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Hedgehog Hibernation all the facts

Home Forums Champions’ chat Hedgehog Hibernation all the facts

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    I can’t believe that even the Hedgehog Preservation Society are saying to stop feeding hedgehogs through the winter. Three years ago I fed them all winter (I have photographic dated proof). It was lucky they knew where to come for a good feed. This year I am still feeding and collecting young to weigh and be checked over. One of which is still in rescue and will come back if it doesn’t reach the required weight for overwintering. Another is up to weight and will be released tonight. I have seven hedgehog houses and two log piles so I am a serious hedgehog friend. Please everyone of you (on behalf of the hedgehogs) who have started feeding hedgehogs please continue. I use Ark hedgehog food which is a dry food and I find the cats aren’t that interested in it.

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    Hi Hoglet

    I would be interested to see the link where that information is from BHPS. I know there has been some mis-information in the past, from elsewhere, but I haven’t seen that information from BHPS. It would be useful to see it.

    This is the advice on Hedgehog Street:

    I, too have had hogs which have chosen not to hibernate, although most do. It’s good to hear you have lots of hogs there. Sounds as if you have a serious hedgehog village! I hope you have some tenants.

    By the way, some cats will eat anything, it seems, including hog foods which cat’s aren’t supposed to like!


    It has been put out recently by the protection of endangered species giving the link to Hedgehog Street dated 13th November 2018 called Hedgehog Hibernation all the facts. I have phoned the BHPS asking for it to be taken down as it is wrong in so many ways.

    I have been checking my young hedgehogs who are still feeding after I had 2 out in daylight. It seems they might have caught something from the womb because both died quickly and I know I caught them within a few hours. I have one really tiny one that I am determined to get. The hedgehogs seem to like my garden although some neighbours have made comments but don’t know what I am doing.


    Hi Nic even that advice ‘should I feed hedgehogs all winter’ says and I quote ‘eventually stop altogether’ even Brian May is now agreeing with what I have been saying for the last 3 years which is to carry on putting food out.


    Hi Nic it was the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species that put it out there not the protection of endangered species. Sorry

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    Hi Hoglet

    I’m sorry to hear that some of the hoglets died. I hope the others are ok.

    I’m struggling to understand whether it was recently you were directed to that Hibernation information and if so, who and why they would have directed you to that version. The reason I’m puzzled is because it is old information from last year and some new hibernation information was released on News on 11th November 2019. i.e. this year. (link given above).

    However, I agree the wording on the old version is not totally ideal. But, it is open to interpretation and does say: “ …. so please do keep providing food until you start to notice that the food stops being taken, or gradually less and less is eaten – then you can gradually stop putting food out altogether…..” So I interpret: it isn’t saying stop feeding if there are hedgehogs still there, just if they stop visiting for food, then gradually reduce, and eventually stop. But gradually reducing would not begin until the hogs had stopped visiting (i.e. it would be a safety net, in case they came back). So, for instance if hogs just don’t stop visiting, like the ones here in the past, you would just continue feeding unless or until they decided to hibernate.

    Then I suspect this may be the bit you don’t like: “… It’s not necessary to put food out over winter as it will more than likely go to waste with hedgehogs hibernating….” But it does go on to say “… 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.” I interpret this as meaning if you have stopped feeding and you see evidence of hogs, you could put food out again. Then, to my mind, the previous advice would come into effect – that if they stopped visiting again you would gradually reduce the amount of food put out and eventually stop (if they didn’t return). But it all has to be read as a whole. It doesn’t make sense if bits are picked out here and there. Because if hogs hadn’t ever stopped visiting you would still be covered by the advice: “…so please do keep providing food until you start to notice that the food stops being taken ..”

    I really don’t think it was in any way meant to suggest stopping feeding when there were still hedgehogs around.

    But really it is a bit academic because there is now a new version ‘Hibernation FAQs’ – link given above, which makes things slightly clearer. But it’s a bit worrying if someone is still directing people to the old version.

    With regard to the ‘Should I keep feeding hedgehogs over Winter’ information. I don’t think it is a good idea to pick out one part of a sentence in isolation. It actually says in answer to the question should food continue to be left out over winter? :
    “The answer is YES… as long as it’s being eaten. It’s difficult to tell exactly when hedgehogs will begin hibernation, so when you start to see that food is not being taken, you can stop putting so much out and eventually stop altogether.”
    But goes on to say:
    “Hedgehogs do sometimes wake up from hibernation in response to milder weather. If you notice any particularly mild periods over winter, you could put a little food back out to help them along.”

    In other words, it is more or less agreeing with you that hogs should be fed in winter – if they are around. But if they stop visiting, perhaps it’s sensible not to leave out loads of food which very probably won’t be eaten. (having allowed a buffer time, during which the food is gradually reduced.) But then keep an eye out in case hogs appear again and if they do, offer food again. Bear in mind that it’s trying to cater for different potential circumstances.

    Hopefully you will feel a bit better about it now.

    One day, hopefully, someone will do some research into just how many hogs there really are not hibernating and whether it is actually mostly hoglets, but it seems likely that the vast majority still do hibernate.


    Hi Nic
    I still don’t like the words ‘stop putting food out’ in any context. The trouble is when they are in difficulties they really need food and water and you probably would have not noticed any sign of hedgehogs until the next day and that is 24 hours wasted. Would it hurt to put dry biscuits under cover for the few that do have difficulties. I have contacted the BHPS press office with all the details of who it has been put out by and they are looking into it. I
    I have been doing research in my garden for the last 3 years when they fed all winter and this year I had one come out in January which was treated for lungworm, caught pneumonia and released back into my garden. Even Brian May is now saying food should be accessible.
    Last night we had between 18.00 and 11.30 8 visits from hedgehogs one of them being 340gms which has been taken into care. Yes most of them do hibernate but I am afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

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    Hi Hoglet

    I’m not sure we are disagreeing, as such. There is no reason why you can’t leave food out all winter if you want to, but it may not be practical for everyone. But I would definitely leave food out if there are still hedgehogs around.

    Have you read the new version of hibernation information and do you have a problem with that?

    Just bear in mind that what we feed the hogs is supplementary to what they find for themselves. It isn’t meant to be something they are totally reliant on. But water should definitely be left out for them all day every day, including the winter.

    I know that the hog who didn’t hibernate here last year was foraging on the lawn in the middle of winter (despite being offered supplementary food by me), so clearly there was some food out there, even though possibly not as much as usual. So a hog emerging from hibernation is quite likely to be able to find some wild food for itself if it needs to. Water may be more difficult, which is why it’s important to always leave water out.

    But hogs have been around for millions of years and it seems likely that some have always come out of hibernation for short periods with no-one to offer supplementary food. I think it is widely accepted there are sometimes hedgehogs around at some times during the winter.

    These short times of emergence from hibernation may even be built in to allowing for how much fat they put down for hibernation. In other words, that they have enough fuel internally, to keep them going for the short periods when they wake up. I’m not sure how easy it would be to verify that one way or the other but in ‘Hedgehogs’ by Pat Morris it says:
    ” … It follows that, before it hibernates, a hedgehog must have accumulated enough white fat to last it for many weeks and enough brown fat to enable it to successfully wake up several times … ”
    which seems to agree with the idea that these wakings are built into the amount of fat they lay down for hibernation. Not sure if you are aware of it, but Pat Morris is probably the foremost expert on hedgehogs.

    The hogs who haven’t hibernated, we would of course just continue to supplementary feed them, as normal, which I interpret the information as allowing for.


    I got told by the hedgehog hospital to give the two young hogs, when I rescued them to give them mushed up wet dog food. I told her that I will do and will give them spikes semi-moist, which she was okay with, but she had a preference for wet dog food.

    Also I got an email from Grace from Hedgehog Street the other day, it was about looking after hedgehogs now that winter is close (everyone here should have got the same info) and it said ‘best thing to feed them on is wet dog or cat food.

    I had stopped giving them the wet food a few weeks ago, as I have heard conflicting advice about it by people saying it freezes when it’s cold, attracts flies in the summer, can go off.

    But it appears now, the hedgehog experts are prefering it over specialist hedgehog food.

    Anyway, with the two I rescued, I had a small bowl and mashed up some wet dog food, sprinkled some spikes semi-moist in and sprinkled some go-cat biscuits in and mixed it together – and it went down a treat.

    Does anyone know why the hedgehog experts are telling us to put wet dog or cat food down, rather than advise us to put specialist hedgehog food?

    I presume it must be because tins of dog or cat food can be easy to get hold of? Or is it because it’s richer and they can put more fat on.

    I have found, over the summer, that one dish of wet food will only feed one or maybe two (if the second one is lucky) as they wolf the whole lot down in one go. Whereas the dried food can last all night and feed all the hedgehogs that come to visit.

    So over the summer I put both down. At the moment, with the outside hedgehogs, I’m just putting dried food down, so should I start putting the wet food out again alongside the dried? I stopped as I thought it would just freeze?

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    Hi HedgieLover

    Not everyone always gets those emails. I haven’t seen it, so can’t really comment about what it says. Maybe you can copy the appropriate extract here?


    ‘Hedgehogs will also relish any combination of meat-based wet dog or cat foods as these are high in the protein that they need. Just remember, they will be getting most of their food from insects and worms in the wild, and this food is only supplementary.’

    This is quoted under Hedgehog Street’s news article titled Supplementary food for hedgehogs.’ However they do talk about specialist hedgehog food first. So I guess the high protein content explains why hedgehog hospitals and hedgehog street is now saying that this is the best food.

    Under the news article ‘Hibernation FAQ’s’, there is a little drawing titled Winter Is Coming, and under a picture of a hedgehog sniffing a bowl of food it says ‘Help hedgehogs by putting out food so they can fatten up for winter. Meaty dog or cat food is best.’

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    Hi Hedgie Lover

    I think you may be taking it a bit to literally. The whole section from the article about Supplementary food for Hogs says:

    “Specially made hedgehog foods both in dry and moist kibble varieties now exist and can be bought from most local pet and garden stores.

    Hedgehogs will also relish any combination of meat-based wet dog or cat foods as these are high in the protein that they need. Just remember, they will be getting most of their food from insects and worms in the wild, and this food is only supplementary.”

    So it’s saying hedgehog food now exists, but they will also relish cat/dog food. But also if someone comes across a hog, and wonders what to feed it, they are more likely to have cat/dog food available than hog food.

    In the past advice used to suggested cat/dog food, when hedgehog food wasn’t widely available or they didn’t know how good or otherwise it was. But there has been more scrutiny on hog foods more recently, so maybe that is why it is now included in the Supplementary Feeding article. It isn’t saying that the hog foods don’t have high protein in them, just that cat/dog foods do.

    I’m not sure that ‘experts’ are favouring wet cat/dog food over anything else. Or which ‘experts’ you mean.

    Clearly in the middle of winter if it’s below freezing and if you are still feeding, wet cat/dog food is likely to freeze, so it would be more sensible then, if there are hogs around, to offer dried food (I usually provide kitten biscuits because the hogs who decide not to hibernate often seem to be hoglets) (but also provide a source of water that doesn’t freeze). Otherwise they wouldn’t be able to eat the food anyway. if it was frozen.

    I think often Rescues are a bit strapped for cash, so some may offer whatever is afforable or has been donated. But they do use cat biscuits as well, I believe. Cat/dog food can vary as to protein content as well as to calcium/phosphorous ratio. As I imagine does hog food.

    None of it is ideal – hogs’ wild food is the best for them. The ideal is to create enough habitat for the hogs so that they don’t need to be supplementary fed at all. But that isn’t likely to happen in a hurry, if at all.


    The hedgehog rescue get’s donated tons of pedigree chum dog food, along with big bags of cat biscuits. Because it makes it a lot cheaper – Maybe the owner of the hedgehog rescue hospital told me to give the rescued hogs wet dog meat is because you can mush it up and make it easier for small hedgehogs to eat it perhaps.

    They were inside so wasn’t able to freeze, but due to it freezing, that’s why I have stopped putting it into the feeding station.

    I just wondered if there was now issue with specialist hedgehog food, but I think it’s great – the hedgehogs eat all of the spikes semi-moist, goes down a treat, but I top it up with meaty cat biscuits too, as they like them also and I thought it would be good for their teeth to have something more crunchy.

    I was considering going back to putting out dog food again, but I feel reassured that specialist hog food is good stuff.

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    Hi Hedgie Lover

    I suspect that some of the specialist hog food is better than others. I tend to do a bit like you and use a mixture of hog food and cat food, in the hope that they get the best of both! But I also hope that the dry kitten biscuits help keep their teeth clean.

    The trouble is there isn’t as much money in hog food as there is in cat and dog food, so there wouldn’t have been the research there is in cat/dog food. So there is always a question mark about some hog foods. But on the other hand cat food is specialist for cats and dog food is specialist for dogs and they are more similar to each other than either of them are to hogs. Also some of the cat and dog foods are better than others. i.e. some are much lower protein. But we just have to do the best we can in the absence of sufficient natural habitat for the hogs.

    But yes, you might be right. It might have been because it was quite a young one, they might have thought wet food was easier to eat. And like you say, they don’t have the problem of food freezing! I remember when I had an injured hog, one of the rescues suggested I feed it wet food to make it easier for it to eat.

    But the other problem is, if there are foxes around, wet food would probably be very attractive to them, I imagine.


    Well I’d totally gone off wet dog food – I really enjoyed watching the first hog of the evening wolf it down, so I really liked it at first – but then when they didn’t eat it, sometimes I found fly eggs in it.

    And I decided, to keep feeding it until it got cold, but lucky I had kept a tin in my cupboard, so when I rescued the first hog, Calvin, I gave him spikes – but then the hospital got in touch and told me to give him wet dog food – so I mashed it and mixed the spikes in it, and then mixed some cat biscuits – he didn’t eat much of it, as he was in a travel bag all night and then went off to the hospital the following day, but that mixture is a real hit with Sweetpea, but she’s a really greedy hog, she’s put on 35g in two days – haven’t weighed her tonight, as gardening gloves are in a hot wash – (plus the hospital are taking her in on Sunday as she has Lungworm – not showing symptoms yet, but came up on a poo sample I gave the hospital today, plus the hospital knows she’s eating all the food and putting on weight, so weighing again tonight seems like an unnecessary thing to do when her weight is not a concern anymore, especially as she doesn’t like being picked up).

    But not going back to giving them dog food outside, due to the cold, but will start again in the spring, even though the fly eggs are a problem, but it’s not so much of a problem when the first hog of the night eats it all.

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