In the UK, hedgehogs usually breed between May – September. Once mating has taken place the male has no role in providing for the female or the offspring. Gestation is around 35 days and a litter can number from 2-11 hoglets (or piglets), averaging 4-5.
The female will remain with the litter for 24 hours before leaving to forage for food. During this time, the hoglets will huddle together in the nest as thermoregulation that controls their body temperature takes up to one month to function properly.
The hoglets are altricial, meaning that they are totally dependent on the female, and are born pink, hairless, and their eyes & ears are closed. Within an hour the first set of spines appear & are white. The second generation of coloured spines appear 1.5-2.5 days after birth & the third generation, adult spines, appear at approximately one month old.
Around 20% will not survive to adulthood & over half die within the first year (adult mortality is around 30%). Mortality can be grouped into death by predators, disease and parasite infection, misfortune which is mainly due to human activities such as road traffic accidents, gardening, and also inappropriate feeding. Foods to avoid include mealworms, sunflower hearts and peanuts that can all contribute to Metabolic Bone Disease. Added sugar, honey and dried fruits should also be avoided as they can lead to cardiovascular issues, and, high fatty foods above 15% can cause obesity and lead to fatty liver disease. The argument of feeding Calciworms to cancel out mealworms being fed is misleading as feeding these in excess can lead to levels of calcium building up that can cause even more problems than Metabolic Bone Disease. Brambles’ hedgehog foods have none of these harmful ingredients and provide a nutritionally beneficial addition to their natural diet. More info can be found on this link: Brambles’ Wildlife Foods
If you find yourself in a position where you have disturbed a hedgehog nest with hoglets in, this info from Watermeadows Hedgehog Rescue is great.
When hoglets are taken to a Rescue they need intensive care that includes up to hourly feeding by hand as well as all the other bits of care and attention they need. Many of the Wildlife Rescues both small and large work with such dedication and their ventures can both be incredibly rewarding but also heart breaking. If you can, please do help your local Rescue in any way that you can. You can find your local Rescue here: Help Wildlife