Interested in breeding hedgehogs?

 I am always willing to  help anyone out  who is genuinely  interested in getting into breeding hedgehogs. It is no small task, and should be taken VERY seriously! There is a lot of hard work involved in being an ethical and responsible breeder. We can always   answer questions and give advice to the best of our   knowledge/ability. If you are honest with us   about your intentions about wanting to breed one of our hedgehogs you intend to purchase from us, we   are   willing to discuss breeding rights and pedigrees with you! I would rather teach someone the correct way to do things when it comes to breeding, rather than have someone be afraid to ask me questions and do it without my knowledge.

​Every hedgehog that we   own and breed is pedigreed. The genepool for hedgehogs is shockingly small, and this is why tracking pedigrees is so  extremely important!  I only breed pedigreed hedgehogs so that I can be absolutely certain  that, to the best of my knowledge, there are  no health issues from anyone in the family tree that could potentially be passed onto their offspring.  It also ensures that no heavy in-breeding is ever done.  Only breeding hedgehogs that are pedigreed is for the betterment of the species as a whole. Breeding pedigreed hedgehogs guarantees that quality and superior hedgehogs are produced,  which should be a goal for EVERYONE that is breeding hedgehogs  (whether you are a "hobby breeder" or USDA licensed). Approved breeders that purchase from us   will receive their pedigree free of charge. We   ONLY offer pedigrees to other USDA licensed breeders  (or hobby breeders we   work closely with)  to ensure that our   hedgehogs are not bred irresponsibly.  The most important thing about pedigrees and in-breeding, specifically in hedgehogs, is so that we lessen the chance of producing hedgehogs with Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome. 

What is a pedigree, you might ask? A pedigree is a record of the hedgehog's family tree, to put it simply. Breeders keep track of this to prevent in-breeding and to help prevent health issues and genetic diseases.

There's a lot more to breeding hedgehogs than you probably think!
PLEASE make sure it is a WELL thought out decision!

​Okay, so, you made the decision to breed. What next?

Well, the very FIRST thing you should have is a mentor. Or at least a breeder that is willing to help you out and answer your questions. In my opinion, it is not 100% necessary to have an official mentor but you at least need to have a good relationship with another hedgehog breeder who is experienced and knowledgeable that can help guide you. It is very important. A lot of breeders do not want to take on the official role of being a mentor because it can be a lot of work, depending on who you are mentoring. So you may want to establish a relationship before you ask someone to mentor you. Your mentor is your go to person for any and ALL questions you have regarding breeding hedgehogs. No question is too stupid. You shouldn't feel that your mentor will think less of you for asking ANY question, and I mean ANY. As long as it pertains to hedgehogs!

I do mentor new breeders here and there, but they have to be serious about wanting to breed responsibly. You should know the basics before asking someone to mentor you as well. You should already know about pedigrees, in-breeding, line breeding, WHS, necropsies, etc. If you  know absolutely nothing? Then do more research first. I have a questionnaire at the bottom of this page a new breeder should fill out if looking for a mentor. It also helps to test your knowledge and see if you already know all the basics. If you're a new breeder I'm not familiar with, I also have you fill out that questionnaire as it helps me to determine if you're a breeder I want to sell to.

Alright, so you found a mentor?

Then you acquire good breeding stock. Make sure you get PEDIGREED hedgehogs from a reputable breeder. Like your mentor! Make sure you buy hedgehogs that don't have common ancestors on their pedigrees. You can ask your mentor about that.  But once you have your pedigree program downloaded, and your pedigrees entered, then you can double check in-breeding percentages before even buying your hedgehogs.  You want to line breed or in-breed AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE, to lessen the chance of producing hoglets with genetic disease and WHS.  If your mentor is in a different state, ask your mentor who they would recommend buying hedgehogs from.

The way that pedigrees are tracked is through a pedigree software program. There are different ones, but the most common one used by hedgehog breeders is called Kintraks. You download Kintraks onto your computer. You can download it here, on their website: Download Kintraks

Once Kintraks is downloaded, you then enter your pedigrees into Kintraks. Your mentor can explain the correct way to do that. You enter your hedgehog's name, then you enter that hedgehog's parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. It might be a little confusing at first, but it is actually very simple to do. 

Don't forget to put the breeder initials!!! The breeder initials are VERY important when tracking pedigrees. The breeder initals tell you where the hedgehog was bred, and who owns it now. For instance: FHHH Savvy. That hedgehog was bred by me and is owned by me. So nothing goes on the back of the name if it was bred and is owned by you. Another example: FHHH Kayak PRPK. That hedgehog was bred my me, and is now owned by Prickle Pack Hedgehogs. Another trickier example FHHH Snare NIHH - FHHH. That hedgehog was bred by me, owned by Northern Indiana Hedgehogs, and then came back to me. So if a hedgehog was owned by multiple breeders all of their initials would be added onto the back to show that.

You DO NOT just make up your breeder initials! You have to submit an application to get them assigned to you. You can do this on the Hedgehog Herd Initials website, here: Breeder Initials

Figured out pedigrees and
breeder initials, now what?

After you have your hedgehogs and have your pedigrees entered into your pedigree program, you can start planning who you are going to pair. Make sure your male and female are compatiable with each other, that they aren't related. You can line breed in hedgehogs, but ask your mentor before doing this. Your pedigree program can determine in-breeding percentages for you after you have entered the pedigrees. Every breeder will have a different opinion on line breeding and in-breeding, but for the most part most breeders will agree not to pair any hedgehogs together that have a COI of over 2%, and 0% is ideal. COI stands for Coefficient Of In-breeding.

Then you wait until your female is AT LEAST 5 months old before breeding her. If they are 5 months old, and not 300 grams then I typically wait until 6 months. Don't wait too long though! After the age of 1 year, if the female hasn't been bred before, the opening of her pelvic region will start to narrow more and more the older she is (if she has never given birth) and it can become extremely dangerous for them to give birth safely.

Once your female is of the right age and weight, you can then pair her with your male. Most breeders leave them together for 3-10 days. I usually do 3 days if it is an experienced male and female. If you have an inexperienced male or female, it might take them longer to figure it out. With inexperienced hedgehogs I leave them together for 10 days.  I also try to observe a breeding, if at all possible. If you observe them actually breeding then you can better determine the official due date of your girl.

Gestation in hedgehogs is 33-40 days on average. Almost ALL of my girls go from 35-37 days. I've only had a couple go to 40 days, and have only had a couple give birth sooner at 33 days. Some breeders have experienced gestation lasting 60 days, but that is rather rare. Was it because they left their pair together longer? Maybe delayed implantation? Who can say for sure. But that is definitely not the norm. If your female  doesn't give birth after 45 days she probably isn't pregnant. But if she has gained a lot of weight you should wait until after the 60 day period before pairing her to your male again. If I have a female that I suspect isn't pregnant I will pair her again but will observe her behavior towards the male. If she allows him to mount and breed her, then she wasn't pregnant.

You ALWAYS remove the male before the female is due. If the male is present they may both kill the babies.

​Have a pregnant female?

So you've bred your hedgehogs, and you think your female is pregnant? Now it is time to prepare for the hoglets! You want to give your female a nice dark nesting area and some nice nesting material so she can build a nest. Do this about 7-10 days before babies are due, or earlier. You want her to be able to get comfortable with her nesting area. Also take her wheel away at least 7-10 days before babies are due. Do NOT use fleece for pregnant nesting females, babies can get trapped or squished underneath the fleece and can suffocate. 

I use custom made nest boxes, attached to the front of the cage with a tunnel. They have windows, so I can peek inside the nesting area to check on mama and babies to make sure they are doing okay. For nesting material I use shredded toilet paper, pine shavings, and this stringy paper bedding called  Eco-Bedding.

Hedgehog mamas, especially first timers, may eat their babies. Most of the time they do this out of stress. Maybe they had a litter with too many babies, maybe they just don't know what to do, maybe you disturbed the nesting area too much and they don't feel safe now. Whatever the reason, it happens. Sometimes there is not reason, and it just happens anyways. So prepare yourself for that.

You want to try to disturb the nest AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE for the first 10-14 days after the babies are born. If mom is in the nest and you hear baby squeaks, then normally all is good. Too much crying though can mean hungry babies and mom isn't producing milk. If you hear baby screams? Then all is probably not good and you may want to check the nest and make sure mom is not attacking or killing babies. If mama is ever stressed and carrying babies around her cage, and pacing, give her a different nesting option. Sometimes that will satisfy her. If they carry around their babies too much, they can injure them.

I'd also like to note you should be feeding mom as much as she wants while she is nursing babies. Even give her extras like wet food, insects, etc. You can also mix in calcium to help with milk production after babies are born.

If a mom is not a good mom the first time, most breeders will usually try them again. If they aren't a good mom the second time, then usually they are retired from breeding. It's good to have a mentor to help you through having your first litters. It can be a very stressful time!!!

The best way to make sure you don't end up having to hand raise hoglets, is to have multiple mamas due at the same time. That way, if one mom rejects babies, you have another mom who will hopefully foster those rejected babies for you. Most of my girls will foster other babies just fine. You roll the babies around in the dirty bedding of the foster mom, and then place them in the nest. You might want to mark them first with nail polish on the tips of their quills, so you know which ones are the foster babies if they all look the same. 

Hand raising hoglets is EXTREMELY hard, especially if they are new borns. Most die from bloat. I have not been successful the couple times I've tried to hand rear newborns. But 99% of the time I have fosters available so I've only had to try hand rearing newborns about 3 times. IF you have to hand rear, you NEED the correct formula.  You need Goats Milk Esbilac For Puppies. Mix in baby gas drops to prevent bloating. And instead of mixing the formula with water, use chamomile tea. So make your tea, and then use the tea water to mix up the formula. Then add your gas drops to the mix. You need to stimulate the babies after EVERY feeding because they can not go to the bathroom on their own. You can do this with a q-tip and vaseline. Gently flick the genitals in a quick motion back and forth to stimulate them to go to the bathroom.

Have babies past 2 weeks old?

So your babies made it to 2 weeks! Congrats! Now it is time to start socializing them. Sometimes we start socializing earlier, at 7-10 days old. But it completely depends on how comfortable mama is with you. We even have a couple that are okay with us handling from day one, but we only will check on the babies very quickly and leave them be until 7-10 days to not disturb the mama too much. You want her to be relaxed and focusing on nursing her babies.

Once you start socialzing the hoglets, keep an eye on mama for stress. She can still attack or kill babies at this age. If she starts showing signs of stress, leave her and babies alone for another week. Or at least keep the handling of the babies to a minimum. Every mama is different on what they will tolerate.

Once babies start eating hard food or trying to eat it at 3-4 weeks old, it is best to crumble the hard food to make it easier for babies to eat.  Babies should be weaned at 5-6 weeks old depending on how well they are weaning and what their weights are. I normally wean at 5-6 weeks old, and I also normally wait until babies are around 140 grams before weaning them.

To wean your babies, separate males from females into different cages away from mom. Make sure they have fresh food and water available at all times, and make sure to weigh them daily. It's normal for them to lose a little weight once they first start weaning. But they should start gaining pretty fast. 

Once babies are 7-8 weeks old they can go to their new homes. But only after they are completely weaned and eating and drinking well on their own. Babies should be at least 170-200 grams before leaving for their new home.

Baby Hedgehog Development Chart

Babies grow very quickly!
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    Day 2
  2. Day 4
    Day 4
  3. Day 6
    Day 6
  4. Day 10
    Day 10
  5. Day 12
    Day 12
  6. Day 15
    Day 15
  7. Day 19
    Day 19
Fairhaven Hedgehogs - Hedgehog breeder near Chicago Illinois