FAQ - Breeding - Part 2

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alpayton

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Written by jandshyne:

Now that we’ve covered the most important aspects of breeding we can discuss the actual process of breeding.

Female hedgehogs should be a minimum of 6 months old before breeding. Breeding after the 6 month mark can also have adverse reactions such as a greater instance of cannibalized litters and rejected hoglets, and/or birthing complications. It’s advisable you breed two females at the same time. That way they will hopefully be delivering and weaning at the same time and should one become ill or reject her hoglets the other can hopefully foster. This is not always a given.


Hedgehogs are induced ovulators meaning they will ovulate when in the presence of a male. The gestation period is 35 days. When breeding you should introduce the female in to the male’s habitat or introduce them both in to a neutral habitat. This will ensure the female doesn’t get hostile while defending her territory. Remove all sleeping boxes, bags, toys, wheels, etc… from the cage to prevent distraction. Leave only the food and water bottle in the cage. Chances are you will notice your male “singing” to your female immediately. It doesn’t take them long to figure out they’re in with a female. In most cases mating will take place immediately. We personally leave our males and females together for 3 days, remove the male, wait 3 days, and place the male back in for 3 more days. We have had good luck this way and most times babies are delivered 35 days from the initial pairing date.

I remove the wheel from my female’s cage at mating and do not replace it until the babies are at least 4 weeks old. I like for my females to get lots of rest and concentrate on being healthy. I do still give them their free run time up to 10 days before delivery to allow them some amount of exercise. About 10 days prior to the early due date you will want to thoroughly clean your female’s cage. Clean the bedding, wash the blankets, and bags, wash the food dish, etc… When you give back the cage also give her a nesting option. I like to offer all new moms at least two different options, so say a nest box and a hedgie bag. She can then choose which one to birth and raise her litter in. You will notice in the days before birth your female becomes agitated, re-arranging her cage, shuffling things about, digging out holes, moving her food dish, etc… DO NOT interfere, she is nesting and she needs to be allowed to do so at her own pace and as she prefers.

Some females will nest incessantly and some will seem to throw together a hap hazard nest and just go for it. The ONLY time you should interfere with her nest is in the event you notice she’s having trouble keeping her babies in the nest. If this should happen gently scoop up the babies and place them inside a hedgie bag or box in the same general area as her original nest. From her due date on resist ALL temptation to move or alter the nest. Don’t peek in to see if there are babies, don’t peek in to check on mom, etc… You can listen for squeaking indicating babies have been delivered. Female hedgehogs rarely have birthing complications. If your female does have complications you will know because she will be listless, irritated, out of the nest, bleeding profusely, crying, and/or panting profusely. If any of those should occur an emergency vet is necessary immediately. For the most part you should NOT interfere with the birth and never touch babies unless it is an absolute necessity for at least 2 weeks and in most cases 3. Generally it’s safe to touch the babies and the nest once their eyes have opened at about 14 days old. Until that point make sure mom is doing ok and leave her alone. Minimize her stress by placing her in a room out of the central area of your home. NEVER allow strangers in to the room, and minimize your contact with the cage. For the first 14 days after birth DO NOT clean the cage, use a cat pooper scooper and quietly scoop out solid waste or dump the litter box, but NEVER fully clean the cage. It’s a good idea to place her food bowl and water source as near to the nest as possible for the first few days as she may not want to venture away from the nest long enough to eat and drink. You should never have to offer your female supplements, DO NOT do so unless a vet suggests it.

Female hedgehogs will cannibalize a litter for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes it’s easy to put your finger on the specific cause. A disruption in the room, a drop in temperature, a first time mom, etc… Often times it comes without warning or reason. Occasionally you can catch a female before she’s destroyed her litter. This can be very tricky. First of all, a mother may destroy one hedgehog out of a litter. Perhaps this is because she feels that baby is not healthy enough and is taking nourishment from the others, perhaps she thinks she can’t handle them all, we just don’t know, but it does happen and it is very much a reality in hedgehog breeding.

If your female seems to have rejected her litter watch her closely for signs of a problem. A fetus not delivered can kill your female, various infections, mastitis, uterine infections, etc… are possible so if you notice your female has simply rejected her litter rather than cannibalized, if she’s moved to the opposite side of the cage away from the hoglets, if she seems lethargic, shows a loss of appetite (it is not uncommon for females to lose their appetite after birth, more concerning is a rejected litter coupled with loss of appetite), feels cold to the touch, or doesn’t respond to your interfering with the babies, this is not normal and a vet visit is necessary. It could just be first time mommy blues, or it could be a problem with your female so it should never be ignored. An X-Ray to rule out a possible un-delivered fetus as well as a simple blood test to screen for infection is all that’s usually warranted to diagnose a problem. Being overly cautious in this instance is generally much cheaper and much less stressful on mom than not being concerned enough and ending up with a very sick female.

Female hedgehogs should be bred no more than twice a year. The only exception would be a breeding that didn’t take and in some cases if a mother cannibalizes a litter. If a female cannibalizes a litter early on before she’s nursed them and I am certain it was a fluke, I may give her 3-4 months to recoup and breed her again. If I’m not 100% certain she’s back to her pre-pregnancy self I will wait a full 5 months to re-breed her.

Some breeders will say a female should only have 3 litters in her lifetime and should be taken out of breeding prior to their 3rd birthday. Others will say this is not the case. You have to use your judgment. If your female is in good health and seems to do okay with litters, no history of cannibalizations, breedings not taking, etc… then you will have to make the choice you are comfortable with. In any case if you have a mother who’s cannibalized more than one litter and you can’t be certain of the cause (e.g. outside noise, influence, distraction, threats, etc…) then it’s time to retire her.

If you try to breed two females at the same time one may not take. Sometimes if a female can hear another breeding pair nearby they will not breed. Likewise if a female can hear the offspring of other females sometimes they will destroy a litter. We haven’t had this happen here, our females have all done exceptionally well but it is something that can happen and you should be prepared to move them to different rooms if it becomes necessary.

For the most part female hedgehogs won’t require intervention. One should always be observant on the days leading up to the early due date or EDD and if your female seems to be having trouble a vet visit is necessary, otherwise you just stand back and let nature take its course whatever it may be. Hopefully the outcome is a good one but please be prepared for the possibility it won’t be.
 
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