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My Hedgehogs' Story Part I

Last Updated: 10/28/06

The Beginning
The Babies

The Beginning

On 10/20/02, my cousin gave me her African pygmy hedgehogs. She was having allergic reactions after handling them (perhaps from their anointing). My cousin got the hedgehogs for Christmas 2001 when they were about two months old. They were thus born around 10/01. The store said they were two males (never keep two males together or a male and female for that matter!) but they were certainly not! Sonic was a male and pretty big. Prickles was a female. I renamed her. Her old name was Knuckles. He was bold and rolled up less (that changed later with him being huffy and not her). She was dainty, scared, and rolled up if you even looked at her practically. He was almost twice her size. They had been together for a year. Most likely, she gave birth, and they (or one of them) ate the hoglets. I read that if the father is kept with the mother, he happily eats them. Stressed moms eat them too. A breeder did tell me that if they had eaten the babies, my cousin should have noticed a bloody mess afterwards so maybe they did not (I would later find this to be not true as there was not much blood when Prickles did have babies on top of CareFresh). The first day, I let them rest and gave them their first ever live food, mealworms. Sonic went "swish, swish, swish" as he munched them.

The next day, using garden gloves (their spines could be felt through them but I wanted to get used to their spines so I could shed the gloves eventuyally), I held them one by one in my lap. Sonic happily ate mealworms and showed off his hoglyness when I turned him over. I did get a good look at Prickles underside, and there was no doubt she was a she. Prickles was scared of mealworms at first and frothed at the mouth. On 10/22/02, I took them to the vet. They were absolutely infested with hedgehogs mites and got ivemectin injections to kill them off and went back twice more for more shots. I had the vet try to trim their nails since they had never been trimmed. Sonic cooperated. Prickles decided to roll into a ball but by fiddling with her for a while, they eventually trimmed one of her feet. Her nails were not bad but Sonic had a few that had curled around and grown into his foot. Luckily, they were not infected or super serious yet. After a while, the vet got a look at their tummies and agreed with my sexing of them (he actually had never sexed one but what is obvious, is obvious.). Sonic was 550 g and Prickles was 375 g which is right on target for an adult male and female respectively. That night, I put Sonic in a smaller cage and kept them separate from then on. I ordered a new larger cage for Sonic (finally setup on 11/16/02). Both of these guys huffed and puffed at me when I lifted up their houses or went to pick them up. (A question for those of you who have these guys. Do they ever stop grunting when you go to get them? Answer to self four years later: Yes, they stop! They got used to me.) At night if I took Sonic out, he wanted to run all over while Prickles just moved around slowly, cautiously.

On 10/26/02, I gave the hedgies a bath. See the section on bathing for how I did it. As for why I did it, it was because they had a lot of white crud between their spines from then hopefully dead mites, dried skin, and debris. It was fun!

At 6 pm on 11/5/02, Sonic and Prickles went to the vet for their second ivermectin injection. Both put up a fight this time. They had to grab Prickles' leg, and she screamed. That was the first and hopefully the last time I hear that! I asked him to weigh them as that could give an idea as to whether she was pregnant or not. As of that night, I had had them for 16 days, and they had been separate for 14 days so she could have been no less pregnant than 14 days. Well, he went from 550 to 525 grams or so, losing 25 g. She went from 375 to 400 g, gaining 25 g. The Hedgehog Valley web site has a chart of pregnancy weight gains, and if she were pregnant, she should have gained 40 or so grams in that time. So, I still was not sure. I did notice her teats were more obvious but still not appearing swollen but she did not seem overly fat or anything.

The Babies

So, the morning of 11/6/02, I go to check on them. Sonic was sleeping outside the plastic igloo so he thought the heating pad was too hot! I turned it off. Too hot, too cold, I could not seem to get it right! Then, I hear a squeak. I knew immediately what it was and looked into Prickles' igloo. She was holding a baby in her mouth. I was surprised how big it was. She did not appear to be harming it, just holding it probably to move it. Later, I saw her sitting on her haunches looking down at two big babies as if to say, "Ok, what are these?" There were three babies but I only saw two at that time. She did not appear to want to harm them though (I am SOOOOO glad that their daddy was not in there so they so far had not been eaten.). She let out her nasty noise they both make when I dare to touch them when she saw me. I knew not to touch them or disturb them in any way for now.

Prickles was NOT a good mother. The morning of 11/7/02, when I got up at 6 am, I could hear her using the exercise wheel (only later did someone tell me that I should have removed it). Around 6:30 am, I went down to look in on the hedgehogs. She was running around the cage really fast which I had never seen her do. She was almost manic. I looked in the igloo for the babies and at first did not see any. Then, I saw one baby. I looked around for the other and found it out in the open. She had thrown him out I guess. It was hard to see them as they were the same color as the CareFresh. Having done a lot of reading (the book said if I left the baby there, it would die), I used a long stirring spoon to lift up the baby and put it into the igloo with its sibling. It moved just a little bit but was quiet. A little while later, I looked in again (when I was looking, Prickles was usually asleep and did not notice me as I did not make any noise). I happened to find a third baby I missed the day before. It was dead. It was probably there the first day, and I did not see it as it was on the other side of the cage. Prickles had eaten off its snout. I do not know if it was an accident or not. I removed the dead hoglet. By the time I went to leave for work (late yet again), Prickles was asleep. Unlike the day before, the two babies were not under her but about an inch away, laying spines up. I told my father to let us keep the thermostat up higher but woke up twice cold to find he turned it down to 60 degrees F. Luckily, even at that temperature, it never went really any lower than 68-70 degrees F where the hedgehogs were. Once my father left, I turned up the heat. I was still waiting on the space heater I ordered and also two microwaveable heating disks I ordered. I was planning to buy two heating pads Saturday. My mother installed a heating pad under Prickles and the babies while I was at work. I was worried the pad would overheat them (and it may have been a factor in the ensuing slaughter). When I put the heating pad under Sonic, he left the igloo and sprawled out. Babies of course cannot escape excess heat. Prickles was nursing and cleaning the two live babies the first day and cuddled with them but by the next day, she just ignored them! I knew that hand rearing is just too hard so I decided to leave them with her and hoped she would take care of them.

Well, it seems that nothing good ever happens to me or my animals. So it goes with the new hoglets. Despite trying to do everything as best I could, Prickles seemed to have killed all three of her hoglets. I do not know if there was anything I could have done differently except for one thing. Do not even go in the room where the mother and babies are for two weeks at ALL. Do not ask me how you can thus feed and water them but that is the only way she will not eat the babies. I later corresponded with people who had bred their hedgies, and they looked at them all the time with no problems! When my cousin gave me her two hedgehogs, she was already pregnant (a certain person kept blaming me for breeding them!). As Sonic and Prickles are probably siblings, some say it is best that the babies did not survive. The first vet that gave them the ivermectin shots did not say anything. Later, the other vet I took them to said the ivermectin most likely caused severe abnormalities in the babies so the mother had to eat them. Not to feel too guilty, he said if they had not been de-mited, she probably would have killed the babies because of the mites.

When I got home on 11/7/02, I could only see one baby but it seemed ok. The space heater arrived. With it going, it was about 75 degrees for the hedgehogs. Plus, the human heating pad was now under part of Prickles' cage. My mother wrapped it up in towels. Prickles did not seem too hot since she still slept balled up. The morning of 11/8/02, at 6:20 am, Prickles was again running around. I got to see her run like mad on the exercise wheel for the first time. I looked in the igloo. No babies. Then, I saw one next to her. I thought I was going to have to move it but then she saw that I saw it and picked it up. The baby make a lot of squeaks, and Prickles put it in the igloo. A breeder told me that mother hedgehogs NEVER pick up or move babies unless they feel threatened and then almost always eat that baby [This same breeder later complained to me that I plagiarized her for my entire page but as far as I know, paraphrasing something factual from someone else is not plagiarism! Plus, maybe four sentences on this whole page came directly from nasty (on her part) e-mails with her. Not to mention that someone else later told me that she watched her mother hedgehog with her baby multiple times every day and that mother carried her babies around and did not kill them! So, the breeder was not even 100% correct! Almost everything on this page that did not come from my experiences, can be found on the web sites and books I reference on my main hedgehog page as well as a few conversations with some very nice people and a few really mean ones. Most hedgehog people are very loving. If you feel that something on this page is incorrect or should be referenced directly to you or removed instead, I will be happy to do so. But, as you read, this is mostly a story of the saga I went through to try to help these two hedgehogs.]. A little while later when I looked in, the baby was in the igloo, upside down. It did not seem to be moving but I thought I saw one twitch. It seemed like one end (I could not tell which end was which) was red, perhaps bleeding. In her zest to move the hoglet, she may have bit into it (or more likely, she killed it on purpose). She again went into the igloo and licked its stomach and turned it over. By the time I was ready to leave for work, Prickles was asleep and the baby was next to her, quills up. I shone a flashlight all over the cage (she was asleep so it did not make the situation worse). I found a blood stain where the dead baby was found yesterday morning. I found the missing baby. All that was left was the back skin and quills. Prickles had eaten the rest. This baby was twice as big as the one that died the day before so she had been nursing it (or it was larger, perhaps male). The flashlight showed me a non-quilled area of the remaining hoglet. I really could not tell if it was the head or butt but there did appear to be a red area. I was pretty sure it was blood and not pink skin but I was not 100% sure. My mother called after I got to work to say she looked in and did not see a baby. That night, I could see the back of the remaining baby but did not know if it was alive. The next morning, the baby was out by the food dish. I picked it up with a spoon and when it was turned over, the head was gone. Prickles' wheel was also covered in blood. One hedgehog breeder (not the nasty one!) said she has had mother's run with a baby in their mouth so I guess that is what Prickles did but probably when the baby was already mortally wounded. At least Prickles and I would never have to go through this again. I do not know how many times she gave birth while in my cousin's care with the father present. There really was little sign of the deaths, and the dead babies blended into the CareFresh so I feel confident that my cousin could easily have overlooked this happening before. While I was not yet attached to Sonic and Prickles (I later was!), the babies were a different story. Prickles just did not seem to know what she is doing. Prickles would rather eat the babies and get back nutrients than have a hideous predator (me) take her babies. She did not know I would never hurt them on purpose. But, I did, simply by looking at them for a few seconds while she slept and a few times while she was awake. No one had told me to not even go in the room they were in (we have to go through there to get into the house!)! I named the babies Faith, Love, and Hope, three things I lost long ago that they brought back to me and now are gone again. If you are thinking of breeding hedgehogs and do not like death, DON'T do it!

I weighed the two predominantly intact hoglets before burial. The first one killed the first day appeared to have been female and was 7.5 g. There are two photos of her in the photos section. The second one killed the next day did not have anything left but the back so a weight would be useless. The back did seem bigger so the odds are, this was a male. The third baby killed after 2.5 days was only 5.5 g and was a female. Since it weighed less, perhaps Prickles could not give it enough milk, or it just started smaller. It would have been nice to have a female survive so I could have kept her indefinitely with her mother.

Continue to Part II of Sonic and Prickles' Story.

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