What do hedgehogs eat?

  • European hedgehogs (the species found in Britain) mainly eat insects and other mini-beasts. Slugs, earthworms, beetles, caterpillars, earwigs, millipedes and other insects all form part of their diet.
  • Hedgehogs are omnivores and, in addition to insects, they will also eat birds’ eggs, young birds, frogs and fish.

  • On occasion they will also eat fruit and mushrooms.
  • Every night, the European hedgehog travels several kilometres in search of food.
  • If you are putting out food for hedgehogs in your garden you should not leave milk or bread (as traditionally recommended – hedgehogs are lactose intolerant). Instead, you should go for meat-based dog or cat food (without gravy), dried meal worm, or unsalted nuts.
  • Hedgehogs can hibernate during the winter months when their food sources (insects) are more scarce. In order to give themselves a good chance of surviving hibernation, European hedgehogs must weigh at least 600 grams. (Click here to learn more about hedgehog hibernation)
  • Hedgehogs are very noisy eaters.
  • Garden centres and pet shops now produce hedgehog feed for people to safely feed hedgehogs in their gardens.
  • Not  all individual hedgehogs like the same things. They can be quite fussy eaters and each individual has their preferences.

What next? Discover more hedgehog facts.

When do hedgehogs hibernate?

Hedgehogs in Britain do not usually hibernate before November, and the latest they hibernate is January. They stay in hibernation until the spring.

Here are some facts about hedgehog hibernation.

  • Only three British animals hibernate: the bat, the dormouse and the hedgehog. Snakes and lizards become inactive during the winter months, but they don’t truly hibernate.

  • Hedgehogs hibernate when their main source of food – insects – becomes more scare in the winter months.
  • During hibernation the hedgehogs metabolism drops very low. Its heartbeat drops from 190 beats per minute to 20 beats per minute, it breathes in and out once or twice every few minutes, and its body temperature drops dramatically. The hedgehogs fat reserves keep the hedgehog alive.
  • If the temperature drops below 1 degrees C, a hibernating hedgehog will suffer from frostbite, and may even freeze to death. Hopefully before this happens, the hedgehogs body starts to shiver and its heart rate increases, causing the hedgehog to wake form hibernation ans seek a warmer nest.
  • If hedgehogs to do not put on enough fat before they hibernate, they will not make it through the winter.
  • In the spring, when hedgehogs come out of hibernation they are a third lighter than they were and they are very thirsty.
  • Hedgehogs wake several times during their hibernation, but they won’t leave the nest (called a hibernaculum) unless it gets too cold and they must seek a warmer spot.
  • The nest is about 50cm wide.
  • Very ocassionally, male and female hedgehogs may share a hibernating nest.
  • Hedgehogs don’t always hibernate. If it’s a mild winter, and insect supplies are still sufficient to sustain the hedgehog, there is not need to go into hibernation.

What next? Discover more hedgehog facts.

What are baby hedgehogs called?

A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet. This name has been in use since the early 1990s. They are sometimes called hedgehoglets. Before the 1990s, hedgehog babies were referred to as pups, urchins, kits or piglets. The term urchin is also popular today.

Here are some facts about European hoglets and hedgehog families.

  • The male hedgehog is not involved in the rearing of young.

  • Before the baby hedgehog is born, the mother makes a nest for it. This is often located under a garden building (a shed or garage), but it can also be under a bush or in pile of leaves or twigs.
  • Baby hedgehogs are in the womb for 35 days, and they are born with their first spines, which are white and covered by a layer of skin. The spines start to emerge through the skin as soon as the hoglets are born.
  • They are born with their ears and eyes closed, and it takes two weeks for them to gain full sight and hearing.
  • Their teeth grow about three weeks after they are born.
  • Hoglets (or hedgehog urchins) are ready to leave the nest after about two months.
  • Hedgehogs commonly give birth to about 4 or 5 babies, but they can have as many as 10 in a litter.
  • When they are distressed, hoglets make high pitched whining noise.
  • Most European hedgehog pregnancies happen between May and July (after the hedgehog’s hibernation).
  • Hedgehogs can roll into a ball when they are about ten days old.

What next? Discover more hedgehog facts.

Where do hedgehogs live?

There are seventeen different species of hedgehog, located across the world. These are: four-toed hedgehog (central and eastern Africa), North African hedgehog (Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco), Southern African hedgehog (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe), Somali hedgehog (Somalia), Amur hedgehog (Russia and China), Southern white-breasted hedgehog (Europe), European hedgehog, Northern white-breasted hedgehog (Poland, Austria and Greece), Long-eared hedgehog (Central Asia and the Middle East), Indian long-eared hedgehog (India), Daurian hedgehog (Russia and Mongolia), Hugh’s hedgehog (China), Desert hedgehog (Sahara Desert, the Middle East), Brandt’s hedgehog (Middle East), Indian hedgehog (India and Pakistan) and the Bare-bellied hedgehog (India).

Hedgehogs are not native to Australia, North America or South America. They have been introduced in New Zealand.

The most well-known of the hedgehog species is the European hedgehog. The European hedgehog is found in several different habitats, including grassland, woodland and meadows. They have even been seen in the Alps and Pyrenees. Hedgehogs thrive in hedgerows, gardens and parks, where they can find suitable material for their winter hibernation nests and a ready supply of food (mainly insects).

Hedgehogs are nocturnal (they come out at night and sleep during the day) and solitary. They don’t dig their own burrows, but they often use the burrows made by other animals as their den. The dens are often lined with grass and leaves. Hedgehogs have their own territory,and males have been known to chase away other male hedgehogs who are trespassing.

What next? Discover some more hedgehog facts.

Are hedgehogs lactose intolerant?

Yes, hedgehogs are naturally lactose-intolerant. They will eat most dairy products, but will experience stomach problems afterwards. Cottage cheese and plain yoghurt cause fewer problems to hedgehogs than milk and regular cheese.

In Britain, people traditionally fed the hedgehogs that visited their garden bread and cow’s milk. However, this is not recommended.

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society advises that hedgehogs can be fed with any of the following foods: white meat-based dog food (without gravy), cooked minced beef or lamb, bran, unsweetened muesli, small amounts of raisins or banana, dry cat food, or hedgehog biscuits. Water should be offered instead of milk.

In the wild, British hedgehogs’ diet is mainly made up of insects and other mini beasts. More than half of their food intake comes from earthworms, beetles and caterpillars, but they will also eat slugs and snails, millipedes, earwigs, and larvae. Hedgehogs will also, from time to time, eat small mammals and birds’ eggs.

What next? Follow the link to discover more hedgehog facts.

How long do hedgehogs live?

The lifespan of a hedgehog depends on the species. There are more than ten different species of hedgehog (including the four-toed hedgehog, the North African hedgehog, the European hedgehog, the long-eared hedgehog and the desert hedgehog).

The smaller species of hedgehog usually live for 2 to 4 years, and the larger species can live for up to 7 years in the wild. In captivity, hedgehogs tend to live for longer. This is due to the fact that they don’t have any predators and always have access to food.

Some captive hedgehogs have reached the age of ten.

In the wild in modern Britain there are several things which can bring about a hedgehog’s demise.

  • Badgers eat hedgehogs, and they are occasionally eaten by foxes and birds of prey.
  • Hedgehogs can be poisoned by slug pellets, left out by gardeners to kill slugs.
  • Hedgehogs are often killed by being run over by cars as they are crossing Britain’s roads.
  • Hedgehogs can’t climb up sheer sides. As a result they are sometimes drowned in garden ponds and swimming pools, or starve to death in drains and at the bottom of cattle grids.
  • They can also become trapped in litter (plastic cups, tins, yoghurt containers) and tennis nets.
  • Many hedgehogs are killed when people have bonfires in their garden (hedgehogs often hibernate in leaf piles and branch stacks), and when areas of vegetation are strimmed.

In 2006 The British Hedgehog Society forced McDonald’s to change the design of their McFlurry containers because hedgehogs were getting stuck in them and dying of dehydration and starvation.

What next? Discover more hedgehog facts.

Do badgers eat hedgehogs?

Although badgers in Britain prefer to eat a diet of earthworms, slugs and underground grubs, when these foods are in short supply, they will eat hedgehogs.

Badgers are omnivores and they will also eat toads and frogs, mice, voles, young birds, small rabbits, eggs, and even small lambs when other food sources aren’t available.

Badgers will eat nearly all of the hedgehog, but they leave the skin with the prickles attached.

Some people believe that the increasing badger populations in Britain is responsible for the recent decline in the hedgehog population. While it is true that badgers will eat hedgehogs and compete with them for food (earthworms and slugs), the fall in the number of hedgehogs is also closely linked to the loss of hedgerows, an important habitat of the hedgehog.

Many of the hedgehog rescue centres around Britain are reluctant to release hedgehogs back into the wild in areas that have high badger populations.

In addition to badgers, in some parts of Europe weasels and wild ferrets will eat hedgehogs, and the Eurasian eagle owl often east hedgehogs, silently tracking them down at night before they have a chance to roll into a ball.

What next? Click the links to learn more about hedgehogs and badgers.

Hedgehog Facts

Here are some facts about hedgehogs.

  • The Latin name for the European hedgehog is Erinaceus europaeus.
  • They are found throughout Europe.

  • The snuffling noises they make as they search for their food in hedgerows gave hedgehogs their name.
  • Hedgehogs eat insects, worms, snails, mice and frogs.
  • They are nocturnal and sleep all day in nests under bushes or in woodland areas.
  • They hibernate in winter because their food supply becomes incredibly scarce during the coldest months of the year. Hedgehogs construct a special hibernation nest called a hibernaculum. During hibernation their body temperature drops and their breathing rate slows dramatically. when they emerge from hibernation, hedgehogs have often lost half their body weight and they must find large quantities of food quickly. (Click here to learn more about hedgehog hibernation)
  • Hedgehogs have a coat of about 5000 spines. These act as a defence against foxes and badgers. When a hedgehog is threatened, it can curl up into a spiky ball, protecting its belly and face.
  • Hedgehogs have an excellent sense of smell, and they use their long snouts to sniff out their prey.
  • Hedgehogs are solitary animals and they only come together to mate. The male hedgehog (the boar) isn’t involved in rearing any offspring.
  • Female hedgehogs (sows) give birth to litters ranging from 1 to more than 10 babies. The young are born blind but they soon learn to hunt and will be surviving on their own after 2 – 3 months.
  • There are more than 10 different species of hedgehog.
  • Each hedgehog may be home to more than 500 fleas. Luckily, these fleas rarely bite humans.
  • Hedgehogs have adapted well to living alongside humans. They are able to sleep in garden hedges and they have developed a taste for dog and cat food and can often be seen finishing a meal intended for a family pet.
  • Hedgehogs are much quicker than people think, and they can travel up to 3 km a night when they are looking for food.

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