The hedgehog, an animal that has been around for about 60 million years, never fails to amaze many people and at the same time raise the anxious question of what to do with the little guy when he has to hibernate? He keeps this from November to May and sometimes hedgehogs are discovered much earlier when they cross the street in search of a suitable hiding place. This is always deadly for the hedgehog, because it is not a flight animal, but simply rolls up in danger and thinks it can escape. But what helps him with living enemies is no obstacle for a car. They get run over again and again.


  • The hedgehog belongs to the mammal family
  • The best known is the brown breasted hedgehog
  • There are around 25 species in total
  • An adult hedgehog has around 8000 spines
  • It has a length of approx. 25-28 cm
  • The adult hedgehog weighs around 800-1,500 g

Hedgehog habitat

Due to their long history, hedgehogs have probably always lived in forests, which thanks to the undergrowth offered them both shelter and habitat. In this habitat there was and still is the necessary food for hedgehogs, unfortunately it is being changed more and more by the hand of man. For this reason, hedgehogs have adapted as far as possible, but nevertheless the protection for hibernation is becoming less and less.


In contrast to other animals, hedgehogs do not hibernate, but hibernate. The difference in these two processes lies primarily in the lowering of body temperature. During hibernation, this hardly decreases noticeably, but during hibernation it does. It can adapt to the ambient temperature and is only slightly raised again at 0°. Of course, the entire metabolism is drastically reduced here, which is why hedgehogs must have reached a certain weight before they go into this long hibernation phase. During hibernation, hedgehogs will also not respond to external stimuli.

What is the purpose of hibernating hedgehogs?

The main reason why hedgehogs hibernate is to escape the scarcity of food during the cold season. The problem with hedgehogs is that they lose a lot of heat through their spines and are therefore unable to keep their body temperature at around 34° in winter. Less food means less fuel for the production of heat, and nature has therefore instituted hibernation for these cases. Added to this is the ever-decreasing amount of daylight and the constantly falling temperatures. All of this together ensures that the hedgehog’s body becomes more willing to hibernate.

In order to get through the hibernation well, the hedgehog needs a sufficiently good fat deposit. The first male hedgehogs can already go into hibernation at the beginning of October, the females still have their young to look after and will follow a little later in the well-deserved hibernation phase. The little ones are the last to go into hibernation, because they still have to eat well for a while to reach a minimum weight for hibernation. If they don’t manage that, dear people will take care of them again and again, feed them up as much as necessary and then make sure that they also go into hibernation.

Note: Hedgehogs need a weight of 500g to hibernate from November.

The metabolism of the hedgehog during hibernation

Even if the hedgehog’s bodily functions are reduced during hibernation, it must have a fat pad to keep it warm. Its body temperature roughly equals the ambient temperature and is slightly raised again at around 0°. The frequency of the heartbeat decreases from 200 beats per minute to 2-12 pieces. In addition, the breathing rate drops from 50 times per minute to around 13 times per minute. In addition, the blood sugar level and other values ​​also drop. The whole thing must now be able to run successfully for 5-6 months, with short interruptions being quite common. But hedgehogs don’t leave the nest when they wake up during the winter break, they just wake up briefly and then go back to sleep. However, it can happen that they leave the nest and are active for a few days. Experts suspect

Waking up from hibernation

After around 5-6 hours, the hedgehog has entered its hibernation and will stay here for the next few weeks and months. During this time, the hedgehog draws on its fat reserves and loses around 30% of its body weight. It’s no wonder that he’s hungry as soon as he wakes up and has to strengthen himself before he can start looking for a partner. Waking up takes several hours and is set in motion when the outside temperature is around 10°. For this, the hedgehog needs a large amount of energy, which it now draws from the brown fat in the shoulder area. When he wakes up, his little legs will be shaking badly. This is due to the increased heart and breathing rate and the increased blood flow to the muscles.

First aid for the young hedgehog before hibernation

If the hedgehog child has not managed to take in enough food on its own and form a fat deposit, it cannot survive the hibernation. Hedgehog babies who are orphaned and cannot survive on their own are in urgent need of help. Again and again it happens that orphaned hedgehog children who are still too small to survive the winter on their own are found.

Basically, hedgehogs are exposed to many dangers, hedgehog children are all the more exposed to their size and lack of strength. They can easily be injured or become sick and exhausted from searching for food and water for days. As a result, they will also be noticed during the day because they are looking for food and should then get help immediately. Sick hedgehogs can no longer curl up as a reflex and are therefore defenseless at the mercy of their enemies.

Likewise, hedgehog cubs need immediate help from humans when they are orphaned, hypothermic, and immature. In such a state, they have no chance of survival and even more urgently need the help of humans. However, this should not be used haphazardly, but rather carefully considered and, best of all, used specifically by gathering information.

An exceptional situation occurs when hedgehogs that have been scared out of their nest are encountered. This can easily happen when cleaning up the park or garden, and construction work can also be the reason. In this case, the hedgehogs will find the nest again.

What do you do with a hedgehog in need of help?

Hedgehogs in need of help should only be treated if they have a normal body temperature of 36°. You should be aware that a needy hedgehog child requires a lot of care and effort during the winter. If this cannot be guaranteed, it is better to give him to an adequate foster home. Such an address can be found on the Internet, eg at Pro Igel , but also via the veterinarian or the nearest animal shelter.

It is important to make notes about the date, time and location of the find. In addition, the hedgehog must be weighed in order to be able to understand the success of the treatment through feeding. Then the following treatments should be carried out:

  • Determine the sex (important for older animals because of possible maternity)
  • Check hedgehogs for injuries
  • Determine body temperature and place on a hot-water bottle in case of hypothermia
  • In the case of injuries, consult a veterinarian or nursing station

The accommodation of the hedgehog

To house a hedgehog in need of care, you need a hedgehog enclosure set up in a room with a temperature of 18-20°. The room should be quiet so that the hedgehog can sleep undisturbed. A separate room is important not only for peace and quiet, but also because a hedgehog should not come into contact with other pets. A 2 square meter area is separated for the hedgehog enclosure so that the hedgehog cannot run away and hide in the apartment. It is best to cover the floor of the enclosure with several layers of newspaper, which can be renewed daily. In any case, the hedgehog needs a little house to sleep in, which either consists of a solid, larger cardboard box or, alternatively, can consist of a large plastic box such as a litter box.

Overwinter under supervision

Hedgehogs that weigh between 600-700g can hibernate under the supervision of a keeper. Healthy and adult hedgehogs have a weight of 1000g to 1400g. Once the animal is heavy enough and healthy, he can go into controlled hibernation. For this he is brought into nature together with his dwelling. To hibernate properly, hedgehogs need temperatures below 6°, above that they would only do twilight sleep, which is not good for them.

The sleeping house is placed in a large box together with the hedgehog, a wooden house would undoubtedly be nicer. Newspaper is again crumpled up between the two dwellings for insulation and stuck between them.

Note: Do not use styrofoam, it causes condensation to accumulate.

A loophole is also cut into the outer carton, just like in the sleeping house. The hedgehog that has been hibernated in the garden in this way should continue to be fed until it no longer touches the food. This can still take some time, after that the pupil should be visited regularly and everything should be checked. The sleeping house should continue to be cleaned during the time when the hedgehog is still eating.

Tip: The food can be cat food, fried unseasoned minced meat or scrambled eggs without salt.

To make sure that the animal is resting healthy in its hibernation, you can carefully look at the sleeping hedgehog in its dormitory. It should be curled up inside with only the spikes showing. In this situation, you can recognize a dead hedgehog by the fact that its paws and head are not curled up.

end of hibernation

In spring, around the end of March or mid-April, the little hibernator will slowly wake up again. However, he has not gained any strength during the hibernation, but has given it up and now has to regain his strength before he can be released into nature. In any case, he must have the same weight as he reached before hibernation. It is placed in a large box, which is now filled with hay or straw and also has a loophole, in a sheltered corner of the garden. He gets his food and water set up right next to the entrance, which is refilled again and again for up to two weeks. Then the hedgehog will have gotten used to his new freedom and will look for his own food again.

Basically, you should offer hedgehogs a natural habitat. That means creating at least one spot in the garden where they can crawl into the foliage or undergrowth. The fence should also have a “leaky” spot so that hedgehogs can use a sufficiently large territory. For hibernation they need a starting weight of at least 500g and a place to retreat. Helpless and sick animals must receive adequate help, after recovery or after hibernation they must be released back into the wild.

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