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Hedgehog FAQ [6/7] - Advanced Topics in Hedgehoggery
Section - <10.3> Hand feeding baby hedgehogs

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Top Document: Hedgehog FAQ [6/7] - Advanced Topics in Hedgehoggery
Previous Document: <10.2> General care for babies
Next Document: <10.4> Colours, types, and species
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
One of the most difficult times for hedgehog owners comes if a new mother
hedgehog rejects some or all of her babies, or otherwise can't manage to
provide for all of them.  Unfortunately, it is fairly common for hedgehogs to
eat their babies [10.1], and/or reject them, especially if it is a first
litter, or if the mother was disturbed (mother hedgehogs need considerable
peace and quiet).  Many hedgehog owners are bothered quite badly by these
actions on the part of the hedgehog, as they are extremely foreign concepts
to humans, but they are (sadly) perfectly natural and normal amongst
hedgehogs.

Before deciding to hand feed, try returning rejected babies to the nest
(using a spoon to avoid getting your scent on them), or if possible by
fostering with another mother who is nursing (rub the babies in bedding from
that mother's cage to have them smell familiar).  Many breeders will
purposely breed two females at the same time for this purpose, though I
caution that fostering does not always work.

All that having been said, what do you do if you decide you need to hand feed
baby hedgehogs?  The first thing is to convince yourself that sleep is an
undesirable luxury, as you will be feeding the babies every 2-3 hours (yes,
that means night and day) for about 3+ weeks.  If you're still up to trying,
what do you feed them, and how?

I'll address the easy part first -- how.  For this, among the best items are
plastic syringes (without needles), eye-droppers, or plastic pipettes (the
type with the suction bulb at the end).  The idea is to be able to provide a
minute but reasonably available stream of 'milk' to the baby in a controlled
manner.

Next is the question of what to feed them.  Generally, the rule about
avoiding or limiting cows' milk for adult hedgehogs also applies to babies,
and maybe even more so.  That having been said, I have heard of one little
tyke who wouldn't drink anything else, and at last word was doing just fine.

Robyn Gorton, who was studying hedgehogs in New Zealand, passed along the
following information on caring for babies.  Although her work is with
European hedgehogs, the information is quite applicable to African pigmy
hedgehogs as well.

   I find that caring for the young is simple enough as long as you have a 
   good milk to feed them.  I have discovered that sheeps' milk is the 
   closest in composition to hhog milk and acts as an excellent substitute
   when mixed with raw egg.  It may for the first few days cause swelling of 
   the anus, but as soon as they start teething (3 weeks) you can add mashed 
   banana for fibre and their problems clear up.  It's a very high protein 
   diet but one must watch for a vitamin B deficiency which can be caused 
   by too much raw egg.  I had my two hoglets suckling on a syringe for the 
   first week and 1/2 until their teeth erupted (this takes three days for a 
   full set to emerge!!) then simply start using a saucer and they will 
   naturally feed from it themselves.

I've also heard of using goats' milk, similar to what Robyn suggested above,
though I trust her research as far sheeps' milk being closer to hedgehog
milk.  I do need to caution, however, about the use of raw eggs, as they can
cause problems of their own [6.2] -- this, however, may be one situation
where bending those rules is worthwhile.

What do you do if you don't have a friendly goat or sheep, or can't easily
find sheeps' or goats' milk?  Many pet stores and pet supply stores carry KMR
(Kitten Milk Replacement).  It's usually in powdered form, which makes it
handy for the small quantities you will need.  I've seen quite a few articles
from breeders who have used this with great success, some go on to recommend
that most hedgehog breeders should keep a container of KMR around, just in
case.

Recently (June/2005), I've heard from Cindy, who reported serious problems 
from using KMR.  Having used it successfully, myself, in the past, I'm not
whether this has to do with the form (powdered versus canned), or perhaps 
there has been a change in the formula (it has been some time since I last
used it), but the caution and suggestions are always worth mentioning,
especially when it appears there are some excellent alternatives, as she 
suggests.  At the very least, whenever you feed a baby hedgehog by hand, 
please make VERY sure that you follow the steps to induce them to defecate 
afterwards -- not doing so will certainly cause bloating and lead to tragedy.

     KMR makes them bloat, then comes the internal bleeding, then they die.  
     I have had the best luck with puppy esbilac with just a few grains of 
     crushed lactaid.  If you see any sign of bloating, give them just a  
     drop of baby gas drops containing simethicone.  
     -- Cindy 

I've also heard of Esbilac (human baby formula) being used successfully, to
offer yet another option.  Anja van der Werf pointed out to me that when you
are trying to use human formula, make sure it is soy-based rather than based
on cows' milk.

One thing to watch out for in feeding baby hedgehogs, is that after each
feeding you must stimulate them to defecate and urinate, otherwise their
bladder and bowel will swell up and can even burst.  To do this, simply
stroke along their tummy towards the anus, which simulates a mother licking
and grooming her babies.  You can also do this with a warm damp tissue or
cloth.  The idea isn't to squeeze anything out, just to stimulate the baby to
do it's business.


Remember that hand raising baby hedgehogs is very difficult, and if you try
and meet with tragedy, remember that you gave them much more of a chance than
they would have had without you.  Whatever happens, don't give up and decide
that hedgehogs are bad, or that it's not worth having hoglets -- it's just
hedgehog nature, and next time may well be nothing short of magical.

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: <10.2> General care for babies
Next Document: <10.4> Colours, types, and species

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