• So You Think You Want To Breed

    I frequently get approached by individuals who have decided they want to breed hedgehogs. Some of them seem to have a pretty good grip on the facts of breeding, others are obviously speaking only from a whim, and have done NO research. With every one of these potential breeders, there are several things that I discuss with them, some survive the discussion, others decide it isn't such a fun idea after all.

    What is your purpose in breeding?- It is important that you go into breeding with the proper mindset. The only good reason to go into breeding is to help improve the quality of the species, and to help provide the best quality pets that you can to other devoted owners. I often hear people tell me that they want to breed hedgehogs to make money. This makes me laugh, because I don't know a single beginning breeder who makes more money from ethical small scale breeding than they spend on supplies, breeding stock, vet bills, and other expenses. Matter of fact, not very many breeders with even up to 50 animals or so are able to make much money from breeding. In the 4 1/2 years that I have been breeding hedgehogs, I have only made a profit ONE year. And that profit was not even enough to take my family out to a nice restaurant for dinner.

    Are you able to financially support a breeding herd?- It costs money to get set up as a breeder, and the costs don't stop once the hedgehogs are in your home. It is going to cost you more than $250 to purchase a quality breeding pair of hedgehogs from most breeders, more if you want "fancy" colors or have to ship. Then, you need to make sure that you have all of the cages and accessories needed to house those hedgehogs. Even if you go the inexpensive route with sterilite storage bins, cheap wheels, and other low cost accessories, you are looking at close to $40 per hedgehog, since of course you know from your research that you can't expect the male and female to be housed together. It is also a good idea to have an extra of everything in case of something breaking. If you go with sturdier supplies, then that number can double, triple, or even higher. Don't forget a good set of scales, that are a must have for a good breeder, that will cost you at least $25. If you live in the US, then you also need to remember your $40 for USDA licensing. Then, don't forget your continual expenses. Food, bedding, bottled water in some cases, can make your monthly bills add up. Ok, so you have spent close to $500, and you have your basic supplies, a month's supply of food and bedding, and a pair of 8 week old hedgehogs from a good breeder. Now, you WAIT. It will be 4 months before your female is old enough for her first breeding, while continuing to rack up feed and supply bills. Good thing your hedgehogs are perfectly healthy, right? Uh oh.... forgot the vet checks. It is a good idea to take your hedgehogs to the vet even before a single health issue comes up, so your vet will be familiar with your hedgehogs in a healthy state, and you can discuss any care issues, or health maintenance issues that you have. For a healthy visit with no medications, tests, or other complications, this can run you anywhere from $40-200 depending on your vet. If anything is wrong, this number can skyrocket rapidly, and if a surgery is ever necessary, it can cost you closer to $1000.

    Do you have an area that can be set up for a breeding area? While almost anywhere in your house can be suitable for hedgehog ownership, pregnant moms and those with small babies can have some special requirements. They must have it consistently warm, preferably at least 74 degrees with small babies. It must also be in a quiet area away from any areas that your mother hedgehog can be disturbed by loud noises, unfamiliar voices, or strange smells. This area should be able to be properly lighted, but should not be excessively bright or in direct sunlight.

    Do you have ownership experience?-
    This really is an important aspect. You need to be comfortable with hedgehog behavior and care requirements in general before you try to adjust to special requirements and behaviors related to breeding. If you aren't familiar with the day to day actions of a hedgehog, how are you going to know if your heavily pregnant female is acting normally or if she is having difficulties with the pregnancy? If you haven't owned hedgehogs, how will you know if the ones you purchase to breed are going to fit into your lifestyle, or if you will get bored with them within a couple of months?

    Does your vet have hedgehog experience? Is he WILLING to get hedgehog experience?- It is important to have a hedgehog friendly vet for ANY hedgehog that you own, but breeding hedgehogs brings new health risks that it is especially important to have a knowledgeable vet for. Is your vet going to be comfortable with being called at 2 am when you wake up and check on your due mother and find that she is having difficulties delivering babies? Is your vet going to know how to anesthetize her to do an emergency c-section? While basically any vet is capable of treating a hedgehog for a basic medical issue, not all are going to be willing, and not all will be able to do what is needed efficiently and in the best way possible for your hedgehog.

    Do you have a mentor?- It is a very good idea to have an experienced breeder who is going to be willing to answer the phone late at night when you come up with an emergency question. They should be willing to talk to you extensively about care of your breeding pair, preparing for the babies, and dealing with the aftermath of delivery. This should be an individual who is highly respected as a knowledgeable breeder, not just someone who has bred once in their life and is not involved in the hedgehog community.

    Are you able to get proper breeding stock?- A hedgehog chosen for breeding should have a known healthy pedigree, with as many generations as possible. Many quality breeders are producing hedgehogs with 6 or more known generations of healthy ancestors, in some cases, even 10 or more generations are becoming available. The more generations of history you have on a pedigree with no known health issues, the more likely you are to be getting a hedgehog free of genetic flaws such as WHS and other carried flaws. A pet store hedgehog, or one from a breeder who does not track pedigrees is not going to provide you with this security blanket.

    If you are able to answer all of these questions appropriately, then you are ready to look further into breeding. If there are questions that you are not sure about, then you need to figure out how to arrange these factors to make it more available, or you need to reconsider breeding