British Hedgehog Preservation Society - Caring for Hoglets

Registered Charity 326885

We are a UK Charity dedicated to helping & protecting Hedgehogs (BHPS). Helpline with advice on caring & encouraging Hedgehogs in the wild & garden

The aims of the Society are:-

a) To encourage and give advice to the public concerning the care of   Hedgehogs particularly when injured, sick, treated cruelly, orphaned or in any other danger
b) To encourage children to respect our natural wild-life-by supplying information and giving lectures, and thus fostering an interest in Hedgehogs
c) to fund serious research into behavioural habits of Hedgehogs and to ascertain the best methods of assisting their survival



Hoglets may be found abandoned in May, June or July, when the first litters are generally born, and in August/September, when the second litters appear. The average size of a litter is four to five, and they appear after a five week pregnancy. If you find one or two, the area should be searched as there may be others, either still in the nest or nearby.


If the mother is disturbed after the birth, she may desert her litter. Many more Hoglets are made orphans because their mother is killed or injured on the roads, dies because of garden or farmland hazards, falls into a cattle grid without an escape ramp or is poisoned by pesticides.


Favourite nesting sites of Hedgehogs are: under a garden shed, in a hedgerow, pile of garden debris or a compost heap. You may hear their distressed, shrill, bird-like piping.


Abandoned Hoglets are v&nerable creatures and are often found in a poor state. For survival, human help is needed quickly, and generally, two things are needed urgently - WARMTH and FOOD. However, before these are administered the Hoglets should be closely checked for:


If the Hoglets have flies eggs (tiny white specks) and/or maggots on them, they must be removed as soon as possible with tweezers. Any in the mouth should be washed out with diluted antispectic mouthwash; any in the eyes washed out with warm water. Open wounds and bites need to be cleaned out with a saline solution or very mild antiseptic. Ticks are debilitating and should be removed by coating with oil (cooking or olive - not car!), especially around the mouthparts, and they should then drop off within twenty four hours. Fleas are not a problem but if you wish to remove them either pick them off with tweezers or use a powder mild enough for caged birds, such as Johnson's Rid-Mite, do NOT use sprays, especially NOT Nuvan Top.

Obvious major injuries and breathing difficulties necessitate a visit to your vet.

STRESS REDUCTION - Wild animals suffer stress in an unnatural environment and Hedgehogs are no exception. The Hoglets will need to be in a quiet, calm atmosphere and handled only when necessary.



Warmth is absolutely vital. The Hoglets should be kept in a temperature of no less than 240C (750F) by using: a well-wrapped hot water bottle (ensure the opening is concealed to prevent a tiny youngster getting trapped); a heat lamp or a heated pad. They can be placed in a cardboard box or similar (a cat basket is ideal), lined with plenty of newspaper and an old jumper or towels for bedding. From the beginning, a 'surrogate mum' in the form of a clean piece of towelling, an old (clean) sock, soft toy or small slipper to bury into, can give a feeling of security and comfort.


It is important that the Hoglets, their bedding and feeding equipment are kept scrupulously clean. The bedding should be changed regularly and the feeding equipment sterilised. See After Feeding for keeping the Hoglets clean. After dealing with each Hoglet, hands should be washed.

WEIGH the Hoglets regularly and chart their growth.


ONE WEEK OLD weighs about 28-56gms [1-2oz] and 50-lOOmm [2-4"] in length) These tiny Hoglets have no teeth and their eyes and ears will be closed. They will need to be fed every two to three

hours on 1-2mls Goats' milk diluted 2:1 with water, and vitamin drops added; or Goats' colostrum. A plastic pipette, icc syringe or doll's feeding bottle can be used to feed them with. Each Hoglet should be held on its back in the hand and fed slowly, taking care not to get milk up its nose or in its lungs.

AFTER FEEDING it is important that you massage each Hoglet's tummy with a brush or tissue - mum would do this in the wild to stimulate bladder and bowel movements (very young Hedgehogs cannot do this for themselves, unaided). Droppings, on arrival, should be bright green, but on a diet of goats' milk should change to pale greenish/blue. Carefully clean the Hoglet's mouth, face and tummy with damp cotton wool and gently massage with baby oil, especially inside the back legs and around the tail area.

TWO WEEKS OLD weighs about 56-85gms [2-3oz] and 70-130 mm [3-5"] in length) Eyes will probably still be closed but could open soon. Earholes begin to appear. Feeding should be increased to 3-5ml every 3-4 hours.

AFTER FEEDING clean and toilet as before.

THREE WEEKS OLD (Weighs about 85-1l3gms (3-4oz]) Eyes now open and teeth beginning to appear. Can now be encouraged to lap milk from a shallow dish. When lapping successfully, liquidized puppy food and milk could be offered. Hand feeds should continue.

AFTER FEEDING clean and toilet as before.

FOUR WEEKS OLD flveighs about 113-170gms [4-6oz]) Now looks like a mini-adult Hedgehog. Gradually decrease the milk in the liquidized puppy food and eventually give the puppy food on its own, but mashed. Droppings will now become brown, firm and smelly. When the Hoglet is no longer taking milk, offer a dish of water. ~ould now be accompanying mum on foraging trips if still in the wild). When the Hoglet is weaned worming should be considered. Panacur powder (available from your vet) is recommended, 110mg/500gm sprinkled on food over three meals, and then repeat in two weeks.

AFTER FEEDING clean as before but toiletting can be reduced and stopped altogether when the Hoglet copes unaided.

FIVE WEEKS OLD weighs about 190-225gms [7-8oz]) Should now be eating twice daily: a dish of mashed or liquidized puppy food with added vitamins and cereal. New flavours can be experimented with, such as: chicken, lightly scrambled egg, a little grated cheese, banana. Heat will not now be necessary in the summer but adequate bedding should be provided.

SIX TO SEVEN WEEKS OLD weighs about 225-3l0gms[8-lloz]) Now eating one tablespoon of mashed puppy food and cereal twice daily with added vitamins and minerals, and a dish of water.

EIGHT WEEKS OLD Qeighs about 350gms [12oz]) Should now be eating adult cat or dog food twice daily, and given a vitamin and mineral supplement once weekly. Natural food can be introduced, such as slugs, snails and worms. Foraging expeditions in the garden can be undertaken. Shredded newspaper, hay or paper tissues can be given for nesting materials to encourage the youngster(s) to build their own nests.

NB. The foregoing weights, ages and amounts are approximate and for use only as a guideline. Like all young mammals, each Hoglet's development will vary individually.


When the Hoglet(s) weighs around 500gms (700gms in the autumn - see NB below) release should be considered. Choose a place that is 'Hedgehog-friendly', i.e. already inhabited by Hedgehogs, with no badgers or crop-spraying in the vicinity, such as parkland, big gardens, organic farmland, cemeteries or wasteland. Evening is the best time for the release as Hedgehogs are nocturnal, and a warm, muggy evening will ensure that there is plenty of natural food around. If releasing into your garden then you could leave the Hoglet's nest box in a suitable place, with a dish of food nearby as 'back-up'. The youngsters will stand a better chance of survival if they have not been handled more than is necessary and retain their suspicion of humans (i.e. roll into their defensive ball when approached). Research studies into released orphaned Hedgehogs show that their instinct to forage and nest build remains intact and their rate of survival is the same as their wild counterparts.

NB If the Hoglets were part of an August-September litter they should not be released unless they weigh around 700gms Below this weight they will not be able to survive hibernation and should be overwintered (see the back of BHPS leaflet The Basic Facts for how to overwinter 'autumn orphans').

It is very gratifying to be able to release a healthy young Hedgehog or litter back into the wild. However, if they were found sometime after desertion by their mother they may be very weak and ilL You should not blame yourself if after providing extensive care, you lose one or more of the litter. They would have died in the wild anyway, without help.


Male and female Hoglets both have tails, with the anus at the base of their bodies. They also both have an umbilicus ~elly button). There the similarity ends. The male's penis is underneath the umbilicus (see diagram) whereas the female's vulva is just above the anus. In very young Hoglets it can be difficult to tell the difference as the male's penis is nearer to the anus at birth. It moves forward as the Hoglet grows.



When you start introducing new flavours to the Hoglet's diet it may carry out the strange behaviour known as self-anointing. The Hoglet will flick frothy saliva over its spines, contorting itself into awkward positions so that it can reach every part of its spiny coat. The procedure can last from just a few minutes to an hour or so and will stop suddenly. It is not known why Hedgehogs do this although many theories have been put forward. It seems to be triggered by strange smells and tastes.


* The Length of a Hedgehog pregnancy is somewhat variable. It is believed that i{ for instance, a cold spell of weather in spring brings about a shortage of natural food, a pregnant Hedgehog will resume hibernation and the development of her embryos will slow down. When she is active again the embryos continue to grow and the pregnancy is lengthened by the same amount of time as the hibernation period.

* When Hoglets are born they are bright pink and do not have visible spines. These are under the skin covered by a layer of fluid, like a large water blister. Soon after birth the spines erupt through the skin.

* The new spines are white but brown ones appear amongst them and by the time the Hoglet is fifteen days old the white ones are hardly visible.

* Hedgehogs shed their spines just as humans shed their hair.

* It Is thought that I in 5 of all Hoglets die before they leave the nest.

* When Hedgehog litters leave the nest and disperse they are unlikely to meet again as they live solitary lives.

* Hedgehogs are not usually sexually mature in the year of their birth but commence breeding in their second year.



Membership is 

Ordinary 7.50
Family 12.50
Overseas 10
Life Membership 75

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All pictures and text are taken from the literature of the BHPS and all copyrights are acknowledged

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