Breeding hedgehogs is something that can seem a little scary at first. After all, there’s a lot to think about if you want to do it safely!
There are a million questions that you probably want answers to. How do you make your hedgehogs mate? What are some signs of a pregnant hedgehog?
The list goes on and on.
Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. As long as you stick to the recommended steps and prioritize the health and wellbeing of your hedgies, you have a great chance of success.
In this post, we walk you through the most important things to know if you want to start breeding hedgehogs. If you use these recommendations as your guide, you’re going to be just fine!
What Are The Risks Of Breeding Hedgehogs?
There are a few risks to breeding hedgehogs that you should be aware of and mentally prepared for. Breeding females that are too young/old can result in the loss of the babies by natural death or by cannibalism of the mother. This can happen simply if the mother hedgehog has unnecessary stress as well.
Not only that, but breeding hedgehogs can pose a risk to the mother as well. Similar to what any other animal faces, complications from pregnancy can compromise the health of your mother hedgehog. While this probably won’t come as a surprise, it’s important to be aware of.
Before hedgehog mating even begins, you’ll also have to watch for violence between females and males that have breeding potential. It’s important for you to find an experienced breeder to talk to who has done this many times before. Finding a “mentor” to answer your questions and help you through the hedgehog breeding process will be invaluable.
How Often Is It OK To Breed A Female Hedgehog?
No more than 3 times per year! Give Mama roughly four months between each litter to avoid exhaustion, health concerns, and to increase your chances of breeding successfully. If the female doesn’t receive enough food or rest, she might decide to reabsorb nutrients from her babies by eating them. After all, she is still an animal trying to survive.
What Age & Temperament Of Female Is Ideal To Breed?
It’s important to find a female hedgehog with a friendly temperament. Temperaments are extremely hereditary in hedgehogs – by breeding a friendly and gentle female, you increase your chances of having friendly and gentle babies.
Aside from this, it’s very important to breed physically healthy females who are of the ideal age. Females should be bred no sooner than six months old. Any younger than this and they’re not finished growing. This means they likely won’t have the ability to sufficiently support themselves and their babies during the breeding process.
When breeding a female hedgehog for the first time you don’t want to wait until she’s older than 12 months of age before starting. Waiting this long increases the likely-hood that her pelvic bones will be fused together. This makes the process of giving birth harder, and downright dangerous in most cases.
Female hedgehogs should be at a healthy weight for breeding as well. They shouldn’t be too overweight to roll into a ball, but they should not have sunken-in sides, either. Female hedgehogs reach menopause at 2.5 to three years of age. The closer she gets to that number, the smaller her litters tend to be, and this comes with extremely high health risks.
What Age & Temperament Of Male Is Best For Breeding?
As we mentioned earlier, you should try breeding hedgehogs that have friendly temperaments – this applies to the males as well. The males should also not be closely related to the females they are hopefully going to breed with. Inbreeding increases the chances of health problems in babies tremendously.
Males can be bred at any age, but they tend not to be ready to do so until they are four to five months old. We typically recommend that you wait until they hit this age just to ensure the breeding process goes a little smoother.
Make Sure Everyone Is Healthy
While this is probably an obvious point to make it’s still very important. If you’re considering breeding hedgehogs you’ll want to make sure that they both don’t have any health issues before you get them to mate.
This is important not only for the health of the litter but the health of the parents as well. That means you should be looking for any possible symptoms that might indicate that something is wrong with either hedgie before proceeding. There are a number of possible illnesses and diseases that hedgehogs can get, and you want to make sure none are present before you start the breeding process.
If you’re unsure and want to play it safe you can always take the hedgehogs you wish to mate down to the vet. A quick checkup should help put your mind at ease so you can proceed with confidence!
Get Your License (If Needed)
Depending on where you live there’s a chance that you might need to get a USDA license before you start breeding hedgehogs. This varies by state and the level of license you need to get will depend on your location and what you intend on doing with the babies.
This might seem like a pain, but it’s not something you can ignore. The intent behind these is to ensure that the hedgehogs are safe, healthy, and in good hands. To find out more about this process you can visit this page.
How Do I Encourage My Hedgehogs To Mate?
This is actually very simple, no candles necessary. Put the male and female together, ideally in the male’s cage.
Being in surroundings covered by the male’s scent makes the female more receptive to mating. It also makes the male more comfortable and ready to mate. Removing all unnecessary “furniture” from the enclosure (wheels, igloos, etc.) limits hiding spaces and can prevent the female from avoiding the male and “playing hard to get”.
Female hedgehogs can be bred at any time. They do not have a monthly cycle as humans. They tend to have an average “heat” of nine days on, and seven days off.
When breeding hedgehogs most experienced breeders tend to keep the male and female together for four to five days, then separate for another four to five days. Then, they repeat the process.
This process is not an exact science – you can keep them together for slightly longer or shorter sessions in order to catch the right moment. However, it is EXTREMELY important to watch for fighting between the male and female during this time. You may have to remove them to prevent injuries. This breeding process can take up to three weeks, so keep a close eye on your hedgies.
How Long Is The Hedgehog Gestation Period?
The typical hedgehog gestation period lasts about 35 days, but it can range from 33-42. If you find that your female has not conceived, wait until well over a week from the 42-day mark to be safe before you try to mate her again. Putting her back in with a male while she’s pregnant can result in losing the litter that you’ve worked so hard to grow!
When Should I Separate The Mated Males And Females?
After the mating period, it’s extremely important to separate the mated male and female by no later than four weeks. The new mother needs ample time to nest and feel safe while she prepares for her babies. Make sure you put the female in a different and clean enclosure to nest in. Putting her back in with the male’s scents can stress her out, and you could lose the litter of hoglets.
How To Tell If A Hedgehog Is Pregnant
There are four common and major signs that you have a pregnant hedgehog on your hands:
- Weight gain (we recommend daily weighing to track this when it happens)
- Increased appetites and eating habits – make sure you provide her with more food than usual. She’s eating to support a whole litter now!
- Enlarged teats and a larger/tight abdomen. Sometimes, you will be able to feel the little ones in Mama’s belly if you GENTLY touch her belly and look for them. However only do this if the mother does not act stressed at all!
- You start to observe nesting behaviors. Examples of this are the female making piles or blocking the cage’s entrance with bedding.
In the few days leading up to the birth of the hoglets, you’ll notice a loss of appetite in the mom and a stronger odor in her urine.
Helping Mama Build Her Nest
Supplying your pregnant hedgehog with enough nesting materials and a quiet space is crucial for keeping her stress levels down. You can even give her a snuggle bag or an igloo for her to use as a nesting site, along with plenty of bedding (the bedding should be at least two inches deep).
You may also put squares of toilet paper in the cage with her. She can shred it and use it to line her nest if she likes.
It’s IMPORTANT to leave her alone during this stage. Do NOT go in to clean the cage and do not disturb her or her surroundings at all. This can stress her out and lead to reabsorption. Keep an eye on the female’s behavior and eating habits. If she seems inactive or is not eating, take her to an exotic vet right away.
What Litter Size Can I Expect?
Hoglet litter sizes can range from 1-9 babies, but they average at 3-5 hoglets. Upon being born, they will measure roughly an inch long, and lack visible quills that will start to appear in the following days after birth.
What do I do With the New Hoglets?
The first 10 days after birth are a crucial time that must not be disrupted. The mother might scatter them around when she nurses – this is normal.
All you need to do is provide her with enough food so she can produce milk for her babies. If the mother seems to be rejecting one of her hoglets, you can rub a spoon in the bedding to collect some scent, and then gently scoop it up and place it back in the nest. If this happens again, see our caring for baby hedgehogs page, or talk to your mentor/exotic vet.
After ten days have passed, you may start to try to spot clean the cage/handle the hoglets.
When you start to introduce yourself to momma and babies, it’s very important to STOP if she becomes stressed. If she’s too stressed, she might eat her babies. It’s a good idea to start hoglet handling in steps:
Step 1 – Gently rub the back of one of the hoglets with one finger to gauge the reaction of the mother and babies. If this goes well, continue with Step 2 the next day. If not, stop and try again later.
Step 2 – Pick up one baby for as long as it takes to take it out of the cage and immediately put it back into the nest. If this goes well, continue with Step 3 the next day.
Step 3 – Repeat Step 2 with all of the hoglets. If this goes well, continue with Step 4 the next day.
Step 4 – Gradually increase the time spent holding all of the hoglets. This will socialize the babies and start to shape their personalities. Momma starts to wean the babies at about a month old – at six weeks she will start to spend less time with them. This is when you will be able to take the hoglets away from the mother. At this point in time, separate the young males and females to prevent inbreeding.
And There You Have It!
Breeding hedgehogs doesn’t have to be a scary process. While it does require you to pay attention and do things the right way, knowing what to do takes away a lot of the uncertainty.
If you have any questions about the breeding or mating process we recommend that you get in touch with an experienced hedgehog breeder. Speaking directly to someone who has done this before can make all the difference!