Hedgehog orphans, orphaned hoglets
Helping hedgehogs

Hand rearing baby hedgehogs

How to raise baby hedgehogs

Hoglet season is in full swing and I am inundated with little spiky orphans.

Gareth copyThe reasons for them coming into care and many and varied. In some cases nests have been disturbed whilst gardening and mum has abandoned the babies. In other cases, it is likely that something has happened to mum – she has been killed or injured.

Each of the babies will be cared for until it is big enough to go back to the wild. That is likely to be at around 8 weeks old and 500g+.

Their treatment depends upon their age and what is wrong with them. Hoglets whose eyes have not yet opened will need hand feeding by syringe until they learn to lap by themselves. Raising orphaned hedgehogs is a specialist task but you can find some basic information about how to rear them here, to help you through until you can find a hedgehog rescue. I rear the babies on a milk replacer such as Esbilac or Royal Canin Puppydog milk.

Hoglet being hand fed formula

Even tiny hoglets can pick up internal parasites if they have spent any period of time in the wild having to fend for themselves. If mum had internal parasites, she can also pass them on to her babies and these start to show up from a few weeks old.

It is hard but rewarding work caring for hoglets. Hygiene has to be scrupulous because they can be very vulnerable at a young age. All feeding equipment must be sterilised after every feed. Bedding needs changing frequently.

Gizmo licking.JPG
Baby hoglet whose eyes have just opened. They can get covered in food and need cleaning regularly to avoid them having a build up of food on their skin

Once weaned, they make a huge mess stomping through their food bowls and so their cages can need cleaning several times a day. Like with adult hedgehogs, their poo needs testing regularly if they are not gaining weight or show symptoms of illness. This is to check for internal parasites that may need treating. Whilst some baby hedgehogs come into rescue and do not need any treatment, others can struggle with parasite burdens from a young age.

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Hoglets moving to an outdoor run to prepare for release back to the wild

Once they are ready to return to the wild, they are released to where they came from or to other suitable locations if that is not possible. They will be given food, water and nest boxes to ease their transition back to the wild.

Hedgehog behaviour comes naturally to them and being raised by humans does not disadvantage them as long as handling has been minimised during care. They soon learn to forage for themselves back in the wild.

The video below shows hedgehog behaviour at a very young age. The huffing is his natural warning to stay away and is used as a defense in the wild.

This year seems to be particularly bad for hoglets. Many are coming in at a much lower weight than is normal for their age, which suggests that mum may be struggling to give them a good start. I’ve also seen a 400% increase in admissions of orphans compared with last year.

There are many other factors that can influence the numbers coming into rescue, including increased awareness of the plight of hedgehogs, other hedgehog rescues in the vicinity closing and hot dry weather….

I run a hedgehog hospital in York, England. You can read more about me here and also how to support my work.

I also make handmade silver jewellery inspired by nature and wildlife to raise funds for my hedgehog rescue. You can visit my online jewellery shop here.

Silver wildlife jewellery
Silver wildlife jewellery


6 thoughts on “Hand rearing baby hedgehogs”

  1. I’m sorry this is a bad year for hoglets (great word!) Thanks for the work that you do, and for sharing such gorgeous photos with us. We don’t have hedgehogs here in Australia and it’s lovely to learn more about these creatures from you.
    Cheers, Sally at One Family, One Planet blog

  2. The plight of hedgehogs in general and of these orphans in paricular is very sad. Thank goodness they have you. Thank you for your dedication, caring and hardwork. It must be exhausting on all levels but also so rewarding. I imagine it can be simultaneously heart warming and heartbreaking but I should think that helping these little guys outweighs all else. They are adorable even when somewhat messy! Take care.

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