• Negative Sides of Breeding

    As wonderful as hedgehog breeding can be, it is not always an enjoyable experience. There are many aspects of breeding that can be very heartbreaking, frustrating, or just plain infuriating.

    Anyone who works in any kind of a public setting understands that people can be very difficult at times. Even though breeding hedgehogs is more of a private venture, you are still not insulated from people. This public frustration can come from several different directions.

    Customers or Potential customers-
    Once the word gets out that you breed hedgehogs, you will start getting calls and emails from people who want hedgehogs. Some of these will be wonderfully knowledgeable, prepared individuals who are fully aware of what a hedgehog needs, and are willing to do anything that is required. Enjoy these. For every one of these, there will be several people who email or call you with an OBVIOUSLY unprepared mind set, unrealistic expectations, terrifying misconceptions, or just plain obnoxious attitudes. Some of these can be educated, some can't. It can be hard sometimes explaining to someone who is certain that they know all that they need to know, that what they think they know makes them completely unacceptable for your baby hedgehogs. Sometimes determining who has potential can be frustrating, and can take weeks of working back and forth to get them the information that they need and to get them to the point where you feel that they are prepared. Others, never get to this point, and no matter how you choose to avoid selling them a hedgehog, they will be offended, sometimes publicly. You must remember that your main priority is finding the best home possible for yourhedgehogs, no matter who you have to tell no.

    Other Breeders- Hopefully you will get lucky, and the other breeders in your area will be supportive and eager to work with you. This isn't always the case though. Sometimes there will be another breeder near you who is afraid of the competition that you represent, and will do everything they can to make you fail. This can include telling people that you are unethical or irresponsible, and in rare occurrences, can even include property damage. In cases like this, unless illegal activites occur, all you can really do is continue doing the best you can, and hope that they will either get tired of talking about you, or will realize that you aren't a threat to their business after all.

    Anti-breeding opinions-
    There are people out there who are going to criticize you for choosing to breed, no matter HOW well prepared you are. These can be rescuers, animal rights activists, or just exotic ownership critics. The steps these people will go to can range from verbal campaigns (usually) to property harm (rarely). Sadly, it happens to ANY breeder no matter how responsible they are.

    Frustrations can also come from the animals themselves. Any stress that can occur from a single pet is going to multiply dramatically when you start developing a breeding herd and begin to breed. Animals get sick, they get injured, they don't behave as they should, and they die. Sometimes, something will happen and quite a few of your animals will be sick at the same time. This can be VERY stressful. If you have a communicable disease surface in your hedgehogs, you may have to spend several hundred, or even THOUSAND dollars to get the problem solved. And depending on the issue, you could lose the lives of some of your hedgehogs, or they may become damaged to the point where they are never able to breed again.

    I personally can vouch for the frustration of a case like this. I built a lovely new room for my hedgehogs recently that more than doubled their space, made it possible for me to separately control their climate, and enabled me to devote an area specifically to the animals that I enjoy so much. Not long after moving them in there, I had a couple of otherwise healthy hedgehogs die suddenly of liver failure. Of course, I was sad, but things like that happen. Then a few more died of liver failure. At this point, I was very concerned that something was going on, but nothing obvious was showing up in the necropsies to explain the liver failures. To make a long story short, I ended up losing half of my hedgehogs, all of my pets of a couple of other species, and failed to have a single successful breeding for almost 16 months. In the end, after dealing with severe depression over the losses, and very strongly considering getting out of breeding and placing out ALL of my animals, we found out that a faulty water line was causing the deaths and pregnancy failures. I can't explain how broken my heart was during this period. I can't explain how strongly I was blaming myself for causing the deaths of so many of my favorite pets. I was very lucky that I had a few friends who supported me fully through this time, and who helped me so much while I was searching for a cause and then a treatment for these issues. They also helped me build my herd back up and helped me replace some of the bloodlines that were so important to me. Even to this day, I have a few hedgehogs who are not fertile due to the damage that they recieved.

    Even when everything is going as it should be, breeding is still saddening sometimes. In a dream world, every breeding that you do will result in a healthy mother and a litter of live, perfect, healthy babies. However, this isn't exactly true. Realistically, you should prepare that a good part of your breedings will never result in a birth. This varies between breeders, time of the year, and other factors, but it is not uncommon for half of the breedings you do to result in no visible sign of delivery. Then, the moms that DO deliver may not always raise their babies. Statistics from reputable breeders show that approximately 1/3 of all baby hedgehogs born die before weaning. Sometimes, this occurs in "painless" manners, where the unharmed babies are found dead in the bedding, dead of some mysterious issue. Other times, this can occur in very gory, gruesome manners. I don't want to think of the number of babies I have discovered mangled, shredded, and otherwise depressingly slaughtered. Sometimes, the mothers will just refuse to care for the babies, which leaves you with the choice to handfeed or not. Handfeeding itself is a very stressful project, it involves lots of hours of work for what often ends in the death of the babies anyway. While there definitely are good parts to breeding, it is still very important to understand the negative aspects as well.