Hedgehog Rescue with PEMBROKESHIRE HOGSPITAL

Life of a Hedgehog

Hedgehogs should be born in the spring but it actually appears to vary across the country and then there is a second litter in autumn.
The mother is pregnant for around a month, depending on the weather. If it becomes very cold she could go back into hibernation for a little while and this would stop the pregnancy for that time.
The babies are born with their prickles encased in a blister of fluid, which dries within an hour so the soft, white prickles cover their bodies.

Heebie, Jeebie and Jitters at 1 day old.

Within 36 hours, their brown prickles start to come through.
When fully grown they will have 5-6000 prickles. They are modified hairs and hollow. This makes hedgehogs very good swimmers as they are buoyant, they drown because they cannot get out of the water. Prickles moult like our own hair and, when raised, they all point in different directions, thus making it very painful for predators to attack them. The prickles are also used for nest making. They turn round and round in their nesting material, raising and lowering the prickles as they go and knitting the loose material together.

Hilda, Eenie,Meenie,Mynie and Mo

Hedgehogs are born blind and deaf but over a period of two weeks their eyes become more defined and they open. Now they can see and hear, they start to explore on wobbly legs.

Mo and Meenie feeding selves

At the end of the third week their teeth start to come through and, in captivity, they start to feed themselves on gloop (liquidised puppy food with Esbilac).
In the wild they will start to go out with Mum to learn to forage.

Hubert at 5 weeks

When they are 5 weeks old, their little snub noses become pointed and they look like proper miniature hedgehogs. They only spend another week or two with their Mum then they leave the nest to live their own lives.

In August they start putting on weight in the form of brown fat in readiness for hibernation in October or when the frosts come and their food goes to ground. They build their hibernaculum, weaving in their collection of leaves and twigs with their prickles then they sleep for the winter.

If they survive their first hibernation, they may live 2 - 5 years in the wild. Very few die of old age.