Hand feeding baby hedgehogs
If you’re raising baby hedgehogs (also referred to as hoglets), rescuing orphaned hoglets, or bringing a young hoglet home as a pet, you may find that you need to hand feed them at some point. This could be because the babies are being neglected by their mother, the mother is sick, or there is no mother at all. Hand-feeding baby hoglets is a delicate matter, as the health of the babies can be compromised pretty easily. Further, hand-feeding doesn’t really make a difference in how social the babies become with humans.
If a foster hedgehog mother is available, then that’s the best option for feeding baby hedgehogs. Babies who are fed by another hedgehog have a greater chance of survival than those fed by hand. If no foster mother is available, however, then you’re going to have to give hand-feeding a try and hope for the best.
Here’s what you’ll need to properly feed your hoglets:
- The right kind of cage. For babies, a shoebox is usually just fine. Put a soft cloth in the box for bedding. Then, set a heating pad on low heat and put it under the lower half of the box. Hoglets need a source of heat, because they can’t generate their own.
- The right kind of food. Do NOT feed cow’s milk to hoglets, as they can’t digest it. Instead, use kitten milk replacer or goat’s milk. If using kitten milk replacer, mix some lukewarm chamomile tea into it to aid in digestion.
- The right kind of feeding technique. Hoglets have TINY stomachs, so don’t feed them with anything larger than an eyedropper. Put the eyedropper to their lips and squeeze one drop into their mouths at a time. If a hoglet doesn’t start to suckle, stick the tip of the eyedropper in his mouth to encourage him. Don’t give a hoglet more than 2 to 3 mouthfuls of milk during any feeding session, or you might accidentally kill it with overfeeding. Feed the hoglets every two hours, or whenever they start to squeal, whichever comes first.
- The right digestion stimulation. Hedgehog mothers lick their babies’ bellies to stimulate digestion. You’ll need to approximate this by taking a Q-tip or cotton ball and gently stroke the hoglet’s body from chin to rectum about 20 to 30 times following each feeding. This is VERY important!
- The right weaning time. You can usually start the weaning process when the hoglets are about 3 weeks old. Start mixing some dry food with warm water to make it moist and leave it out for them to feed themselves between hand-feedings. At about 5 to 6 weeks of age, you can start leaving out unmoistened dry food for them all the time.
If your baby hedgehogs do well with the hand-feeding, they’ll be out of the most dangerous period of their lives, and have a much better chance of living to see adulthood. Not all hoglets who are hand-fed make it, even the most carefully cared for hoglets. Hand-feeding hoglets is a chance we take to give the babies a better chance at life than they had before. If you come out the other side of hand-feeding, you can look forward to your hedgehogs growing up healthy and strong!