Hedgehogs in your garden
Soon after waking from hibernation in spring, male hedgehogs begin looking for partners and mating occurs until September. Baby hedgehogs are born after a gestation period of about 35 days in a nest lined with grass and leaves between the months of July and October.
Mothers take sole responsibility for the upbringing of the young. Generally there are 3-6 babies in a nest, born blind, deaf and with no spines. The first white spines are enveloped in a film over the skin and erupt within the first 24hrs of life. After about 3 days the brown spines begin to grow. The mother hedgehog suckles her young for approximately 3-4 weeks after which they also leave the nest to go on the nightly foraging trips. After about 6 weeks the babies weigh +/- 300gr and are now self sufficient and able to survive in the world alone.
Why? Hedgehogs, unlike most mammals, lack the insulation of a warm fur coat. This coupled with the fact that the hedgehogs’ diet of worms, insects, slugs and snails disappears during winter is the primary cause for hibernation. Without the energy derived from their diet they are unable to function normally.
When? This is dependent on the weather; low temperatures in November and December are usually the trigger for adult hedgehogs to begin the long hibernation. In young hedgehogs this can occur as late as January.
How? Their body temperature drops from 35C to about 4C; breathing slows down to once in two minutes and the heartbeat reduces from 190 beats per minute to 14 beats. During hibernation reduced bodily functions rely on special brown fat reserves built up during autumn.
Where? As the temperatures fall the hedgehog begins looking around for a suitable spot to make a winter nest. Favourite spots are under hedges and within tree roots, in compost heaps, under wood piles and under sheds, in fact anywhere warm and dry. The often untidy looking nest is woven from leaves and other plant matter.
A hedgehog friendly garden
Hedgehogs can enter and leave your garden if you make a 12x12cm hole in the boundary fences dividing gardens. They prefer gardens with plenty of shrubs and plant matter with which to construct nests. Keep paved areas to a minimum.
Leave corners of the garden uncultivated and make compost heaps with garden waste, but watch out when using garden forks! Check bonfires before lighting! Hedgehogs are very agile and able to crawl under and through spaces of only 5cm!
Your garden pond is potentially dangerous if the sides are steep and slippery. Hedgehogs can swim but need to be able to grip the sides in order to climb out. Make a ladder from wood or attach some chicken wire along the edges of the pond.
Poisons used to kill slugs and snails in turn poison hedgehogs. Rats and mice dying from poison are also on their menu. Hedgehogs appreciate extra food especially during autumn and spring. They can lose up to a third of their body weight during hibernation. A plate of cat or dog food and water are always acceptable. Never feed them milk, their systems cannot absorb the lactose content.
Hedgehogs quickly become entangled in nets – watch out that fruit nets don’t quite reach the ground. Inspect tennis courts and football goal nets frequently.
Never be tempted to disturb a nest, hedgehogs quickly become frightened and a mother will abandon or even kill her babies if under threat. Take great care when moving a hedgehog to a ‘safer’ place. You could be separating a mother from her babies.
Hedgehogs in need of care
- are wounded, often as a result of dog bites, garden implements such as strimmers and mowers, road traffic accidents
- are found lying stretched out (often in the sun), unable to move or roll up
- are sneezing, have runny noses and are coughing
- are covered in ticks, fly strike/ maggots or have heavy flea infestations. Hedgehog fleas are host specific and cannot live on either us or our pets!
- after having been released from entanglement with netting, drains etc
- after having being rescued from water
- after having being disturbed during hibernation
- are seen walking about, dazed, during daylight hours, especially during winter when food is scarce
- baby hedgehogs require special attention since cooling off can be fatal for them. Before removing babies from a nest be sure the mother is not in the vicinity. Mothers often return a few hours later when the coast is clear.
Contact us in an emergency
We are open 7 days a week between 10 and 12 hrs for admitting sick/wounded hedgehogs.
Telephone: 070 325 40 45 (a recorded message in Dutch gives further instructions outside of these hours)
We are located in the dunes at the end of the De Savornin Lohmanlaan/Laan van Poot in The Hague. A signpost saying ‘Egelopvang’ points towards the path entering the dunes. We are a three minute walk from this point, situated in a building on your lefthand side. Post code is 2566 AN
The local animal ambulances (dierenambulances) can also be contacted, free of charge, to collect sick hedgehogs.
Dierenambulance Den Haag Tel : 070 328 28 28
Dierenambulance Wassenaar Tel : 070 511 77 72
Please note: It is illegal in The Netherlands to attempt to treat hedgehogs at home!
Postal enquiries may be sent to the Secretary, Jacob Hopstraat 8, 2582 TV The Hague.
We hold visitor afternoons every first Saturday of the month between 14 and 16 hrs except in the months of January and April.
Because of limited space we prefer large groups to make a separate appointment.
We are unfunded by either government or local authorities and rely solely on private donations to finance our charitable work. If you wish to help please make a donation to bank account no. NL98 INGB 0004 5951 83 (ING bank) in the name Stichting Egelopvang Den Haag.