• Is My Hedgehog Ready To Breed?

    Once you have picked healthy eligible breeding stock, your next step is to determine when it those animals are going to be ready to breed. There are several aspects that need to be looked at with BOTH sexes to make sure they are ready for the important meeting.

    The Female- While it is hard to make a set age that any animal is ready to breed at, you can usually make an approximate generalization by watching trends in the species. Due to those trends, it is recommended that you wait until a female is at least 6 months to breed her. This is based on the age that hedgehog females have reached their full growth and maturation. While some females reach full size a little younger, their bodies still do best with a bit of additional time to finish development. Compare this to humans. Many 12 year old girls are theoretically able to reproduce. This does not mean that their bodies are READY to support a pregnancy. A hedgehog under the age of 6 months is the same. Hormones are functioning and the bodies are preparing for conception. However, since their bodies are not fully grown and in some cases organ systems are still continuing to develop, a pregnancy will remove nutrients from the mother's development and re-route them into the fetus. The additional weight of the pregnancy on an undeveloped body can cause additional joint strain, and the size of the fetus can hamper the functions of the other organs that are crowded into a too small abdominal cavity. As well, the pelvic opening is not always spread enough to accept the passage of a large baby during birth, which can cause extended labor, uterine rupture, uterine exhaustion, and possibly maternal death if a c-section is not performed promptly. By 6 months, MOST females are fully grown, and the organs are developed properly. If you feel that your hedgehog has not reached full growth, it is better to wait an additional month or more for a safety precaution.

    It is also important that her weight is appropriate for her body frame. If she is thin, then she may not be able to successfully maintain a pregnancy, and will possibly miscarry that pregnancy. If she is too fat, this can often create issues with conception and birthing. Ideally, your hedgehog will be smoothly curved, with no dips, humps, or rolls. No bones should be prominent, but you SHOULD be able to feel the rib cage and hip bones without having to wade through lots of excess fat. Her abdomen should be smooth without concave or convex areas.

    She should be nutritionally stable, and willing to maintain a good eating habit. If your female tends to go through periods where they do not eat reliably, or do not eat a generally nutritious diet, this MUST be evaluated and solved before you breed her. Without appropriate nutrition, it is going to be a major stress on her body to maintain support of a pregnancy, and she may miscarry or just fail to thrive during her pregnancy.

    The Male- This is essentially easier than the females. In comparison, the males have a MUCH less stressful role to play in breeding than the females. Because of this, it is possible to breed them occasionally at younger than full growth, as long as they aren't being used constantly. A young not fully mature male is probably going to be able to get a couple of girls pregnant, but being used too often is going to put strain on their growth and organ systems, and can possibly damage longterm fertility. Personally, I breed young males the first time at about 4 months, but do not use them more than once or twice a month until they are at least 6 months old. At 4 months old, most males are starting to feel their hormones enough to see that this female body is a sexual object, instead of a mommy object. Before that age, I have seen boys who were exposed to females peep and go for the belly as if in search for a nipple, instead of singing at the tail end. You do need to make sure that the first date of a young male is a relatively small female, as close to possible as his own size, and not aggressive. This just makes things easier on him, and makes him more likely to be an eager breeder.

    He also should be in good physical condition, and not underweight or overweight. General good health improves the fertility of the male, and makes him more capable of a successful breed.

    Nutrition is also important in males, as a proper nutrition balance is needed to produce large quantities of healthy sperm to fertilize a larger litter.