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.
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.
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!
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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