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Home Forums Carers / rescuing a hedgehog Hibernation questions Reply To: Hibernation questions

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Hi GlowyEyes11

1. If they are going to build a good hibernaculum the hogs need loads of material. Imagine how much it would take to fill the hog box and multiply that by at least 5, possibly more – it depends a bit on individual hogs as to how well they build their nest. To make a good nest the preferred materials are medium sized leaves and grasses. The hogs layer the leaves like tiles, but many layers thick and use the grasses or i.e. alpine strawberry runners, etc. to help bind the structure together. A small hog sized chamber is left in the middle for the hog to curl up in. So if at all possible leaves are the most natural choice. If you don’t have many in your own garden someone else may be very happy to ‘donate’ some from theirs.

Straw/hay can be useful if you don’t have leaves, etc. available and if using a hog box. But because it would be difficult to layer straw in the same way as leaves, it would likely not make as waterproof a nest with just the right amount of insulation for a hibernaculum if built outside, i.e. in the base of a hedge, which the hogs may have to use another year – or even this if they decide not to use the box. So the most natural materials which the hogs would find, in i.e. a woodland edge or hedgerow – their natural habitat – (which are mimicked, to some extent by our gardens) are best.

So yes, the hogs can build a far better nest themselves than we would be able to, or even have the patience to build. So it’s best to just put a handful of material into a box to give them the idea. Hogs have reportedly even removed nesting material kindly put in a box for them by a human!

2. It is always best to leave a hog alone once it is in its nest (of any kind) i.e. birthing or hibernation. Any disturbance which might arouse the hog from hibernation could be harmful to it, however inadvertent it may be. The hogs have to lay down two types of fat for hibernation. One of those fat types are to help the hog to raise it’s metabolism to get it going again and if that is used up unexpectedly, there is the possibility that the hog may not have enough left to raise its metabolism at the end of hibernation.

The idea of checking on the hogs during hibernation may have arisen from some confusion with those which are hibernating in ‘captivity’ i.e. if they are being over-wintered because they were underweight – that sort of thing. In those circumstances the situation is different from a hog in the wild. Hogs in a hog box/house in our gardens are, in effect, in the wild.

With a hog in the wild, even opening a hog box could effect the temperature inside the box. The hog will have taken the closed box into account when insulating its nest to achieve the correct temperature conditions needed. With a really good hibernacula the hog may not even be visible.

3. It would not be possible to rat proof a hog house in any event. But, any rat horror stories around may be fewer than appears, due to repetition. Hibernation is a dangerous time for hogs and it seems likely that if hogs have been impacted by rats that they already either had insufficient engergy levels remaining or were already dead. The hogs spines should offer some level of protection against rats. A good hibernaculum has only one entrance, so a rat would be met by a load of spines from a curled up hog.

Some people leave some food available for the hogs (dry cat/kitten food can be useful for that as it doesn’t go off so quickly) throughout winter. But others leave it out for, maybe a couple of weeks after seeing the last hog and then look out for any which may be around and if they see one, offer food again. Not all hogs choose to hibernate and hogs are also known to come out of hibernation for short periods and even move nests during hibernation time.

It’s important to leave water available all day every day, including during winter.

Hopefully that helps. Hibernation time is always worrying for us hog lovers. We can but hope for the best and look forward to the Spring when it’s such a treat to see our old hog friends returning. Good luck to the hogs there and everywhere for a safe and successful hibernation.