While hedgehogs are not native to North America, they have been growing in popularity as pets in the United States over the recent years. Even if you are a wildlife and animal lover, you still may never expect yourself to one day be caring for a hedgehog, never mind a baby! So, what can you expect when taking on such a task?
Why Get a Hedgehog as A Pet?
First of all, why have hedgehogs been growing in popularity as domesticated, household pets? What makes them a good furry (or spiked) family member?
Most of the hedgehogs available as pets through pet stores, rescues, etc., are African pygmy Hedgehogs or European Hedgehogs. This means that these hedgehogs have been chosen specifically because of their adaptability to become household pets.
That being said, hedgehogs have historically lived alone in the wild rather than in packs or groups. Therefore it may take some time and patience to warm up to their new environment. Once they do warm-up, hedgehogs typically sleep throughout the day but can be rather active, snuggly, gentle, and calm.
What Is A Baby Hedgehog Called?
A baby hedgehog is called a hoglet. The word hoglet has been used since the mid-1990s. Some people refer to them as pups or urchins, but people have been referring to them as hoglets in recent years. Or, to be straightforward, you can refer to them as baby hedgehogs.
How To Care For Newborn Baby Hedgehogs
Whether you are expecting hoglets through hedgehog breeding or found an abandoned hoglet, it's important to learn how to care for them properly.
Before caring for a baby hedgehog, otherwise known as a hoglet, you will first have to prepare your home.
The supplies needed are listed below:
- An enclosed, inescapable cage
- Heating device
- Hiding huts
- Food / Water dishes
- Bedding (shredded paper, pelleted/absorbable materials, wood shavings (aspen or pine)
- Toys and Treats are optional for the hoglet(s) in the future
If you have an unexpectedly pregnant hedgehog, you need first to prepare the environment for the mother hedgehog and the hoglets. Unexpected stress or an insufficient environment can cause a mother to reject her newborn hoglets.
Firstly, there should be no cage-mates present before, during, and after the mom gives birth. The temperature of the space for the hoglets and mom-hedgehog should be kept between 74 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit with either a heat lamp or heat pads. The baby hedgies and mama-hedgehog should be left undisturbed for at least five to ten days.
If a mother is not present, you can keep your baby hedgehog warm by placing a warm water bottle in the cage, heating pad, or heat lamp.
What to Expect
As previously stated, hoglets should be left alone for at least the first five to ten days after birth as they adjust to life. The first five days are crucial to leave the mom uninterrupted to allow her to nurse the newborns without any disturbances to the enclosure. But you will need to ensure the mom is eating after giving birth. While it is rare for a mother to stop eating after giving birth, it isn't outside the realm of possibility. If this does occur, you will need to contact an exotic vet.
The hoglets will attach to their mom and continue to nurse for at least four-to-six weeks. From there, it may be helpful to offer some additional food to them as they decrease their suckling frequency and amount. Wet cat food or dry kitten food soaked in water is an excellent option to try out! Before weaning, the hoglets will begin to open their eyes around two to four weeks. After nursing, around seven weeks is an appropriate time to separate the hoglets from their mom's care and separate the males and females to avoid breeding. Females can reach sexual maturity at two months old, and most pregnancies occur around 6-8 months old.
Some mothers will grow tired of hoglet nursing and will begin to pull away from them. Baby hedgehogs usually begin teething around three weeks after they are born. This can cause irritation and pain for the mother hedgehog and cause them to become anxious to wean. To survive, the baby hedgehogs will begin to take food from their mother's dish. This behavior increases as the mother avoids the hoglets for longer and longer periods as they grow. If this does occur, you can leave extra food for the mother, remove the mother from the hoglet for some time or remove the mother entirely if necessary. Some mothers are ready to spend time away from the nest.
If a mother is not present, there are hog milk alternatives you can feed the hoglets. Some people find sheep milk as an excellent substitute, milk, raw egg mixed with some milk or other milk replacers.
Expect the Unexpected
Mom can reject the baby hedgehogs or even eat hoglets due to environmental stressors, feeling disturbed, or other reasons. If this happens, return the rejected baby hedgehogs to the nest without getting your scent to them and wait for another day and see. You may need to use a spoon or other tools to help you place them back without getting your scent on the baby hedgehog.
Otherwise, you should be prepared to remove the baby hedgehogs and hand-nurse them or attempt to have another adult female hedgehog "foster." For this reason, many breeders will purposely breed multiple females at the same time.
To attempt to have another female "adopt" the baby hedgehogs, rub them in the new litter, so they take on her scent. If the other female does not "foster" the baby hedgehog, or if this is not an option, you may need to take on the role for the next four-to-six weeks of nursing time. This will require additional supplies and some changes to your sleep schedule. Hoglets typically feed every two-to-three hours, for at least the first three weeks.
- Plastic syringes (a good option is to purchase one with rubber "nipples")
- Sheep's milk or a milk-replacer (kitten milk replacer is commonly used)
- Raw egg (which can be used to mix into the milk to create a "formula")
- Damp cloths/baby wipes
What to do:
- Gradually syringe-feed small amounts of your created "formula" to the hoglets every two-to-three hours for at least the first three weeks.
- Heat the formula to a "warm" temperature, but not too hot!
- You will need to induce urination and/or bowel movements, which is usually initiated through the mother's licking. Do this by gently rubbing the hoglets' hind area after every feeding.
Here are some things to remember when caring for a young hedgehog as it grows into its adult life:
- Hedgehogs typically carry zoonotic disease, which means they can be transferred from animals to humans or other animal species. Frequent hand-washing and cage-cleaning can help prevent the spread of such diseases.
- Routine and/or non-routine veterinary care is important, even for hedgehogs! Call around to your local veterinary clinics to note what Veterinarians in your area care for hedgehogs.
- Don't forget their spikes! Hedgehogs are cute, snuggly, and have fuzzy tummies but also have quills that they often use as a defense mechanism.
- Cage cleaning and enrichment toys are essential to keep your hedgehog happy and healthy, both physically and mentally.
- They are nocturnal! It is typical for your hedgehog to sleep all day and party all night.
- High protein diets are best, and typically treats should also include fruits, vegetables, and dairy options.
Weaned young hedgehogs can be held for 30 minutes or more several times a day to socialize to be more loving and cuddly towards the human. Hedgehogs typically live between five and eight years with the appropriate, consistent care. While independent, hedgehogs make great and challenging pets and can be a great addition to your life!
What is hedgehog litter size?
The average litter size for hedgehogs is between four or five but can be as many as seven. However, a mother usually only wean two or three successfully.
Why Does mother hedgehog abandon or kill off the litter?
A baby hedgehog's life can be in danger from the mother hedgehog at the moment they are born. A mother hedgehog can abandon, kill, or even eat their young. Even if you do everything possible to keep them safe, comfortable, and undisturbed, it can still happen. If you notice this happens, you can remove the baby and attempt to reintroduce it to its mother.
When to Remove The Babies From Nest?
Babies are ready to leave after their mother wean them at four to six weeks. You will notice hoglets will suckle less and eat more additional food supply. After seven weeks, you should be okay to remove them from their mother's care. When separating, be sure to keep males and females separately to avoid breeding.
When to feed a baby hedgehog?
Newborn baby hedgehogs should be fed on a schedule of 1-3 mls every two hours or on-demand. They should be fed every four hours between the third and fourth week. After five weeks, they should be able to self-feed.
Why does my baby hedgehog have diarrhea?
Baby hedgehog poo should be shaped like a sausage that is shiny and squidgy in black color. If your baby hedgehog has diarrhea, it can be caused by an imbalance of gut flora or stress. We encourage you to bring a stool sample to the vet to determine the cause.
Why is my baby hedgehog losing quills?
All hedgehogs go through a process called quilling. This is when a baby hedgehog will lose its quill and grow adult quills in. It's a slow process and can be uncomfortable for some hedgehogs, causing them to be a little moody. Quilling will occur at 2-3 weeks and will last through the first twelve weeks of life.
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