Hedgehogs are one of the few mammals that are true hibernators. During hibernation hedgehogs are not really asleep, instead they drop their body temperature to match their surroundings and enter a state of torpor. This allows them to save a lot of energy but slows down all other bodily functions making normal activity impossible.
Hedgehogs aren’t fussy. A log pile, under your shed, in a compost heap or manmade hedgehog house can all provide a safe place for hedgehogs to nest in over winter.
Hedgehogs will be relatively inactive over winter, especially when temperatures drop very low. However, on milder days it is possible that hedgehogs can wake up early and look for a quick bite to eat before returning to slumber. Research also shows that during the hibernation period, hedgehogs can move between nests every few weeks, and even use nests built by other ‘hogs.
Because hedgehogs do not hibernate for the whole winter (some do not even hibernate) we recommend providing food and water all year round. If you’d prefer not to leave food out all winter, then on very mild days, or when you notice hedgehog activity in your garden, you may want to put some food out for a short time until it gets cold again. Please make sure water is available all winter though. Just make sure to never disturb a nesting hedgehog, so avoid opening up the hedgehog house or clearing the garden or leaf or log piles as they may have some sleeping ‘hogs inside!
If you are ever worried about the health or welfare of a hedgehog, please call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890801 and they will be able to give you advice, and put you in touch with a local rescue centre if necessary.