FEEDING BABIES AND JUVENILES
If you have come to this page never having dealt with baby or juvenile hedgehogs before, or having had failures before, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE contact a rescue with a track record of success. Don't try to look after them yourself without correct support.
Babies and Juveniles
Hoglets should be fed with a milk substitute such as Esbilac which contains all the fats, vitamins and minerals they need. Under no circumstances should you give them cow's milk. Goat's milk with Goat's colostrum may be used for a short period of time if nothing else is available.
Products such as Cimicat are acceptable for a short time with the very young hoglets but are not substantial enough to make the hoglets grow. We have found that Shirley's Lactol and Royal Canin Kitten are completely unsuccessful and will always advise you not to use them.
You will need:
- a sterile syringe, 1ml, 5ml or 10ml - depending on the size of the feed required.
- a short piece of rubber tubing such as a cannula, also sterile.
- a warmer to keep the feed at body temperature
- Milton Fluid or a steriliser to clean all the equipment between feeds
The powder formulas need to be mixed well so that everything dissolves. For some time now we have made up enough feed for a whole day the night before it's required, stored it in the fridge and remixed it the following morning. Don't use an electric whisk or blender as it adds too much air.
Refer to the list below for amounts and frequencies. Heat up only enough feed for one sitting and warm it to body temperature. Test it on the back of your wrist as you would for a baby. I use a bottle warmer with a dish in the top to keep the food at the right temperature throughout feeding but others use food warmers with tea lights.
Place the baby on a towel on your lap. Keep it the right way up, on it's feet. DO NOT put the baby on its back as it may inhale the feed and drown.
Put the tip of the syringe, or rubber tube if it's a very young hoglet, under the lip and gently squeeze out a drop. Some hoglets will instantly attack the syringe and gobble the lot down, others take a while to get the idea. Feed slowly, do not be tempted to press the plunger hard.
The youngest hoglets will need to be toiletted. If you haven't seen them passing urine or faeces by themselves then you MUST do it for them. A cotton bud dipped in almond oil then gently but quickly tickled around the genital area should do the trick but the tinies have paper thin skin and you can make them very sore. The feed is also slightly acidic and can cause sore bums so do not toilet more than 2 or 3 times a day. Toiletting the hoglet on its feet is the better way to go to prevent urine burn.
If you cannot get the baby to eat or toilet please take it to an experienced person immediately. There is no time to hang around, they need to be seen urgently. Do not feel you have failed. Some youngsters can be very problematic for many reasons and even the experts lose them. At the very least you can be shown how to do things properly so that you have more confidence.
- NB. Weights given are a guide only. Once hoglets are a week old there can be a significant weight difference between litter mates and the more there are in a litter the lighter they are likely to be so weights are not given for anything from 1 week - 4 weeks.
- Weigh the hoglets at the same time each day and make a note of it. This will act as a guide to growth.
- In addition, weigh before each feed and again afterwards. For every 1ml of feed the hoglet has ingested, an increase of 1g weight should be noticed. Do not note these weights down or you will confuse or scare yourself silly. Use your daily weights to track progress.
- Make sure the hoglets are kept very warm. If they are cold they will use most of their energy trying to keep warm and will not gain weight. Most rescues recommend around 35c for the first couple of weeks until they can maintain their own body temperature.
Hoglets should be fed up to 25% of their bodyweight daily split into multiple feeds
Do not overfeed. A distended tummy means bloat. Stop feeding immediately and give rehydration fluid instead
- Birth to three days old
- At birth the hoglets are blind, deaf, pink, bald
- Approx weight 7-25 grams*
- At one hour, white spines start to push through the outer skin
- At 36 hours a second coat of dark brown spines begin to emerge. The hoglet starts to jump if disturbed
*Hoglets weighing under 12g may be premature. ALL hoglets will struggle if they have not had a first feed from mum.
On arrival we give small amounts every hour to get the newborns used to the new taste and also our need to feed at specific times rather than on demand as they would have had from mum. You cannot force a specific amount of feed into them and need to go with the flow. Some will happily guzzle 1ml others you will struggle to get more than 0.2ml down them. Do not force it. If they don't want to eat, try toiletting first, make sure they are warm enough and if they still won't take any, leave them for half an hour then try again.
Once you have established a regular feeding pattern, give 1-2 ml of milk substitute every 2 hours. DO NOT GIVE ANY MILK CONTAINING LACTOSE
Mum feeds round the clock for the first few days, never leaving the nest. At 3-4 days she will start to come out at night to feed and water herself.
- Three days to one week
- Hoglets are blind and deaf
- Darker spines are starting to come through
- Approx weight 25-30 grams
- Do not leave more than 6 hours between feeds
- Hoglets may jump if disturbed. Great care is needed not to drop them.
Feed 1-2ml of milk substitute every 3 hours. The last feed should be around midnight to 2am
It is often a good idea, especially if this is he first time you have dealt with them, to sit on a low stool or on a carpeted floor so the hoglet has less of a distance to fall.
- One to two weeks old
- At one week - the hoglets are still blind and deaf.
- They can be very vocal when hungry, frightened or disturbed
- The white spines are still longer than the brown ones.
- Whiskers start to emerge
- At 11 days old hoglets start to curl
Feed 2-3ml of milk substitute every 3 hours
Hoglets should be steadily gaining weight, if not, increase the frequency of the feeds to every 2 hours for a few days
- Two to three weeks old
- Two weeks - More second coat spines.
- Fine hairs like stubble on snout
- Eyes and ears begin to open
- Third coat of larger and stronger spines start to emerge
Feed 3-5mls of milk every 3-4 hours
Hoglets should be steadily gaining weight, if not, increase the frequency of the feeds
- Three weeks old
- Few white spines left, almost replaced by third stage spines
- First incisor teeth start to appear
- Dense covering of short brown hair
Feed 5-6mls every 3-4 hours and leave a small, shallow dish of feed to encourage baby to lap
- Four weeks old
- No longer has the rounded puppy appearance to the snout
- skin completely covered by fur
- Should weigh between 84-130 grams
Start to give solid food as the milk teeth should have erupted. It's often a good idea to wean the baby by intially liquidising some puppy meat and mixing it in with the milk substitute
- Five to six weeks old
- Resemble miniature adults
- Should be walking without wobbling
- Fast forward, no brakes!
- Phase out hand feeds and give small dish of milk substitute and liquid food mixed together
- Hills Prescription A/D or Royal Canin Recovery RS are ideal first food choices and are normally well accepted by hoglets
- Six to eight weeks old
- Give tinned puppy food
- Make sure a very shallow dish of fresh water is available at all times
- Shallow is very important as a hoglet can drown in very little
- Eight weeks old
- Give dog or cat food
- Should now weigh 350 grams
Please be aware that hoglets are not straight forward to care for. Many things can go wrong along the way and even with the support of a good vet, it's extremely easy to lose the little ones.
No matter how much you believe you can raise them, I would beg you to seek expert advice. If you go to a good carer they will normally assess the hoglets and then agree a care regime with you. It does not automatically mean you will have to give the animals up. It may be they will be given straight back along with a care sheet, or possibly kept at the rescue for a few days and then returned to you if that's what you want.