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When do Hedgehogs Hibernate & Have Babies: A Timeline
By Ark Wildlife
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?
All hedgehogs are different, and some may choose not to hibernate at all. However, most hedgehogs tend to hibernate between November and mid-March, depending on the severity of the winter. Some may start hibernating earlier or continue later into the spring.
When hedgehogs are preparing to hibernate, it’s crucial that they can find enough fat reserves to survive through the winter. Their natural food sources may be scarce at this time of year, especially in urban areas, so a specialist hedgehog food or dried calcium worms can supplement their diet effectively and increase the chances of 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.
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.
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