in , ,

Hedgehogs – The Insects Eaters

Hedgehogs Quiz
Hedgehogs Quiz

If you’ve read Jan Brett’s classic story The Hat, you probably know and love hedgehogs. These tiny animals look like porcupines, but they’re not even related. Porcupines are rodents. Hedgehogs are insectivores, meaning they like to eat bugs.

Hedgehogs Facts For Kids

  • Hedgehogs have about 5,000 to 7,000 spines.
  • They’re primarily nocturnal animals.
  • Baby hedgehogs are called hoglets.
  • They curl into a ball when threatened.
  • Hedgehogs are insectivores, eating bugs.
  • They have poor eyesight but good hearing.
  • Hedgehogs can run up to 4 mph.
  • They live around 4-7 years in the wild.
  • Hedgehogs hibernate in cold climates.
  • Their name comes from their foraging habits.


Despite the common confusion due to their similar spiky appearance, hedgehogs and porcupines are distinctly different creatures. Both species utilize quills as a defense mechanism, however, the porcupine’s quills are noticeably larger and can be readily detached to ward off predators, unlike the smaller, more fixed quills of a hedgehog.

The habitats they occupy also differentiate them, with hedgehogs commonly found in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and porcupines largely inhabit the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Size is another distinguishing factor, as porcupines can grow up to 3 feet long, significantly larger than hedgehogs, which usually only reach between 6-9 inches in length.


Distinguished among small mammals for their unique defense mechanism, hedgehogs possess up to 5,000 spines or quills. Unlike the detachable porcupine quills, these are solidly attached to the hedgehog’s skin and are composed of keratin, the same material found in human nails and hair. Each hollow spine measures approximately one inch in length.

When faced with danger, hedgehogs utilize these spines as a prickly armor by rolling into a ball and sticking them out in every direction, effectively deterring predators. Even during periods of safety, hedgehogs constantly shed and regrow new spines, mirroring the cycle of human hair loss and growth.

Nocturnal animals

Belonging to the group of nocturnal animals, hedgehogs are intriguing creatures that display most of their activity during the nighttime. These small, spiky mammals use their exceptional sense of smell and hearing to forage for food, such as insects, worms, snails, and berries, once the sun sets.

However, they remain unobtrusive during the day, typically found sleeping curled up in a ball, making them an ideal quiet pet. As with other creatures of the night, maintaining an environment of ample darkness and tranquility is crucial for hedgehogs to uphold their natural sleeping patterns, emphasizing the importance of respecting their nocturnal lifestyle.


Known for their burrowing abilities, hedgehogs utilize their strong, short legs and sharp claws to dig tunnels and chambers as deep as 20 inches into the ground, often beneath bushes or hedges, which inspired their name.

This burrowing is essential to their lifestyle, providing them with homes for daytime sleep and winter hibernation, whether dug by themselves or repurposed from other animals’ abandoned burrows. More than just homes, these underground havens offer crucial protection against predators and harsh weather conditions, highlighting the importance of the hedgehogs’ digging behavior.


As insectivorous animals, hedgehogs are captivating creatures that primarily feed on insects, leveraging their unique hunting skills to locate meals. They utilize their sharp and curved claws to penetrate the soil in search of their preferred food, including beetles, caterpillars, earthworms, and other small creatures.

Their acute sense of smell and hearing aid them in finding food even in darkness. In a surprising twist to their chiefly insectivorous diet, these enchanting creatures also enjoy occasional treats of fruits and vegetables, showcasing their diverse dietary preferences beyond just insects.


Hedgehogs, intriguing creatures known for their distinctive hibernation habits, enter a deep, energy-conserving sleep during the winter when food becomes scarce. This sleep can extend from a few weeks to several months, during which their body temperature significantly decreases and their heart rate slows down to preserve energy.

In preparation for this period, hedgehogs typically consume large amounts of food in the fall to accumulate fat reserves that will sustain them throughout winter. However, it’s worth mentioning that hibernation isn’t a universal trait among hedgehogs; it’s contingent on their geographic location and the climate of their habitat. For example, hedgehogs residing in warmer climates may not hibernate at all!


Despite residing in vastly different corners of the globe, hedgehogs, native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, share certain characteristics with echidnas, found in Australia and New Guinea. Both of these distinctive creatures are recognized for their bristling protective spines, serving as a defense mechanism in perilous situations.

However, a major divergence between the two lies in their reproductive nature; echidnas are monotremes, a rare mammalian group that lays eggs akin to birds and reptiles, instead of birthing live offspring like hedgehogs. Therefore, despite their shared spiky exterior, echidnas exhibit a closer resemblance to birds and reptiles than to their hedgehog counterparts.

European Wildlife

European hedgehogs, small mammals typically found in gardens, farmlands, and forests across Europe, play a crucial role in the continent’s wildlife ecosystem. Covered in approximately 5,000 to 7,000 quills, these creatures use their spiky exterior as a defense against predators. They are nocturnal beings, exhibiting most activity during the night and leading a solitary lifestyle, except during mating season.

Interestingly, these hedgehogs each possess a distinct pattern on their bellies, comparable to human fingerprints. Their omnivorous diet ranges from insects, snails, and small animals to bird eggs, mushrooms, berries, and even snakes. A fascinating aspect of European hedgehogs is their hibernation habits, as they sleep throughout the winter in leaf and grass nests.

Garden pests

Did you realize that your garden could greatly benefit from the presence of hedgehogs? These adorable creatures serve as fantastic pest controllers, feasting on various garden nuisances like slugs, snails, caterpillars, beetles, and spiders. Remarkably, one hedgehog can eat up to 200 grams of insects in a single night, significantly contributing to the health of your plants by eliminating pests that could potentially damage them.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a hedgehog in your garden, bear in mind that it’s likely performing a helpful role. However, it’s important to remember to observe these spiny garden aiders from afar, as they are not only shy but also have sharp spines!

Sonic the Hedgehog.

Hedgehogs, small spiny mammals, have gained significant popularity in popular culture, particularly through the video game character, Sonic the Hedgehog. Although Sonic’s super-fast speeds and blue color are playful exaggerations of the real creature’s abilities and appearance, the character shares some similarities with actual hedgehogs. In reality, hedgehogs are not renowned for speed, but for their defense mechanism of curling into a ball to ward off predators.

They also typically have brown or grey spines, contrasting Sonic’s vibrant blue shade. Additionally, unlike Sonic’s collection of rings, they favor a diet of insects, worms, snails, and berries. Interestingly, both Sonic and real hedgehogs share the characteristic of being nocturnal, displaying heightened activity during the night.

Baby Hedgehogs Image - Science for Kids All About Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are covered with sharp spines. When frightened, they curl up in a prickly ball but that’s not all about hedgehogs!

Hedgehogs live in forests, woodlands and near ponds in Europe, Asia and Africa. They don’t live in the United States, except as pets. Hedgehogs are covered with sharp spines. When frightened, they curl up in a prickly ball. During the day, they sleep like this so they are safe. They come out at night to hunt.

Hedgehog Sleeping Image
During the day, they sleep like this so they are safe. They come out at night to hunt.

Fun Facts about Hedgehogs for Kids

  • Hedgehogs make grunting noses, which is why they’re called “hedge-hogs.”
  • These cute animals eat almost any insect, including worms, centipedes, snails, frogs, mice and even snakes.
  • Hedgehogs hibernate in the winter in cold areas. In the desert, they burrow under the ground during the day to stay cool.
  • Hedgehogs like to be alone. They don’t make cuddly pets.
  • Some pet hedgehogs carry diseases, such as Salmonella. They’re also very fragile and easily hurt. Think twice before getting a hedgehog for a pet, no matter how adorable they are.
  • Hedgehogs have more than 5000 spines (quills). The spines last about one year and are replaced by new spines.
  • There are 17 known species of hedgehogs around the world.
  • A hedgehogs eyesight is not the best but they have excellent hearing and smell.
  • A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet – how cute.
  • Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant – not good with dairy products.
Hedgehog Eating a Snake Image
Hedgehogs seem to be somewhat immune to snake venom. They do eat poisonous snakes.

Hedgehog Vocabulary

  1. Rodent: An small mammal that eats grain, seeds and nuts
  2. Spine: Sharp points
  3. Prickly: Sharp
  4. Hibernate: Deep winter sleep

Learn More All About hedgehogs

Learn more from this fun video about hedgehogs:

A short video of the little known facts all about hedgehogs.

Hedgehog Q&A

Question: Can hedgehogs eat poisonous snakes?

Answer: Hedgehogs seem to be somewhat immune to snake venom. They do eat poisonous snakes.


Question: What do pet hedgehogs eat?

Answer: Cat food, hedgehog food and insects.