Baby hedgehogs are unbelievably cute, but what do you know about them? Here’s all you need to know about baby hedgehogs (hoglets).
In the wild
The hedgehog mating season is between late April to September, mainly in May and June. Hedgehogs stay pregnant for 35-58 days (5-8 weeks), and the average litter is four to five hoglets — baby hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are born in a nest similar to which the mother hibernates in, but larger. It is made mostly leaves and grass. At birth, hedgehogs are a pale pink color with its quills still beneath its skin. The quills begin to show within hours. Their first quills are white. The hoglet’s eyes are closed. Any disturbance to the nest or having a male hedgehog near the mother after birth causes stress to the mother which can cause the mother to abandon or eat her hoglets. The father hedgehog plays no role in taking care of the hoglets.
After the first week, brown quills begin to grow and gradually replace the white ones. After two weeks of the hoglet’s life, the eyes open and fur begins to grow, covering the flesh which is now darkening. After three weeks, the hoglets are weaned. At four weeks, the mother hedgehog takes the hoglets on foraging trips. At the age of five to six weeks, the hoglets are ten times their birth weight. They leave the nest and begin to fend for themselves.
Hedgehogs continue to grow throughout their life. The growth is fastest in the first month of their life and slows after leaving the nest. Hedgehogs can mate in the second year of their life. Half of hedgehog babies die in the first year of their life, but those who live can survive for up to eight years in the wild.
Taking care of baby hedgehogs
The only time you should care for a baby hedgehog is if you found it alone and outside its nest. Baby hedgehogs should be left with their mother until 5-6 weeks old. The mother should not be disturbed what-so-ever! Baby hedgehogs are very vulnerable animals and will need human help immediately if their mother was killed or has abandoned them. The most urgent thing they need is warmth, food and toileting.
Hoglets up to two weeks in age (weight 30-85 gms*):
Regular force feeding them about 1-3 mls. ever 2-4 hours or on demand is necessary. Feed the hoglet a milk substitute, such as Esbilac or Cimicat, DO NOT feed the hoglet cow’s milk. Goat’s milk (preferably lactose free or low in lactose, sold in pet stores) may be used for a short amount of time if nothing else is available. Put a few [4-5] drops of Multi-vitamin (Abidec) in one of there feedings, once daily. Warm the milk to body temperature before feeding. Feed with a small syringe or dropper. To feed, keep the hoglet on their back legs, tail to the floor, head facing upwards. By two weeks, they should be fed every four hours. By now, they should be gaining weight.
3-4 weeks (weight 110-170gms):
Hoglets of this age should be fed every four hours. Food should be varied by small amounts of protein. The lower front teeth appear at about three weeks. At three weeks they will be able to feed themselves.
5-6 weeks (weight 200-206 gms):
Now, the hoglet should be feeding well. They should be provided with a bowl of roughly mashed meat and milk (lactose free) and a bowl of water. They become nocturnal at this age, and will stop feeding in the day. At six-seven weeks the milk should be stopped.
*Hedgehogs gain weight much faster in captivity. The weights provided are for hedgehogs in the wild. Hand-raised hedgehogs should weigh about 500-600 gms at six weeks.
Mother hedgehogs lick the hoglet’s belly to toilet the hoglets. In captivity, use a cotton bud dipped in olive oil. Vibrate it as light as a feather over the vulva, anus or penis with up to down, head to tail movements. The hoglets should stretch out their back legs and urinate (also defecate). Do this on arrival, and after feedings until three and a half weeks of age.
Hoglets must be kept warm.Keep the hoglets in a warm room and place a hot water bottle filled with hot [not boiling] water, wrapped in a dry towel (you could use a reptile heat mat instead). Change the water bottle every few hours to keep it warm.
Every part of the hoglet must stay very clean. Everything around the hoglet must be squeaky clean. The feeding equipment must be sterilized, the bedding changed frequently. After dealing with the hoglets, wash your hands. Hoglets are very prone to infections. After feeding, the hoglets should be wiped with a moist towel and a little olive oil.
DEALING WITH SMALL PROBLEMS
Fleas: Fleas can be cleared with a flea powder used for pet birds. Be careful when dealing with baby hedgehogs avoiding the eyes, nose, and mouth areas.
Maggots: Maggots can be found on baby hedgehogs, You can treat this with a anti-maggot preparation.
Fly eggs: Fly eggs should be removed by tweezers, any damaged checked after removing.
Wounds: Wounds can be treated with a dilute antiseptic.
If you think there may be something wrong with the hoglet, take it to the veterinarian.
RELEASING THEM IN THE WILD
If the baby hedgehogs were from the May-July litter, then you should release them as soon as you think they are able to fend for themselves. They should be at least 8 weeks old. If you have hedgehogs that visit your garden regularly, then you can release them in your garden. If not, find a garden that hedgehogs are present in (not territorial ones) and release them there. Do not release them in bad weather conditions, and release them in the evening. Leave them some food, just in case.
If the hoglets were from the August-September litter, then they should not be released if they weigh under 1 ½ pounds. Under this weight, they will not survive hibernation. Keep underweight hoglets indoors and provide plenty of food. Release them next spring, do not however, release them during the winter.
For pictures of cute baby hedgehogs, visit the Gallery.