SETTING UP A NEST FOR HEDGEHOG
Hedgehogs rarely hibernate with other hedgehogs in the same nest, so it’s good to have more than one nest. It’s better to place them far enough away from each other or limit the visibility from one nest to another, so that fights over nest owning wouldn’t appear.
The best place for the nest is on the back of the yard, away from pets, playgrounds and walking paths. It should be protected from wind and direct sunlight and placed a bit higher from the ground, so the water from melting snow doesn’t flow into the nest and freeze or drown the hedgehog.
The nest should not be protected from snow, because it forms a breathable insulation against the cold of winter. Hedgehog doesn’t mind the cold, if the nest is good. The worst are warm, humid and snowless winters. Doctor Ilkka Koivisto has said that freezing temperatures without snow can be fatal to not only hedgehogs but also to other small mammals. “It has been researched many times that below the soft snow blanket, temperature is around zero degrees even if the temperature is –30 degrees above the snow blanket,” says Koivisto.
Before filling the nest, put a layer of gravel and then approximately 5 cm layer of dry soil or peat, so the hedgehog’s urine doesn’t stay in the bottom of the nest but drains through the soil/peat and the gravel into the ground. Moss can be put on top of the soil/peat as padding.
Winter nest is filled with dry leaves (hedgehogs seem to favour the big leaves of maple) and hay, not hay shred but long straight hay. Dried long- and broad-leaved hay is suitable nest material. Straw isn’t recommended, because it can cause allergies. As hollow, straw also breaks, so hedgehog won’t be able to form a tight, warming nest ball. Dry leaves are brought outside of the nest, so the hedgehog itself can add nest material.
The nest is filled lightly up to the roof. If there’s too much stuff, the hedgehog will deal with emptying the nest by itself.
In freezing temperatures and before snowfall, you can put spruce branches on top of the nest as additional insulation.
Ecofibre and rodent hay found from pet stores can also be used as insulation material. Ecofibre and rodent hay are often mixed, half ecofibre and half rodent hay. That is how airy, but warm nest material is created. The hedgehog’s nest can’t be too warm, because the environment’s thermal stress can prevent body temperature’s sufficient decrease, in which case the metabolism doesn’t slow down enough, and the hibernation won’t start. The most favourable temperature in the nest to hibernate would be around zero degrees.