These prickly creatures are more than adorable pets, they are also wild animals and they have a life cycle that is just as unique as their appearance. Hedgehog babies are delicate, adorable, and carefully protected by their mother, so it isn’t easy to see the whole story of this nocturnal creature. Luckily, years of research and devoted hedgehog caretakers have uncovered the secrets of the spiny little nuggets, all of which have been condensed into this article.
How Many Babies Does a Hedgehog Have?
Most species of hedgehog give birth to a litter of babies that can range from one to seven. Baby hedgehogs are called hoglets, a name that is just as cute as they are!
Hedgehogs can have one to two litters every year of their life starting at two years old up until they pass away at five years old. Considering variation amongst species and environments, it can be estimated that a single female hedgehog can have anywhere from 3 young at the very low end of the spectrum, to 42 on the high end.
It is also worth noting that different bores can sire a single litter. Hedgehogs have been known to breed with one individual or multiple individuals in a single breeding season. The latter of which can result in different hoglets having different sires, despite coming from the same litter.
When Do Hedgehogs Mate?
Hedgehogs do not breed year-round, their mating seasons are limited by their natural environment, in which the winters are too cold to raise a healthy litter. As a result, hedgehogs often breed between April and September, however, the most breeding activity commonly happens between May and June.
This is especially true in Britain where this breeding season is referred to as “the rut”.You are rather unlikely to see hedgehogs breeding since this, like the rest of their behaviors, commonly happens at night.
During mating, hedgehogs really embrace the hog part of their name. They vocalize with pig-like grunts and they are referred to as a sow and a bore. The female’s prickly back does make breeding a bit more complicated than it would be for other animals, but with the correct positioning everything works out in a matter of minutes.
How Long Are Hedgehogs Pregnant For?
A female hedgehog, or a sow, will be pregnant for about four weeks before giving birth. This brief pregnancy is not uncommon for small mammals and it correlates with rather small and helpless young. During the period of pregnancy, a female hedgehog will look for a warm, dry, and safe nesting place. Their nests are ground level and they are stuffed with whatever comfortable materials can be found, and at times people find them in gardens or under decks.
Female hedgehogs spend their pregnancy alone most commonly, as the male hedgehogs have nothing to do with the lifecycle after breeding.
Why do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies?
If a mother hedgehog is disturbed while her hoglets are extremely young, there is a chance that she will abandon them or kill them. This is not the only species that will turn on their young if conditions are unfavorable.
When Do Hedgehogs Have Babies?
Hedgehogs most commonly give birth in June and July, however, the birthing season can stretch into autumn. Hoglets born earlier are more likely to survive the approaching winter as they have more time to put on weight and develop.
In areas where winters are less harsh and the native hedgehog species has short developmental periods, mother hedgehogs can rear up to two litters with relative success. This is most commonly observed in Britain and hoglets in the second litter need to put on weight rather quickly if they are to survive.
How Do Hedgehogs Have Babies?
Mother hedgehogs are mammals, and as such they give birth to live young. This concept may be confusing when it comes to hedgehogs as their babies aren’t as smooth as other species. While newborn hedgehogs do have their spines at the time of birth, their skin actually covers their spines so they can be pushed through the birthing canal without injuring their mother.
A mother hedgehog will normally give birth to her young in the nest she has built since they are born small, hairless, and helpless. After giving birth the mother tends to her young by cleaning them, keeping them warm, and nursing them.
How Long Do Hedgehog Babies Stay In The Nest?
Hoglets stay in the nest with their mother for up to four weeks. During this time they open their eyes, develop firm spines, and become active. Over the course of those first four weeks, the mother hedgehog will make sure to keep the babies corralled while he is present and away. Sows have been known to block the entry to their confined nest with their bodies and sometimes they may pile materials at the opening as a makeshift door to prevent runaways and intruders.
Once the hoglets are about four to six weeks old, their mother may take them on short foraging trips to find food. This is a safe and efficient way for the young to learn foraging skills under the watchful eye of their mother. Unlike most hedgehogs, a mother hedgehog will venture out during the day in search of food and water, often with her young in tow if they are old enough. After a ten-day crash course in foraging with their mother, hoglets generally wander off on their own and become independent.
Hedgehogs are mature enough to start their independent lives between one and two months old. At this point, they can forage, nest, and fend for themselves, however, they are not fully mature. In most hedgehog species, females are not sexually mature until around two years of age, at which point the life cycle repeats.
- Baby hedgehogs are extremely small when they are first born, like the size of a gumball, but they grow quickly.
- If a baby hedgehog is fed cow’s milk or baby formula it could die. Hoglets are only meant to drink their mother’s milk.
- If hoglets are born too late in the season they may be abandoned early and underweight. If you see a small sickly hedgehog wondering about it could be an “autumn orphan” and you should contact your local wildlife sanctuary about what to do next.
- While hedgehogs have been domesticated as pets, you should not take a hoglet from the wild. They may look cute but their wild nature and specific needs will not make them as easy to care for as a domestic bred hoglet.