The hedgehog is a small mammal. There are 25 species living in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Some of these species have spines, while others don’t. The German word is very old: the word “igil” already existed in the 9th century and means something like “snake eater”.
The hedgehog has simple fur on its stomach and face. The spines on the back are actually hollow hairs. Through evolution, they have become so hard and pointed that hedgehogs can use them to protect themselves. When in danger, the hedgehog rolls up. Then he looks like a ball with spikes everywhere.
The most well-known hedgehogs in Western Europe are the brown-chested hedgehogs. They like to live in fields with hedges and bushes or on the edge of forests. But some also dare to go to the cities. They like to eat young mice and chicks, but mostly insects.
How do hedgehogs live?
During the day, hedgehogs sleep in a burrow they dug in the soft earth. At dusk and at night they look for their food: beetles and beetle larvae, caterpillars, earthworms, centipedes, grasshoppers, ants, and many other small animals. They also like to eat snails with and without shells. That is why hedgehogs are very useful in a garden.
Hedgehogs usually live alone. In summer they meet to mate. The mother carries the young in her womb for five weeks. She usually gives birth to about four cubs. They are deaf and blind and have very soft spines. The cubs drink milk from their mother for six weeks. Two to three months after birth, they leave their mother and siblings.
Young hedgehogs have to eat a lot because hedgehogs hibernate. They save energy because they can’t find anything to eat when it’s cold. But if their nest is in the sun, they can also wake up. If the nest is destroyed, they have to find a new one. So hedgehogs can be awake even in winter.
Should you feed hedgehogs?
One does hedgehogs the greatest favor with a natural garden. There they will find enough food and places to hide during the day. Hedgehogs are gluttons and sometimes overeat when you feed them. They don’t like that. Some don’t even go into hibernation.
You should therefore only feed hedgehogs when it is really necessary. That’s what happens when hedgehogs wake up too early from hibernation and the ground is still frozen. Then you have to get instructions on how to build the feeding station at a hedgehog station. Otherwise, cats and foxes eat with them, and they all infect each other with diseases.
If a young hedgehog does not yet weigh a good half a kilogram in autumn, you can also feed it. But you always have to weigh it. So that you always feed the right hedgehog, it is best to mark some of its spines with nail polish. But then you have to go out every night. You don’t have to look for it for long: as soon as a hedgehog is fed two or three times in the same place and at the same time, it appears there as punctually as a clock. Once he has reached his correct weight, stop feeding him.
Hedgehogs only eat cat food. They also like a lot of other food, but it makes them sick. That’s why you can’t give it to them. Wet cat food is better than dry.
Where else do hedgehogs live?
There are four types of desert hedgehogs. They live in deserts or steppes. These are the Ethiopian hedgehog in northern Africa and Brandt’s hedgehog, which lives in Arabia and Iran. The Indian hedgehog lives in India and Pakistan, and the bare-bellied hedgehog is found in southern India. This is sometimes hunted by people because it is said to be able to miraculously cure diseases.
Like their European relatives, they are nocturnal: during the day they sleep between rocks or in burrows that they dig themselves. They only hibernate if they live in a cool area.
Desert hedgehogs eat meat. These can be insects or eggs and lizards. Desert hedgehogs also fight really dangerous animals, namely scorpions and snakes. Hedgehogs can survive snake venom surprisingly often.