FAQ - Hoglets in Trouble

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Always into something...
Jan 28, 2009
Bowling Green, KY
Written by jandshyne:

Hand feeding hoglets is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. They are so very small and so unable to care for themselves on any level that it is just a huge risk. The risk of aspirating is always present and hoglets need the antibodies in mother’s milk. If you’ve been told hand raised hoglets are more friendly that is just not true. There is absolutely no proof of this. A hedgehog’s temperament is somewhat genetic and in my opinion has more to do with the interactions they have with their humans once their eyes are open and it’s safe. Hoglets that are hand raised have a higher instance of health problems including Ulcers, GI Upsets, and Upper Respiratory Infections later on because they haven’t had the benefit of their mother’s immunities.

First of all, do not intervene if you absolutely don’t have to. If you find babies having a hard time staying in the nest but mom hasn’t cannibalized chances are good she just doesn’t know how to keep them rounded up and she’s not rejecting them so much as she’s just not sure what to do next. Try offering her a more secure nest. Scoop some of the bedding from her present nest in to a more secure nest (small Rubbermaid containers about the 3 oz. size work great for nests, you can cut a door in one side but still leave a bit of a lip making it hard for babies to crawl out and you can lift the lid gently to peek in on litters if you’re concerned), then gently scoop up the babies and place them in the new nest. Leave them in there for about 2 minutes and then place mom in to the nest as well (chances are she’s already wandered that way herself). If mom doesn’t panic and start trying to move the hoglets back to the old nest site chances are good she’s going to be ok. Keep a close eye on things for the next several hours but if after several hours she isn’t showing signs of stress, you should be ok.

If you find a hoglet who’s cold and unresponsive warm him up immediately by placing him under your shirt against your skin, placing him directly on a heating pad set on low, or by holding him in one hand and cupping the other hand over top. A cold baby will not nurse. If the baby has wandered away from mom and he’s gotten cold you must warm him up before placing him back with mom as she may consider this a natural weakness and continue to ignore him or worse kill him. I DO NOT recommend using a spoon or scoop to move babies back in to the nest. Some breeders will say touching a hoglet will cause mom to cannibalize. That’s simply not true. If she’s going to cannibalize she will do it one way or the other. If you use a spoon or something other than your hand to place a baby back in the nest you can’t tell if the baby is cold. If you’ve had your female for a while and she knows you, chances are your scent is already all over the cage. Just placing a baby back in the nest in this case shouldn’t cause a cannibalization.

If after about 2 hours of being back with mom you notice the hoglets are really squeaking (indicating hunger) or mom just isn’t staying in the nest with them and she really doesn’t seem to be interested in feeding them, you can try helping the hoglets to the nipple. Again it could just be she doesn’t know what to do with them. If she will let you, gently roll her on her side and place the hoglets to the nipples. If your female is huffy or if she doesn’t allow this to happen and you’ve exhausted all other options, then it’s time to hand feed or foster.

If you find one dead baby in a nest don’t automatically assume she will kill the rest. As I mentioned before, sometimes mom will kill a runt or one that appears to be unhealthy. Survival of the fittest often applies here. If however you notice mom panicking, carrying babies around in her mouth one by one and the baby is really squealing, if you find more than one cannibalized, etc… then it may be time to foster or hand feed.

If you do happen to be on time to rescue some or all of a litter from rejection or cannibalization your best bet is to try to foster them out to another female. This is why it’s always a good idea to breed two females at the same time. This is especially important with new mothers, a seasoned female may be more willing to take in fosters than one who is also on their first litter but that isn’t always the case. I’ve had a first time mother with her own litter of 6 hoglets take in and successfully care for foster babies so it is possible.

Gauging the potential foster’s mood is often your first clue as to how the fostering will work out. If she is protective of her own babies to the point you are afraid to go near the nest then she probably won’t foster. If however, she handles your interruption on her nest and doesn’t seem overly concerned she may do just fine. I have had the best luck enticing mom out of the nest first. I offer a favorite treat, meal worm, silk worm, yogurt, etc… anything you know she just loves and can’t pass up. If that fails and she’s not acting overly concerned by me, I will just gently move her out of the nest. Once I’ve done this I quickly place the foster babies in the nest under her own babies. I try to keep mom out of the nest for about 10 minutes, this way hopefully the foster babies will smell somewhat like her own babies when she returns. Once this is done I check on them every 20 minutes to make sure she hasn’t reacted poorly. Generally you’ll know right away if she’s going to feed them or not, they will most likely be hungry and try to go directly to the nipples but just in case I do check on them several times. If at any time she shows aggression toward them I will then remove them and hand feed. If she starts trying to carry her babies or the fosters around in her mouth, if she quickly deposits the new additions outside the nest, or if she tries to harm one, you will have to remove them and attempt to hand feed. Fostering is generally your best option because hand feeding is so often not successful so hopefully it will work for you.
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