The hedgehog – you may think you know that small prickly creature well, however there is much more to uncover.
Whilst the hedgehog may look cute and innocent, they are more violent than perceived, especially when it comes to their young.
It has been found that hedgehogs will eat their babies. The question is why? This article will be answering this question as we learn more about the behavior of the hedgehog.
Why Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Babies?
Hedgehogs have a habit of eating their own offspring and this, unfortunately, is not fully understood. We can instead only make educated assumptions.
One of the core reasons as to why a hedgehog will eat their babies is due to safety. Hedgehogs are protective over their babies so it is important for them all to be in a safe environment.
If they are not and the babies are not safe, then the hedgehog’s only option will be to eat their offspring.
Whilst this may come across as aggressive and violent, this is a natural survival instinct. The hedgehog is not doing this out of malice but out of protection.
Another reason why a hedgehog will eat their young is due to weakness. It is possible for a hoglet to be weaker than the rest of the other hoglets so it is up to the mother to assess and take action.
In this scenario, the hedgehog will choose to eat the weakest hoglet in order to tend to the stronger ones. By doing this, the hedgehogs will be able to receive more milk, more food, and have an overall greater chance of survival.
It could be that the mother hedgehog is stressed. This stress can be caused by the hedgehog being in an unfamiliar environment or through acknowledging a new scent (hoglet).
If the hedgehog is stressed then there is a higher chance that she will eat her baby.
Will Hedgehogs Always Eat Their Babies?
The answer to this question is yes. In the wild, there is no guarantee that a hedgehog will not eat her young if:
- A hoglet is too weak or sick to survive on its own.
- The hedgehog doesn’t feel safe enough to care for the hoglet.
- The hedgehog is stressed.
Hedgehogs, just like any wild animal, are unpredictable and they will use pure survival instincts to make decisions.
Although we may see eating young as cruel and horrific, the hedgehog will do this because they feel it is what it needs to do.
How To Prevent Hedgehogs From Eating Their Babies
Although there is no stopping a hedgehog from eating their babies, in a controlled environment there are some ways to help prevent it from happening.
There are several ways to prevent hedgehogs from eating their babies including how you use a cage and human contact.
When in a controlled environment and out of the wild, a female hedgehog will mate with a male hedgehog in a cage. While this is appropriate when it comes to mating, in the wild the mother will give birth without the male.
It is very important to simulate a natural wild environment, meaning that the male should never be in the cage with the female when she has given birth. If so, the female may eat the baby because of male ‘s presence.
To prevent this from happening, it is necessary to remove the male from the cage after the mating has done.
As mentioned above, one main reason as to why a mother will eat her babies is due to safety.
The hedgehog needs to be in a safe and quiet environment where she will be confident that her babies are safe and away from any lurking predators.
In the wild, if a hedgehog feels unsafe then they will eat their young to protect themselves as well as for the sake of the baby. This can occur in a secured environment too.
To prevent this from happening, make sure to avoid any contact with the mother for at least 2 weeks after childbirth.
Do not touch her or add any new accessories which are out of her comfort and are unfamiliar.
How To Prevent A Hedgehog From Becoming Stressed
Hedgehogs may become stressed for a variety of reasons before, during and after giving birth. It is important to know how to prevent the hedgehog from becoming stressed for her and her hoglets’ safety.
One thing which should be considered is the noise. Make sure to create a quiet and calm environment so that the hedgehog will feel calm too.
Avoid playing loud music or watching loud videos when near the enclosure.
Avoid the Cage
Whilst it may be tempting to coo over a hedgehog and her hoglets, it is best to avoid the cage when possible.
It may occur that the hedgehog sees you as a predator who will hurt their young. Staying away from the cage also creates a quiet and more pleasant environment.
At What Age Are The Babies Safe?
Hedgehogs are naturally protective of their young and will do anything to ensure their safety (even if that means having to eat them).
But, with this said, this way of thinking will not last forever. Eventually, these hoglets will grow older and they will be safe from being potentially eaten.
But, at what age are the babies safe?
It is recommended to leave the hedgehog alone for at least two weeks after the hoglets are born.
Allow the mother to stay in a safe and secure environment with complete quiet and sanctuary for at least two weeks before beginning to interact again.
At this point, the hoglets will be safe from their mother as the mother will not be stressed and the babies will be filled up with nutrients and strength to grow.
The mother’s instinct to protect her young is something we all have. However, some hedgehog mothers will go beyond the call of duty and even eat their young.
This is a natural part of the hedgehog’s life but is only done if provoked by stress. If you are caring for a hedgehog and her hoglets yourself, make sure to refer to the guide above to learn how to keep all involved safe.