Have you ever wondered what it is like for hedgehogs to reproduce? How do they avoid getting pricked in the process? How do they give birth? And what does the whole gestation period look like for a hedgehog?
Find answers to all of the questions you never knew you had about hedgehog reproduction below!
How Do Hedgehogs Mate?
Table of Contents
- 1 How Do Hedgehogs Mate?
- 2 Do Hedgehogs Have Periods?
- 3 How Do I Know My Hedgehog Is Pregnant?
- 4 How Do Hedgehogs Give Birth?
- 5 How Are Baby Hedgehogs Born?
- 6 Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Young?
- 7 Author
Hedgehogs become sexually mature at two years old. They will then mate every year until their death.
Before anything can happen, however, hedgehogs participate in a courtship ritual that involves the male circling the female repeatedly while snorting, puffing, and making other noises. This process typically lasts for a few days, sometimes up to an entire week.
In the wild, it’s not uncommon for rival males to get into little squabbles over females with headbutting and chasing involved!
A hedgehog courtship ritual.
Once the female has been successfully wooed over, she puts herself into a delicate position with her spines laid down and flattened. The male will then mount her from behind.
When Do Hedgehogs Mate?
Hedgehogs can breed successfully at any time if they want to but typically mate between April and September. The most active months, though, are May and June.
During that period, females go through a cycle of nine days in heat followed by seven days out of it.
They then give birth in the months of June and July, but may possibly have a second litter in September or October of the same year.
What Do Hedgehogs Sound Like When Mating?
Hedgehogs are known to be incredibly noisy when they are mating. They produce a very loud chuffing noise comparable to a mini steam train engine.
Do Hedgehogs Mate for Life?
Hedgehogs are typically solitary creatures. They enjoy being alone, so will not mate for life.
After mating, the male will not stay around to help raise the hoglets with the female. This means the mother is completely responsible for raising their babies, and the father will likely not be seen again.
Additionally, hedgehogs are not monogamous – male and female hedgehogs will mate with several different partners in one mating season.
Do Hedgehogs Have Periods?
Female hedgehogs are referred to as “induced ovulators.” This means that female hedgehogs only ovulate as a response to external stimulation (such as during or right before mating). They do not have a monthly cycle or a regular period.
If you notice a female hedgehog bleeding, seek out a vet as soon as possible!
How Do I Know My Hedgehog Is Pregnant?
There are several signs that you will notice when a female hedgehog is pregnant. These include:
- Increased appetite and weight gain. The hedgehog will be eating more food to nourish her babies and prepare herself for birth.
- The hedgehog is more active during the day instead of at night.
- The hedgehog can be observed building a nest for themselves and their coming litter.
The hedgehog’s belly will only start to become round about a week before giving birth.
How Long Does a Hedgehog Stay Pregnant?
Hedgehogs don’t have a very long pregnancy. It typically lasts only between 30 to 46 days, with 35 days being the average length.
However, the pregnancy can be extended if the female gets pregnant too close to hibernation season.
When the weather starts to get cold, the hedgehogs hibernate. If this happens while the female is pregnant, the development of the baby hedgehogs will basically be put on hold, starting up again only when the hibernation is finished.
How Do Hedgehogs Give Birth?
It is very difficult to learn about the birthing process of hedgehogs because there aren’t many reports covering it. However, it’s clear that, as mammals, hedgehogs give birth to live young and do not lay eggs.
Those who have studied hedgehogs report seeing the female hedgehog lying either on her side or her belly as she prepares to give birth. If she is on her belly, she will have her front paws extended in front of her and her rear end will be raised. Alternatively, she might also be standing with her hind legs spread apart.
The female hedgehog periodically licks herself as she is giving birth, and will be visibly trembling. As with all birthing, it’s reasonable to assume that the mother is in some amount of pain throughout the process.
The babies are inside an amniotic sac similar to human babies, and their spines are covered by a fluid-filled tissue that is there to protect the mother from being pricked or injured while giving birth.
Baby hedgehogs can be born either tail-first or headfirst. As soon as the babies are safely out of the mom, she will immediately turn to eat the placenta and other birth membranes and start licking her babies clean.
The birthing process of a whole litter of hedgehogs can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. It reportedly takes about two minutes per baby. The mother will then remain very close to her babies during the first 24 hours after their birth before leaving to forage.
Watch a female hedgehog giving birth.
How Many Babies Will a Hedgehog Have?
Hedgehog litters can range anywhere from one to nine babies but are most commonly between three to six babies.
Large hedgehog breeds will usually have 3 or 4 hedgehogs in their litter. Smaller hedgehogs will typically have 5 or 6.
How Are Baby Hedgehogs Born?
Hedgehogs are born deaf, blind, and very tiny.
At birth, hedgehogs are just under 3 inches long. Their typical weight will be somewhere between 8 grams (0.282 ounces) and 25 grams (0.882 ounces). The average weight of a newborn hedgehog is 15 grams (0.529 ounces) and it is pretty rare to see a hedgehog born over 20 grams (0.705 ounces).
The baby hedgehog will open its eyes to see and be able to hear within the first two weeks of its life. At about that time, it will also begin exploring its environment on its little legs.
Are Hedgehogs Born with Spines?
Hedgehogs are born with spines, but these will not be sticking out of their skin just yet.
During birth, the baby hedgehogs have swollen skin and fluid-filled tissue covering their quills to protect the mother. Over the course of a few days after being born, the skin swelling will reduce, and their quills will start to grow.
At about four weeks of age, the babies will start to shed their little spines and have their adult spines grow in. It will take about six months for the hedgehog to grow all their adult spines. They will be sensitive during this process – a little like human babies’ teething!
What are Baby Hedgehogs Called?
Until recently, there wasn’t an established word for baby hedgehogs. Some words that were previously used include kit, pup, and piglet. Others simply called them young or baby hedgehogs.
It was in the early 1990s that the word hoglet was introduced. Some later created a variation of the word, calling baby hedgehogs “hedgehoglets.” However, that didn’t stick as well as the simple “hoglet” name, which is still the most commonly used to this day.
And what do you call a litter of hoglets? A prickle!
What Are Some Hedgehog Birth Defects?
It is rare to see any kind of birth defect in hedgehogs, but it does happen. They can be born with cleft palates, crooked limbs, missing toes, and even misplaced or missing limbs. There has also been a case of a prickle (a littler of baby hedgehogs) having eyes that are overdeveloped.
Can Baby Hedgehogs Survive on their Own?
Baby hedgehogs are known to survive on their own after they have reached eight weeks of age. At about that time, their mother will stop feeding and nurturing them, and leave them to fend for themselves.
However, it’s possible for the mother to leave them for short periods within those first eight weeks to forage. Should you come across a nest of baby hedgehogs without their mother, do not touch them. If you do, the mother may possibly abandon or even kill the litter.
Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Young?
There may be some cases where a hedgehog will eat their young.
If the hedgehog gives birth in a safe environment, she is not likely to eat her babies. Female hedgehogs will become stressed and eat their babies if they think their environment is not safe.
This behavior is from the survival instinct. If the babies are potentially in danger of other predators, the mother would rather eat them than allow the predator to do so.
Another reason might be that the hoglet isn’t completely healthy. For example, she might eat a weaker hoglet if it can’t compete with its siblings for milk.
Author: Bernice Go
Bernice Go is a violinist and orchestra manager by profession but a writer by hobby. She enjoys writing about various topics, from music to animals to self-development. When she isn’t playing the violin or writing, she loves reading, traveling, playing video games, and savoring a good cup of coffee.