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Hedgehog FAQ [6/7] - Advanced Topics in Hedgehoggery
Section - <10.2> General care for babies

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [6/7] - Advanced Topics in Hedgehoggery
Previous Document: <10.1> Breeding
Next Document: <10.3> Hand feeding baby hedgehogs
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
As the due date approaches, mom will often stop eating the day before, and
will also often go into nesting mode, and may go as far as to wall up her den
against access.  It is very important that you do not disturb her for a
couple of days before she is due, and for several days after the babies
arrive.  Doing so will often result in the babies being eaten [10.1].

A couple of days before you expect that she is due, it is a good idea to give
her cage a thorough cleaning (without stressing her too much), as you will
not be able to, again, for several days.

The babies will `usually' arrive during the night, and may be announced by a
slight scream or squeak, although I've never heard this, myself.  You will
probably be able to hear the babies squeak from the nest, after they have
been born.


Here are some guidelines on dealing with new hoglets.  In general, the two
main things are to avoid disturbing them (and mom) and that mother knows
best.

As a reminder, the gestation period is approximately 35 days.

You should avoid disturbing a pregnant female or new mother for about 5 days
before and 5-10 days after the birth.  During this time, be careful and quiet
during feeding and cleanup.

The babies will usually announce their presence with squeaks.  When you hear
this -- it's time to go into tiptoe mode.  The babies can be born over a
period of several hours, and maintaining absolute quiet during this time is
important.

Mom should have a safe, secure-feeling den to have the babies in.  This will
help her feel safe and relaxed.

For the first 5-10 days, don't peek!  And I mean don't peek!!!  After this
time, depending on how mom reacts, you can start handling the babies.  If you
do want to check on the babies, do it when mom is out eating, or better yet,
lure her out with a treat, and remove her from the cage for a romp while you
check on the babies.  But do wait until the babies are at least 3-5 days old
before doing this.  Take your cues from mom.  If she gets hostile, vocal, or
visibly upset, by your presence, don't push it.  Some mothers are very secure
and don't mind leaving the babies alone for a few minutes, while others get
frantic when separated.

Make sure that mom has as much food as she wants.  She will eat a LOT more
than usual at this time.  You might even want to supplement her diet with
some cottage cheese, sour cream, or the like, to help boost her calcium
input.  This can be especially important for very young (e.g., accidental)
mothers, who are still growing themselves, and who may end up drawing on
their own calcium reserves, that they need for bones and teeth, to produce
enough milk.
  
If mom does not seem to be eating, put her food dish near the doorway to her
nest box or tube -- she may be reluctant to leave the babies.

Once the babies are born, you might want to pile up the wood shavings under
the end of the tube or nest box where the doorway is, to prevent any babies
from rolling out by mistake.  Generally this is not a problem, but if you
find a baby outside the nest, you might want to consider doing this.

If you see a baby out of the nest and away from the rest (some mothers will
take their babies out of the nest, but will keep them together -- this is
normal and depends on the mother), you can put it back with the others by
using a small spoon.  Remember not to touch the baby, or mom is liable to
reject it.

If mom seems to be rejecting a baby, keep trying to put it back with the
others (using the spoon method).  If the practise continues, and the baby
appears not to be getting any mother's milk, you may want to consider hand
feeding the rejected baby [10.3].
 
Babies will begin to venture from the nest when 2-3 weeks old about the same
time they start sampling mom's food.

Babies are weaned at 4-6 weeks.  They start to eat solid food around the 3rd
week.  If the food you are using is quite hard, you can offer some that has
been dampened to make it softer to help get the babies started.
 
Babies raised in a cage with a litter box will usually learn to use the
litter box (especially if mom uses it).  If mom doesn't use a litter box, you
might need to do a little coaxing (scooping up some of the droppings and
adding them to the litter box).

Remember to separate the babies by sex [10.2] after they are weaned so you
don't accidently start on yet another generation.  Make sure you do this
before they reach 8-weeks of age!  Make sure that they are eating solid food
and drinking on their own.

Above all, if you lose any or all the babies, or if Mom happens to eat any or
all, don't let it bother you too much.  This sort of thing, especially the
latter, is very hard for people to deal with but it is perfectly natural for
hedgehogs.


Some of the reasons why mother hedgehogs might kill, eat, or reject their
babies are as follows:

They were disturbed.  In the wild, almost any kind of disturbance means a
predator is there and it will almost certainly eat the babies.  Rather than
lose the very hard won nutrients that she put into producing the babies,
mother hedgehogs will `reabsorb' them herself in the hopes of being able to
use it for another litter later on.  This seems very harsh, but it's only a
reflection of the environment that they developed in.

Mom thinks something's wrong.  If mom thinks one or more babies are not right
(deformed or if they otherwise have problems that she can detect), she may
kill or `reabsorb' them with the understanding that they wouldn't have
survived long anyway.

Mom's not secure.  If mom feels conditions are not right for bringing up
babies (not enough food, or not the right nutrients/vitamins/etc.) she may
feel that they are not likely to survive, or that she won't be able to
provide for all of them.

Mom's too young or immature.  If mom is too young, or often with her first
litter, she may just not know what to do, or can't deal with the babies.
This doesn't necessarily mean she will be a bad mother -- I've heard of many
who after losing a first litter, or even a second, went on to be excellent
moms with later litters.  If a female eats more than two of her litters, it's
probably not a good idea to keep trying.

Again, if worst comes to worst, and you lose some or all the babies, don't
let it get you down.  Just concentrate on what you do have.


As the babies grow, various events will begin to take place.  This is a very
rough timeline on baby African pigmy hedgehog growth:

Early on the `birth' quills will be replaced by the first set of baby quills.

The eyes will open by around the week 3.

At about week 3-4 the babies will begin to start tasting solid food.  You can
help things out here by offering dry food which has been dampened to make it
softer, or by using some canned food.  Generally, though, most babies will
manage very well in very short order -- it IS food after all, and these are
starving baby hedgeHOGs!

By about week 6, the babies should be well on their way to being weaned.
Some will hold out until week 7, but by then they should all be on solid
food.  No doubt much to mom's relief!

Finally, by the time the babies reach week 8, they need to be separated from
mom -- at least you need to separate any males, or you risk both mom, and any
female babies becoming pregnant -- neither of which are in any condition to
handle it at this stage!

User Contributions:

Rio
Report this comment as inappropriate
Apr 26, 2012 @ 10:22 pm
Hi, my hedgehog started running around her cage squealing so I took her out to see what was wrong. Her genital area was inflamed and she had open sores all around that area. I gave her a bath, but I'm really worried about her. Do you have any idea what this could be?
Thank you!

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [6/7] - Advanced Topics in Hedgehoggery
Previous Document: <10.1> Breeding
Next Document: <10.3> Hand feeding baby hedgehogs

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