Northern Plains Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are for the most part, nocturnal animals. They will sleep for the majority of the day, and be most active from dust to dawn. During the day, they should be provided with a small animal igloo, an old t-shirt, fleece strips, or anything else that they can burrow or hide in. Along with our fleece liners, we also make hedgehog bags that they can crawl and burrow in.
If you own a hedgehog, you will get poked from time to time. Hedgehogs will usually raise their quills when they are startled, hear loud noises, when they are woken up, or if they are just not very sociable. We have one female in particular like that, and that is the way she came to us, a ball of spines. She comes out every now and then, but only for certain people. Hedgehogs like her can take a long time to grow accustom to a new family and new surroundings. This is why everyone should keep in mind when they get a young hedgehog from us or another breeder, they are being taken away from everything familiar to them. They leave us very happy and social, and when they get to their new home, they are scared, and won't come out. This is completely normal behavior. Time needs to be given to the new hedgehog to get used to its new surroundings. The key is patience.
Hedgehogs can and do bite from time to time. Some will bite constantly, others may only try it once or twice. There are many reasons that may cause a hedgehog to bite. The most common being a new smell on your hands or clothes. Hedgehogs will find smells that we find strange very appealing. This can range from flowers to cigarette smoke to a new kind of soap. The key to stop a hedgehog from biting is to know when they are going to start. Watch for signs such as licking or if you see their mouth open. If you do see them try to bite, try and blow a puff of air in their mouth. Do this a few times each time they bite. They will associate the air puff in the face with the biting and many will stop. NEVER hit or flick your hedgehog in the face to get them to let go. There are more humane ways of doing it. One way we have found that works great is to give them a treat when you handle them. We have one female that likes to nip, but once she gets her worms she wants nothing to do with biting. Another common reason for biting is they just don't want to be held on that particular occasion. Hedgehogs like other animals can only convey what they are thinking through their actions. If they don't want to be held, they may bite in hopes they will be put back. The last reason they may try to bite is they may have a medical condition or they don't feel well. This is a case where you need to know your hedgehog and its normal behaviors. If he/she is exhibiting strange behaviors, such as note eating or drinking, not wheeling, biting or unusual aggressiveness, call your vet. This will rule out any medical condition that you may be unaware of.
Hedgehogs have a variety of sounds that all mean different things. They also have a very keen sense of hearing that should be taken into consideration at all times. Here are a few sounds that we have heard out of our own hedgehogs:
Self annointing is an often discussed part of hedgehog ownership. Many first time hedgehog owners post panicky messages to mailing lists or hedgehog friendly forums with concerns of seizures, vomiting, ect. None of these are to be worried about; self annointing is a completely natural behavior of hedgehogs that is displayed by a particularly interesting new scent or taste.
It begins with a hedgehog chewing or licking on something, which can be almost anything that is new to the hedgehog. They then usually chomp their teeth a few times, and begin to produce a white foamy spit. Then, they bend into amazingly impossible contortions and wipe this saliva onto their quills. Typical target areas are going to be the rump or the sides, but I have seen hedgehogs that were capable of annointing right in the middle of their backs above their shoulder blades. Often, the animal will fall completely over onto their sides or back while vigorously spreading the foamy saliva as far as the tongue can reach.
Self annointing itself has no risk or danger to the hedgehog. It is not a sign of illness, nor likely to cause an illness. However, some substances that your hedgehog may find fascinating or desirable are not safe. You should not allow your hedgehog to come in contact with cleaning products, other chemicals, spoiled foods, or other animal feces. Annointing can make nasty messes on your hedgehog quills, depending on what they prefer to annoint with, but these can almost always be cleaned up with a good bath.
More information will be added to this page in time.