🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Monday, 22 December 2008


Hedgehogs are wonderful pets who are easy to care for! My first hedgehog joined the family in November of 1995 and since then the family has blossomed to about 50 permanent resident hedgies. We have also raised over 200 litters of babies. So, we feel we can say we do have some experience in raising hedgehogs, though there is still so much to learn about our prickly buddies. The aim of this page is to provide a basic care sheet that says the minimum you'll need to know in order to properly take care of a hedgehog. Please feel free to reproduce this care sheet in part or in whole, just be sure to give credit to the source. Thanks!

A metal or plastic cage (like those made for guinea pigs or ferrets) works great, or a 20 gallon or larger aquarium. Make sure that the cage gas at least 2 square feet of floor space, and that the cage bottom has no wire grates that little hedgehog feet can fall through and get hurt on. Clean the cage at least once a week, and odour won't be a problem. For more ideas on cages, have a peek here or read the cage reviews.

Provide a hiding place or cover for the hedgehog to hide under, so that it will be less nervous. Large "critter logs," a shoe box or Kleenex box with a side cut out, or a "hedgebag" (available from Hedgehog Valley) work well.

You will want to keep the housing in a warm area of the house. Hedgehogs are from a warm environment and need to stay warm, but not too hot (about 68F to 85F is usually a good range). Reptile heating pads can work well in the winter, but make sure that the pad is not under the entire cage so that if your hedgehog starts to overheat, it can move to a cooler spot.

Unless you are attempting to breed hedgehogs, keep males and females separate. If a female has babies while there are other hedgehogs in the cage, it is likely to cause her stress and either she or the other hedgehog are likely to eat the babies. Also, hedgehogs can get pregnant when they are as young as 8 weeks old, but this is not healthy for them. A female hedgehog should not be bred until she is at least 6 months old. For more thoughts about breeding, check here.

In the wild, hedgehogs are solitary animals. In captivity, some hedgehogs will accept (or even crave) the companionship of other hedgehogs, but don't necessarily assume this is the case. Hedgehogs can have lethal room-mate disputes, so if you decide to try to house two hedgehogs together, be sure to observe them closely (or at least be within earshot to separate them in case of fights) for at least the first 24 to 48 hours. Hedgehogs can emit a blood-curdling scream when upset or hurt, but they can also get into fairly quiet tussles, so be careful.

Add a one to two inch layer of pine, aspen, ground corn cob, or other small animal bedding to your hedgehog's home. Don't use cedar because the aromatic oils can cause respiratory illness or death in hedgehogs (and many other small animals). There really is no such thing as a perfect hedgehog bedding, so you may want to experiment. Some folks report great results with Astroturf, which they remove to wash on a daily or every-other day basis, and plain newsprint has been used with satisfaction, too. A recent innovation is the use of pads made of vellux material, which also requires frequent washing.

Hedgehogs need lots of exercise, as they tend to become obese with inactivity. A large wheel (11" diameter or so) is recommended. Be sure that the running surface of the wheel is solid, so that the hedgie is not at risk for slipping and breaking legs.

Most hedgies are pretty curious and love toys they can push, chew, or manipulate. Some of the things ours have enjoyed include solid rubber balls, small toy cars, large plastic toy trucks, toilet paper tubes, and rawhide chews. I've even seen a hedgie spend half the night pulling a price tag off of a plastic flower pot bottom! Be creative, but always try to think safe.

Diet is an area where there is still considerable controversy. We still don't know exactly what a hedgehog needs, but there have been preliminary studies at the Bronx Zoo. Information presented at the 1998 Go Hog Wild Hedgehog Show and Seminar indicated that hedgies need a diet that consists of good protein and is low in fat. A fibre content of approximately 15% (preferably from chitin, but hedgehogs can utilize fibre from plant sources, too) is optimal. It was found that at this time, no single food fully meets the optimal nutritional requirement for hedgehogs. Many of the hedgehog foods on the market do a pretty good job of meeting most of the needs, but a good quality commercial cat food didn't seem too much off the mark, either, according to the statistics given in the presentation.

The message I walked away with was that we should choose carefully so that our hedgies get a diet that has good quality proteins in it, is low in fat, and provides a good source of fibre. It was noted that hedgehogs require approximately 70 to 100 calories per day, but that they can eat many times this. So, if your hedgie appears to be getting fat on what you are feeding him or her, you may want to limit the quantity that you make available. Hints for helping out overweight hedgies can be found here.

I give my hedgies a diet that is mainly dog food, but offer treats as well, especially treats with fibre in them (rice, beans, baby foods, pasta, as well as meal worms and crickets). Mixing in baby oatmeal flakes is a great way to add fibre, too. My herd really likes Spike's Delite Hedgehog Food

So, what do I feed my hedgehog?
I have seen verifiable reports of individual (or groups) of hedgehogs fed a single cat food that have been diagnosed with nutritional problems. Based on these reports, IAMS cat food alone, Fred Meyer cat food alone, or Science Diet Lite alone do not appear to be good bets for your pet's diet. I'm a firm believer that a varied diet is as helpful for hedgehogs as it is for humans. Thus, my hedgies' mainstay is a mix of foods. Typically, our mix includes a large proportion of Nature's Recipe Puppy and Authority Adult Cat, with smaller amounts of other foods such as Eagle, Pedigree puppy, Spike's Delite, Maxx Nutrition, Purina One, and Eukanuba mixed in. We mix in baby food oatmeal flakes with the dry food, in order to increase the fibre content, and try to offer treats several times per week to increase variety.

The more you handle your hedgehog, the more it will get used to you is a good rule of thumb to remember.

At first, your hedgehog may be scared. It may ball up or puff air and click its tongue to scare away any potential predator (you). Approach your hedgehog slowly and quietly to gain its trust. Pick up your hedgehog from underneath to avoid the quills. You shouldn't need gloves to pick it up, even if it is scared, since you can slide your fingers underneath to distribute the weight. If you are afraid of being pricked, then take a pair of gloves and get them smelling like you (tuck them under your pillow for a couple of nights, or put them in your shirt for a while) so the hedgie will associate your smell with being picked up.

The article at http://hedgehogvalley.com/hatesme is something I consider required reading for all prospective hedgehog owners.

The Hedgehog World & Chins-n-Quills Bulletin Boards are my favourite resources on the net.

Try plugging the word "hedgehog" into any search engine and see what comes up!

Follow the links from this and other hedgehog websites, and have fun!

Don't be surprised if your hedgie starts shedding a lot of quills when he or she is between about 8 and 12 weeks of age. This is a normal process, and is known as "quilling." The hedgehog is simply shedding baby spines and you should be able to see new adults spines pushing through the skin. To be on the safe side, though, you may want to check for mites or fleas. Signs of mites include crustiness around the quills and seriously dry looking skin. Fleas can be treated effectively with Frontline spray on and several options are also available by prescription for treating mites. Ask your vet for more information. When adolescent hedgies are "quilling" they may be somewhat grumpy, but should return to normal temperament once the quills are in.

This care sheet was written by Antigone M. Means-Burleson of Hedgehog Valley

Sunday, 21 December 2008


Take a peek at these Hedgehog Colours!


Salt and Pepper

Ruby-eyed Connacot



Pale Apricot


Chocolate White

Chocolate Chip


Charcoal White


Brown White


Brown Snowflake

Black-eyed Cinnacot


Algerian Chocolate

Algerian Dark Cinnacot

Algerian Apricot

Algerian Dark Grey

Algerian Cinnamon

Algerian Cinnacot Snowflake

Algerian Chocolate White

Algerian Chocolate Snowflake

Algerian Apricot Snowflake

Algerian Brown

Most of the above pics from


Thursday, 18 September 2008

Farm Talk - Sunny, the Black Sunbird

Sunny, the Black Sunbird Female

I feel very sorry for Gary Craye of Hartebeespoort (his letter in “In Your Garden” June/July 2003 issue), as I have had a similar experience to M. Joubert of Sedgefield.

I had a resident pair of Black Sunbirds on our 8,5ha smallholding in Tarlton (district Krugersdorp), nesting in a (high!) Blue gum tree outside the Cottage kitchen. After a severe windstorm, I found two tiny chicks (identity unknown to me at that stage) on the lawn, one dying shortly after I had picked them up.

I scoured the trees for signs of any nests, only to notice one hanging from a branch by a couple of threads, much too high for me to reach or repair. After closer inspection, the obvious long beak was an indication that I had a little Sunbird on my hands. I have reared many little chicks, all seed, fruit or insect eaters, but have never dealt with a nectar feeder!

In a panic, I phoned our local (bird expert) veterinarian, who told me of a product (powder) which you mixed with water to feed nectar feeders. I rushed out, bought a supply of the nectar and shortly the little Sunbird was greedily feeding from the syringe. It was a little female (brown and stripy) and I have yet to come across a more loving and intelligent bird.

At night, she would sleep in her basket, surrounded by warm towels and during the day, she would perch either in her cage or on my shoulder, graduating to sleeping on top of the cage. During the day, she would flit around the house, following me from room to room. When hunger struck, she would perch on my shoulder, begging for food by pushing her beak into my ear, neck and anywhere else she saw fit! I had some Kniphophia (Red Hot Pokers) and various vines and flowering creepers in the garden – I would pick the flowers for her and she immediately would dip into them, sucking at the nectar, begging for more.


Then came the day of her first sojourn outside. I hoped and prayed that she would be safe, and as I walked outside with her perching on my shoulder, she surveyed her surrounds, cocking her little head from side to side. Then suddenly she took off, flitting around madly, tweeting in her excitement. I brushed aside a couple of tears, ready to say goodbye, but the next instant she was back on my shoulder, insisting on my cupped hand to nestle in (her favourite place whenever I would take an afternoon nap on the couch).

These outings continued for about two weeks until, as soon as she saw the open door, she would go out, staying out the whole day, only coming home at dusk, to contentedly sit on top of her cage, turning her head away and sneering at the Avian nectar being offered her – she’d had better than that!

I noticed that nectar was actually quite a small part of her diet, as she spent most of the day snatching insects off tree branches and leaves.

Then Sunny (as I called her) discovered a male and, of course, they lived happily ever after! I was very sad to say goodbye to such a WONDERFUL little creature, but at the same time, SO thankful to have been allowed to have a peek into the wonderful world of one of God’s greatest creations – birds.
Black Sunbird Male

Black Sunbird Nest

Sunbird facts
The family ranges in size from the 5-gram Black-Bellied Sunbird to the Spectacles Spiderhunter , at about 30 grams. Like the hummingbirds, sunbirds are strongly sexually dimorphic, with the males usually brilliantly plumaged in metallic colours. In addition to this the tails of many species are longer in the males, and overall the males are larger. Sunbirds have long thin down-curved bills and brush-tipped tubular tongues, both adaptations to their nectar feeding. The spiderhunters, of the genus Arachnothera, are distinct in appearance from the other members of the family. They are typically larger than the other sunbirds, with drab brown plumage and strong down-curved beaks.

Species of sunbirds that live in high altitudes will enter torpor while roosting at night, lowering their body temperature and entering a state of low activity and responsiveness.

Distribution and habitat
Sunbirds are tropical species, with representatives from Africa to Australasia; the greatest variety of species is in Africa, where the group probably arose. Most species are sedentary or short-distance seasonal migrants. The sunbirds occur over the entirely of the family's range, whereas the spiderhunters are restricted to Asia.

The sunbirds and spiderhunters occupy a wide range of habitats, with a majority of species being found in primary rain forest, but other habitats used by the family including disturbed secondary forest, open woodland, open scrub and Savannah, coastal scrub and alpine forest. Some species have readily adapted to human modified landscapes such as plantations, gardens and agricultural land. Many species are able to occupy a wide range of habitats from sea level to 4900m.
Sunbirds are active diurnal birds that generally occur in pairs or occasionally in small family groups. A few species occasionally gather in larger groups, and Sunbird will join with other birds to mob potential predators, although sunbirds will also aggressively target other species, even if they are not predators, when defending their territories.

They are generally monogamous and often territorial, although a few species of sunbirds have lekking behaviour. Up to three eggs are laid in a purse-shaped suspended nest. The female builds the nest and incubates the eggs alone, although the male assists in rearing the young after hatching.

Relationship with humans
Overall the family has fared better than many others, with only seven species considered to be threatened with extinction. Most species are fairly resistant to changes in habitat, and while attractive the family is not sought after by the cage bird trade, as they have what is considered an unpleasant song and are tricky to keep alive. Sunbirds are considered attractive birds and readily enter gardens where flowering plants are planted to attract them. There are a few negative interactions, for example the Scarlet-Chested Sunbird is considered a pest in cocoa plantations as it spreads parasitic mistletoes.

Orange breasted Sunbird

Collared Sunbird

Nectarinia_regia Sunbird

Plain-throated Sunbird

Purple-rumped Sunbird

Red-chested Sunbird

Crimson Sunbird - Male above and Female below

Pics from Wikipedia


FARM TALK - The World of Jacko

Hi! I am Jacko, a Foxie/Jack Russell cross, living at Ga-Sethlong, a beautiful home on a small-holding on the edge of the Cradle of Human Kind in Gauteng, South Africa. I was born on the 1st September 2005, to a healthy litter of 7, with 3 brothers and 3 sisters. This is my story.

When I was about 4 weeks old, I remember catching a glimpse of the world for the first time - a confusing array of brothers and sisters and blankets (up until then, it was my Mother’s smell that guided me to her warmth and that wonderful, warm and satisfying taste of milk). There were strange goings-on, with faces popping in and plenty of oohing and aahing. For a couple of days this carried on, but this was home and was comforting in a strange way.

Then, when I was 5 weeks old, in the dark of one night, a hand grabbed me from my Mother’s side, whipped me into a bag and swiftly I was spirited off to a strange and unknown world. I was beside myself! Where was everybody? Where was my Mother?! I cried all night long, getting a couple of smacks in the process, to my utter horror.

I spent an utterly miserable night, shivering in the strange bag, rough and cold on my skin. I slept fitfully, waking often and calling for my Mother, but to no avail.

The next morning I was unceremoniously hauled out of the bag and carried by the scruff of my neck (I struggled profusely, but just got a smack for my efforts from this unkind stranger) to the street corner, where the stranger was offering me for sale to all the passers-by.
The streets were bustling with activity and strange smells and noises and several people stopped and petted me. Someone prodded me with a sharp object and pulled my ears, to see “if he would make a good watch dog”. They laughed scornfully when I yelped and struggled to free myself from the grip on my neck.

We spent most of the morning standing there and I endured a couple of hours of being passed from one person to another, hoping for a kind hand or word, but was just handed back roughly to my tormentor.

I was starving and a cold wind was howling around the buildings. I tried to snuggle closer to the stranger but was roughly tucked under his arm while he lit a cigarette.

By this time, the stranger was desperate to get rid of me and when a man stopped and enquired if he could hold me, the stranger impatiently handed me over. The man fondled my ears and stroked my back with his warm hands. My heart leapt at this act of kindness and I licked his fingers, eliciting a smile from him. The man haggled with the stranger for a while and they obviously settled upon a price, because the next minute he wrapped me in his coat and carried me to his car.

When we got to the man’s car, he took off his jacket, wrapped me in it so that only my head stuck out (it was SO warm!) and we drove off. We drove for quite a while but even though I was starving, I felt warm and somehow at ease.

When arrived at our destination, the man lifted me out and carried me into his house. There we were met by his wife and he told her about the unkind stranger and how miserable I had looked when he saw me. She cradled me in her arms and immediately gave me some warm milk to drink. I lapped it up! It wasn’t like my Mother’s milk, but I decided it would do for now. The man’s wife (I discovered her name was Maree), made a warm bed of blankets for me on the couch and I immediately fell asleep with Maree sitting next to me - warm and content, but dreaming of my Mother and making soft little yelps in my sleep. I hadn’t slept since the previous night I had spent in the bag, cold and unhappy.

When I awoke, a new life started for me. I received unconditional love from Maree and Dave and soon the memories of my Mother started to fade. I have a special blanket of my own, which is soft and furry like my mom and sometimes when I’m curled up in it, I still have visions of my mom and get the urge to suck and paw the blanket.

I was also introduced to Maree and Dave’s other dog, Tyson, a HUGE Rottweiller, and at first I was very cautious. But Tyson soon made it clear that he was quite happy to see me and we now have a wonderful time in the garden playing tag or just being silly. I think he was a bit lonely before I came along.

Now I spend my days in the lovely garden, revelling in playing games with Maree, who buys me lots of toys, my favorite being my red ball.

I also make sure that the Ducks and Geese and Pheasants don’t stray too far away - there are some very unkind people out there! And I’ve discovered that I’m an EXCELLENT watch-dog! I hear every strange sound and warn Maree & Dave immediately of any impending danger.
As I said, there are some real nasties out there!

My favorite is when we all go out together. Maree lets me fetch my harness and leash, which she then puts on me, and we’re ready to go. I normally look out of the window and love the strange smells wafting past - I then also growl at any suspicious looking characters that look like they’re getting a bit too close for comfort. At our destination, I’m then allowed to explore every nook and cranny (still on my leash - Maree is very fussy that I might get lost or something). After some of these outings I’m really exhausted and then have a good sleep.

At night, after supper, we all watch TV with intervals of short games, naps and snacks. When it’s bed-time, Maree fetches my blanket, which goes on top of their bed in between the two of them and we settle in for the night, me with an ever-vigilant ear. Maree says I still have dreams about my Mother because I sometimes cry in my sleep, but I can’t remember anymore - just a faint glimmer of a childhood that was rudely cut short. But Maree says just as well the horrible stranger stole me, otherwise we wouldn’t be together today ...



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