Many people contact us about injured and orphaned baby hedgehogs, known as hoglets. Injured animals are not our area of expertise, but we've teamed up with the Grove Lodge Veterinary Group to provide some information so you can help any injured hoglets you may find.
You can also call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (01584 890 801) for advice and to be put in touch with a local hedgehog carer.
- Female hedgehogs give birth in a nest of leaves and grass, after about 32 days gestation
- The average litter size is four or five but can be up to eight
- Hoglets are born blind and pale pink with their spines covered by skin
- Soon after birth, white spines begin to appear, and a few weeks later brown spines.
- Hoglets will open their eyes around 10 - 14 days old
- They stay in the nest, feeding on their mother’s milk, until they are three to four weeks old
- At one month the hoglets start to go on foraging trips with their mother, learning what to eat and how to survive
- Hoglets are weaned at around six weeks and are independent at eight weeks
- The family is unlikely to meet again as hedgehogs live a solitary life
- Male hedgehogs don't play any part in raising young
Most hoglets are born in June and July to coincide with plentiful invertebrate prey such as beetles, worms and caterpillars. This gives them enough time to feed up and gain sufficient weight to survive the winter.
However, some females may have a second litter born in September or even October. These hoglets are still abandoned at eight weeks, which leaves very little time for them to build up fat reserves. These are the autumn juveniles that may need help.
When to help?
Hedgehogs that are left outside and just given supplementary food can be difficult to monitor, however the stress of captivity can also kill a hedgehog. If you come across a small hedgehog in autumn you need to make a decision based on the following factors:
- If the weather is still mild, the hedgehog regularly visits and you only see it at night, it can probably be left outside. However, it is a good idea to weigh the hedgehog once a week using gardening gloves and kitchen scales to ensure it is putting on weight. You could also provide extra food and fresh water. A plain non-fishy pet food is best. Do not give bread and milk as this makes hedgehogs sick.
- If you ever see the hedgehog during the day, or it is behaving oddly then it needs to be helped. Please see our Hedgehog First Aid advice.
- Towards the end of October, or if bad weather is expected, then any hedgehog weighing less than 450 g will need to be taken to a wildlife rescue centre. Hedgehogs under 600 g will benefit from some extra food being left out.
Autumn juveniles are prone to worm infestations, so any rescued hedgehogs will need to be taken to a wildlife rescue service or vet for treatment. They will be kept warm and fed over the winter, allowing them to build up their body weight ready to be released in the spring. This is called overwintering. It can be a difficult and time consuming process, so please do not try to overwinter a hedgehog yourself. It will need specialist care.
Small hedgehogs before autumn
Hedgehogs may become orphaned because their mother has been killed or is sick, or sometimes if a nest is disturbed the mother will abandon the hoglets. Orphaned hoglets will usually stay in the nest, making a shrill whistling noise calling for their mother. They will be in urgent need of care and should be taken to a vet or wildlife rescue service as soon as possible. Any hedgehog found outside that weighs less than 200 g is likely to be a genuine orphan and will need help.
The best way to transport a sick, injured or orphaned hedgehog is in a cardboard box with high sides, lined with a towel. Use gardening gloves to pick up the hedgehog as their spines are very sharp and a stressed hedgehog may bite. Wrap a towel around a hot water bottle, put this in the box and place the hedgehog on top with another towel draped over them. Make sure that there is space for the hedgehog to move away from the hot water bottle if it gets too warm and do not let the hot water bottle get cold.
Many local vets are happy to treat wildlife or provide you with information to assist you, so please contact a vet or wildlife rescue service as soon as possible.