Helping hedgehogs during the winter: 5 tips

Strongly impacted by our contemporary lifestyles, the life expectancy of a young hedgehog leaving the nest is less than 2 years, hedgehogs will appreciate any help adapted to their needs. Even if hedgehogs hibernate during the winter, it is possible to help them get through this period, especially by providing them with help upstream. Here are our tips to guide you in your actions.

What does the hedgehog do during the winter?

The hedgehog is preparing to face winter from October, by storing fat that will be used to maintain the functioning of its body and warm it when resuming activity.

When temperatures drop below 14 ° C and the duration of sunshine decreases, the hedgehog experiences phases of semi-lethargy which gradually lengthen until they no longer move for four months, in the best of cases. But first, he makes himself a nest comfortable and suitable for wintering. We tell you how you can help a hedgehog.

Tip # 1: Leave a mess in your garden

The hedgehog’s nest can be placed in an abandoned burrow, a pile of stones or branches capable of hiding it. The hedgehog completes the place by accumulating herbs and dry leaves which have the role of insulation in order to maintain the temperature of the nest between 1 and 5 ° C.

If you want to help the hedgehog, we advise you to leave these useful materials at its disposal and to limit the maintenance of the garden to a minimum. Dead leaves accumulated under a hedge, branch or dead tree, pruning remains, heaps of compost can make the happiness of the small animal. There are even hedgehogs that have found it advantageous to settle in a messy garden shed. However, if they are disturbed when they had started to settle, it is as much energy to spend again to find another place, energy which may then be lacking to pass the winter properly.

Tip # 2: Set up a hedgehog house

If your tidy temperament prevents you from leaving your garden in a mess, you can still make life easier for hedgehogs by helping to build a suitable shelter. Models are sold in aid organizations. But if you have a DIY soul, you can definitely consider making it yourself, even if you don’t think your DIY level is good. The hedgehog will not judge the quality of your assemblies!

For this, you do not necessarily need new wood. It can be salvaged as long as it is not painted or treated. The goal is to assemble a box that is at least 30cm wide, 40cm deep and 30cm high. Nothing very difficult: just cut the boards to the right dimensions and assemble them with nails. Obviously, the hedgehog must be able to get inside. So you create a square opening of 15 cm from the side, on one of the shorter sides and towards a corner. Because the goal being that the hedgehog is warm inside, protected from drafts, without preventing the good ventilation of the box, the ideal is to place a partition which acts as a corridor and separates a part “ entry “of a part”dormitory”. The box must be closed with a cover which ensures tightness against rain. The hedgehog will appreciate that the dormitory is lined with sawdust, hay or straw. If your assemblies are not perfect and the corners (especially the two of the “dormitory” part) allow air to pass, stuff the slits with paper.

Tip # 3: Make it easier for hedgehogs to move around

Even if you think that the playhouse you’ve built is perfect, or that your garden has everything a hedgehog needs to hibernate there, the animal may not spend the winter there. Do not be upset: you have decided to help, not to become indispensable!

It is therefore advisable to facilitate the movement of hedgehogs from one garden to another, leaving a space of at least 15 cm between the bottom of the barrier that separates you from the neighbor, and the ground. If you combine your efforts between several neighbors, provided that none have dog, the hedgehogs will appreciate and will be able to live their life pleasantly, while limiting their efforts and their exposure to the traffic routes which cause so much damage to their population.

Tip # 4: Offer food

Helping a hedgehog through the winter also makes it easier for him to return to activity. After 4 months, the hedgehog comes out of hibernation and must quickly regain strength. He must find something to eat. If food is still scarce, you can help a hedgehog by offering a food buffet and fresh water.

Hedgehogs have become opportunistic as they approach humans. Thus, an adult hedgehog can eat kibble or mash for cats or dogs, ideally with chicken (not fish), as well as some natural, unsalted or sweet oleaginous fruits, such as nuts, hazelnuts and nuts. almonds that you will have previously broken into small pieces. However, note that this type of food is not suitable for a baby hedgehog who needs puppy or kitten formula, served lukewarm.

Tip # 5: Don’t hesitate to call a specialist

If the winter is mild, it is quite possible that a hedgehog will not hibernate. If it is cold, he may be disturbed. You may then find a stray or motionless hedgehog, as if dead. Do not rush to think of it as such as it may just be lethargy.

As these animals are fragile and have needs specific, the best way to help them is to contact the nearest hedgehog care center. You can talk to a specialist who will tell you the best course of action. Contact with the animal and repeated handling are not always the best service to an animal, especially when it is struggling for its survival. Every inappropriate gesture can cause his death. It is therefore better to be advised and guided to act and save the hedgehog rather than to make the situation worse.