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The Ultimate Guide to Hedgehogs

Written by: Stewart Borland
Published: 28th August 2019

Last Updated on

The Ultimate Guide to Hedgehogs
At Highland Titles, we are committed to conserving Scotland and funding the creation, improvement and management of nature reserves. Supporting wildlife is something we are really passionate about, and you might be surprised to learn that one of our most recognisable species is under threat of extinction.

Did you know that there were over 30 million hedgehogs in the UK in the 1950s, but today there are less than one million? As part of our commitment to wildlife, we have recently founded a Hedgehog Sanctuary, where injured or sick hedgehogs are provided with around-the-clock care, food, and shelter. In support of this, we have recently launched an Adopt a Hedgehog scheme, to help give these adorable prickly creatures the best chance of survival in Scotland.

Following on from our previous blog post on Hedgehogs in Scotland, we wanted to put together a comprehensive guide to hedgehogs to help people get to know these curious animals a little bit better. If you’ve ever wondered how long do hedgehogs live, what do hedgehogs eat and where to hedgehogs live, read on to get yourself up to speed!

 
 

01. About the West European hedgehog

West European Hedgehog
The West European hedgehog (also known as the European hedgehog, common hedgehog or erinaceus europaeu) is a small nocturnal mammal that is found throughout Europe.

 

What does a hedgehog look like?

Hedgehogs are most well known for being covered in around 7,000 non-poisonous brown-coloured spines, each 2-3 cm long. The spines are also not barbed, and are actually thick hairs which are hollow. Strong muscles on a hedgehog’s back help the spines to provide it with a deference mechanism when it rolls into a tight ball, and the creature is also renowned for their fur-covered faces and long noses.

The West European hedgehog can be up to 30 centimetres/10 inches long, and they also have a short tail of around 5 centimetres in length – males are usually larger than females too. They typically weigh around 400 grams, but this can increase to 2 kilograms in the autumn when hedgehogs build up sufficient fat reserves to enable them to hibernate through the winter.

West European vs African Pygmy hedgehogAfrican Pygmy hedgehog (on the left) and West European hedgehog (on the right)

West European vs African Pygmy hedgehog

The main difference between West European and African Pygmy hedgehogs is their size! African Pygmy hedgehogs grow to around 8 inches long, and can vary in colour from brown, black, brown and white and all white, whereas West Europeans are brown.

In addition, African Pygmy hedgehogs are bred in captivity for the pet industry, whereas their West European cousins are found in the wild. In terms of their diet, African Pygmies mainly eat cat or dog food, fruits and vegetables, which also differs to what West European hedgehogs eat in the wild, and they also don’t hibernate either.

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02. How long do hedgehogs live?

Close up of hedgehog
The average lifespan of a hedgehog is 2-3 years. Unfortunately, foxes and badgers prey on hedgehogs, and human dangers are also a large threat to their welfare. These include falling in ponds or down drains, being hit by a car or even being poisoned by pesticides.

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03. Where do hedgehogs live?

Hedgehog in grassland
The Western European hedgehog lives in a variety of habitats. These commonly include woodlands, grassland, orchards, vineyards, farmland, parks and gardens. You might also be surprised to learn that when foraging for food, these tiny creatures can travel up to 2 km each night!

As hedgehogs are most active at night, they tend to hide away in bushes and hedges during the day, and can often be spotted hunting on lawns and in flowerbeds at dusk.

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04. What do hedgehogs eat?

Hedgehog Eating
Hedgehogs are known as omnivores or insectivores, which mean that their diet consists of a wide variety of insects such as beetles, caterpillars, earthworms, snails, and slugs. In addition, they also eat berries, amphibians and birds’ eggs too.

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05. When do hedgehogs hibernate?

Hedgehog sleeping
Hedgehogs typically hibernate during the winter, usually from November to March or April. However, this depends on the age and weight of the hedgehog and the weather. They can also wake up several times during the hibernation period, and hibernate in a ‘hibernaculum’, which is a nest of leaves or logs.

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06. When do hedgehogs have babies?

Hedgehog in between yellow flowers
Hedgehogs breed between May and September, with an average litter size of four or five babies born in early to late summer after a pregnancy of 35 days. However, it is rare for mothers to raise more than three of their young to independence, which occurs when they are six weeks old.

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07. What is a baby hedgehog called?

Naughty Hedgehog Sticking Its Tongue Out
The official name for a baby hedgehog is a hoglet or urchin. They are raised in a nest, which will usually be found in a pile of leaves under a hedge, in a black sack or under a shed or outbuilding. All baby hedgehogs are born with white spines and with their eyes and ears closed, although these open when they are about 14 days old.

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08. I have a hedgehog in my garden; what do I do?

Hedgehog running in garden
Hedgehogs are most commonly seen from April to October. If you are lucky enough to spot a hedgehog in your garden, or notice common signs such as medium-sized black droppings and bits of insect on the lawn, here as some useful tips to help give your new prickly friend the best possible welcome:

 

How to make a hedgehog house

To keep your visiting hedgehog safe in your garden and away from the threat of predators, you could make a hedgehog house.

Before you get started, you’ll need:

• A wooden wine crate
• Untreated timber (15cm x 2cm, 1.2m length)
• Galvanised nails (25mm)
• Hosepipe (1m length)
• Jigsaw
• Hammer
• Drill
• 25mm wood drill bit

 
Step 1: Make the tunnel for the hedgehog house by cutting the plywood boards into four 30cm lengths. Next, nail them together lengthways.
Step 2: Using a jig saw, cut a 11cm x 15cm entrance hole out of one side of the base.
Step 3: Nail the tunnel to the wine crate from the inside.
Step 4: Drill a hole in the back of the wine crate and insert the hose – this is important for ventilation.
Step 5: Fill the wine crate with dry leaves, replace the lid and your hedgehog home is ready to go!

Make sure you place your hedgehog home in a quiet, shady spot. In addition, you can also add soft hay for bedding, but you should always ensure you leave some fallen leaves close by so that the hedgehog can add these to its home if it wants to.

 

What to feed a hedgehog

A common misconception is that hedgehogs can be fed milk. However, as they are lactose intolerant they should only be given meat flavoured dog or cat food and a handful of dog or cat biscuits. Remember, you should only be supplementing their natural diet or helping them during the winter months, so make sure you don’t offer too much of one type of food. In addition, make sure you put out a dish of freshwater each night too.

 

What to do if you find an injured hedgehog

If you find an injured hedgehog in your garden, put on a pair of thick gardening gloves and pick it up by holding it around the middle in both hands. Line a cardboard box with newspaper and carefully place it inside, along with a small towel or tea towel that it can hide under.

After calling the RSPCA or your local hedgehog rescue centre, if you have noticed that the hedgehog is very poorly or cold, also place a hot water bottle or drinks bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in a tea towel inside. You could also offer it some dog or cat food in a shallow bowl, along with a dish of fresh water.

 

Support Hedgehogs in Scotland

If after reading our blog you’d love to help Highland Titles support hedgehogs in Scotland, then why not consider adopting a hedgehog?

Stewart, the Reserve Warden, holding a hedgehog in the SanctuaryStewart, the Reserve Warden, holding a hedgehog in the Sanctuary

For just £25, you can adopt a hedgehog and help us with the rescue and rewilding process, and you’ll also receive a parchment Certificate of Adoption, a Highland Titles sticker to show your support, email updates about our hedgehogs and of course the grateful thanks of your hedgehog too! To find out more, visit our Adopt a Hedgehog page.

 

Brought to you by Highland Titles

Highland Titles’ mission is to conserve Scotland, one square foot at a time™. By selling souvenir plots of land, we are funding our Nature Reserves and conservation projects. Join us and become a Lord, Lady or Laird* of Glencoe!


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Written by: Stewart Borland


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