a guide to hedgehog breeding
If you are interested in starting breeding, or currently breed without a mentor, we strongly recommend finding a mentor with significant hedgehog breeding experience. For those those who are prepared to take hedgehog breeding seriously, contact us if you are in need of a mentor.
While we are not trying to encourage more hedgehog breeders, we would like to encourage more responsible hedgehog breeding, which includes tracking pedigrees, and genetic issues (WHS), and breeding for quality for the species - not quantity.
Therefore, we wanted to put some basic hedgehog breeding dos and don'ts together as a safe place for breeders to reference. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. My place is not to judge, but to help improve the quality of life of hedgehogs.
questions to ask yourself
Before you get into hedgehog breeding you should ask yourself the following questions to make sure you are physically, mentally, and financially prepared.
Hedgehog Color Guide
First, we start with the base color. The base color is the color of the skin, mask, ears, and arms/legs. Each color can also range from light to dark versions of that color (for example, light gray to dark gray).
Note: Albino is a recessive gene that means the hedgehog lacks pigmentation. The skin is pink, eyes are red, and quills are white.
Some hedgehogs have a special pattern with their quills. This typically ranges from snowflake to pinto to all-white. The patterns also vary depending on how much pattern is present. For example, minimum pinto, to reverse pinto or snowflake and high snowflake.
Facial markings indicate the pattern on a hedgehog's face, nose, eyes, and/or ears. As you can imagine, there are many variations, so we have included the most common facial markings.
Another great resource for hedgehog colors is the International Hedgehog Association, where there are pictures of many of the color combinations.
What colors, patterns, and facial markings are we missing? What is the most unique color/pattern combo you've seen?
Hedgehogs, similar to humans, each come with their own personality. That is what makes hedgehogs interesting, and fun pets. Naturally some hedgehogs will be more friendly and open to being handled than others. Others will feel more defensive and ball up, taking longer to open up. If your hedgehog is on the grumpier end of the spectrum, is all hope lost? Not exactly.
Here are some tips & tricks to help your hedgehog become more comfortable being handled:
Please keep in mind, every hedgehog is different and will react differently. Some may always be grumpier than others. This isn't a guaranteed method to help your hedgehog become more friendly, but certainly can help.
If you're looking for a hedgehog, you also can always ask the breeder how often the babies are handled, and which hoglets in the litter are the most friendly. At Penny's Prickly Pigs, we strive to breed friendly adults, which generally leads to more friendly hoglets.
Have you had a grumpy hedgehog? What tips and tricks worked for you?
What is the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI)? The short-version is how closely related an offspring's parents are. Too high of a COI results in negative outcomes for the offspring, and the breed.
The scientific answer according to Science Direct is, "The coefficient of inbreeding (F) for a child of a consanguineous marriage is the probability that the child receives two alleles at a given locus that are both from the same ancestor and are, thus, identical by descent (autozygous)."
So why does this matter? The higher the COI, the more homozygous an animal's genes would be. Once the COI reaches certain levels, one will begin to see deleterious effects of inbreeding, resulting in loss of vitality in the offspring, smaller litters, higher mortality, and increased genetic defects and mutations (WHS, for example).
At what level COI do you begin to see these effects? One will begin to see the negative effects of inbreeding at a COI around 5%. Once the COI reaches 10% or higher, these deleterious effects reach the threshold of the "extinction vortex." As stated by the Institute of Canine Biology, "[t]he combined effects of these make 10% the threshold of the 'extinction vortex' - the level of inbreeding at which smaller litters, higher mortality, and expression of genetic defects have a negative effect on the size of the population, and as the population gets smaller the rate of inbreeding goes up, resulting in a negative feedback loop that eventually drives a population to extinction."
How do you calculate the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI)? As you might expect, the Coefficient of Inbreeding can be calculated with a mathematical formula. "In general, for autosomal loci, the inbreeding coefficient for an individual is F = (½)(n1+n2+1), where n1 and n2 are the numbers of generations separating the individuals in the consanguineous mating from their common ancestor. (This formula assumes that the common ancestor is not inbred.)" - Science Direct
Babydoll Southdown Sheep Breeders Association has a helpful table (see below) with simple examples of inbreeding coefficients.
That formula is too much, is there an easier way? Fortunately NABBSSAR.org has a phenomenal Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) calculator, which can go up to 12 generations beyond the offspring you're calculating.
If you already use our free Google Sheets Pedigree Maker & COI Calculator, you can select the hedgehog you want to calculate the COI for on the 'Pedigree 8 GEN' tab, go to the 'Calculate COI' tab, copy the data highlighted, paste on the NABSSAR COI% Calculator website and calculate. Don't worry, more specific instructions are available in the Google Sheet.
The calculation of the Coefficient of Inbreeding is only as good as the data you put in. The more expansive your data, the better the calculation. Also, most calculators assume the ancestors are not inbred themselves. In the event the ancestors are inbred, the coefficients will actually be higher than what is displayed.
Note: I am not a biologist. I just care about the quality and outcomes of our hedgehogs. This is information I have gathered from resources listed below. What information would you add about the Coefficient of Inbreeding? Let me know!
It’s really important for anyone breeding animals to track pedigrees and be mindful of the coefficient of inbreeding. Too much inbreeding results in smaller litters, undesirable recessive genes and deleterious effects on the breed.
Generating pedigrees and tracking lineage, however, is much easier if you have the proper tools. That's why we want to share (for free) what we use to keep track of our herd, lineage, and generate professional pedigrees, and easily calculate the COI of litters.
When we resumed breeding, we wanted an easier way to generate pedigrees and calculate the coefficient of inbreeding. Previously, I had used an excel spreadsheet that required a bit of manual work. This time, I wanted something that I could access from anywhere (would not be lost entirely if something happened to my computer) and generated professional looking pedigrees. I also did not want a pricey website that I had to rely on to work.
Thankfully I found the Google spreadsheet by Wolvden #436, inspired by Kenosha Rabbits. I was able to expand this spreadsheet to suit up to 8 generations, tailor it to hedgehogs, and create a printer-friendly pedigree page. I was also able to elaborate on the code for pasting on the NABSSAR COI calculator to include up to 8 generations as well.
The resulting Google sheet is tremendously helpful for our breeding program and I wanted to make it available, free, to any breeder looking for a similar resource.
You do not have to download a program or sign up with your email. Once you click on the link, you will be directed to the Google sheet. Click File > Make a Copy, then you will have your very own version to use as you please. If you share this Google spreadsheet, please be sure to give credit to those who helped make this possible - Wolvden #436, Kenosha Rabbits, and now Penny's Prickly Pigs.
Note: you will not be able to edit the Google sheet until you make a copy for yourself.
There are a couple of example hedgehogs in the Breeding Registry as a sample, you might recognize them! I’ve included some how-tos and basic tips in the first sheet, but let me know if you run into any bugs or things you would like to see added.
Hopefully one day, I can get the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI) computed automatically within the sheet. If you already have the formula for COI calculations, feel free to share.
Who will be responsible for the hedgehog?
Like all pets, hedgehogs require specific care and attention including, but not limited to feeding, fresh water, socialization, cage and wheel cleaning, nail trimming, occasional baths and more. Who will be responsible for making sure the hedgehog is taken care of? If your child's interest wanes, are you willing to step up to take care of your pet for the lifespan of the hedgehog (up to 6+ years)? Note: We ask that all minors (under 18) who submit an adoption application, have a supervising adult that is willing to care for the hedgehog for its entire lifespan if the child cannot/does not.
Why does your child want a hedgehog?
Ask your child why they want a hedgehog. The response might surprise you! It's important that your child has done the research, knows the appropriate care, and is ready to take on this responsibility for the rest of the hedgehog's life.
Do you want a cuddly pet?
Hedgehogs are not "soft" and "cuddly" per se. They do have quills, designed to be defense mechanisms, so they can be sharp - especially baby quills. Friendly hedgehogs will generally let their quills down after they get used to you. It's important that your hedgehog is socialized regularly, in your hands, without gloves on. If you or your child is too afraid to handle hedgehogs, they are likely not an ideal pet for them at this time.
So what is the best age to start owning hedgehogs?
There is no one specific right answer for this question. It will come down to your child's level of responsibility and maturity. Typically, I see this stage reached around middle school (or older) depending on the child WITH an attentive supervising adult. I personally, adopted my first hedgehog when I was about 12 years old.
Ultimately, you know your child best and know your willingness to step in to become the primary caregiver if your child is no longer as interested as the hedgehog deserves.
What age did you get your first hedgehog? Let us know!
NOTE: Make sure when you submit an adoption application you have a valid email, since that is how we send out all of our communications. If you change emails, you may contact us at any time at email@example.com or via Facebook or Instagram and we'll update your file.
So you've submitted adoption application here, you've been placed on the waiting list, now what?
Below is the method to my madness in contacting the waiting list. Every breeder is different, but this is what I've found to work the best for us. This, of course, is subject to change.
Note: We do not require a deposit to be placed on the waiting list. We prefer to take a deposit when we know there is a hedgehog available for you and one that is a good fit.
at approximately 3-4 weeks old...
The process begins when the hoglets are between 3 weeks and 4 weeks old. By then, sex, approximate coloring, and price range is listed online here.
I contact the top individuals who I can guarantee that I have a hoglet available. If they are interested in purchasing one of the available hoglets, they respond by the given deadline (usually within a few days) stating that they are still interested. If they do not respond by the deadline, then I begin contacting individuals on "stand-by" (see below). If an individual would like to remain on the waiting list, but would not like to purchase a hoglet from the current litter, I will bypass them and contact them regarding future litters, and they keep their spot on the waiting list.
phase 2: stand-by
While contacting the top of the waiting list, I simultaneously contact the individuals who are next in line, but who I cannot guarantee a hoglet due to the number available. So while the top individuals are getting back to me, I can already know whether or not the next group is still interested in the current litter. This helps make the process move as quickly, and efficiently as possible. As soon as a hedgehog becomes available I contact the individuals on "stand-by" to let them know and proceed with the deposit process.
*It is very common to be on stand-by and be bumped up to having a hedgehog available for you from that litter, so do not fret if you start on "stand-by."*
phase 3: Deposits
I start accepting deposits around when the litter is approximately 4 weeks old. Pick of the litter is determined by the order in which I receive the deposit. If I do not receive a deposit by the deadline given, I begin contacting the next individuals on "stand-by" and we may no longer have a hedgehog available for you from that litter. You will then be placed back on the waiting list and will be contacted about future litters.
Deposits are non-refundable $50 that goes toward the price of the hedgehog. Deposits can be made by Zelle to firstname.lastname@example.org or cash. Please do not pay a deposit until we say there is a hedgehog available for you.
This process is repeated until all hedgehogs are placed on hold with a deposit.
phase 5: final payment & pick-up
When the litter is around 6 weeks old, I start arranging pick-up times for once they are weaned (7-8 weeks). Pick-up is available in Pittsboro, NC. Final payment is due prior to pick up and can be paid via Zelle to email@example.com or in cash at pick-up. Please bring the exact amount, we will not have change. Then you get to take your new hedgehog home. Don't forget to stay in touch and let me know how they are doing!
are you on the hedgehog waiting list?
If you're interested in being added to our hedgehog waiting list to be notified when we have a hedgehog available, go ahead and fill out the brief adoption application.
Do you have any other questions on how the waiting list process works? Let us know below.
bringing your hedgehog home
The day is finally here! Your hedgehog gets to come home. As exciting as it is, you will want to keep in mind that this is also a BIG day for your new companion as well. It can be quite the transition, so your primary goal is to make the hedgehog feel safe, secure, and loved.
safe, secure travel carrier
As tempting as it may be to travel with the hedgehog in your lap or with a companion holding him or her on the ride home, it is important that your hedgehog travel in a secure small pet travel carrier. We typically use the one pictured above, but you can also use a smaller clear storage bin with holes in the side or lid or most any variety that has a secure lid. Not only is it safer to travel in a carrier, but they can get quite squirmy suddenly and the last thing you would want would be for your hedgehog to escape your lap and end up in difficult to reach places in your vehicle or worse - under your gas or brake pedal.
transition the scent
*Optional* To help with the adjustment, it can be nice to see if you can have a small amount of bedding from their previous cage for their travel carrier and transitioned into their new cage, so they have some familiar and comfortable smells around them. You may also leave something that smells like you in their cage. For example, a piece of an old t-shirt. Be sure that it does not have any loose fibers or holes to get stuck in. Monitor any wear and tear on the item and remove after a week or so.
Let the hedgehog adjust
It is so tempting to just want to cuddle up to your new hedgehog, but you will need to be patient. Your hedgehog went through one of the biggest transitions of their life going from their home with siblings and mother to its new home. For the first week, we recommend minimal interaction other than feeding, water, and brief checks on them. Keep in mind they might be a bit grumpier than normal while they adjust to their new surroundings. Also, depending on their age, they may go through a quilling process losing their baby quills while their adult quills come in, also adding to a bit more unease.
In the first week, try to limit handling so they can adjust and feel safe in their new surroundings. After a week of transition time, you can slowly increase your handling and socialization time with your new hedgehog.
are hedgehogs legal?
You're looking at getting a hedgehog as a pet, but are they legal? In most locations, they are legal to own as pets, however there are some exceptions.
Hedgehogs are currently illegal to own in the following locations:
The laws are always evolving and changing, so you want to be sure to check laws in your state and local municipalities on owning and traveling with an exotic animal, specifically hedgehogs.
Unfortunately, we will not sell a hedgehog to you if you are located in any area where owning a hedgehog is illegal.
Have the laws changed in any of these locations? Are there new locations where hedgehogs are illegal? Let us know!
You've decided a hedgehog is the right pet for you, but where do you begin to find the perfect hedgehog for you?
Like any pet, you will not want to buy your new family member from just anywhere.
We realize it can be hard to discern a quality hedgehog breeder from a back-yard breeder, so we've put together some helpful resources on where to look for breeders and questions to ask potential breeders before purchasing your hedgehog.
Where to find breeders
First, let's cover where to not find your reputable breeder. I would avoid the following:
So where, then, is the best place to find a breeder?
questions to ask breeders
Most reputable breeders are happy to answer questions about their breeding programs. If you receive push back, it may not be the best fit.
For example, here are the answers to the above questions For Penny's prickly pigs
Where did you find your breeder? What other questions were helpful when you were looking for a breeder? Is there another great resource for hedgehog breeder listings? Let us know!
how to prepare a hedgehog cage
It's very important to prepare a proper hedgehog habitat before their arrival. Not all small pet habitats are ideal for hedgehogs, so please see our blog post on How to Prepare a Hedgehog Cage for detailed items, where to purchase them, and things to avoid.
What is the perfect hedgehog environment
Putting together your perfect hedgehog cage is only part of the hedgehog environment.
what do hedgehogs eat?
It may surprise you to learn that the best diet for hedgehogs is high quality cat food. Thankfully it's nutritionally better (and cheaper! and easier to find!) than "hedgehog food." We feed our hedgehogs Purina ONE chicken flavor cat food. You can also mix a few types of cat food together to make a blend of proteins.
Be wary of too many additional treats (mealworms, etc) as hedgehogs can become obese. It is also helpful if you regularly weigh your hedgehog to track any sudden increases or decreases in weight, which can clue you in if there is a hidden health issue going on.
Also, hedgehogs are lactose intolerant, so do not feed your hedgehog milk or dairy.
What basic care do hedgehogs require?
In the grand scheme of things, hedgehogs are fairly low maintenance pets. With a dedicated and attentive owner, hedgehogs are easy to rewarding pets.
How to find an exotic vet
Hedgehogs do not require routine veterinary care. However, you always want to know your nearest exotic vet BEFORE a need should arise. You also want to make sure that your vet has experience specific to hedgehogs.
Here are some great ways to find your exotic vet. Be sure to call the ones you're interested in and confirm they are experienced with hedgehogs and ask procedures for regular or acute care as well as in case of emergency. Some vets have a different emergency or after-hours phone number.
Our recommended exotic vet in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area:
NC State Veterinary Hospital
why is my hedgehog foaming at the mouth?!
You're hanging out with your hedgehog and everything is great. All of a sudden your hedgehog starts "foaming" at the mouth and spitting it onto their quills. Yikes!
No, your hedgehog does not have rabies. No, your hedgehog is not having a seizure. This process is called anointing. When hedgehogs come into contact with new smells and tastes, hedgehogs anoint themselves. Why exactly, we're not sure. It's believed they may be saving that scent for later.
Either way. Don't fret. This is a completely normal part of hedgehog ownership.
Note: If there are other concerning things happening with your hedgehog, you should call and consult with your exotic veterinarian.
What else do you want to know about hedgehog care? Let us know in the comments!
How to clean a hedgehog wheel
One of the less glamorous parts of hedgehog ownership is cage cleaning, specifically cleaning the wheel. Most hedgehogs spend a lot of time on their wheel, running miles and miles each night. For many hedgehogs, this is a convenient time to also go to the bathroom. So what is the best method for cleaning the wheel?
Note: we recommend regular wipe downs, but even with regular wiping, you will need to do an occasional deep clean to refresh their wheel.
Step 1: Remove any large chunks and wipe away any liquid
Be sure to scrape off and remove any large chunks of poop or bedding and wipe away any liquid
Step 2: Fill a tub with hot water
Place your wheel(s) in the tub with hot water so that the water fills over the entire wheel. (It is easiest if the wheel is placed flat so you don't have to use as much water)
Step 3: Pour baking soda into the wheel
Time for the baking soda. Pour the baking soda into the wheel. I like to stir it around to make sure it is covering most of the surface.
Step 4: Pour vinegar into the tub
Flash back to middle school science experiments. Pour a sizeable amount of vinegar (we use white vinegar) into the tub with water and wheel. The concoction should immediately start to bubble like a volcano.
Optional: Let it soak
For especially difficult to clean wheels, I try to let them soak overnight in the water/vinegar/baking soda mixture.
Step 5: Scrub wheel
Using a scrubbing brush or sponge, scrub down inside the wheel. Anything remaining on the wheel should easily come off.
Step 6: Dry
Before returning the wheel to the cage, be sure that it is completely dry.
We hope this helps! After having had hedgehogs for over a decade, we've tried numerous ways to clean the wheels and we found this did the trick the best.
Have you found an easy way to clean your hedgehog wheel? Let us know!
How to prepare a hedgehog CAGE
Hedgehog Cage Checklist
Your long-awaited hedgehog is finally ready for his new home. It's always so exciting to bring home a new hedgehog, but do you have everything you need? We've included our checklist, as well as where to purchase, to ensure you have the proper hedgehog set-up. While there are alternative cage, bedding, and hide-away options, we included the options that we've found are the most comfortable and easiest to clean for your new companions.
Recommendation: Sterilite Clear Storage Bin (min. 100 qt)
Available at: Target, Walmart, Amazon
The ideal hedgehog cage is large enough for how active hedgehogs are. They can run miles on their wheel each night! We prefer the Sterilite bins because they are very easy to clean. Not pictured, but we recommend a well ventilated lid for your cage. You can drill holes in the Sterilite lid to ensure proper airflow. Hedgehogs are capable of climbing and some like to get adventurous if given the chance.
Recommendation: Kaytee Large Comfort Wheel
Available at: Walmart, Amazon, Local Pet Stores
Hedgehogs run multiple miles at night. Hedgehogs can also be prone to obesity, so it is essential that they have a proper wheel to exercise on. Be sure to get a large wheel with a solid floor. Wire wheels are not safe for hedgehogs as they can get their small feet and toes stuck in between the wires and holes.
Recommendation: Yesterday's News Unscented Cat Litter and Fibercore Eco-Bedding
Yesterday's News available at: Walmart, Amazon, Chewy, Local Pet Stores
Eco-Bedding available at: Walmart, Amazon, Tractor Supply Co.
You want a safe and comfortable bedding for your hedgehog. We prefer the Yesterday's News non-clumping unscented cat litter (do not substitute normal cat litter), since it seems to be much more absorbent and odor resistant than when we used shavings. They also enjoy the Eco-Bedding to move around and build nests out of. (Note: if you purchase Eco-Bedding in a 10lb box, it is A LOT of bedding and will last you a very long time for just one hedgehog.) You can also use pine shavings, but do not use cedar shavings or anything with cedar in it as it is toxic to hedgehogs.
Recommendation: Kaytee Small Animal Igloo - Large
Available at: Walmart, Amazon, Petsmart, Local Pet Stores
Hedgehogs love to be able to burrow, and feel safe during the day. The hideout is an essential part of their habitat. We prefer the plastic igloos since they are durable, easy to clean, and allow for the hedgehog to bring in and remove bedding. Sometimes fabric hideouts can get dirty and fibers may wrap around the hedgehogs legs if they get worn down.
Food & Water
Available at: Walmart, Amazon, Pet Stores
For water, we recommend water bottles and our hoglets will be used to drinking out of a bottle by the time they arrive home. While bowls are fine, hedgehogs love to burrow and often times this leads to dumping out the water and soiling their bedding. Any basic small animal food bowl will do.
What to avoid
Just as important as the essential items, there are items that seem like a good idea, but need to be avoided for the safety of your hedgehog. These items include, but are not limited to:
Rachel, the owner of Penny's Prickly Pigs has been breeding hedgehogs since 2008, and owned hedgehogs off and on for 23+ years. We maintain a small herd to focus on quality and personality. We track pedigrees on all of our hedgehogs.
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Hedgehog Care: Everything you need to know
How to prepare a hedgehog cage
I'm on the waiting list, what next?