A colleague in my department recently told me that hedgehogs could eat their babies. He saw a video about it. I was shocked. “How can it be?” I thought. I took my phone and went through all the pages I could find to slice through the misinformation. This is what I found.
Do hedgehogs eat their babies?
Both male and female hedgehogs eat their babies occasionally.  Females can eat babies due to several reasons including stress, the presence of a male, external threats, et cetera. Males eat babies only when they are around as they don’t know that these are their offspring.
If you want to know more about how you can safeguard the baby and care for it, keep reading on.
Why hedgehogs eat their babies?
Hedgehogs are very vulnerable creatures. And, the male plays no part in childbirth so the female is alone to fend off all the predators advancing for her babies. This is why they end up eating many of them to secure their chances of remaining alive.
They may also not want other creatures to have the nutrients from their body and instead chose to gulp them. It makes a weird kind of sense.
If the female hedgehog is severely stressed out after childbirth, she can eat them. A sudden change in the environment can be a cause of stress for many of them. So try to keep the environment as fixated as possible. Do not add anything new and do not touch or hold the mother before at least two weeks of the childbirth.
Having a male presence in the cage can also cause the mother to eat the babies. After the mating is complete, remove the male from the cage.
Mothers can also eat or abandon children if they find something of in them (some deficiencies) which we don’t see through naked eyes.
There can be other reasons than these as well including:
- Not enough food to feed all babies.
- She is a first-time mother and unable to figure out what to do.
- New scents and smells can frustrate them a lot.
- They aren’t mom material. Sometimes, it could be a genetic issue as well so check with the lineage before breeding such a mother.
Are hedgehogs cannibals?
Hedgehogs are not cannibals but they exhibit cannibalistic behavior sometimes as other animals like rabbits do. They do not understand what they need to do if their child has deficiencies or they are threatened by an external creature who can eat them and their children.
So, they take action with their limited intelligence and end up eating their babies.
Do hedgehogs feed their babies?
Credits to Instagram user kthoglets (Original post here)
Hedgehog mothers breastfeed the children until they are able to chew their food. Hedgehog babies are able to eat from their mother’s food from ages of about 3 to 4 weeks. The mothers grind and chew the hard food into small pieces to make it easier for the little hoglets to absorb them.
Can you touch baby hedgehogs?
You should not touch the babies for at least two weeks after the birth. This is important because sometimes, you could leave your scent on the babies and this may lead to the mother rejecting them. In case you’re worried about the babies, you can check them while you go to change the water and food.
Once they are about 2 to 3 weeks, you can give the mother treats so as to distract her and then start by holding one baby and see how the mother reacts. If everything goes fine, you can start holding other babies from the next time.
Holding baby hedgehogs is important as it connects them with you for a longer term.
What time of year are baby hedgehogs born?
Hedgehog babies can be born all around the year as there is no mating season for captive hedgehogs. The wild ones breed from April to October. Once a male and female are together they can mate quite fast.
The mating can be as fast as within 10 to 20 minutes or it could take days to get the female hedgehog impregnated. Some hedgehogs are quite shy in performing in front of others or when the lights are on. So, provide a suitable environment so they can lend their seed inside the female.
How long is a hedgehog pregnant for?
Hedgehog females are pregnant for around 35 to 40 days. Sometimes, it could take longer than that but if hoglets are not born within 10 to 11 days of the normal gestation period (35 days), then likely the impregnation was a failure.
There are not many ways to understand whether a female hedgehog is pregnant or not. But, there are some indications like the female gaining weight, eating much more than before, and their backside looking much bigger than usual.
How do hedgehogs give birth?
Hedgehogs come out of their mother’s vagina in a pair of 3 to 4 hedgehogs a time. The litter size can go up to 9 hogs but four is the average. The newborn hedgehogs are blind and look like small rats.
How do you keep baby hedgehogs alive?
To keep a baby hedgehog alive, you need to do a lot. Baby hedgehogs have a very dim chance of surviving (1% or so) on their own so it is better that the mother is provided with better conditions so she can raise them rather than you.
Sometimes, putting the hogs back again can work but if the mother is still attacking or trying to eat all of them, then it is best to take them out.
The second-best solution would be to find a foster mother of similar age and see if she take them. The problem is there are not many breeding mothers around. Hence, the last option would be to self-feed them.
You will need to syringe-feed goat milk mixed with gas reduction supplement every 2 hours when they are awake. Bloating is a serious problem for baby hedgies and can lead to their demise as well.
You can measure them to see how the growth is progressing or whether there is a sudden weight loss etc. Babies have problems in pooping so you need to stimulate the poop out using a q-tip.
Dip the q-tip in warm water and use it to stimulate the defecation. Else, use a cloth dipped in warm water to gently rub the belly and nether region for around 5-10 mins.
Hedgehogs start opening their eyes within 2 weeks from their birthdate and that should be a landmark for them if things go correctly.
Once they are 4-5 weeks old, you can provide them with solid food like grinded kibble.
There is one more thing.
You need to do heating setup for the little hedgies as the mother isn’t there. Their bodies are very fragile so a heating pad can harm them. Look for something like a lamp and keep them covered.
What do hedgehog nests look like?
Wild hedgehogs create their nests with whatever available to keep themselves warm. They can use hay, leaves, and branches to do so . In a home surrounding, hedgehogs sometimes use pieces of fleece and papers.
Nesting doesn’t mean that the hedgehog is pregnant or is going to be pregnant. It is a common behavior for them.
In case you want to simulate a nest, you can use shreds of paper, fleece, and shreds from egg cartons etc.
How big do hedgehogs get?
Hedgehogs can grow up to 600-700 grams. The females are usually larger than males. The average weight is around 450 to 500 grams. Other exotic species outside the US can be even bigger.
What do you feed a nursing hedgehog?
A nursing hedgehog mother needs more fat (between 15 to 20%) than usual to produce milk. You can use kitten food as it contains slightly extra fat compared to the usual cat kibble. Also, keep the protein close to 30 per cent.
A good example would be the Royal Canin baby cat food. You should start small to see how the mother reacts to it and then change to it completely. It is also easy to eat so the hoglets would have no problem to wean into it when they start chewing.
Providing a calcium supplement is also helpful.
What are hedgehog babies called?
Baby hedgehogs are called hoglets and sometimes piglets as well. The hog comes from the last alphabets of the parent word hedge-hog and “lets” denotes that they are offspring.
Hedgehog mother has died and I don’t want to care for them. What to do?
You can provide them to a nearby pet rescue or a hedgehog-specific rescue. Ask around for breeders and see if anyone is generous enough to take you little ones.
Do not throw them out or give to anyone on the street. The little ones will die if you do that.