Play catch with this one!

Hedgehogs are not rodents but are insectivores. They are one of the most primitive placental mammals alive today. There have been fossil remains of their ancestors that go back to the age of dinosaurs. Their brain compared to other mammals their size, is small and primitive. Instead of a fissured brain, it is more smooth. Their keenest senses are that of smell and taste and the area of the brain that controls those senses is well developed. They also have a heat sensory organ.

Types of Hedgehogs
There are five Genus of hedgehogs and a total of about 30 species and subspecies.
  • The Eurasian hedgehogs (also called the European hedgehogs) are about the size of a small cantaloupe when rolled up (about 12 inches long) and weigh up to 3 pounds. They have one breeding season per year, they hibernate for 1/2 of the year and they do not have a divide in the spines of the forehead.
  • The African hedgehogs are of two types: Long eared or short-eared. I normally do not recommend the long eared types for pets because of irritable temperaments with people and each other, and difficulty in breeding.
  • The short-eared African hedgehogs, commonly and collectively called: AFRICAN PYGMY HEDGEHOGS are the most suitable for the pet trade.
  • Aethechinus has three subspecies, the most popular of which is Algirus or Algerian hedgehog. This hedgehog is brown in color with cream tips on the quills, a cream to light tan face, a cream underbelly and legs. This hedgehog is usually the most tractable of all hedgehogs.
  • Atelerix has two species, the most popular of which is A. Pruneri or Pruner's hedgehog. This animal has a dark face and dark legs. The quills are black with white tips. Both of these hedgehogs have four toes in the rear and a spineless band at the forehead. These hedgehogs in proper weight are about one pound in weight and 6 inches long. Neither of these species are true hibernators, but they may aestivate during periods of extreme temperature change.

  • Colors mutate easily in hedgehogs.
    Hedgehog Colors

    Hedgehog Colors

    There is much confusion on colors. This is due to the fact that there are few if any purebred animals and the hedgehog readily produces many spontaneous mutations resulting in the interesting colors.

    Color Definitions
  • Normal: Can be either Salt and Pepper or Chocolate - these are pure or close to pure native species. This is actually not a color, but a description of two distinct species.
  • Salt and Pepper: Original color of PURE species albiventrix - black and white quills - have black mask and black legs.
  • Chocolate: Original color of PURE species algerian- dark brown and cream quills - do not have mask.
  • Snoflake: A 100 % white hedgehog - but not albino. Has normal pigment on nose, eyes. No mask
  • Panda: A 100% white hedgehog - not albino, with dark mask.
  • Half 'n Half: In between a normal and Snoflake. The white portion of each quill will be greater to varying degrees.
  • Cinnamon: Light slightly reddish-brown with light slightly reddish-brown with cream quills, with light face.
  • Rust: Dark reddish brown with dark reddish-brown with cream quills, with dark face.
  • Fawn: Light brown with light brown and cream quills with dark mask and sometimes dark legs.
  • Cream: Off white with off white and white quills, no face mask.
  • Champagne: Off white with off white and white quills, with darker face mask.
  • Mocha: Chocolate with dark mask. Dark brown and cream quills- Infrequent result of cross with pure algerian and pure albiventrix.
  • Polka Dot: Majority of quills of a light color (white or cream) with scattered darker quills. Animals can be a Cream Polka Dot, A Champagne Polka Dot, etc.
  • Platinum: Light grayish quills that may have small portions of each a lighter color. From a distance the animal appears light bluish gray. Face is light.
  • Smoke: Medium grayish quills that may have small portions of each a lighter color. From a distance the animal appears medium bluish-gray. Face may be light or dark.
  • Silver: Dark grayish quills that usually have no portions of a lighter color. From a distance this animal appears dark bluish gray. Face is dark.
  • True Albino: White hedgehog with pink eyes, liver/pink nose. No pigment anywhere.
  • Combinations: They can also be combinations of these colors.
  • Where they come from

    The Algerian hedgehog is found in Northern Africa and Southern France as well as several islands around that area. The Pruner's hedgehog is found in Central Africa. Hedgehogs are opportunistic feeders and many were trapped around garbage dumps.

    Raising Hedgehogs
    Try to simulate the natural environment if you wish to have happy hedgehogs that will breed well in captivity. They do not like bright light and will try to get under feed dishes if they do not have a place to hide.
    I have been very successful raising them in airline animal carriers. I know of some people who raise them in wire cages, Rubbermaid containers, etc. I will give you an idea of what works for me.

    I use a Kennel Cab II medium, (14" x 14" x 24) taupe color with epoxy painted doors. I put clean pine (not cedar) shavings in for bedding, a 4" PVC sewer pipe 10" long with a cap on one end for a tunnel, a divided feed dish in the door and an automatic watering system. A guinea pig water bottle with a stainless steel ball drinking spout works fine also.

    I nail a 2 foot piece of 2" x 2" on each wall, 4" off the floor for the bottom layer of crates. I screw two 2" x 4" on top of this, one at the front and one at the back from one wall to the other, for the bottom layer of crates to sit upon. The front 2" x 4" is about 1 inch lower than the back so that the cage is lower on the front end. This in done in case there is a water leak in my automatic system. Holes are drilled in the bottom of the front of the crate so the water will drain out instead of soaking the hedgehogs. I brace this with vertical 2" x 2" 's every 5 cages across. I put the next layer up the same, approximately 1" above that row of crates. I keep my crates six high, and have to use a step stool for the top two layers.

    I keep my room between 75 and 82 degrees. I use a de-humidifier in the room to keep the humidity under 40%. I keep the room well ventilated with an exhaust fan and circulating air.

    I keep my animal containers scrupulously clean, removing debris, damp shavings and feces daily. Entering every cage every day, helps me to be aware of any problems, such as:
  • Reduced appetite
  • Missing babies
  • Lethargy

  • Nesting behavior prior to birthing
    It also helps to gentle the animals so that new mothers are not so apprehensive when babies are born.

    A high quality dry cat food is a must as part of the diet to help prevent PERIODONTAL disease (dental problems). I also use Bil-Jac frozen dog food on all pregnant and lactating moms as well as newly weaned babies. I substitute Kal Kan Pedigree Dog Food mixed with Cottage cheese when Bil Jac is not available, however, some breeders are successful in raising hedgehogs on high quality cat food alone. I do not recommend live food for females. Meal worms can be fed if desired.

    Watering System
    I use an automatic watering system on all cages. In the past, when I only had a small number of hedgehogs, the water bottle worked fine, but did take a lot more time to fill and clean bottles. Occasionally, a leaking bottle emptied in a few hours. No matter what type of system you use, I would suggest drilling several holes in the front of the floor in the crate in case there is a water leak. I use 3 gallon buckets to hold the water which are on a shelf 12" higher than the crates that are being served. One line can be used to service about 40 crates. Each bucket has a main exit valve with a shut off. The line is run from the bucket to each row of crates, where it T's off to the individual crates. I use cup hooks on the top of the highest row of crates to hold up the tubing. I use fence staples on the 2"x4" to hold the line above each crate. I place the valve in the clip, and attach it in the bottom of the door, on the hinge side of the crate. Occasionally a valv! e will leak, and I usually just replace it and fix it later. The valve can be replaced by kinking the tubing and removing the leaking valve and replacing it with a new one.

    Breeding Hedgehogs

    Reproductive Information

    Hedgehogs are not difficult to breed. I recently sold (3 months ago) 3 pair to one of my 4-H kids who is 12 years old. I sold her 2.5 month old pairs, and she has just weaned three litters this week. Although she is an exceptional girl who loves animals very much, if she can do it, you all can do it. She is saving for her college education with her profits. She paid for her three pair in 3 months, plus had $500. left over and an extra female to add to her herd.

    Ratio of Males to Females
    I keep about 1 male to 3 females. You can keep a lot fewer males but you will have to be juggling males around and may overwork them. I often use younger males on experienced females, and experienced males on young females. I keep a list of my 'sure-shot' males who I call my 'stud muffins' and any male who I see breed. He may breed but not settle a female. If I have a female who is not producing, she gets to have a date with one of the stud muffins. A female who is not producing after a couple dates with a stud muffin should be sold as a pet.

    Breeding records
    Breeding records are a necessary evil for several reasons. If you are serious about being an efficient operation, you cannot afford to have animals that are not producing, or that are producing tiny litters. The mother, as in all animals determines the size of the litter depending on the number of eggs her ovaries produce. It takes two "X" chromosomes to produce a girl and one each "X" and one "Y" chromosome to produce a boy. The sire has the ability to determine the sex of the offspring by having both "X" and "Y" chromosomes, since the dam only carries "X" . Lots of times it could be the 'luck of the draw' as to what sexes a litter has, but if you have male who is consistently producing females, it could be that he is producing more chromosomes that carry the "X" factor. Color also, is an important factor in keeping records. Certain individuals throw spontaneous mutations more often, resulting in the color variations we are seeing today. I have found that the Alge! rian hedgehogs throw lighter colors than the Pruners.

    How to Breed
    For normal animals, I place the male and female together for two days, and repeat this in two weeks. For problem breeders, I suggest the following schedule:
  • In with male for two days
  • No male for two days
  • Repeat this three more times
  • Palpate female for pregnancy at 30 days, and if not bred, repeat using a stud muffin different male.

  • When to Breed
    Wild female hedgehogs ("pygmy" species) may breed as early as three months of age. So will captive females but they probably should not be introduced to males for breeding until they are fully developed and have reached maturity.


    R-Zu-2-U Home

    R-Zu-2-U FAQs

    R-Zu-2-U Animal "Terms"

    Treasure Ranch Home