Hedgehogs are nocturnal and only come out at night. Generally any hedgehog out during the day is probably in trouble and should be taken to a wild life centre or your local vets, who will be able to advise and assist you. However, during the summer months female hedgehogs may come out in late afternoons to forage for nesting material and extra food for her young. She will be active and should appear bright and healthy, instantly rolling up into a ball, using their spines to protect them from predators.
A hedgehogs young are called urchins and a typical litter size is 4 to 6 babies. The mother will usually only have one litter a year, normally born early to late summer. If you uncover a nest with urchins in it, do not disturb it, but cover it over again and leave it. The mum will usually return but not if human scent is on the babies.
Baby urchins are born after a 35 day pregnancy, the male hedgehog takes no part in rearing them. Mum will have made a maternity nest as a nursery. This can be under a hedge, in a pile of leaves or maybe under a shed or outbuilding.
As soon as the babies are born, the spines start to come through. At birth the 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 leave the nest and it’s time for them to fend for themselves.
Hedgehogs are insectivores, so the best diet for them are the bugs and grubs in your garden. Leaving a small corner of your garden a bit wild, creating log piles and putting in bug hotels will encourage more insects. You can leave a small dish of any flavour dog or cat food out, plus a handful of cat biscuits to keep their teeth healthy. Feeding hedgehogs in your garden should only be a supplement to their natural diet, or to help them during the harder winter months. 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.
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 are not usually a problem unless there are dozens, which can lead to anaemia. Removing of ticks should be avoided as it is very easy to leave the mouth parts behind which may lead to a serious infection.
A healthy adult hedgehog can walk up to two miles of an evening, in their natural environment. During the day, and during winter hibernation, the hedgehog will sleep in a specially built nest in thick undergrowth, under a shed or just in piles of leaves. They will never hibernate outside a nest.
Hedgehog homes are a great way to help hedgehogs visit your garden more often, also providing a safe haven and an ideal ‘cat-proof’ feeding station.