All about baby hedgehogs!
The breeding season for hedgehogs typically starts in May, with most young born in June and July.
Their gestation period is around 35 days.
Females have 1 to 2 litters per year - litters born late in the summer (around September) can find it harder to reach a sufficient size to be able to hibernate through the winter. Their food source disappears which will leave them dependant on supplementary feedings.
They breed in their second year, usually after hibernation.
Both male and female hedgehogs demonstrate promiscuity, with each having multiple mates in a single season; this means that a single litter of hoglets can actually have multiple fathers.
Hedgehogs are ‘induced-ovulators’, so the female only produces an egg whilst mating.
To court his mate, the male puts on lengthy displays (these can last several hours!) that involve much circling and rhythmic snorting and puffing. If another male tries to intervene, the rival males confront, chase and even head-butt each other - they are determined to keep their mate. Though usually solitary animals, male and female hedgehogs will share a nest for a short period during mating season before the male leaves. The males takes no part in rearing the young.
Baby hedgehogs are born in litters of around 4 to 5: although, there can be as few as 1 kittens or as many as 11.
Newborn hedgehogs are blind and only weigh between 3 and 25 grams. They are pink when born but their spines are visible under the skins surface; these spines may appear in the first twenty four hours. They are covered by a layer of skin to protect the mother during delivery, but within hours this skin contracts and the spines quickly appear. As the spines appear, the skin on their back turns dark. At this stage, the spines are soft to touch.
By 7 days they usually weigh about 28-56g (1-2oz) and are between 50-100mm (2-4") in length. These are very tiny hoglets that have no teeth and their eyes and ears are closed.
By 14 days they usually weigh about 56-85g (2-3oz) and are between 70-130mm (3-5") in length. Eyes will probably still be closed but could open soon and ear holes will begin to appear.
By 21 days they usually weigh about 85-113g (3-4oz). Eyes are now open and teeth are beginning to appear. They can drink and forage on small snails and beetles.
By 28 days they usually weigh about 113-170g (4-6oz). They now look like a mini adult hedgehog.
After about four weeks, mum takes her young on their first foraging trip. They can be seen on nightly wanders to foraging sites, feeding stations and water holes. Some mums check on hoglets as they forage, other Mums just walk. We do know that the hoglets feed themselves at this stage and are able to find food bowls. In gardens where they are fed we still see them forage for food, so supplementary feeding doesn’t appear to stop them eating natural food.
The hoglets will become more independent over the next few weeks. Their personalities begin to show and some will stay very close to mum while others are more independent. They are constantly moving with their noses twitching in search for food. Mum doesn't seem to abandon them as previously thought: we routinely see on trap cameras mothers leaving the nest and returning for short periods once a day and still feeding. Mums and babies have also been known to hibernate together over winter.
By 35 days they usually weigh about 190-225g (7-8oz).
By 42-49 days they usually weigh about 225-310g (8-11oz).
By 60 days they usually weigh about 350g (12oz).
We have seen mothers building more than one nest and then moving her hoglets when a nest is disturbed. We wonder if they prepare several places to give birth in as a matter of course just incase one doesn't work out. If you have observed this happening in your garden then please let us know.
Hedgehogs have many species traits but we urge caution, as just like all mammals there are many individuals and in order to survive in the wild - like any wild animal - they have a strong ability to adapt and overcome.
Hoglets in their nest feeding