Whether you own a pet hedgehog or you have got one entering your garden at night, it’s interesting to know if hedgehogs burrow?
In this post, we will cover everything you need to know about burrowing hedgehogs both in the wild and captivity.
First, we will cover wild hedgehogs and then we will move on to captive pet hedgehogs.
If you are looking for burrowing information for your pet hedgehog please navigate to the later sections of the post.
So do hedgehogs burrow? Burrowing is a natural behaviour for both wild and captive hedgehogs. Wild hedgehogs will use a combination nest building and burrowing depending on the climate and time of year, while captive hedgehogs will often try to burrow under their cage bedding.
Read on to discover…
Do Wild Hedgehogs Burrow? (More Info)
Wild hedgehogs are indeed known to burrow and this is considered a natural behaviour for them.
Many experts point this out and suggest that burrows are used for both hiding and sleeping.
Hedgehogs can actually sleep for up to 18 hours per day and having a safe burrow to sleep in can help them to stay out of the clutches of predators.
There are many factors that can determine when, where and how often a hedgehog burrows, all of which we will cover in the remainder of this post.
Do All Wild Hedgehogs Burrow?
Not all wild hedgehogs burrow and some opt to build nests instead.
From being around 3 weeks old hoglets start nest building and are considered experts in a matter of weeks.
The nests are often made of branches, grass and dry leaves. They can also look tatty and thrown together in their construction. Source:
Some hedgehogs will do a combination nest building and burrowing depending on a number of factors including climate and time of year.
In Africa, hedgehogs have been known to simply hide between rock to hide and keep safe when they have no other option.
What Time Of Year Do Hedgehogs Burrow?
Hedgehogs do actually burrow more often at different times of the year.
Research done by Wildlifeonline showed that hedgehogs dig into the soil to build a hibernaculum (place to hibernate) before the winter sets in to protect them from frost and adverse weather conditions.
This means that they are more likely to be found in nests during the warmer summer months and in burrows when winter arrives and they hibernate.
It’s important that hedgehogs keep their body temperature somewhere around 34-39°F while hibernating according to Wildlifeonline and housing themselves in nests doesn’t provide the best insulation for their requirements over the winter months.
The time of year that hedgehogs hibernate in the UK and most of Europe is from November to mid-March so you are most likely to see hedgehogs burrowing between these months.
It’s also worth noting that they may also choose to burrow out of this time frame if the weather conditions are cold enough.
Here’s an easy to follow post that guides you through everything you need to know about hedgehog hibernation in under 5 minutes...
How Big Are Hedgehog Burrows?
The estimated size of a hedgehog burrow can differ depending on what evidence you look at.
The two most reliable sources we have found are the San Diego Zoo and Wildlife online.
San Diego Zoo state that when a hedgehog burrows in the soil it can reach up to 50cm in depth.
On the other hand, wildlife online suggests hedgehog burrows can reach depths of up to 76cm but are usually less.
They also go on to explain how the burrow usually slopes gently instead of dropping sharply.
Neither experts actually give any dimensions to the diameter of the burrow hole.
Additionally, something that is very important to note is that hedgehogs often don’t dig their own holes.
They are opportunists when it comes to burrowing and they will gladly use the burring hole of another animal if it’s being abandoned.
In Africa, hedgehogs are often seen using the burrowing holes of turtles, gerbils and even foxes.
In the Uk and Europe, hedgehogs can use the holes made by rabbits, foxes and more.
This can easily cause confusion as to what animal first burrowed the hole and is actually using it at the present moment.
For example, you can see a hole that looks way too big for a hedgehog to burrow themselves so automatically assume it’s being used by another animal but in actual fact, the hole was abandoned a long time ago and adopted by another animal such as a hedgehog.
If you ever find a burrowing hole, you must always do more research on the site before you assume exactly what animal is now occupying the site at the present time.
Do Hedgehogs Burrow With Other Hedgehogs?
Hedgehogs are solitary animals for the most part and only really interact when they are breeding or raising their young. Source:
For the most part, hedgehogs will live alone in the confines of the nest or burrow.
Having said this, nest or burrow sharing has been reported in many countries but the reports are few and far between.
A female that’s weaning her young will live with them for a short while but this is usually for 5-6 weeks only then they will be independent and nest and burrow on their own.
The bottom line is that with all things considered, usually hedgehogs will be found on their own in burrows.
How Long Do Hedgehogs Keep a Burrow?
According to the evidence available, the length of time a hedgehog will keep a burrow active can differ greatly depending on a number of factors.
Veteriankey suggests that it’s possible for a hedgehog to change their resting place daily.
They also state that burrows are more likely to be used for longer if the hedgehog has a litter.
Hibernation also plays a big role in how long a hedgehog keeps a burrow active as they will sleep for long periods.
They often don’t keep the same burrow for the whole of the hibernation period though, as they can regularly wake through the course of the winter and change nesting and burrowing sites.
Where Can You Find Hedgehog Burrows?
Hedgehogs are found burrowing in a great number of places and because they are happy to use the burrows of other animals such as rabbits they can be found in all sorts of places.
Below is the answer to some common questions about where hedgehogs burrow and nest…
Do hedgehogs burrow under trees? Hedgehogs burrow under trees. This is probably one of the most frequent places you will see a hedgehog burrowing.
Do hedgehogs burrow under sheds? Hedgehogs love to burrow under timber building and garden sheds. Under these types of buildings can make a great living space for a hibernating hedgehog.
Do hedgehogs burrow in compost heaps? Hedgehogs are known to regularly burrow inside of compost heaps in gardens. They make great living spaces in the winter as they are warm and easy to dig out.
Do Captive/Pet Hedgehogs Burrow?
Hedgehogs in captivity are just as likely to try and burrow as wild hedgehogs.
Burrowing is a natural behaviour for hedgies and one that you should encourage as an owner.
Usually, hedgies in captivity will constantly try and use their bedding to burrow and can sleep vast amounts of the day in these little nests.
When your hedgie wants to burrow it’s important to provide them with bedding that firstly allows them to do this and secondly is safe.
Some beddings such as ones made out of wood chips can be sharp and even cut hedgehogs when burrowing.
Others have a high dust content that is bad for hedgehogs and ultimately not recommended.
The only bedding we recommend you use is the one we share in this post here…
Should My Pet Hedgehog Burrow & Hibernate?
Even though hibernation is a natural part of life for wild hedgehogs, it’s not recommended for captive hedgehogs.
Hibernation in captivity can cause a whole host of health problems and worse.
Captive hedgehogs burrow all the time and this is fine but if you notice your hedgie burrowing and attempting to hibernate then it’s not a good sign.
This often means that there’s a problem with the temperature in their cage and something needs adjusting.
So if you notice your pet hedgie attempting hibernation then you need to take a good look at your cage set up and if the situation continues then you will need to speak to your vet.