David and Gail come from families of huge animal lovers, and take great delight in wildlife, nature, and pets.
Their dream was to produce wildlife foods that the consumer would know are 100 per cent safe and delicious for the animal. The combination of David’s 31 years of experience in the pet trade and Gail’s 30 years as a Biological Scientist was a perfect match to look afresh at hedgehog food and swan and duck food. In 2017, the pair began the Brambles Pet and Wildlife adventure and research led to Brambles Crunchy Hedgehog Food, Brambles Meaty Hedgehog Food, and Brambles Floating Swan & Duck Food.
Why did you decide to produce wildlife food?
We know that wildlife in the UK is facing huge losses of habitat, a decrease in their natural food sources, and greater risk of road traffic accidents. In particular, the population of the UK native European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) has decreased massively in the last 20 years and they are now officially classed as ‘Vulnerable to Extinction.’ Supplementary feeding of our wildlife is therefore becoming increasingly important for their survival and we produce fantastic foods that contain no harmful ingredients and that massively help the animals.
People will often not know what is appropriate to feed wildlife. What are the harmful ingredients that we should be avoiding?
There are many ingredients that are not appropriate for hedgehogs. Brambles Pet and Wildlife would recommend not giving the following to hedgehogs:
- Mealworms, sunflower hearts and peanuts have high phosphorous levels and can lead to metabolic bone disease in hedgehogs. This is a very painful and debilitating disease that can often lead to the hog being put to sleep. Peanuts can also get stuck in the mouth or jaw and prevent a hog from eating.
- Calciworms, as their name suggests, have high levels of calcium. If hedgehogs eat these in excess, they can cause even worse problems than mealworms! Increased calcium levels can harm many tissues in the body but especially the heart, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, skeletal muscle, and nervous system — these effects are fatal to the hog.
- Dried fruits and honey can lead to obesity with associated cardiovascular issues and dental decay that can prevent the hedgehog from eating.
- Fat content should be kept below 15 per cent as foods with a high fat content can lead to fatty liver disease which can quickly become fatal to the hedgehog, as well as leading to obesity and associated issues.
- Milk — hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so cannot digest cows’ milk.
- Bread will be readily eaten by hedgehogs and wildfowl, but it has very little nutritional value. Brambles Crunchy Hedgehog Food and Brambles Meaty Hedgehog Food, along with plenty of water, is great way of supplementing a hedgehog’s diet. They are also suitable for badgers and foxes too. Brambles Swan & Duck Food is also a complementary food specially formulated to give the best balance of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals for swans and ducks. It is also suitable for geese, moorhens, and coots and as it floats you can easily tell when the birds have had enough and to stop feeding them.
What does Brambles hedgehog food contain that is good for them?
Brambles Crunchy Hedgehog Food is designed to be a complete food that is nutritionally beneficial for hedgehogs in a wildlife rescue and as a supplementary food given to hedgehogs in peoples gardens. We trialled it against existing brands at wildlife rescues and the results were fantastic. Our food was the most popular with 96% palatability and the hedgehogs thrived after eating our food. The protein we use is chicken as this is easy for hedgehogs to digest. We have included all the essential vitamins and minerals that hedgehogs need to keep them in tip top condition. Carbohydrates are added to provide them with energy that is necessary for metabolic processes. The fibre in the food helps to bulk up the faeces in the same way that chitin does from eating insects in their natural diet.Brambles Meaty Hedgehog Food is used widely by wildlife rescues to help wean hoglets on to solid food and to encourage sick hedgehogs to eat. The water content makes it ideal to give to hedgehogs in your garden especially in dry periods to help with hydration.
How can people help hedgehogs in their gardens?
Hedgehogs need all the help they can get and there are lots of ways that everyone can support them in their gardens:
- Encourage a safe passage between your garden and your neighbour’s by creating a small hole at the base of fences and borders. A hole measuring 13cm diameter is about right.
- Leave a quiet area of your garden uncultivated and leave leaf piles so that hedgehogs can make use of this area for nesting or sleep. A wood pile is another good alternative.
- Specific hedgehog houses can be purchased. If you have one, place it in a quiet and shady area of your garden.
- Avoid using chemicals, such as slug pellets and pesticides. If hedgehogs eat insects that have been in contact with chemicals such as these it can be fatal.
- Always check the borders of your garden before using a strimmer, lawn mower, or spade/fork to ensure no hedgehogs are resting there.
- If you have a pond in your garden, make sure there is a way out for any hedgehogs that inadvertently fall in. A few partially submerged rocks around the edges of the pond, or a ramp, will help if the pond does not have a gentle sloping side to it. Hedgehogs are good swimmers but will soon tire if they cannot get out and may then drown.
- Prepare a feeding station to keep cats off the food you leave out for hedgehogs. You can easily make one yourself (lots of videos on the internet) or buy a specific feeding station.
- Always make a bonfire on the day you are going to light it and check for hedgehogs before lighting as they see these as a very nice nesting place to sleep.
- Hedgehogs hibernate during very cold spells, generally between November and mid-March, although milder weather over recent years means they are often still quite active and it is good to leave food and water out during the winter months. Brambles Crunchy Hedgehog Food is perfect for this time of year, along with fresh water.
- Keep an eye out for any hedgehogs needing help and contact your local rescue for advice if you have any concerns. You can find your local rescue on www.helpwildlife.co.uk
An important part of your business is spreading awareness about helping wildlife. Tell us about how you do that.
Our daughter, Laura, specialises in digital marketing and initially set up our social media sites. We use these platforms to spread awareness about our brand and the plight of the UK wildlife. We also do regular giveaway competitions where people can nominate their favourite wildlife rescue to receive a donation of Brambles Wildlife foods. The engagement levels from these giveaways are fantastic and this is great for our brand but also for the wildlife rescues too. After a couple of years expanding her experience, Laura has now re-joined the Brambles team overseeing our social and digital marketing.
Brambles works closely with the trade. What do you do?
The work we do with wildlife rescues, along with the great food we produce, has helped to drive a high demand for our food and we get lots of enquiries about where to buy our food. We don’t sell direct to consumers — and have no plans to do so — but prefer to direct our sales through our trade stockists who are delighted with the sales of Brambles Wildlife Foods.We will continue to support the wildlife rescues with donations and hope to expand the range using the same ethos applied to our current range in that the health and well-being of the animal will always come first.