Posted in Environment, Nature

Caring for a hedgehog

Snuffling around

“I heard a growling outside my kitchen window…”

So started Simon’s encounter with a rather spiky garden visitor. Unfortunately this particular creature seemed to be rather poorly, it was wheezing and wasn’t moving much.

Simon put the prickly creature in a cardboard box containing water, and rang up several wildlife rescues. Nobody answered but then again it was after 10pm. Hedgehogs may have been up and about but many humans were heading to the Land of Slumber.

Understandable maybe, but it still left a dilemma for Simon. What to do now? Was the hog hungry? Thirsty? Should he keep Mr/Mrs Tiggywinkle overnight in his house? Should he try and feed the hedgehog?

He decided on the latter, buying dog food at a late night supermarket. Surprisingly, when he got home, the hedgehog was trying to climb out of the box. So Simon found a bigger box and, along with the water and now dog food, back in popped the rather large Mr or Mrs Tiggywinkle.

The following morning, the hedgehog kept escaping.

Simon told me: “It broke out of the cardboard box and hid under the bookcase in the spare room. I found it a couple of hours ago. So I put it in a plastic box. It’s done the same thing again.”

It ate some of the meat so that was one good thing, although food and animals can have consequences. Especially escaping ones.

Meal time

“I don’t mind the hedgehog on the floor,” continued Simon, “although I’d prefer it didn’t poo on the carpet.

“It went exploring in the night. I found poo in front of the TV. I thought I could smell something but presumed that it was just the dog food I’d left out.”

The hedgehog turned out to be an avid reader with a great love of books – or at least that was the way it seemed considering how often he/she headed towards the bookcase. Unfortunately hedgehogs are quite tricky to free from hiding spots under bookcases.

Checking out the book collection

That morning Simon got through to a nearby rescue sanctuary. Taking the hog for a check-up, the hog expert told Simon he had done the right thing by keeping the creature in overnight and recommended he released it that evening as it may have a litter nearby. There was no way of finding out if Spike was male or female as he/she had rolled into a ball when being examined.

The hedgehog slept that afternoon, tucked up in Simon’s fleece. In the meantime, Simon was busy constructing a new home for his house guest. He made the hedgehog house out of wood and stuffed dried grass into the sleeping area. To keep cats and other potential predators at bay, he covered the house with raspberry canes.

Creating a hedgehog home
The finished house
A house for hogs
Fast asleep

By evening, the hog’s breathing was less laboured and noisy. Simon released the still-sleeping hog into its new home, along with food and water. In the morning, the hedgehog had upped and left, back on his or her rounds once more. If you would like to build a hedgehog home for your garden, visit

Posted in Nature

A love of bite-size facts

Factfiles about mute swans and macaw parrots

Recently I wrote a post about planets and a reader’s comment about bite-size facts reminded me of how much I too love quirky and fascinating, interesting and informative facts. I was further reminded when I met my friend and godchildren. Noah, eight, presented me with various factsheets about swans, parrots and peregrine falcons. It turned out to be a very educational weekend – for me!

So here are some facts, courtesy of Noah…

Photo by Anthony on
  1. All the swans in Britain belong to the Queen.
  2. Swans can live for 25 years.
  3. It is illegal to kill swans in Britain.
  4. Peregrine falcons can reach up to 200mph when diving – they are the fastest animals.
  5. There are only 10,000 blue and gold macaw parrots left in the wild and 1,500 scarlet macaws left. This is due to the pet industry and loss of habitat because of deforestation.
Photo by Tim Mossholder on

And here are some extra facts, courtesy of me (and The Miles Kelly Book of Life):

  1. There are at least 360,000 types of beetle – they make up about one-third of all animal species.
  2. Most spiders have six or eight eyes.
  3. Spiders sometimes run fast but it won’t be for very long. The Miles Kelly Book of Life states: ‘Their breathing system is not good enough for sustained exertion’. So don’t worry, spiders can’t catch you!
  4. What is the simplest animal? It is the sponge, which has no proper brain, muscles, nerves – or even eyes.
  5. What mysterious animal that’s rarely seen alive and lives in the deep ocean? Answer? The giant squid.

If I am ever stranded on a desert island, please supply me with a good book of facts and I will be quite content!

Posted in Reblog

Reblog: SOS! Ducklings in Distress! โ€” WALKIN’, WRITIN’, WIT & WHIMSY

Thursday morning was just like any other during this long, hot and rainy Summer of 2021. As I got dressed and ready to leave on my walk, the weatherman was detailing our potentially severe weather and projected inch or so of rain for later that afternoon. The dew point and humidity were both at 75 [โ€ฆ]

SOS! Ducklings in Distress! โ€” WALKIN’, WRITIN’, WIT & WHIMSY

Linda’s duckling story from her blog, Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy, really cheered me, it’s a wonderful animal rescue story but it also highlights the best of humanity and what can be done when people get together to help out. Plus the ducklings are so cute and I love a happy ending (spoiler alert)! ๐Ÿ™‚

Posted in Pets

Tom the guinea pig’s mystery eye problem

Tom’s eye looking a little better

At first it looked like a scratch on the eye and I blamed myself for putting the hay into the guinea pigs’ cage too hastily. Tom would always get in the way, making his way right under the hay for best pickings. I would worry that stray pieces would get into his eyes.

The scratch then seemed to turn into a weird green colour. The pigs had been out on the grass – had a strand of grass got stuck on his eye by some chance?

It wasn’t getting better, it was getting worse. It was time to take him to the vet.

The vet, a very pleasant man who called Tom ‘darling’, peered into Tom’s eyes and stated there was pressure behind them. It was either an infection or a tumour behind the eye. Or it might be glaucoma but that would cause pain and he didn’t appear to be in any pain.

Tom agreed with this last point by greedily and angrily chomping on the cardboard box he was sitting in.

Whatever the problem was, not much could be done, said the vet.

The only long-term solution, continued the vet, was an operation to remove the eye. There were cases of one-eyed guinea pigs who were happily thriving. But there were risks with such an operation due to the animal’s size and there were possible side-effects of anasethia. Also, if it was a tumour, rather than an infection, there would be no point in carrying on.

Hmmm, a big decision. I couldn’t rush into a decision like that. So I opted for the short-term answer – medication. I was given painkiller (Metacam, which is also what Florence and Blaze were given), eye drops and antibiotic. The painkiller was for once a day, the antibiotic was twice a day and eye drops were for three times a day.

Medication for Tom

Tom received medication every day for the next two weeks and the eye, which was full of pus at the worst point, seemed to start healing. The pus, the weird green colour, the scratch is now gone and from a distance it looks healed although, on closer viewing, the bulge is still there although maybe not as prominent.

Three weeks on, I check on him closely and give him the eye drops daily. He’s still chomping away on hay and joins his friend Tim at regular begging sessions for lettuce and other treats.

From past experiences, I have learnt my lesson of being too positive and optimistic when it comes to small animals, of being convinced they are better before they take a downward spiral, but in this case, I remain hopeful.

Posted in Pets, Reblog

2015 – year of the pig

A flashback to a previous blog post, written in 2017, when I first thought about adopting animals. At this point, I did not have any guinea pigs or chickens. Now it’s hard to imagine Cosy Cottage without them!


In 2015, I was all about the chickens. After seeing an article about ex-battery hens looking for homes, I could literally imagine them in my garden. My side garden wasn’t doing anything. It was just there, a spare piece of land filled mostly with stones or random plants, I knew not what they were. So that tiny plot was obviously waiting for my hens, right?

So I joined chicken internet forums, asked questions, made notes of the answers, bought books, became a regular visitor to Fulwood Library (great customer service, thanks Caroline and Chris!) read and researched, perused and contemplated. I saw images of poorly hens and dead roosters, articles on culling and roast chicken recipes, library book chapters on coops and breeds. My relatives told me about rats and smells and noise and neighbours who would report me for annoyances.

I attended jury service and bought a book one lunchtime from Oxfam about ultra-small smallholdings. Somehow during deliberation, among seriously talking about what verdict to reach, there was chat from jurors who knew people who had chickens. So many real people – that is people like me who had normal gardens, not acres – had them pottering about their patios.

For five months, I chatted about chickens.

In March, Simon asked me when I was getting them.

In May, he asked again. Had I got the garden ready for them yet?

Procrastination was in charge though.

I dithered because chickens seemed too ‘alien’ to me, too unusual. It felt like I would be giving farm animals a home rather than pets. I wasn’t a farmer. I shouldn’t have livestock.

And the pictures of poorly hens, queries about rats, criticism about smell… And then there was a case of bird flu not far from me! The last straw!)  ๐Ÿ™

So I rehomed Loco and Bugsy (I did not choose those names!) instead. Not hens, but two guinea pigs who are very endearing and cheeky, and were residing in a pet shop’s Adoption Section.

Loco, the black and white guy, thinks with his stomach and is a first class beggar. Bugsy, the punky red head, can be a tad irritable and reclusive (not as much now he knows there’s food around so it’s worth getting out there to see what’s happening!)IMG_20170915_221432_BURST001_COVER.jpg IMG_20170915_221448_BURST003.jpgbut Loco is his best pal and he misses him when he’s not around.

I had guinea pigs as a child. I knew how to look after them. If you put in the time and effort, they’re pretty easy to care for.

2015 – the Year of the Guinea Pig. ๐Ÿน

Will there be a Year of the Hen? ๐Ÿ”

Posted in Chickens, Pets

Florence’s Illness: Part 2

Florence appears to be recovering

Over the next few days, Flo started to have a routine. She would wake up, I would take her out of the box and place her on the tea towel. Her bowls of food and water would be put in front of her. As she couldn’t see very well out of one eye, I spread her grain on the floor in front of her and she pecked away.

At first it was one tea towel that was placed on the floor as she didn’t go far. Then it was two…

Then I noticed her exploring even further afield; she started heading away from her tea towels and towards the rug. A softer surface, it made sense. It was great to see her using her common sense and it was even better to watch her moving more.

Florence exploring. There are feathers on the floor as she was moulting at the time

I started putting her tea towels on top of the rug, along with her grain and water. I treated her to mealworms and little pieces of kale and cabbage which she loved. Apart from the greens, which I mostly gave her by hand and which she started looking for, I knew I could leave Flo to her own devices. She pecked the rug for the grain. Sometimes she missed, but often she finished the grain which had been put there.

Flo was pottering about more in my living room. She no longer felt tied down by the tea towels or rug.


One Monday afternoon, two weeks on from the start of her illness, I noticed her walking around, before settling down on top of some small boxes. It was getting dark and Florence was ready for bed. It was the first time I had seen her do this and it was a joyful moment as it was such a natural, healthy hen behaviour. Saying that, I did take her down from her makeshift ‘roosting spot’ and put her back into bed aka her box, laid with towels.

Florence looks for a roosting spot

The following morning I got a fright when I heard a noise coming from her box bed. It was Flo, flapping her wings and jumping on top of the box!

And for the next few days Flo jumped/flew out of the box herself.

I started making up plans in my head on how to reintegrate her with the other hens.

One of the days I put her into a see-through cage for half a minute and put her into the chickens’ enclosure. They looked at her; she looked at them with her good eye. And then I brought her back into my house.

One step at a time. I had high hopes though. At worst, if they didn’t accept her or if she never regained the sight in her left eye, she may have to become a house chicken. This was possible with regular cleaning, and a proper pet bed/indoor hen house of some kind rather than a cardboard box.


At best, she would rejoin the other hens and become part of the pecking order again.

But then things took a turn for the worst.

  • To be continued
Posted in Chickens, Pets

Florence’s Illness: Part 1

Florence in ‘hospital’

It started with a sore eye. How Florence got a scratch or an abrasion in her left eye, I don’t know. Only that one weekend when Simon was here, he noticed she was sitting down in the chickens’ garden with her eye closed. Usually she’d be digging for worms or pottering about. But she didn’t look herself at all.

We took her into the house, placing her on the settee, on top of a tea towel. We couldn’t decide whether it was a general lethargy/health issue or a specific eye problem. So I thought I would keep her in a cardboard box overnight in my living room and see how she was in the morning.

Florence just before her visit to the vet

The following morning, Florence was the same. I rang the vet and made an appointment for 5.50pm that same day. During that time, Florence didn’t move much (I had placed her on a tea towel in the living room next to grain and water).

The vet looked at her eyes carefully, coming to the conclusion that it was an abrasion, a scratch of some kind. He gave me Metacam (painkiller) and Exocin eye drops for Florence to take over the next five days. It was with a sense of relief when I left the vet. Okay, there was a problem with her eye but surely if these eye drops are given, she will recover her eyesight? Not that I was looking forward to giving these eye drops. I’m not the most practical of people and Simon had left by then.

Florence’s medication

Thankfully my parents came to the rescue, helped by the fact that my mum is a retired NHS worker. For the next five days, they came to mine to help out. It was a two-person job to hold Florence’s beak open so the syringe with the painkiller would go in. It required two people to adminster the eye drops. Early on I tried just by myself but it was difficult.

So much for my childhood dreams of becoming a vet…

On the fifth day of Flo’s rest and recovery at mine, I decided it was time for a visitor. Partly to boost Flo’s spirits (having visitors worked for Dottie when she was ill) and partly so the other hens would not forget her.


How could anyone forget Flo? True, but chickens are fickle creatures and I wanted them to think of Flo as still being one of them, one of the flock, one of the pecking order.

So ‘top dog’ Jemima was a guest to Flo’s temporary hospital bed. Florence had been looking very sorry for herself up to that point, her eye closed most of the time, but when she saw Jemima she woke up and chatted or, more to the point, chirruped. It was a one-hen dialogue, a soliloquy. Jemima just looked around her until suddenly she flew at Florence. Thankfully, my parents and I had been watching closely and we managed to get the pair separated quickly.

Jemima (photo taken during a time when she was moulting)

Curiously, Florence looked like she had been defending herself just before Jemima was taken away. And interestingly, that same afternoon she seemed more awake and hungry.

Perhaps the visit had stimulated her after all?

Jemima was now barred from ‘the hospital’ but Florence received a couple more visits from guests Ava and Dottie.

Both were closely watched to prevent any more arguments. They were better behaved than Jemima although Ava did help herself to Flo’s mealworms, ignoring Flo, while Dottie’s visits seemed to send Florence to sleep! Florence’s other eye always seem to close as well when Dottie came to visit.


Hope springs eternal as they say, and with the passing days I hoped that there was a subtle improvement even if I couldn’t see it right then.

To be continued

Posted in Pets

Tom and Tim come home to Cosy Cottage


Tom had a quiff in his black hair and strutted around as a teddy boy. Tim was an out and out punk, with streaks of red, white and black.

And they had attitude.

Yes, they may have been small but they had mountains of attitude.

‘Make my day, punk’, Tim would growl at Tom, as he rumblestrutted around.

Showing off like a John Wayne-style cowboy.


Since Loco’s death, back in February, I had been pondering whether my guinea pig Blaze needed – or wanted – another companion. He seemed happy enough, eating and drinking. But everyone I spoke to and everything I read gave the same message – guinea pigs are social animals.

I posted a lonely hearts advert on social media, a friend replied with a link to a guinea pig rescue centre.

There was no luck there so I went back to where I adopted Loco and Bugsy (pictured below).


I found those two at the Pets at Home adoption section, where the ‘preloved’ small animals stayed, looking for a second chance of a good new home.

This time, there were four pigs in two cages – Poppy and Pepper and Tom and Tim.

Now, if Blaze was there, he would have requested the girls, I have no doubt.

And although he was getting on in years (six to be precise), how would I know if he was still capable of being a father? I have heard of the multiplication of guinea pigs, you start off with two and end up with… Hundreds!


No. I did not have the room to keep hundreds of guinea pigs.

That was on a Thursday. On the Sunday, Tom and Tim came home, and for the next few weeks lived in a spare cage, next door to Blaze.


I was told they were under a year old and were given away for rehoming for ‘change of circumstance’ reasons.

There were meet and greet sessions. Blaze studiously ignored them. Tim made his ‘motorboat’ sound and wagged his bottom (my previous pig Bugsy used to do the same). Worryingly, Tom tried to mount Blaze every time he saw him.

I knew this was standard boar behaviour in meeting new males but I was aware of Blaze’s grand age. He didn’t want this sort of aggro at his time of life.

Had I made a mistake? Would he be better off on his own after all?

I opted for two in the end as I didn’t want to be in the situation of having to look for a new partner for the bereaved male when their friend passed on.

But now I was fretting….

In the meantime I had bought a c&c cage. It seemed a good idea at the time, especially as I now had three pigs rather than the two, but when I put it together, at first it seemed cumbersome for my little living room.

Then I couldn’t figure out how to sort the roof out. I think most people who have these go roofless, but with the family jack russells Molly and Teddy visiting on a regular basis, it would be highly dangerous.

But I figured it out. I think.

And then it was moving in day. The trio packed their bags (well, food bowls, water bottles and ‘dens’ /beds/houses) and into their new home they went.


Blaze made a beeline for the cosy soft bed, not budging when the youngsters wanted to get in.

Tom had an unhealthy obsession with trying to climb onto Blaze while Tim ‘brrr-ed’ around the new vicinity.

But they settled down…


… Or so I thought.

Tim and Blaze got on but Tom kept coming over, making a nuisance of himself with Blaze. Tim would then chase him away, as if to say, ‘stop bothering my friend’.

Maybe Tom was jealous of their friendship?

Then Tim was in a real mood one day and was starting to take it out on his new friend Blaze by trying to mount him.

I realised that although Tim seemed to like Blaze, he also had a temperamental personality. One that, in my eyes, was incompatible with elderly boars (male guinea pigs).


So Blaze moved out, back to his bachelor pad, where he lived for another month before he sadly passed on due to old age.

Oddly, the two youngsters seemed to miss old Blaze when he left, looking for him and even whistling at one point.

They now quarrelled a lot. So much that I thought they had scars from fighting.

Or was it ringworm?

When Blaze went to the vet for his bumblefoot, the boys went too. The vet gave them an injection for ringworm and the scabs eventually healed.

I’m still not sure if it was ringworm or fighting scars but it got to the point that Tom seemed scared of Tim, hiding in the ‘attic’ of their abode.

Were they fighting over Blaze? Blaming each other for his absence or was it something else? More importantly, will I need to separate them as well?!


But eventually, they settled down, and now they get on better, except for the odd tiff when one thinks the other has something past him.

Tom has become nearly as cheeky as Loco, demanding tasties when he hears rustling. He’s getting rather chubby as well. The more reserved Tim has started to join in the begging.

Their home now looks a little frayed along the edges – or more obviously, up in the attic – apparently the walls taste good!

Whoever says Guinea pigs don’t have personalities have never met the residents of Cosy Cottage! ๐Ÿน



Posted in Pets

Tribute to Gentleman Blaze


Recently Cosy Cottage suffered another bereavement when well-loved Blaze passed away. He was the eldest of the residents here, between six and seven years of age, and had been feeling various ailments of old age – stiff legs (arthritis probably), blindness in one eye and general slowness.

Blaze previously lived at my Book Club friend Liz’s house. He arrived at Cosy Cottage as an elderly widower a year ago, after losing his friend Fury.

At the same time, Cosy Cottage’s Loco had lost his partner Bugsy.

My book club friend Liz and I decided to try and matchmake these two lonely old men so they would have companionship in their old age.

It worked a treat and, for a year, Loco and Blaze got on very well. Blaze nibbled on his hay contentedly while Loco continued his lucrative career as a professional beggar. Blaze happily helping himself to the profits of Loco’s begging schemes.



When Loco died, I started to search for a pal for Blaze. He seemed to be happy enough, eating and drinking, but still… They do say Guinea pigs prefer to be with others.

So that was when Tom and Tim, pictured below, arrived. Again, like Loco and Bugsy, they came from the adoption section from Pets at Home. Three pigs meant a bigger cage was needed – so I bought a c&c cage with an attic. I went through the same routine as last time, when introducing Loco to Blaze. This included separate cages next to each other and quick, fleeting ‘getting to know you’ sessions.

And then D-day arrived and the the three moved into the large c&c cage – a palace for Blaze, who had been living in a cottage by comparison. But this was when I found that, even though most experts say male guinea pigs need company, it does have to be the right companion, especially for someone of Blaze’s age.


Tim and Blaze got on well until one day Tim started trying to mount Blaze. This is actually natural in the boar world, and is a way of asserting dominance.

But I was concerned about Blaze and any potential stress this may cause at his elder years, so Blaze moved out of the palace and back into his little cottage. The new boys were too young and too boisterous.Blaze really needed an older companion like himself.

I moved him next to my settee so he was closer to human company, if not pig, although he may well have heard the bickering of his quarrelling neighbours from across the room!

Blaze was a quiet, well-mannered boar of simple tastes. As long as he had his hay and his muesli, he did not ask for much. Never complaining and always polite, he was a little gem among pigs.


He was very popular with my godchildren, especially two-year-old Wilfred. I think Wilfred would have loved to have taken Blaze back home with him in his pocket.

Blaze came across as a wise old boar. Rather than demanding treats, he seemed to be meditating on the meaning of life. Saying that, he never turned down anything tasty that came his way.

But he had his health issues. About to cut his nails one day, I noticed there was something wrong with his foot. Was it dried mud? No, it was bumble foot. This is a horrible condition where pigs’ feet get scabs. It can spread to the bones so a visit to the vet was essential.ย 

After a visit to the vet, he was given antibiotic, foot wash and painkiller for this, but sadly, a few days on, he passed on.

I like to think of him going to Dandelion Heaven, where Loco, Fury and all his other pals will have waited for him… And where there will be many fields of dandelion and hay to munch on.ย 


R.I.P Blaze, you were a lovely little gentleman.


Posted in Pets

Tribute to Loco


Cosy Cottage was saddened by a bereavement recently when Loco, a popular boar, passed away, probably because of old age. How old was he? I do not know except to say I adopted him more than three years ago and I have no idea what age he was then.

He first came to Cosy Cottage with his companion Bugsy, from a Pet Adoption section at the pet shop, Pets at Home. The boys already had their names and were apparently looking for a new home because there were two other boars at their last residence and they didn’t get on together. Personally, I think the easy-going Loco would have got on with everyone but Bugsy – well, that was a different story entirely…


Loco and Bugsy had a rather argumentative relationship, Bugsy doing most of the quarrelling. I thought at first that maybe contrary Bugsy didn’t like his partner but if they were separated for short periods of time, Bugsy would look around and whistle for Loco.

He missed him.

On the other hand, Loco didn’t seem to mind being away from his temperamental friend!

Last year, around this time, Bugsy passed on to the Dandelion Paradise where all good – and mischievous – ย guinea pigs go, possibly because of age but I suspect more due to a horrible freezing cold spell (nicknamed ‘The Beast from the East’).


It was then I realised how much the companionship meant to Loco when he slowly deteriorated. Yes, he was still eating, still drinking, but his energy levels had dipped. I would leave his door open and he wouldn’t go out and explore. He acted as if he was deaf. As if he was blind. Or maybe it was simply that he was not as interested in life as before.

It looked like he was grieving and missing his friend.

He might get over Bugsy in time, I mused. Otherwise I would have to go through the ‘boar bonding’ ritual, where introducing one boar to another takes time and patience otherwise fights could break out.


But one day, I came across an internet appeal from my book club friend Liz. She was looking for a new friend for her recently bereaved male pig Blaze. I got in touch and agreed that if it didn’t work out – that is, if they didn’t take to each other – Blaze would go back to his original ‘pet parent’.


Blaze was small, dark and handsome – he was also calm, relaxed and tolerant. Following a week of careful introduction, they moved in together and, apart from a mad parsley-related moment from Blaze, all went well. Although there were a couple of ‘disagreements’ over who was to get that last slice of apple.


They would play Follow My Leader in the living room, Loco usually being the leader while mild-tempered Blaze would follow.

Food was Loco’s greatest love. A talented beggar, he would demand parsley and lettuce from what he viewed as his human servants. Simon was Dandelion Man, who would bring up tasty dandelions (although he also insisted on cutting the pigs’ nails so Loco had mixed feelings about Dandelion Man). The sound of chopping meant carrots and, once again, Loco would loudly insist on being given a choice morsel.


Another of Loco’s friends was Teddy, the Jack Russell, who would go and say hello. Loco would always go to the bars to see him. Loco may have trusted our Ted but I certainly didn’t and would always take Teddy away from Loco’s surroundings.

Loco was a big lad, after all, he loved his grub. But towards the end, he became thinner and became fussier about what he ate. He would beg and then leave the once tasty morsel behind, looking for something else. But somehow that wasn’t quite what he had in mind either.


I truly believe that, without Blaze, Loco would have gone months ago. Blaze was a real comfort to him and gave him a reason to live after his first companion died.

But one day, as will happen to us all, his time came to say goodbye to his loved ones. I like to think that there is a little part of heaven reserved for guinea pigs and it is full of dandelions and parsley and old friends.