Not all mammals in the UK hibernate, in fact hedgehogs are among a small handful alongside dormice and bats. As the temperatures become cooler and their food resources scarcer, hibernation is a tactic used to preserve energy until the warmer months of spring approach. Hedgehogs use nests year round but their hibernation nests are the most robust, relying on medium-sized deciduous leaves and a support structure to hold the leaves in place.
It would be quite a sight to see six hogs a-laying in one cosy nest as our adapted song would suggest - hedgehogs don’t tend to nest together in the wild (though sometimes do in captivity), but wild hedgehogs will nest in high densities. Winter nesting sites can be a limiting factor for hedgehogs and suitable areas of scrub and bramble can therefore be critical winter sites with 10+ hedgehogs nesting in a 200m strip of bramble.
For those of us that don’t have big bramble bushes in our gardens, log piles and gaps under sheds are popular alternatives. Hedgehog houses are becoming increasingly common too and a national survey ran last year by Hedgehog Street gave us some useful insights into their uses. Over 5,000 people responded to the survey and analysis by University of Reading revealed that hedgehogs preferred homemade homes over bought, back gardens over front, houses with dry leaves, pet straw or hay over empty ones and houses that had been in place for a little while over newly introduced ones. So don’t despair if you think your efforts have gone to waste – it may be occupied next year!