Hand-rearing Erinaceus europaeus - West European hedgehog (Mammal Husbandry & Management)
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Summary Information
Type of technique Health & Management / Hedgehogs: Health & Management / Techniques:
Synonyms and Keywords N.B. This information should be read in association with Hand-rearing of Orphaned Wildlife which contains background information together with links to the Electronic Library and Organisations (UK Contacts). The related Species pages contain similar linkages.
Description This page has been prepared for the "UK Wildlife: First Aid and Care" and "Hedgehogs: Health & Management" Wildpro volumes, and is designed for the needs of the following species: Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog
  • Hedgehogs in the UK commonly have two litters; infants (hoglets) may be found any time from May to September or October.
  • Unweaned hoglets may be presented following disturbance of the nest, if the mother has been killed, or if the hoglet has strayed from the nest and been unable to return.
    • Hoglets with fly eggs or maggots on them when they are found have been without their mother for some time and need to be taken into care. (B337.2.w2, D98)
    • Hoglets which are obviously injured need to be taken into care. (B337.2.w2)
    • If the mother is known to have been killed then the hoglets need to be taken into care. (B337.2.w2)
  • A bright, active hoglet, with its eyes open, even if quite small, should be left alone and observed as it may just be wandering briefly and return to its nest unaided;
    • If at the bottom of a slope or steps it may require assistance to return to the nest; handling should be minimised and gloves worn to reduce the smell of human on the hoglet.. 
    • If a hoglet found at the bottom of a slope or steps is cold it may be warmed on a covered hot water bottle before being returned to the nest entrance.
    • If it is injured, or has fly eggs on it, then it needs to be taken into care. 
    (D52, B337.2.w2, V.w45)
  • A nest found containing hoglets without their mother has not necessarily been abandoned as the mother may be sleeping separately. If in doubt, leave a small object near the nest entrance and see if it is moved (indicating the mother entering) by the following morning. (B337.2.w2)
  • If a nest is disturbed (e.g. during construction work or gardening) it should be left alone and monitored as the mother may return at night although she may have been sleeping in a separate nest during the day.(P3.1987.w4, D52, V.w45)
    • There is a risk that the mother may not return. (V.w56) It is important to consider the relative risks of unnecessary taking of the hoglets for hand-rearing versus the risk of their becoming excessively chilled and hungry if the mother does not return.
    • There is a risk that a mother returning to a disturbed nest may kill her hoglets when she returns. (B337.2.w2)
  • If necessary, transfer the whole family including the mother into a cardboard box and place this in a suitable alternative location or in a large pen.(P3.1987.w4)
    • This is the preferred option if the nest site has been destroyed, for example by removal of a shed or hedge. (V.w56)
    • Moving the family to an escape-proof garden (see: Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog Long Term Care) may minimise disturbance while allowing observation in case the babies are abandoned. Extra food must be provided and the hedgehogs released at an appropriate time - the mother when the hoglets are eight weeks old and the hoglets when they are large enough. (B337.4.w4)
  • Removal of the hoglets, with or without their mother, is required if the nest is likely to be disturbed further, for example by dogs or children. (B337.2.w2)
  • Small, low-weight juveniles found in autumn may need to be taken into care for supplementary feeding and often for treatment of parasitic infections such as Hedgehog lungworm infection.(B151, D98)
  • Hoglets can sometimes be fostered onto a hedgehog with her own similar-sized babies, however there is a risk that the female will kill and eat the babies. (B284.6.w6)

If a single hoglet is brought to a carer then the finder should be asked to look and listen in case there are other hoglets from the same litter which also require assistance. (B337.2.w2)

Initial Care: 

  • On arrival any young mammal should be weighed, warmed, stimulated to urinate/defecate and given supplementary fluids by an appropriate route to counteract dehydration.
  • Check for any injuries or other serious problems (B337.2.w2)  Particular care should be taken to check for fly eggs or maggots all over the hoglet but especially in the eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and uro-genital region and to remove any that are found. See: Myiasis for further details.
    • If the hoglet is seriously injured or badly damaged by maggots then euthanasia is required. (B337.2.w2, V.w5)
    • When hoglets are found, if their mother has been killed or absent for some time they may be suffering from Dehydration, Starvation and/or Chilling - Hypothermia. If the hoglet is dehydrated then the skin on its abdomen will look wrinkled and will stay wrinkled if pinched up gently. (B337.2.w2)
  • The hoglet should be toileted (see below for details)
  • Do not try to feed a chilled (hypothermic) hoglet (See: Chilling - Hypothermia) until it has been warmed. (J180.26.w1, B337.2.w2, D52)
  • An electric heating pad, 20 W, set at 37C, has been found useful for warming hypothermic hoglets. (J180.26.w1)
  • The age should be determined if possible.
  • The first feed given should be an oral rehydration (electrolyte) solution (e.g. Lectade, Pfizer Limited), with a gradual changeover to a milk substitute over several feeds. (V.w5, B338.11.w11)
    • A basic rehydration solution can be made by adding one tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of milk to a litre of water. (B203, B337.5.w5)
  • Mark each animal with a small amount of coloured nail varnish or correction fluid on the spines to allow individual identification. See: Marking Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog
  • Good hygiene is essential at all times. (B338.11.w11)
  • See: Hand-rearing of Orphaned Wildlife for further general information.

General Care (including warmth and hygiene):

  • Young mammals have poor ability to maintain body temperature and are prone to hypothermia, hyperthermia and burns, particularly when unfurred or poorly furred.
    • Hypothermic hoglets may be seen wobbling, staggering or rocking. (V.w45)
  • Keep out of draughts but ensure ventilation is adequate.
  • Provide a temperature range, by heating one end of the container more than the other, which, while not allowing either overheating or chilling, permits the animal to chose the position at which it feels most comfortable.
  • The container used should be sufficiently large to allow the occupant to move into a comfortable position.
  • A high-sided box is required for accommodation to make sure hoglets cannot climb out of the box.(D52)
  • Hoglets under 100g may be kept in a small plastic tub (with bedding) after this, as they get more active, a larger crate is required, allowing a temperature gradient. (B338.11.w11)
  • The floor of the container should be covered with layers of newspaper or, for a heated-floor propagator, with a cloth such as a tea towel. A tea towel, towel, old woollen hat or similar cloth should be provided for the hoglets to hide in/under; check there are no loose threads. Paper towel or soft toilet paper may also be used.
  • White bedding is preferred for new arrivals as blood streaks etc. are clearly visible against this background colour.
    • For a single hoglet using a bobble hat with the bobble on the inside provides something for the hoglet to cuddle into; a soft toy, about hedgehog-size, in the box, also provides a "mother substitute" for the hoglet to hide under. (B337.2.w2)
  • Suggested temperatures include: up to 35C for newborns (D25); keep at 21-25C (70-77F) (P3.1987.w4); no less than 24C/ 75F.(D56); start at 86F / 30C (B338.11.w11)
    • Heat may be provided by a well-wrapped hot water bottle, a covered heat pad, an infrared lamp, an electrically heated plant propagator, a red light bulb or a thermostatically controlled heated box.
    • Heat lamps should be hung over one end of the container, allowing the hoglet(s) to move to the point with the most comfortable temperature.
    • Heat pads and hot water bottles should be placed at one end of the container for the same reason.
    • Heated plant propagators may be particularly useful for very young hoglets as the heat which they provide is constant and the hoglets cannot move into an unheated area and become chilled.(D52)
    • It must be remembered that hot water bottles cool down rapidly and need frequent refilling. Also a hoglet may get itself trapped under the bottle and suffocate.
    • Heat may be required until the hoglets are about four to five weeks old, or older for one hoglet on its own.
    • Check hoglets frequently when first taking them off heat, or if they are just off heat and the ambient temperature drops suddenly, in case they get chilled.
  • (P3.1987.w4, B151, B337.2.w2, D25, D52, D56)
  • Keep each litter in its own container to minimise the risk of cross-contamination of pathogens.
  • Use a separate set of feeding utensils for each litter.
  • Clean and then sterilise feeding utensils between feeds using a sterilising solution such as Milton's (Procter & Gamble, UK) and rinse utensils thoroughly before use.(D52, B338.11.w11)
  • Pens may be disinfected with a suitable solution such as Trigene.
  • Wipe spilt milk from each hoglet's mouth and abdomen after each feed.
  • (P3.1987.w4, D25, D52)

Milk replacer:

  • Milk should be fed warm; a container of milk may be kept warm during feeding sessions by being kept in a dish of warm water or in an electric baby bottle warmer.(D52, B337.2.w2, V.w5, V.w56)
  • Check the temperature of each bottle or syringe of milk before use to make sure it is not either too hot or too cold. (B337.2.w2)
  • The first feed given should be an oral rehydration (electrolyte) solution (e.g. Lectade, Pfizer Limited), with a gradual changeover to a milk substitute over several feeds (100% rehydration fluid, then 75% rehydration fluid and 25% milk replacer, then 50% of each, then 25% rehydration fluid, 75% milk replacer, then 100% milk replacer). (V.w5, B338.11.w11)

Hedgehog milk composition:

    • Solids 21.6%, of which fat 46.3%, protein 33.3%, carbohydrate 9.3%. (B151)
    • Solids 20.6%, of which fat 47%, protein 33%, carbohydrate 9%, ash 10%. Kcal/ml 1.42.(B156.12.w12)
    • 79% water, 10% fat, 7% protein, 2% carbohydrates, 2% ash.(B22.27.w3)
    • 45.2% (mean) dry matter (DM). Protein 16.6%,  fat 25.5%, lactose 0.07%. Gross energy 1353 kJ/100 g milk. There was a tendency for both the fat and the protein levels to increase during lactation. (J191.80.w1)

Suggested milk replacers include:

  • Artificial bitch milk (e.g. Esbilac, Pet-Ag).(J15.21.w1, B22.27.w3, D24)
  • Goat's milk, Esbilac (Pet-Ag), Cimicat ( Petlife, UK) (particularly for very young hoglets) or ewe's milk, with goat colostrum added if available for at least the first three weeks and preferably to six weeks old.(D52, B337.2.w2)
  • Use of ready-mixed liquid milk replacer reduces the risks of changes of concentration and/or problems due to lumps of powder in the mix. (B338.11.w11)
  • Liquid milk replacers can be frozen in an ice-cube tray and defrosted one cube at a time as required to reduce wastage after a tin has been opened. (B338.11.w11)
  • Goat's colostrum.(J15.21.w1, D24)
  • 2 parts goat's milk to 1 part goat's colostrum, plus vitamin/mineral supplement such as one drop of Abidec (Parke-Davis & Co. Ltd.).(B156.7.w7, P3.1987.w4, D25)
  • Feed a ratio of 50/50 goat's colostrum/goat's milk for the first two days, then 25/75 colostrum/milk to 21 days, then 100% goats' milk.(B151)
  • Esbilac ( Petlife, UK) or KMR ( Petlife, UK, Illinois) with small amount of lactase enzyme (Lactaid, Lactaid Inc.) added.(B150.w1)
  • Cimicat ( Petlife, UK), particularly for very young hoglets (hand-rearing starting at less than four days old). (N6.29.w1)
  • Milk must be fed warm. (P3.1987.w1)
  • Goats milk one pint, one raw egg, half pint water, half teaspoon castor oil (as an alternative to the goat's milk/colostrum mix if colostrum unavailable; decrease castor oil if diarrhoea occurs).(D25)
  • Goat's milk diluted two parts milk to one part water, or goat's colostrum.(D56)
  • A mixture of cream and fennel tea, in a 50:50 mixture, with a pinch of calcium carbonate powder, or bitch milk replacer such as Esbilac or cat milk replacer have been suggested. (B291.12.w12)
  • Proposed home-made milk replacer: per 100g fresh matter: 15g raw egg yolk, 30g scrambled egg cooked together with 8g soya or corn oil, 30g low-fat curd, 0.7g vitamin/mineral supplement, 0.5g calcium carbonate, 15.8g water. This was based on studies of the composition of hedgehog milk. It was noted that it was necessary to cook the egg due to the presence of avidin and trypsin inhibitors. It was suggested this should be fed at 20-25% of the body weight of the hedgehog per day and has been tested at least in older suckling hoglets. (J191.80.w1)

Suggested supplements include:

  • Multivitamins (Abidec, Parke-Davis & Co. Ltd.), one drop per hoglet per day.(D52, D56, B337.2.w2)
    • This is important if frozen milk is used or powdered milk is used after the "use-by" date. (B337.2.w2)
  • Fennel or chamomile (herbal teas) may be added to the milk to aid digestion, or used in place of water to make up powdered milk substitute. (V.w45)


  • Suggested utensils include:
    • Syringe (1 ml for very small hoglets changing to 2 ml then 5 ml for older animals) with an appropriate teat.
    • Appropriate teats include a small Catac teat or a teat made from a 16G needle with the point removed and the needle covered with small-bore rubber tubing, the tubing overhanging the end of needle.
      • Examples of small-bore rubber tubing are a bicycle valve rubber, vacutainer rubber, or home-made tubing made by dipping one end of a paperclip into latex several times, allowing each layer of latex to dry between dippings.
    • A kitten feeding bottle (Catac bottle) and small teat.
    • An eyedropper/ medicine dropper.
    • A small plastic pipette. 
    • (P3.1987.w4, B151, D25, D52, D56)
    • Note that the plungers of syringes start sticking when re-sterilised several times. These must be discarded.(V.w5)
    • A 1 ml syringe may be used without the plunger, with a thumb partly over the end to control the rate at which milk drips out under gravity. (B337.2.w2, V.w5)

Feeding Frequency:

Suggested rearing protocols include:

  • Very frequent feeds (every half hour or hour) may be required for neonates and while stabilising new arrivals. (B337.2.w2, V.w5, V.w45)
  • Feed every 2-4 hours (J15.21.w1); every 3-4 hours (B156.7.w7, B150.w1); every three hours.(P3.1987.w4)
  • Every 2-4 hours (depending on age), from 06.00hrs (6am) to 24.00hrs (midnight).(D24)
  • Feed every two hours if just arrived or newborn, then every three hours from a few days old and settled in care, and every four hours once the eyes are open. (V.w56)
  • Continue night feeds until weight gain is steady.(J15.21.w1)
    • Note: Very young hoglets, those which have just arrived, and those which are not strong and healthy, are most in need of feeding at night as well as during the day. (B337.2.w2)
  • Feed four to five times daily, overnight feeding is not required.(B151)
  • Feed every 3 hours to 120 g body weight then every 5 hours to 150 g body weight.(B22.27.w3)
  • Feed every 2-3 hours between 7am to11pm initially, later every 3-4 hours. Feed during night if very young (umbilicus still attached).(D25)
  • Feed 7am to 11pm, possibly with one feed in the middle of the night for the first week after arrival: 20 g body weight (1-3 day old) hoglet feed every 1.5- two hours, 50 g body weight hoglet feed every 2-3 hours, 80 g body weight hoglet feed every 3-4 hours, 120 g hoglet feed every 4 hours.(D52, B337.2.w2)
  • Expect individual variation between hoglets.(D52, B337.2.w2)
  • Feed every 2-3 hours at one week old, feed every 3-4 hours from two weeks old.(D56)
  • Feed every 3-4 hours to 100 g bodyweight. (B291.12.w12)

Feeding Technique: 

  • Ensure both the hoglet and the milk are kept warm during feeding.(D52).
    • Chilled hoglets will not feed well. (J180.26.w1)
    • Keep on a well-wrapped heat pad during feeding. Holding the hoglet in the carer's hand rather than on a heat pad may risk the hoglet getting too cold.(V.w56)
    • While feeding a litter keep the rest of the litter warm.
    • Fed hoglets may be transferred to a spare woolen hat. (B337.2.w2)
    • Hold the hoglet on a surface and allow it to push forward against the hand during feeding, simulating the way it would press with its front feed against its mother normally. (B338.11.w11)
  • Suggested technique:
    • Hold the hoglet approximately upright with the body tilted slightly forwards.
    • Push teat gently between lips, between tongue and roof of mouth.
    • If rolled up, feel for mouth and introduce couple of drops of milk to encourage unrolling.
    • Express a small amount of milk into the mouth and watch for swallowing.
    • If the hoglet is not swallowing, gently agitate its tongue with the teat.
    • Milk will need to be fed into the mouth: hoglets generally do not suck milk from the teat.
    • Allow to swallow each drop before giving next drop.
  • (P3.1987.w4, B151, D25)
  • Suggested technique 2)
    • Hold a small hoglet on its back in the palm of the left hand (for right-handed carers) with the holder's thumb under the hoglet's right leg; for larger hoglets standing on a non-slip surface may be preferred.
    • Push the teat gently into the mouth or drip a drop of milk onto the hoglet's lips to encourage feeding.
    • Tickling the roof of the hoglet's mouth with the teat may encourage feeding.
    • Note that very small hoglets may throw themselves around when held (an anti-predator strategy) so it is important to hold gently but firmly. Older individuals may huff and hiss. 
    • (D52, B337.2.w2)
  • If a hoglet will not feed, check that the milk has not gone cold, and try toileting it. (D52, B337.2.w2, V.w45)
  • For individuals which will not swallow try using the syringe to gently push the jaw open and then let it close, several times. (B337.2.w2)
  • When feeding very small neonates it is vital that the feeding technique used provides milk at a sufficiently slow rate to minimise the risk of milk being inhaled with resultant aspiration pneumonia.(V.w26)
  • Clean any excess from the infant's nose/chin after each feed.(B194)
  • If a bubble of liquid appears at the nose or the infant opens its mouth wide, immediately stop feeding and tilt the infant head down to allow the excess formula to drain from its mouth. Give the infant a chance to recover then start again more slowly.(B194)


  • Feed a 20 g body weight hoglet 0.5-1.0 ml per feed, a 50 g body weight hoglet 2-3 ml per feed, an 80 g body weight hoglet 3-4 ml per feed and a 120 g body weight hoglet 5-7 ml per feed.(D52, B337.2.w2)
    • Smaller feeds (given more frequently) are preferable initially.(D52, B337.2.w2)
  • Feed 25% of the body weight in ml (1.0 ml per 25 g bodyweight) per 24hours, therefore for a 24 g hoglet feed 6 ml of milk replacer in 24 hours - either six feeds of 1.0 ml or eight feeds of 0.75 ml). (V.w56)
  • Newborn hoglet: 2 ml per feed, 50 g body weight hoglet: 4 ml per feed, 100g body weight hoglet: 6 ml per feed.
  • If the hoglet stops swallowing, assume sufficient milk has been taken.(B337.2.w2)
  • Hoglets of 50 g body weight: 3 ml per feed; once eyes open 5 ml/feed with feeds every 3-4 hours.(D25)
  • 1-2 ml per feed at one week old (28-56 g /1-2 oz body weight), 3-5 ml per feed by two weeks old (56-85 g/2-3 oz body weight).(D56)
  • If the hoglet stops swallowing, and it has been toileted at that feed, assume it has taken enough milk for that feed. (V.w56)
  • If the hoglet is gaining weight at an acceptable rate then it is getting enough milk. (B337.2.w2)
  • Avoid overfeeding as this may lead to bloat. (B337.2.w2)
  • In very small hoglets it is possible to see the milk in the stomach through the thin skin of the abdomen. (B337.2.w2, V.w45)
  • At 60-80g about 5 ml per feed, increasing to 7-10 ml per feed by 80-100g. (B338.11.w11)
  • General mammal information: Energy intake (kilocalories per day) = 200-250 x weight(kg) 0.83.(P19.1.w5, P3.1987.w3)

  • General rodent/carnivore information: infants may be fed up to 35-40% of body weight per day, and about 25-50 ml/kg per feed. (J34.9.w1)


  • Toileting is required by young hoglets until they are about three or four weeks old to ensure that they pass urine and faeces. Hoglets with unopened eyes will definitely need toileting, those with teeth may not. Continue toiletting until you are CERTAIN that the individual is passing both urine and faeces normally without assistance.(D52, D56, V.w45)
  • Method:
    • Toileting involves gentle stimulation of the ano-genital area using a cotton bud or soft paper towel to encourage urination and defecation. 
      • The cotton bud or paper towel used to stimulate the hoglet during toileting should be dampened (B338.11.w11) or lubricated with baby oil or petroleum jelly.(B337.2.w2, V.w56)
      • Vibrate the cotton bud gently and rapidly over the ano-genital area. Usually up and down (i.e. towards the head and tail, but sideways, or general massage of the abdomen and ano-genital area may be needed. (V.w56)
    • Petroleum jelly or bland emollient ointment may be used if the perineal or abdominal skin becomes excoriated.
    • Calendula nappy cream (Weleda) may be applied around the perineal area after toileting. (V.w56)
    • Take care that hoglets do not lick cream off one another. (B337.2.w2)
  • Frequency:
    • Toileting should be done when the animal is first presented.
    • Toileting should be carried out after every feed and may need to be done before feeding to encourage the hoglet to feed.(D52)
      • For those on very frequent feeds, or which become sore, it may be better to toilet at every second feed. (B337.2.w2)
    • Establish a routine for each litter: toilet before, half-way through or at the end of each feed and stick to the same timing at each feed. (V.w56)
  • Faeces:
    • Faeces should be bright lime green on arrival but may become more pale green-blue on a diet of e.g. goat's milk.(D56)
    • Faeces may be dark green on arrival and become pale green on Esbilac milk replacer, with dark green or beige then being a signs of problems. (V.w56)
    • Faeces should be pale greenish brown and the consistency of toothpaste. (B338.11.w11)
    • Faeces will be green while on milk, brown once on solid food. (B337.2.w2)


Hedgehog specific information:

  • If more than one animal is being reared in a litter, mark with a small amount of a safe non-toxic substance such as correction fluid (e.g. coloured Tippex) or coloured nail varnish to mark the spines to allow monitoring of individuals.(D52, V.w26) See: Marking Erinaceus europaeus - West European Hedgehog
  • Weigh at least daily, preferably before the first feed each morning so that the total amount fed that day can be increased if the hoglet is not putting on weight. (B337.2.w2, B338.11.w11)
  • It is important to have a routine for weighing. Choose a certain feed and weigh either before feeding and toileting or after feeding and toileting at that feed (but stick with either before or after, don't switch between these. (V.w56)
  • The rate of weight gain varies between individuals.
  • Average weight gain: double birth weight in first seven days, ten times birth weight by six weeks old.(D25)
  • Expect to gain 4 g body weight per day while hand-feeding and 10 g a day once weaned. (V.w56)
  • Weight gain may be 1.5 g/day for hoglets under 60 g bodyweight and increase to 6-7 g/day when the hoglet is fully weaned. (B338.11.w11)
  • Weight loss may indicate infection (e.g. coccidiosis, salmonellosis).(P3.1987.w4)
  • To avoid cross-contamination between litters disinfect the pan of the scales (and dry it) between litters. (V.w56)
  • While weighing successive individuals in a litter, ensure the other hoglets do not become cold, e.g. by keeping them on a wrapped hot water bottle.(D52)


Suggested weaning protocols include:

  • Start weaning from the time the teeth appear (about 21 days old).
  • If weight gain levels off on milk feeding alone then an earlier start to weaning may be useful, so long as the eyes are open. (B337.2.w2)
  • Hoglets found at three weeks old or more and already having their teeth may be started on weaning-type foods immediately although hand-feeding may be required until the individual accepts the diet you are offering. (B337.2.w2)
  • When first offering milk offer the same milk as has been used for hand feeding; avoid changing the type of milk at the same time as changing how the hoglets get their milk. (V.w56)
  • From 100 g bodyweight begin to add squashed banana and small amounts of finely minced beef or chicken, then from 150 g bodyweight slowly wean to eating independently: boiled egg yolk, minced beef, canned dog and cat food and small invertebrates such as mealworms are suitable weaning foods. Supplement the diet with a vitamin and mineral mix at 2-4% of the diet. (B291.12.w12)
  • Offer milk in a shallow dish, then add to this tinned diet such as Hill's A/D (Hill's Pet Nutrition) and an insectivorous bird food mix, then once they are eating gradually change to an adult diet. (B338.11.w11)
  • Provide very shallow dishes of both water and goats' milk (changed regularly) to encourage lapping.
  • Offer 'St Tiggywinkles' Mammal Glop', initially sprinkled with goat's milk; once eating this (seen by faeces becoming brown), withdraw goat's milk (over about 7 days). (B151)
  • Start to offer puppy food or kitten food as the first solid food. (J15.21.w1).
  • Can offer puppy food or kitten food in dish of milk, so eating just the puppy/kitten food by six weeks.(D25, V.w56)
  • Offer a few mealworms once eating some solid food.(D25)
  • Gradually (from about 6-8 weeks old) wean on to (move to) adult dog food.
  • Feed Milupa and scrambled egg from three weeks old, minced meat, insectivorous food and chopped day-old chicks from 4-5 weeks old. (D24)
  • Start offering foods other than milk once the eyes open:
    • Offer milk for lapping, first in the palm of a hand, then in a shallow dish.
    • Offer soft food such as Hills AD (Hill's Pet Nutrition), Pedigree Concentration Diet (Waltham), pureed cat or dog food or jelly from tinned foods once the eyes are open, mixed with the milk (an opened paperclip may be used to clear any blockages in the nozzle of a syringe during feeding).
    • Also leave similar mixed food in a shallow dish in the hoglet's pen.
    • More solid food such as mashed up pet food may be added gradually.
    • Reduce the number of feeds a day gradually.
    • Wean off milk by 7-8 weeks old.
    • (D52, B337.2.w2)
  • Start offering a shallow dish of milk at three weeks old (eyes open and teeth appearing)
    • Once lapping, offer mixed liquidised puppy food and milk.
    • By four weeks old start reducing the milk in the dish, and offer a separate dish of water; hand feeding may no longer be required.
    • By five weeks old offer mixed mashed puppy food and cereal; other food may be added such as scrambled egg, chicken, small amounts of grated cheese and banana. Offer twice daily.
    • By six to seven weeks old feed one tablespoon of mashed puppy food and cereal twice daily with vitamin/mineral supplement, plus water in a separate dish.
    • By eight weeks old feed adult dog or cat food with weekly vitamin/mineral supplementation.
    • (D56)
  • Some litters or individuals may prefer tinned puppy food while others prefer kitten food and others prefer dry food not tinned. (V.w56)
  • Insectivorous bird food mix (e.g. Sluis Universal Insect food or Prosecto (John E. Haith's)), dry hedgehog food, Hills (Hill's Pet Nutrition) or Iams kitten biscuits may be offered, first ground up and later as-sold. (V.w56)
  • Reduced sugar baby rusks may be offered crumbled and mixed into other soft foods or dry either on their own or mixed with other dry foods. (V.w56)
  • For individuals which are reluctant to try solids it may be worth offering the insides of a mealworm, by cutting off the mealworm's head and squeezing the contents into the hoglet's mouth. (V.w56)
  • If an individual is greedy and overfeeds then leave only small amounts available at a time and check that weight gain is not excessive. (B337.2.w2)
  • Note that at least initially hoglets will walk in the food rather than eat it, but may lick this off themselves, so getting started on eating. (B337.2.w2)


Records: (B338.11.w11)

  • Body weight (if shown on a graph this will make it easier to check that the general trend is upwards)
  • Volume taken at each feed
  • Comments on feeding behaviour (e.g. took well, reluctant)
  • Toileting - whether urine and faeces were passed, comments on colour and consistency
  • Evidence of self-feeding (during weaning)
  • Other comments.


    For further information on record keeping see: Hand-rearing of Orphaned Wildlife (with special reference to UK Wildlife) - Hand-rearing of Orphaned Mammals - Records and Wildlife Casualty Record Keeping - Hand-Rearing Records

COMMON DISEASES and problems to watch out for

Appropriate Use (?)
  • Wild animals should not be taken for hand-rearing unless they are definitely orphaned, abandoned or injured, or in immediate danger.
  • Hand-rearing is appropriate for orphaned/abandoned juvenile unweaned hedgehogs, including if the mother is seriously debilitated/injured.
  • A juvenile hedgehog is unweaned if its teeth are unerupted or newly erupted.
  • Mother may abandon young if the nest is disturbed.
  • Nest abandonment following disturbance may be avoided if nest with the whole family is moved into a cardboard box and placed (without handling any animal) into a large cage/pen. (P3.1987.w4)
  • Examine the hoglet on initial presentation, particularly for evidence of injury and fly strike (Myiasis).
  • It is important to recognise that not all hoglets will survive. Individuals presented for care may already be weak and/or injured and have a reduced chance of survival. 
  • An ordinary outdoor thermometer may be used to indicate the temperature in the container used to house the orphan.(B194)
  • Monitor weight gain once a day (before the first feed) or more frequently.
  • Hedgehogs may be able to absorb immunoglobulins from milk up to 40 days of age. (P3.1987.w4)
  • If the hedgehog is treated with antibiotics it may be useful to feed a probiotic, such as natural goat's yoghurt, for one feed a day.
  • Routine records should be maintained of daily weight, times of each feed, quantities of milk consumed, urine/faeces production and general condition/demeanour. Such records provide an objective means of assessing progress and provide useful data for improving rearing methods.(V.w5)
  • Practice with fine control of a syringe is required to enable milk to be given a drop at a time. (V.w5)
  • Check that the hoglet and the milk are not cold (nor too hot). (B337.2.w2)
Complications/ Limitations / Risk
  • Easier to rear if already have brown spines than if very young (white spines, blind). (D25)
  • May not feed or only take small volume if bladder is full; toileting of the hoglet may be required.
  • May not feed if the hoglet and/or the milk is too cold. 
  • Potential problems: hypothermia, hyperthermia, inhalation pneumonia, nutritional diarrhoea, salmonellosis, parasitic diarrhoea (intestinal roundworms, fluke or coccidia) (blood in faeces may indicate coccidiosis (P3.1987.w4)), lungworm, hypogammaglobulinaemia (low levels of antibodies in the blood).
  • Re-sterilised syringes should be discarded when the plunger begins to stick as the additional pressure required to move the plunger may result in excessive quantities of fluid being accidentally deposited in the infant's mouth.(V.w5)
  • Intersucking (sucking on one another) is an abnormal behaviour pattern which can be seen in litters of hedgehogs reared in the absence of a mother from which to suckle. One or more males in a litter may develop a sore penis due to sucking on this by the other hoglets. (D52)
  • There is a considerable risk of cross-infection between litters, particularly when large numbers of hoglets are being reared. Strict hygiene and barrier nursing are important to minimise this risk. Hoglets from different litters should not be mixed, separate utensils should be used for each group. (B284.6.w6)
  • When the permanent teeth come through some individuals may retain one or more milk teeth which may cause loss of appetite, swelling near an eye or eye watering excessively. In such cases the stuck tooth need removing. (B337.2.w2)
  • Hyperactivity may indicate stress, hunger, overheating or fluke infection. Make sure the hoglet has sufficient bedding, has been fed and that its bed is not too hot. Fluke infection may be seen from five weeks old. See: Hedgehog Intestinal Fluke Infection
  • AVOID TAMING THE HOGLETS as this may make them unsuitable for release: release is ALWAYS the aim of successful rehabilitation. Males in particular, having lost all fear, may become aggressive to humans. (B337.2.w2)
Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers Rehydration solutions:
  • A basic rehydration solution can be made by adding one tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of milk to a litre of water. (B203, B337.A6.w12)
  • Lectade (Pfizer Limited) is available from veterinary surgeons; rehydration mixes intended for humans are available from chemists.
  • Pedialyte (Abbott Laboratories).
  • Other rehydration solutions such as Rehydrat and Dioralyte are available from chemists, generally in fruit flavours, to make volumes of e.g. 200ml (volume may vary depending on the packet - check details before making up the solution).

Milk substitutes:

  • Goat's colostrum: farms keeping goats.
  • Goats' milk: many supermarkets and health food stores.
  • Esbilac (Pet-Ag) - pet stores
  • Cimicat (Petlife, UK) from veterinary surgeons or direct from Petlife, UK


Weaning foods:

Bottles & Teats:

  • Appropriate small teats (e.g. small Catac kitten teat) and bottles/syringes/dropper. 
  • Catac bottles and teats: Catac Products Limited. Note: Catac products are stocked by many pet stores. Packs of three teats are available directly from Catac but are rarely offered for sale separate from the bottle in shops.
  • Very small teats for newborn hoglets may be made as follows:
    • Partially unbend a paper clip to provide a stable base and a point sticking up. Dip the upright portion in liquid latex and leave standing on the base until the latex has dried; repeat three or four times. Peal the dried latex off the paper clip and trim both ends, giving a small hollow latex tube. Cut the bevelled tip off a 21G 5/8 inch needle (not too far down or there is a risk of squeezing the needle shut) and fit the latex tube over the needle. Attach the needle to a 1 ml syringe. Note that the fit of the latex on the needle is not perfect and care must be taken to ensure it is not sucked off by a strong hoglet. (N6.29.w1, B337.2.w2)


  • Sterilisation fluid for babies bottles, e.g. Milton's (Procter & Gamble, UK)
  • Calendula nappy cream (Weleda)
  • Accurate scales for weighing: preferably electronic scales measuring at 1 g intervals. (B337.2.w2)
Expertise level / Ease of Use
  • A considerable time commitment is involved in hand-rearing, particularly initially when frequent feeds are required.
  • Manual dexterity is important for caring for these very small individuals.
  • Requires empathy, observation skills and the ability to "read" the animal's body language.
  • Experience with hand-rearing is useful and likely to greatly increase the success rate.
Cost/ Availability
  • Products and equipment all widely available, not particularly expensive.
Legal and Ethical Considerations
  • Hand-rearing should not be started unless the carer is prepared to give the time and effort required for rearing to release, or to ensure that appropriate care will be continued through to release.
  • Consider whether hand-rearing is the best option for the individual compared with leaving it in the wild.
  • Consider whether euthanasia is a more humane/kinder option for the individual than attempting hand-rearing.
  • An offence may be committed under the Abandonment of Animals Act, 1960 Section 1 if a released animal does not have a reasonable chance of survival (i.e. a chance similar to its non-rehabilitated peers). It is an offence under this Act for a person having control or charge of an animal to abandon it permanently or otherwise in circumstances likely to cause unnecessary suffering. This may include release at an unsuitable site, in the wrong territory, unfit, not having learned to hunt, at the wrong time of year etc. (J35.147.w1, B156.21.w21, B223, W5.Jan01)
  • See: Legislation relating to Wildlife Casualties.
  • Carer's Health and Safety: There is always a risk of zoonotic infection, particularly ringworm (Ringworm in Hedgehogs) but also bacterial infections such as salmonellosis (Salmonellosis) when handling wild hedgehogs, even hoglets. Wearing gloves (latex or similar) is advisable to reduce the risk of infections passing from the hoglet to the carer. (B337.2.w2, V.w5)
Author Debra Bourne (V.w5)
Referee Becki Lawson (V.w26); Suzanne I. Boardman (V.w6); Kay Bullen (V.w45); Dru Burdon (V.w56)

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