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When do Hedgehogs Hibernate & Have Babies: A Timeline

By

2nd June 2021

Hedgehogs are a native of the UK and our only mammal covered in spines. They can be found in gardens across most parts of the country but have sadly suffered from a declining population for many years. They are however, easy to help and knowing a little more about hedgehogs and their lifestyle makes it easy to create a hedgehog friendly garden.

When do hedgehogs hibernate?

Hedgehogs tend to hibernate between November and mid March although this may vary slightly. Preparing for hibernation means it’s vital that hedgehogs have enough fat reserves to survive the hibernation period through the winter. That’s why feeding them one of our specialist hedgehog foods or dried calcium worms can make a real difference when it comes to supplementing their diet, and ensuring a healthy hibernation. 

Where do hedgehogs hibernate?

During winter hibernation, a hedgehog will generally sleep in a nest that they have built especially in thick undergrowth or under piles of leaves. They will sleep in these spots during the day at any time of year, and will also sleep in unlit bonfires so it is crucial that you always check your bonfire thoroughly for sleeping hedgehogs before lighting it. A hedgehog will never generally hibernate outside one of these nests, and you can help it along by leaving plenty of undergrowth and tucked-away spaces in your own garden. You can also buy special hedgehog houses for them to build their nest inside.

How long do hedgehogs hibernate for?

Usually, hedgehogs hibernate for a period of around four months, from November to mid-March. However, this is dependent on the weather and in mild winters hedgehogs may remain active well into December. In addition, hedgehogs move nesting sites at least once during the hibernation period, so don’t be surprised if you see one out and about.

Do hedgehogs live alone?

In the wild, hedgehogs are solitary creatures. They hunt alone and don’t form lifelong bonds with other hedgehogs. Once a male and female have mated, the male (the boar) leaves the female (the sow) to raise the young hoglets alone.

Hedgehogs can tolerate each other and aren’t territorial, with conflicts normally only occurring over food or potential mates.

How heavy should a hedgehog be to hibernate safely?

Before hibernating, a hedgehog should weigh at least 600g. Otherwise it will get through its fat reserves too quickly and struggle to survive the winter. Sometimes a cold snap can encourage hedgehogs to hibernate prematurely. Hoglets born too late in the year can also face this problem.

If you have any concerns about a hedgehog being underweight, you can find your nearest wildlife rescue centre on www.helpwildlife.co.uk

How to help a hedgehog hibernate

First of all, try to keep an eye on any hedgehogs in your garden, to make sure they don’t hibernate too early (the closer to late December the better) and that they’ve put enough weight on. You can help them to fatten up by leaving some hedgehog food out for them in the evenings, which is when they tend to forage for food.
If you want to give any visiting hedgehogs a nice place to hole up for the winter, you can get a special hedgehog house. Leave plenty of fresh straw, torn newspaper or clean, old towelling for nesting materials.

Garden Wildlife Expert Sean McMenemy comments on how to create a haven for hedgehogs as they come out of hibernation: “Gardens are vital habitat for hedgehogs and our top tips to help and encourage them are as follows: firstly, hedgehogs need space to find food, shelter and love. Make a CD-sized hole in fences to give hedgehogs the room to roam. Give them a drink because water can be hard to find in summer – put out a shallow-sided dish of water and keep it topped up nightly. Also, supplement their diet with meaty hedgehog, dog or cat food to start their evening forage with a reliable source of food. Finally, add a hedgehog house or woodpile to a quiet corner, to provide sleeping quarters during long summer days.”

Hedgehog Mating Behaviour

When do hedgehogs mate and have babies? 

Hedgehogs reach sexual maturity in their second year and the mating season is usually in and around May, not long after they’ve emerged from hibernation. You might hear surprisingly loud grunting and snuffling noises coming from the garden at this time.

Hoglets are normally born in spring, after a very short 35-day pregnancy, but a second litter may come in late summer/autumn. Whenever those little hedgehog babies arrive, you should take extra care not to disturb a nest with nursing young.

How long are hedgehogs pregnant?

Hedgehogs have a really short gestation period: it’s only around 35 days from conception to birth. Despite this, they usually have just one litter a year, with five to seven hoglets born at a time. 

They’re born with their eyes closed and they don’t open for around two weeks, making them very dependent on mum, initially. A week later, their teeth will pop out and soon after that they’ll start making foraging trips with mum.

How long do baby hedgehogs stay with their mother?

Sows will only usually care for their hoglets for about six to eight weeks, but by that time, the hoglets will be around ten times their birth weight. Then they’ll leave the nest to fend for themselves.

Hoglets (or urchins) might stay together for their first winter, particularly if they were born later in the year, and juvenile hedgehogs can be much more sociable than the adults.

Note:
With changes in weather noticeable in recent years, many wild animals naturally adjust their behaviour accordingly. delaying hibernation or breeding to the rhythm of the seasons.


Related Internet Links:
British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Hedgehog Street
Peoples Trust for Endangered Species

Ark Wildlife is not responsibe for the content of external websites


  1. Wendy says:

    I have discovered some hedgehogs under my summerhouse. I am concerned as my dog is going mad barking around the summerhouse. She cannot get at them. I have started to feed them but I am keen to get them moved. Any suggestions?

    1. Ark Wildlife says:

      Hi Wendy
      It is highly likely the hedgehog under your summerhouse is a female and has just had a litter. This may also be the cause of excitement in your dog. You must not move an active hedgehog nest but please do keep feeding them. The mother will naturally look for a new nest site and move her young if your dog disturbs them, so leave it to her good judgement. Once the hoglets grow a little, your dog will probably loose interest anyway, but a biscuit and a game to distract it in the meantime will be the kindest action. 😊

  2. Juliette Pearce says:

    We have many hedgehogs in our garden and feed them every night,just heard two mating,in our border,we also feed 3 foxs, so privileged
    😊😊

  3. Alison C says:

    Today I was sitting in the garden and heard a sound similar to the mating grunts coming from under our shed – I have never heard our hedgehogs during the day before so set up the camera to see if it is actually hogs under there, should I be concerned? I feed and water regularly. Thanks

  4. Hayley Ryall says:

    We have recently discovered a hedgehog that keeps coming out in the afternoon around 4ish we have been feeding her and she has returned 6 days in a row now. Seems very hungry 😂😂 loves the cat food (chicken gravy …..Of course she like the expensive stuff) I bought her a hedgehog house and some bedding and popped it under the hedge where she appears every day and she has moved in straight away, and covered the entrance with all the bedding, Am I doing the right thing? She seems very happy and loves all the food 😊

  5. Shelley Noyce says:

    We love watching our spiky visitors, catch them in camera as well. Would be lovely if we see babies as well and keep our fingers crossed. Thanks for all this information really helpful and informative. Not sure if we have a nest as normally travel under the fence.

  6. Jan Jackson says:

    I love my hedgehog visitors I could sit and watch them all night . Mum has started to bring 1 goblet on her trips . Baby sits in middle of food whilst mum makes grunting sounds around the offspring is the grunting normal ?

    1. Ark Wildlife says:

      Hi Jan
      Hedgehogs are one of the noisiest animals for their size! Snuffling, grunting and even screaming at times. The police have been called out more than once, only to find an amorous hedgehog at the scene rather than some terrible offence being committed!

  7. Grandad Garrish says:

    I have up to three hedghogs in my garden. I have been feeding them on hedghog food for a few months now. The first one arrives at dusk, and starts feeding. The second arrives about an hour later, stays for about an hour and disappears. By using a wildlife camera I can follow them as they feed. Just occasionally all three are present and feeding for a few minutes. They do not feed constantly, but pop out of a hedge, feed, and return to the hedge. Interestingly the two i see regularly use a different part of the hedge. My garden is also invaded by cats at various times of the night, but I rarely see hadghogs and cats at the same time. Would cats eat baby hoglets? Living near the coast seagulls have started to eat any residual food in the mornings

    1. Ark Wildlife says:

      Hi Gandad
      How lovely to have and see three regular hedgehogs visiting. Cats are not a danger to hedgehogs generally. A well fed cat won't risk a spike on the nose from an angry mother hedgehog! The babies spines appear shortly after birth and they are well protected before they leave the nest.

  8. Anne says:

    Hi, we have a hedgehog that has moved in to a space inside a metal box in our garage . we think she might be nesting as we left some hay for her and she has dragged that in . we are providing food and water . worried it might get too hot in their though if the weather warms up . as it’s by the glass/ green house end against a wall .

    1. Ark Wildlife says:

      Hi Anne
      How exciting to have a hedgehog nesting in your garden! Don't worry about the heat, the mother will move her litter to a cooler location if needed. Hedghogs will often relocate a nest once or twice bfore the hoglets are ready to leave. Just keep feeding them and provide plenty of fresh water, you never know, you may even be the first to see the new family on their first foraging outing.

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