during daylight hours, and particularly autumn juveniles, so we picked him up and took him inside in a cardboard box. The wife fed him some cooked chicken while I set about building a hospital enclosure in the garden from some old materials and wire mesh, basically anything we had lying around.
We kept him confined in a remote area of the garden down the side of one of the sheds, made a nest box from an upturned plastic container with an entrance arch cut into one corner, and stuffed it with shredded paper.
He took to his new territory immediately and soon lost his fear of us, even allowing the wife to stroke his nose without him curling up into a ball !
We fed him on tinned cat food, mashed-up boiled eggs, pet shop hedgehog food* and assorted kitchen scraps, and after four or five days he'd returned to more nocturnal habits.
So then we modified the enclosure to allow him to leave, but also to return any time if he wanted. We made a 180 degree return tunnel entrance section through the mesh wall so the hedgehog can access it easily, but the farmer's cats can't get in to steal the food.
|enclosure with labyrinth entrance and covered feeding station -|
back wall is a 45 gallon drum, side wall is an old shower panel
We watched the hedgehog leave, thinking that we'd probably never see him again, but we were wrong - he still comes back to the enclosure several times every evening !
Unfortunately he's no longer sleeping in our home-made nest box, which he did for his first few days of freedom, but he's obviously built a more comfortable home elsewhere. So we demolished the nest box, although we might build a better version early next year so see if we can attract a permanent resident.
We've made sure there's always fresh water and dried catfood available in the enclosure. The hog has bulked up considerably in the last month, and is hopefully now big enough to survive hibernation when he eventually settles down for the winter. The weather's been very mild so far, and he's showing no signs of reducing his visits as yet, although there's a heavy frost forecast for tonight.
Soon after I'd built the enclosure, I rigged up an old cheapo wireless CCTV camera on a 12V battery so we could keep an eye on him from the comfort of the house. The camera has infrared LEDs that switch on automatically at dusk, so we can see him in total darkness - the LEDs are big power consumers, though, so the battery needs changing out every couple of days.
We've six wired CCTV cameras fitted around the house outside, but the DVR has eight channels so there's a couple available for mobile and wildlife cams.
Anyway, here's an edited video of one of the hedgehog's early evening visits late last week. The picture quality's not exactly top-notch, with occasional interference, but it's clear enough.
This is my first foray into uploading a video to the blog, and maybe it's just my laptop but this video is either too small to see properly, or too large and grainy on full-screen. Some size inbetween would be much better, but I don't know how to configure it.
This is a typical feeding visit, in and out again in around ten minutes, and he'll do this many times each night.
We've enjoyed nursemaiding the hedgehog and remotely watching his nocturnal returns, so much so that I've since bought a couple of wireless adaptors that we can fit to much higher-spec CCTV cameras.
I've a lot of stuff already in the workshop that I could use to build more sophisticated wildlife cams - a couple of Computar long-zoom CCTV lenses we can hook up to decent cameras, an old multi-channel radio control transmitter, receiver & servos that I acquired years ago but never found a use for, and I've even got some 12V geared motors.
The RC equipment and motors could be used for motion drives for a pan-tilt head - I might knock something up over the winter....
* another big marketing con - pet shop hedgehog food seems to be just dried cat food, but in a smaller packet and at five times the cost. So, he's now fed on the dried stuff from ALDI, at 85p per kilo, and he laps it up...