Before you take a sneak peek into the life of a baby hedgehog and what makes it especially unique to another baby mammal, it is essential that you are well-informed about a hedgehog in general. First of all, its name is derived from two Middle English words: “heyg” or “hegge” which now represents the modern word hedge due to the fact that the mammal regularly visits hedgerows; and “hoge” or “hogge” which typifies hog, due to the mammal’s pig-like snout. Thus in the 15th century, it is referred in Europe as “heyghoge”. The mammal had a special mention in the works of renowned author William Shakespeare, particularly The Tempest and Midsummer Night’s Dream, for which he referred to them as “hedgepigs” and “urchins”, and these two works reflected the mammal’s common names during Shakespeare’s time.
History suggested that the hedgehog was naturally found in the British Isles, Ireland and other parts of Europe. While England’s kingdom made sure that they were the first to discover other parts of the world though numerous conquests during the latter decades of the 19th century, it was noted that explorers will bring with them some hedgehogs to make themselves feel closer to home. Therefore, it is safe to say that the hedgehogs that we may now find in Australia, North and Latin America, and some parts in Asia are descendants of those first European hedgehogs to ever set foot on those continents. It has been made known that the groups brought in the United States in the early 20th century were for the purpose of further research. However, they have made their way out of the laboratories and into the urban cities or pet shops. Around the world, there are a handful of internationally-governed rules that protect the rights of hedgehogs. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is the most vocal organization that seeks to protect the existence and treatment of hedgehogs.
The hedgehog is a tiny, insect-eating mammal that has a snout similar to that of a pig with back and sides covered with 5,000 yellow-tipped spines which are about 25mm or 1 inch in height. The spines are absent on the face, throat, belly, chest, and legs. It can grow to as much as 30 centimeters long, with its small tail at approximately 4 or 5 centimeters. Its distinct characteristic is its defense mechanism against predators. They don’t really fight with their enemies, but instead roll themselves into a tight ball, only exposing their spines and pointing them outward. In rare cases they will ram towards their predator and attack with their spines, but still run away and never confront as much as possible. As to their lifespan, they normally live from 4 to 7 years whether in the wild or in captivity. There were records which show that large sized hedgehogs live in the wild for as long as 16 years, and in general smaller sized ones can only live up to 4 years maximum. When held captive, they can live longer because the absence of predators and monitored diet are exhibited, and so they can live from 8 to 10 years. When a baby hedgehog is born, their quills are initially covered with a protective membrane, but then dry after a few hours. The spines are white, but then are later replaced with brown and cream ones. When the baby hedgehogs, or hoglets, turn four weeks old they attempt to move around on their own or leave the nest to look for food. The nest of hedgehogs is usually made from grass and leaves.
As with their preferences to food, hedgehogs eat beetles that constitute a large margin in their diet, along with snails, caterpillars and earthworms. Some classes of hedgehogs feed on snakes, frogs, toads, and bird eggs which almost make them omnivores instead of insectivores. Some groups may also feed on mushrooms, grass roots, berries, melons, and other fruits. They normally search for food at nighttime from the moment the sun sets until dawn, because their preys which are mostly insects are active at night. It has been known that they usually search for food at a distance of 1 kilometer from its nest and then manages to come back. They usually live in places where there is a good supply of food. Hedgehog pets consume cat or dog food in chicken flavors, as well as dairy products, with water available on the side.
It is common among many animal lovers to rescue baby hedgehogs especially when their mothers have not been able to come back to their nests due to another animal’s attack or other reasons. If you find one hoglet or a group of hoglets, the first thing you must do is call your local hedgehog or animal rehabilitation agency nearest your residence for advice. Not acting quickly might result to insects and other hungry animals or birds to circle around them and eventually make dinner out of them. Hoglets are naturally blind at birth so take immediate action whenever you find a “prickle” of hoglets (the term used for a group is “prickle”).
Hibernation is an integral yearly period of a hedgehog’s lifestyle which begins at November and ends in March. They increase their fat reserves before the winter months and they weigh a bit more from the usual 400 grams to 500 or 600 grams to as much as 2 kilograms. It is therefore heart-wrenching to see a hedgehog give birth at the end of the summer as her babies will not have enough time to double up on their feeding, and thus will only die at hibernation stages.