Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies? Exploring The Shocking Behavior of Hedgies

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Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies

Mothers eating away their babies is a common scenario in the animal kingdom. But what about hedgies? Do hedgehogs eat their babies? 

Unfortunately, mother hedgehogs can devour their babies when they are not in the right mind. Stress, crowded surroundings, and the risk of a predator attack make the mothers eat their offspring. However, such cannibalism behavior is rare.

Why do hedgehogs eat their babies? What can you do to protect the hoglets? We have shared everything on the cannibalism behavior of hedgies in the article below. 


Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies?

Mother hedgehogs eat their newborn hoglets mostly due to anxiety and mental illness. Anything can trigger stress in the mothers. It can be the surroundings or the tiring pregnancy period. 

Sometimes, owners invade privacy and become too cuddly with the hoglets. This can upset the mother hedgehog, and she might eat her babies. 

While the female hedgies are caught in cannibalism, there is no record of males devouring their own children. Then again, you can not blame the mothers. They do not have a similar level of emotional intelligence as us. 

A few expert keepers advise that sexual and mental maturity are two separate things. Hence, a first-time hedgehog mother might not know what to do with her kid. As a result, she ends up eating them. 

They might repeat the task a second time. However, Eventually, the mothers learn to nourish their hoglets.


Why Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies? 

Why Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies

What in heaven leads the hedgehogs to eat their cute babies? Honestly, you can not predict such cannibalism activities in the prickly pigs. Their mental illnesses are often masked by their solitary behavior.

Anyway, we did some research and found several reasons for the odd behavior of mother hedgehogs. Such as, 

1. Mental Stress 

Being pregnant itself is a tiring task for the hedgehogs. Less nutrition and improper cage setup during pregnancy only amplify this stress. 

Once the mom gives birth to the hoglets, she becomes more pissed. The sudden responsibility might not sit well with the anxiety. As a result, the mother hedgie can eat the babies. 

Note:

Breeding is a stressful process for all hedgehogs. But not all mothers feast on their offspring. 

Such brutal behavior somewhat depends on the hedgie’s personality. You should keep an eye on the new hedgehog mothers with a temperament rather than the calm and laid-back ones.

2. Congested Cage 

A pregnant hedgehog can get disturbed by the smallest change in the environment. For instance, crowded cages or unorganized toys might stress out the mother. 

After delivering hoglets, the obstacles can get on her nerves. Yes, mentally disturbed mommy hedgehogs can eat their babies because of such small inconveniences. 

3. Improper Feeding Schedule 

Mother hedgehogs require more nutrition to nourish her body and her kids. After giving birth, they might demand more food to recover from that stressful journey. What happens when you fail to provide the hedgies with enough meals? 

The mothers assume that they can not nurse their hoglets anymore. Hence, as per them, it is better to kill the babies rather than starve them to death. We witnessed cases where the mother hedgehog ate her babies because there was no freshwater access in the cage. 

4. People Interference 

We owners are often too careless about our responsibilities. Hedgehogs prefer less human touch and interference in their life. Yet, we will peek through the cage walls and even cuddle the hoglets. 

Now listen to this very carefully. Mother hedgies are very picky about their babies. Your constant peeking might stress them out and force them to eat their hoglets. 

Besides, when you handle the babies, you leave your fragrance with them. If mothers can not recognize the scent of their hoglets, they do not think twice before killing them. 

5. A Predator on The Loose 

Mother hedgehogs stay very alert about their surroundings. They are in constant fear of a predator attack in the cage. If you fail to secure the enclosure, hedgies will get anxious about their hoglets’ safety. For them, it is the question of survival. So, they will eat the extra protein instead of leaving it out for the predators. 


Can You Stop Hedgehogs Eating Their Babies?

Can You Stop Hedgehogs Eating Their Babies

A proper care sheet during the pregnancy and the nursing period might prevent cannibalism in hedgehogs. Here are all the dos and don’ts you need to follow,  

1. Be Careful About Breeding The Hedgies

Just as mentioned, breeding is a stressful process for the female hedgehogs. Do not make the journey more painful for the hedgies with your experimental mating techniques. 

Consult a vet or an expert to gain insights into the hedgehog breeding process first. Proceed ahead only when you are confident. 

A female hedgehog is sexually active at 6 months. For the first mating, the hedgie should not be more than 12 months old. Otherwise, the quill ball might undergo physical and mental complications. 

When breeding the pair, always bring the female hedgehog to the male’s cage. We advise you to follow an on-off mating cycle for a successful pregnancy. 

For example, keep the couple together for 9 days and then keep them separated for 7 days. This makes the process less stressful and keeps the mothers calm. 

Bonus Tip:

Mom hedgies with a temper tend to kill their babies. We recommend breeding gentle and friendly females for good heredity. 

2. Prepare A Nest for The Hedgies 

The mother hedgehog demands a cozy place to deliver her hoglets. You should prepare a nice little nest for the mom and the babies. Use a substrate of sandwood and dry hay for the hut. Besides, maintain a temperature of 65C to 70C to keep the hedgehogs warm and healthy. 

3. Offer The Mother Enough Food 

A successful mating is followed by a pregnancy period of 35 to 46 days in hedgehogs. The mothers require extra nutrition for themselves and their babies. Therefore, offer them a balanced diet, mostly of protein, complemented with veggies and fruits

Offer the female hedgies a little extra food during pregnancy and nursing time. Do not forget to install a freshwater source inside the cage. Remember, scarcity of food and water often leads to cannibalism in hedgehogs. 

4. Do Not Overcrowd The Enclosure 

Hedgehogs can adjust in small cages. True that! But it doesn’t mean they prefer a congested enclosure. 

Mother hedgies are already agitated and anxious. Overcrowding the cage will just piss them off even more. Remove the unnecessary flashy toys and decorations for the time being. 

This will offer the mothers enough space to move freely. Attaching a new cage to the existing one is also a good idea. 

Bonus Tip:

We suggest you do not put the male/ father hedgehog in the nesting cage. The presence of a companion might also stress the mother. 

5. Leave The Babies Alone 

We can feed your excitement about the new hoglets in the cage. They are so cute and tiny that you want to cuddle them all day. But do not let your enthusiasm ruin their lives. 

As we said, mother hedgehogs refuse to nurse the babies or even kill them if they smell strange. We advise avoiding touching the hoglets as much as possible. 

For emergencies, you can wear a glove for the first 15 days. Only handle the babies with bare hands if the mother hedgies seem okay with it. 


Conclusion

To be really frank, we can not guarantee anything that might stop the cannibalism in the mother hedgies. But it never hurts to try. Right?

Correcting your breeding technique and selecting the right mating pair will always help. Choose a healthy and calm female to avoid these killings. 

But if the accident happens, do not beat yourself too much. Give the female a break and try again. If the hedgie still feasts on her babies, you better not try your luck with her anymore.


FAQs

Why can’t you touch baby hedgehogs?

When you touch the baby hedgehogs, you leave your scent with them. This can agitate the mother, signaling danger. As a consequence, she might kill and eat the babies. We advise you to wait for 15 days until the babies grow a little bit.

Why do hedgehogs lick their babies?

A hoglet can not urinate or defecate on its own. So the mother hedgehogs lick the baby’s genitals and lap at poop to stimulate the bowel movement. This licking continues for 3 to 4 weeks.

Can baby hedgehogs survive without mom?

Hoglets can not survive without their moms. They need the body weight and warmth of their mothers to survive. Besides, they can not forage and eat on their own. Not to mention that the babies also depend on their moms for bowel stimulation. It seems impossible for the hoglets to leave without the mother. 

What time do hedgehogs eat their babies? 

Hedgehog mothers eat their babies mostly if they are mentally disturbed. Usually, the stress can come from crowded surroundings or improper care sheets. Offering the mother hedgies a proper nursing environment will prevent the killing.

How long do baby hedgehogs stay with their mother?

Hoglets stay with their mothers for 8 weeks. During this time, they are dependent on their moms for warmth, food, bowel movement, and protection. The mothers might abandon the nest if they find a strange smell from the babies. 

About the author

Susana

Susana

Susana Jean, Pocket Pet Expert and Sugar Glider Aficionado Hi everyone! I’m Susana Jean, your go-to wordsmith and pet enthusiast who has a special place in her heart for the fascinating world of sugar gliders.…Continue reading

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