When people ask the question “how do hedgehogs mate?” they are usually greeted with the answer, “carefully”. This actually isn’t too far from the truth, as the female spines can cause a problem for the male. To prevent the male from being injured, the female must flatten her spines during mating.
The Hedgehog Mating Ritual
Hedgehogs are sexually mature during their second year and the females can then breed every year until they die. As soon as they come out of hibernation, hedgehogs start to prepare for the mating season, which can begin as early as April. The main season is between May and June.
During the courtship hedgehogs can be very noisy so if you hear a lot of noise coming from your garden, this could be why. The ritual can last several hours and generally ends with mating, or with one of them simply running away.
- the male hedgehog will move in circles around the female. She is not always responsive and reacts by turning one side towards him.
- The male will also emit some snorting and puffing noises, which are matched by the female making the same noises in an attempt to put him off.
This noise also attracts other male hedgehogs and these must then be chased away. Their confrontation starts with them squaring up to one another and then after a series of head butts one will chase the other away. During this conflict has been known for the female to simply walk off.
The Mating Process
With so many spines, it’s vital that the female adopts a position where she does not injure the male’s belly during the mating process. The hedgehog’s underbelly can be quite sensitive so mating can only take place if the female is in full agreement.
The female will make sure she is in the correct position and lies flat to the ground with her head and shoulders arched. In this position her spines are flat so they will not injure the male as he climbs on. He will grasp the spines between the shoulder blades with his teeth and get into the correct position by using his paws to pull him on.
The female will sometimes want to change her position during mating, and to do this she will raise her spine slightly so the male will fall off. Once mating has been completed, the hedgehogs simply go their own way and the female is left to handle any pregnancy and raise her young alone.
Hedgehogs do not mate for life, and both males and females can mate with many different partners during the season. In fact, many hedgehogs will mate with different partners twice and the same night.
Hedgehog mating is noisy and for the male, can potentially be painful. Not all matings result in pregnancy, though, so the females will mate with other males to make sure has babies. Although hedgehogs can have two litters a year, but as the second litter is not born until September or October, the babies are less likely to survive.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How can I help babies born in September?
If a hedgehog has a second litter in September, many of these babies don’t survive. Hibernation means they need to build up their fat resources very quickly and many simply can’t do this.
If you see a baby hedgehog during autumn, it may need help. The best thing is so contact your local Hedgehog reduce centre as the hoglet may need to be looked after for the winter.
- Hedgehogs will need a quiet space if you are looking to support them through the winter.
- They are nocturnal, so make sure the room they are in has natural daylight.
- They do not need a lot of food, and you can feed them meat flavoured cat or dog food.
- To prevent them from hibernating, make sure you keep the temperature steady
- Allow them to behave as naturally as possible.
It can be hard work, but releasing the grown hedgehog in to your garden in the spring makes it all worthwhile.
Where do hedgehogs build their nests?
Hedgehog nests are often built at the bottom of a thick hedge, under garden sheds or in piles of rubbish or leaves.
If you are tidying your garden in the summer, always be aware that hedgehogs may be nesting so always check before:
- You trim the hedge or mow long grass
- Remove leaf piles
- Take compost from a compost heap
What do I do if I disturb a nest?
Hedgehogs will react differently if their nest is disturbed.
- If you do disturb a nest, cover it up immediately.
- Don’t touch the babies or move them.
- Do keep an eye on the nest to see if the mother returns. If she doesn’t, then contact your local hedgehog rescue centre immediately.
- If she does, she may carry on with the nest or move it to a new site.