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Hedgehog Fact Sheet

Quick Links

Handling Tips
Do’s and Don’ts to protect hedgehogs in your garden
FAQ
Relatives
Conservation Status
Traits
Habitat
Young
How to Make a Hedgehog Home
Casualties

Name Latin Name
Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus

 

Handling Tips

If you find an injured hedgehog, wearing thick gardening gloves, pick it up by holding it in both hands round the middle, scooping it up. Put it into a cardboard box lined with newspaper and give a small towel or tea towel for it to hide under.

If your hedgehog is very poorly or is cold, you can also give it a hot water bottle or a drinks bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in a tea towel, to snuggle up to.

If you will have it for any period of time before it can be taken to a rescue centre, then offer dog or cat food in a shallow bowl, plus a non-tip dish of fresh water.

Do’s and Don’ts to protect hedgehogs in your garden

  • Do leave some areas of wilderness where the hedgehogs can snuffle for insects.
  • Do put out water for drinking.
  • Do put out a bowl of dog food or meaty cat food around dusk.
  • Do install, in a quiet part of the garden, a hedgehog house.
  • Do look to see if your hedgehog is limping or appears to be injured, or in late Autumn look out for underweight hedgehogs
  • Don’t put out bread and milk
  • Don’t pick up fit hedgehogs
  • Don’t leave black sacks lying around.
  • Don’t use slug pellets or other chemicals, they may poison hedgehogs and other animals.
  • Don’t light a bonfire without checking to see if a hedgehog or other wild animal has moved in.
  • Don’t fork over compost heaps in case hedgehogs or other animals have taken up residence.
  • Don’t spray hedgehogs with dog or cat flea sprays. It will be detrimental to the hedgehog.

FAQ

Hedgehog Fleas and Ticks

Hedgehog fleas do not live on dogs, cats, humans or inside houses, they are host specific, so your pet cannot catch fleas from a hedgehog. 
Ticks on hedgehogs (seen as greyish shiny lumps, often behind the ears) are not usually a problem unless there are dozens, which can lead to anaemia. Removal of ticks should be avoided as it is very easy to leave the mouth parts behind which may lead to a serious infection.

Out in the day?

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and only come out at night. Any hedgehog out during the day is probably in trouble and should be taken to a Wildlife Rescue Centre. Local vets may not have specific facilities to care for hedgehogs. Bring it to Tiggywinkles if you are in our area.

Too small to hibernate hedgehogs/overwintering

Underweight hedgehogs will not survive hibernation, so need to be kept indoors until April time. Overwintered hedgehogs need to be kept indoors in a constant-temperature room (around 65°F or 18°C) to prevent them from trying to hibernate.

Try and give them as much space to walk around as possible, to give them exercise and build up their muscles. They will be more active at night, so if you need to let them out for exercise, then do this after dusk. If you hide their food, or put it a long way from their bed, it helps them to forage for it.

Food wise, we feed about 100 grams of dog or cat food (non-fish flavour) per evening. Plus a handful of cat/dog biscuits. We don't recommend raisins or digestive biscuits, as these are too sweet. Instead you could offer mealworms (dried or live) as a treat, they mimic their natural diet and can be obtained from most large pet shops.

Plus they need access to fresh water each day.

Weigh the hedgehog every day at cleaning out time, but don't handle it at other times. In the room it is in, try and keep to the natural light patterns, to help with waking/sleeping pattern. Have the curtains open and don't turn on the light except when necessary. This will help keep it in a normal rhythm for release in the spring.

Hedgehogs are very prone to internal parasites, so it is important to monitor their weight, breathing and faeces colour (which should be dark brown and solid).

If you notice any health problems, them please call our helpline on 01844 292292 for advice. Any sick hedgehog needs to get to your nearest wildlife hospital. If this is us, then please just bring him along, as we are open 24 hours to take in sick, injured and orphaned wild animals. Or look on 192.com or yell.com under animal welfare, for your nearest wildlife centre.

Hedgehog in enclosed garden

Unfortunately an enclosed garden would only be suitable for a disabled hedgehog as these creatures are nomadic and can walk up to two miles of an evening in their natural environment.  We do not re-home any hedgehogs that cannot be released. If it has a permanent disability, meaning it could not survive in the wild, it would be kept in the Hospital grounds where it can live out its life in a near-natural environment and have regular checks by our veterinary team, to ensure it is thriving.

Releasing overwintered hedgehogs

There is no definitive time for releasing overwintered hedgehogs, but once the frosts are over should be fine.  These hedgehogs need hardening off like a plant.  Initially keep indoors but turn heating off in the room.  If all is well move to an outside shed or garage, and finally to the garden for release.  Ensure nocturnal habit is well established and should the hedgehog stop feeding at any time, take it back a stage and start again from there.

Hedgehogs need to weigh at least 600 grams for their winter hibernation and they are much lighter when they awake from this. Hedgehogs that get too big lose their ability to curl up tightly, their only natural defence.

Can I move a hedgehog that is hibernating in an unsuitable place?

No, they really should be left alone. A hedgehog that has gone into hibernation uses up valuable body fats if they are disturbed. If you do accidentally disturb a hibernation nest, cover it back over with a thick layer of dry leaves and perhaps leave some dog food and water nearby, so if the hedgehog does wake up, he can easily find something to eat before he goes to find a new hibernation spot and rebuilds his nest.

Do I need to clean out my hedgehog box?

The only time that you could clean out a hedgehog box is early spring, after hedgehogs have woken from hibernation and before they start to mate and look for maternity nests, which really means April time only. Check the box carefully during the dark evening, so any hedgehog using it for a day nest has had a chance to go off hunting, and if it is in use, then you should leave it alone, as the nesting hedgehog may decide to abandon the box. If you do clean it out, don’t forget to put in some new dry bedding ready for use.

How big does a hedgehog need to be to hibernate?

We suggest that a hedgehog should weigh around 600 grams before going into hibernation to ensure it has a good body fat resource to see it through the long sleep. Hedgehogs much smaller than this will still try and hibernate, but if the body fat is too low, it will not survive and would not wake up again.

How do I know if a hedgehog is too small to hibernate? Hedgehogs should weigh around 600 grams by early December in order to have enough body fat to survive hibernation. From early November you might want to keep an eye on any visiting hedgehogs to see how much they weigh. It wouldn’t disturb them too much to weigh one on your kitchen scales. At the start of November they should weigh around 500 grams, or they may need to go to a wildlife hospital for overwintering.

How long do juvenile hedgehogs stay with their mum?

Hedgehog mums will feed their babies for up to eight weeks and then will leave them to fend for themselves. If the nest is disturbed during these first few weeks, then the mum may abandon or eat her babies, so you really do need to leave them well alone. Putting extra food near to the nest may encourage her to not stray too far and will help the babies put on extra weight when they start to forage for themselves.

How long should I continue to feed a hedgehog into the winter months?

Autumn and early winter is the essential time to feed hedgehogs in your garden, as they need to put on enough weight to reach a safe hibernation weight before late December. However, hedgehogs might not be the only visitor to your garden who would appreciate an easy place to find food in those hard winter months, so do continue to put out food for several days after it stops being eaten. It might be that a hedgehog has just gone somewhere else to find food for a little while. Also hedgehogs can wake from hibernation if disturbed or the weather conditions change, so they might be about looking for food when the ground is frozen and easy meals are hard to come by.

I have a hedgehog sleeping on my lawn, is it ok?

No, hedgehogs will only sleep in a nest during the day, so any hedgehog lying out on the lawn will be very poorly and will need to be picked up and taken to your nearest wildlife hospital as soon as possible. You can pick them up using gardening gloves and put them into a cardboard box, although they are good climbers when well, so you would need to ensure it cannot escape. If you are local to us, then please bring it along to Tiggywinkles, there is no need to call first as we are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Or look on yell.com or 192.com under ‘wildlife rescue’ or ‘animal welfare’ to find your nearest centre.

I have seen a hedgehog out during the day, what should I do?

Hedgehogs are strictly nocturnal, so any hedgehog out during the day time has a problem and will need to be picked up and taken to your nearest wildlife hospital. You can pick them up using gardening gloves and put them into a cardboard box, although they are good climbers when well, so you would need to ensure it cannot escape. If you are local to us, then please bring it along to Tiggywinkles, there is no need to call first as we are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Or look on yell.com or 192.com under ‘wildlife rescue’ or ‘animal welfare’ to find your nearest centre. See our hedgehog facts sheets for more information.

What should I feed a hedgehog?

Hedgehogs are insectivores, so the best diet is the bugs and grubs in your garden, which will help keep the pests down. However, to encourage them in to your garden you could offer a ‘top-up’ meal of a good meaty-based diet would be ideal. We recommend 100 grams per day of any meat flavour dog or cat food, plus a handful of dog or cat biscuits to keep their teeth healthy. For a treat you could add a few mealworms too. Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so milk can make them very ill and should never be offered. Instead, put out a dish of fresh water each night. Hedgehogs are active during the night, so the best time to put out food is just after dusk, when they are starting to search for food. The Autumn and Winter months are the most important for them to find food to put on enough weight before hibernation, so always make sure you put out food at this time of year.

When do hedgehogs hibernate?

Typically, hedgehogs hibernate from late December / early January until late March time. However, this is very dependent on the weather and the individual hedgehog, as some will hibernate earlier or later and some not at all!

What should I do if I disturb a hibernating hedgehog by accident?

A hedgehog that has gone into hibernation uses up valuable body fats if they are disturbed. If you do accidentally disturb a hibernation nest, cover it back over with a thick layer of dry leaves and perhaps leave some dog food and water nearby, so if the hedgehog does wake up, he can easily find something to eat before he goes to find a new hibernation spot and rebuilds his nest.

Relatives

One of 17 species of hedgehogs across the world. Apart from hedgehogs, the hedgehog is most closely related to the moonrats of South-East Asia.

Conservation Status

Least Concern. But is listed as a priority species under the UK Biodoversity Action Plan.

Traits

Hedgehogs are nocturnal and only come out at night. They are covered with a coat of very sharp spines, which are hollow and make of keratin (like your fingernails). Hedgehogs can roll into a ball and the spines will protect them from predators, except badgers and the occasional dog.

During the day, and during winter hibernation, the hedgehog will sleep in a specially built nest in thick undergrowth, under a shed, in piles of leaves or unlit bonfires. It will never sleep or hibernate outside a nest.

Hedgehogs are insectivores that eat all manner of garden invertebrates from beetles, millipedes and worms to slugs and snails.

Habitat

Found across most of Western Europe and also in New Zealand, where it was introduced in the nineteenth century. Lives in woodland, meadows and grassland. They are common in orchards, vineyards, farmland, parks and gardens, including those in urban areas. Their range extends to elevations of up to 2,000 m in pine zones, however they are not found above the tree line.

Young

Called Urchins. Typical litter is 4 to 6 babies, but can have around 10. Normally born early to late summer, although the late born babies will struggle to put on the weight needed for hibernation.

The male hedgehog takes no part in rearing baby hedgehogs. They are born after a 35 day pregnancy. The mother will have made a maternity nest as a nursery. This can be under a hedge, in a pile of leaves, in a black sack or very often under a shed or outbuilding.

The urchins are born with their first spines, which are white, covered by skin. As soon as they are born, the spines start to come through. Normally, they only have one litter a year. At birth the baby urchins' eyes and ears are closed. These open at about 14 days and their teeth start to come through after 21 days. After 8 weeks they are ready to become independent.

An urchin outside a nest is going to need rescuing. Its distress call is a high piping sound. It is no good putting stray urchins back into a nest or with other hedgehogs, they will get eaten. If you uncover a nest with urchins in it, do not disturb it, but cover it over again and leave it. The mother will usually return but not if human scent is on the babies.

How to Make a Hedgehog Home

Hedgehog homes are a great way to help the hedgehogs visiting your garden and can also make good 'cat-proof' feeding stations. Download our step by step guide here. 

You can put soft hay in as bedding, but do also try and leave some fallen leaves around for the hedgehog to make the home his own. 

Casualty Cases

If you've found a sick/injured/orphaned wild animal please see our Emergency section for help or call 01844 292292.

Too small to hibernate

Any hedgehog that has not reached 600 grams by late Autumn will not have the fat reserves to survive hibernation, and so must be kept indoors throughout the winter.

Internal parasites

We find around 85% of the hedgehogs we treat (particularly in the autumn winter months) suffer from lungworm, which if left untreated can be fatal. We also see a lot of liver fluke and thorny headed worms – so every hedgehog that comes in will be tested for internal parasites.

Road Traffic Accidents

We see numerous hedgehogs found by the side of the road. If they are just clipped, they may be concussed or have broken limbs – so get them to a wildlife rescue centre quickly.

Barbed Wire

Keep all barbed wire at least 30cm above the ground, and never leave it trailing or discarded on the ground. If a hedgehog manages to become impaled on a spike, it will curl into a ball instinctively and  become enmeshed.

Bonfires

Piles of dry leaves, rolled up newspapers, twigs and wood are irresistible to hedgehogs looking for a nest or some dry shelter, so always check bonfires by carefully turning them over before you set them alight. We get partially burned hedgehogs in every year and the inhaled smoke can be even more damaging to their health.

Compost Heaps

These are ideal nest sites for hedgehogs which are often injured when the compost is forked or turned. Break the heap down carefully and if you find a nest of hedgehogs (or any other animal), leave them alone. They will move of their own accord.

Drains

Uncovered drains are a common cause of distress, especially the small waste traps outside many kitchens. So cover all drains and if you find a hedgehog well and truly trapped in a drain, pull it out by clamping two pairs of pliers onto its spines and lifting gently. If chemicals have been poured down the drain, then the hedgehog may also suffer from chemical burns, so should be taken to a wildlife rescue centre.

Oil / Paint

If there is a pit or tray of old sump oil, being very inquisitive animals, a hedgehog is likely to fall into it. They are also likely to investigate open tins of paint or other liquids so always replace the lids. If a hedgehog does get covered in oil, paint or tar, take it to you local wildlife rescue centre. Do not attempt to clean off with swarfega. 

Hypothermia

Hedgehogs out during the day are in trouble, and if it is a cold day may be lying apparently lifeless and cold. Bring the hedgehog indoors, place it on a towel-wrapped hot water bottle in a cardboard box. When it is brighter, offer some dog food and water. If the hedgehog does not respond, then take it to your local wildlife rescue centre. Please note: hedgehogs DO NOT hibernate in the open.

Lawn Mowers

Sometimes hedgehogs will snuggle down unnoticed into tall grass and can be caught with blades and strimmers, so walk the area to be mowed in order to check for small animals and nests before beginning work on the lawn.

Netting & String

This can act as a snare as the twine gets caught around the hedgehog’s spines. As it struggles to escape, the strands form ligatures around the hedgehog, and these ligatures can act as a tourniquet around limbs. Keep all netting and string arrangements 30cm above the ground and never leave it lying around. If you find an animal caught in netting, don’t just cut the netting away and release it, as pressure necrosis (where the tissues die away from the restricted area) can take up to seven days to appear.

Pesticides & other garden chemicals

Many of these contain deadly poisons - slug pellets, for instance, will kill hedgehogs and birds. Organic methods are much safer. Soapy water is good for spraying aphids and other insects and there is a wide selection of safer insect killers on the market. Read the packet carefully and always mix according to the instructions. Or why not try natural repellents like marigolds or peppermint plants.

Pets

Apart from badgers, dogs are the only other animals that regularly injure hedgehogs. Keep your dog under control at all times, and if your dog finds something worth barking at in the garden, find out what it is. Both the hedgehog and dog are likely to get hurt in the conflict.

Ponds & Pools

Hedgehogs swim very well, but if they cannot escape from a pool they will become exhausted and drown. By laying a ramp or by gently sloping the banks of your pond you’ll ensure the hedgehog’s escape or a length of chicken wire hung over the edge makes a good escape ladder. 

Rubbish

Hedgehogs are frequently killed by rubbish, so always ensure that your garden is clear of it, particularly if you are likely to get wind-blown litter into your hedge. Cover dustbins and tie up refuse sacks so that the contents do not blow away. Broken glass and other sharp objects are obvious hazards, rings can pulls and tin cans with the lids only partly opened, are all killers. Hedgehogs can also get their heads stuck in empty cans, yoghurt pots and other cartons - flatten them before throwing them away. Also hedgehogs love to nest in black plastic sacks - check any open ones before throwing them away.

Sheds

Hedgehogs regularly nest under sheds and outbuildings and are often injured when the shed is demolished or moved, so always check for hedgehogs by lifting the floor carefully. If there is a nest with youngsters do not disturb them, but postpone the work for about a month.

Slug Pellets

Never use slug pellets. The poison they contain almost always kills hedgehogs, who will eat them or the poisoned slugs (as will birds). Use alternative methods such as scattering rose twigs or nettles around the plants you want to protect, or sink a cup of beer in the ground - this attracts and drowns the slugs. Better still, why not just plant an extra row of lettuces in the garden?

Wood Preserver

Many wood preservers are poisonous and will harm hedgehogs as they frequently lick freshly treated fences. Ask for an environmentally safe water-based product from you garden centre.

Hedgehog caught in a net

Baby Hedgehog

Hedgehog with ticks

Hedgehog

Hedgehog pooNot sure if you have a hedgehog visiting your garden?
As they should not be seen out during the day people often ask us how they can tell if they have hedgehogs visiting. Try putting out meaty tinned dog food and water in the evening. By the morning they may well have left their 'calling card' in or near the food dish! 

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