• Nest Boxes

    Written by Antigone Means-Burleson

    I have been fascinated with hedgehog nesting behavior ever since I saw a mom named Holly spend about an hour getting her nest "just right". Holly was the mother of our first surviving litter. I had given her a triangular cardboard tube and a t-shirt to nest with. She pulled the t-shirt behind the tube, making sure nothing could be seen peeking out when the tube was viewed from the front, then made sure the tube was aligned perfectly to be parallel with the front and back walls of the cage. She nudged and pushed and stepped back to view her progress as she worked diligently at this task. She raised her litter under the t-shirt.

    Since that time, most of Hedgehog Valley's babies have been born in hedgebags, fully lined cotton bags that seem to provide a sense of security to the moms. They also have the benefit that they hold mom's body heat, keeping the babies warm while mom is out getting a bite to eat or taking a run. Some moms pull the outer flaps in for added security, while other moms lay them out flat and aren't nearly as worried about the babies being strictly contained.

    There are three downsides to the hedgebags that I have found. The first has to do with the issue of containment. If you have really active babies, they are prone to wandering off if mama doesn't wedge herself firmly in the way. The second problem is if you have a really active mama. If mama runs over the bag repeatedly, she can trample her babies. For those mamas, I provide a plastic "igloo" in addition to the bag. Most of the mamas will drag the bag inside the igloo, and keep babies safely in or under the bag. Third, it isn't easy to get a peek at the babies if mama is wedged in the way. I have had two litters where I never actually saw the babies until they were weaning age because I didn't want to push the mama's protectiveness.

    I have talked to some breeders that use PVC tubes as nest boxes. These have the same problem as hedgebags for active babies- nothing to hold them in. They can be capped on one end to lessen this problem. Some breeders use small "6 pack" coolers with a hole drilled in the side and attached to the cage with a PVC tube. This works wonderfully in that it's easy to seperate the cooler from the cage and clean the cage. It is also very good at containing active babies. The downside is that it's expensive and requires a lot of extra space. Other breeders have modified this idea by making wooden boxes with a cutout on the side for entry, and a removeable lid for easy peeking.
    The list of ideas for nest boxes is only limited by imagination. The primary things to consider are that the nest needs to provide a sense of security and protectiveness for the mom. It also needs to be safe- no loose threads, no poky wires, etc. It should be big enough for mama to get in/out of easily. Not all nest boxes work equally well for each mama, so the individual hedgie's needs should also be taken into consideration. With a little thought and creativity, you can easily find a nest box solution for your hedgie mamas!

    Photo courtesy of Becca Loane