Hedgehogs reach sexual maturity almost immediately after being weaned, when they are still little hoglets. However, breeding may be stressful for females if it occurs prior to 6 months of age. The gestation period is about 35 days. Hedgehogs are polyestrus, meaning they may have multiple litters per year, but in nature a female's peak breeding times will be in summer. During these periods the days are longer and the weather is warmer therefore providing the sow with adequate nutrients supplies. The female hedgehog is an induced ovulate, therefore simply being in the presence of a male, during her estrus phase, will cause her eggs to be dropped. If the female is not in estrus she will forcefully refuse the males advances, which tend to be very persistent. Studies have shown that repeated mating, within 24 hours of each, can cause the sow to have larger litter sizes. However there is a limit at which the repeated mating will cause litter fitness to decrease. When the female finally is ready to mate the defensive spines will lay flat on her back so that the male can mount her. The male will hold unto the spines on her neck during the 2-3 minute copulation. period. Mating usually occurs at night, since hedgehogs are nocturnal. After the 35-day gestation period a litter of 1 to 10 hoglets may be born, although the average size is 4-5 per litter. The most serious concern with larger litters is the higher post-natal death due to lack of sustenance and attention. In captivity, it has been found, that sows are very edgy around the time of their delivery. If a new mother is disturbed she may eat the entire litter of hoglets. Also a sow may confuse one or more of the babies for an afterbirth and consume them to reabsorb nutrition. When the babies are born there is a thin membrane which covers their small white spines. This membrane will fall off within a couple of hours and the hoglets spines will grow quickly and get darker in color. After 3-weeks the babies will begin to stray from their mothers side. Hedgehogs are solitary animals; therefore the male will not be present during the birth and growth period.