Hedgehog Care After Hibernation
As the winter comes to an end and warmer weather comes our way, we wanted to answer some of your questions about caring for hedgehogs as they emerge from hibernation. Find out more about what, when and how you can look after our spiky friends in your own garden.
When do hedgehogs emerge from hibernation?
From March, depending on the weather, hedgehogs will emerge from their hibernation. They will have been hibernating since around November time and during these cold months they will have lost around a third of their body weight. So when they wake up, they will be hungry! But not only that they will be very thirsty too. If you would like to find out more about hedgehog hibernation then listen to our podcast with Mary Hinton from Help A Hedgehog Hospital.
Their emergence from hibernation is all about temperature. And in fact, they can come out and go back into hibernation if we get a warm spell followed by another spring frost. So once you start to feel the sun warming up in early springtime, it's a good idea to start offering supplementary food and water in your garden.
What should I feed hedgehogs?
Naturally, hedgehogs love beetles, slugs, earwigs, and earthworms. All of the bugs and creepy crawlies you might find living under logs and rocks in your garden. That's why it's great to build log piles and have slightly more wild areas around your lawn and borders where these insects can thrive.
If you would like to offer supplementary food, then hedgehogs like meaty cat and dog food offered on a saucer or plate that's close to the ground. If you don't have pets, then you can also buy hedgehog specific food which is nutritionally balanced and designed for them. Our Cotswold Granaries range is a great example of this.
When using a dried food, take care to provide fresh water in order to prevent dehydration. You can use specially designed food and water bowls to help little snouts. Our ceramic Hedgehog Snack Bowl and Water Bowl are designed for this purpose.
Do hedgehogs need shelter?
Hedgehog houses such as the Wildlife World Dome, Artisan Hedgehog House or the Hogilo are perfect for providing shelter from the weather as well as protecting hedgehogs from competition or predation. You can tuck the food away inside the house during the springtime when they’re not hibernating.
As our Wildlife World ecologist, Chantal Brown says “these are perfect for use all year round. When hedgehogs come out of their hibernation, they can make a really good feeding station. This is important if you have cats or dogs visiting your garden. Take the feeding tray and you can put it into the box, tuck it around the corner, so that the hedgehog can go in and they will be the only one able to enjoy that food”.
If you do use a hedgehog house then it's best to place it in a quiet area of your garden and ensure it is always accessible, for example a hedgehog wouldn't have to climb up steps to reach it. You can cover them with twigs and leaves to make them look as natural as possible to a passing hoggy.
When should I feed hedgehogs?
From March and April hedgehogs will be trying to eat as much as they can in order to be ready to mate and reproduce from June. The females are then pregnant for around 4 weeks. During this time they need to consume enough food to make sure they’re healthy enough to produce up to six or seven little hoglets. When they give birth in July they’ll then need to feed these hoglets.
But you can leave food out all year round, especially if we're experiencing a warm winter. We always recommend leaving out little each evening, rather than a large amount of food in one go as this could attract rats. Get to know the routine of the hedgehogs visiting your garden. If you have more than one, then you'll need to leave out more food.
How else can I help hedgehogs?
Make your garden hedgehog friendly by opening up areas of your garden so that hedgehogs can forage over larger areas and get natural food. Avoid slug pellets and pesticides If you have a pond, add a log into it so that if a hedgehog goes to drink from the pond it can then get out of the pond easily.
Find out more about how you can help hedgehogs in your garden from our ecologist, Chantal Brown, in this video: