Prickly business: New pet leads to hedgehog breeding for Graham family
For the Graham family, their hedgehog adventure started a little over a year ago when their oldest son, Hudson, now 11, wanted a hedgehog for a pet. When mom Lacy Graham started looking into them, initial information revealed they were little animals that could command a big price. She later found a white hedgehog in Moulton for considerably less – a male, Bandit, 9 weeks old at the time. “He’s very relaxed and chill, and he sleeps a lot, but he loves people,” said Hudson.
“I just like hedgehogs. They’re so cute, and they get used to you and friendlier if you play with them enough. They’re very curious.”
Since they’re nocturnal, hedgehogs are active at night and sleep during the daytime. “They’ll crawl up my arm sometimes, and they can be really funny,” Hudson said. “They can jump and roll into a ball to protect themselves. It’s really interesting to watch what all they do.”
Hayes Graham, 3, shares his brother’s enthusiasm for hedgehogs. Eagerly watching, he is always happy to spend time with them.
Another hedgehog in the Graham family line–up of pets is Breanna, distinguished by her chocolate coloring – darker than their other hedgehogs – and she became the mother of two babies in late 2021. Lacy said the babies have to be old enough, eating and drinking on their own, no longer nursing, and then they can be sold to new homes. Breanna welcomed another litter in February. Breanna is a couple of weeks younger than Bandit, and the Grahams got her when she was 6 weeks old. They said she’s getting friendlier and does really well when caught in the right mood.
February brought Breanna’s third litter. “There were four the first time, and one of them went to a couple from Arkansas who were here visiting family,” Lacy said.
Hedgehogs have been growing in popularity in recent years, and Lacy’s struggle to locate one at an attainable price gave rise to the idea of breeding and selling them. She said there are special considerations that must be taken into account. “You can’t touch the babies for a couple of weeks after they’re born,” explained Lacy, “or the mother will eat them. You put the hedgehogs in a closet with just food and water and leave them alone. They grow amazingly quick, and all of their quills are developed at just two weeks old.”
The other hedgehog addition to the Graham household is Flower, a female hedgehog with a dark face and wider quills. She is a little more than a year old and is very timid. They haven’t had her long and are hopeful she will become more comfortable with them in time.
While hedgehogs have sharp teeth, Hudson said it doesn’t really hurt if they bite. “It’s just like a pinch.”
The Grahams aren’t sure what kind of hedgehogs theirs are, but they suspect they might be African Pygmies. In the wild, hedgehogs typically live alone, and so they should generally be kept alone. When hoping for babies, Lacy puts the breeding pair together for a couple of weeks and separates them for a week. The father hedgehog must be kept away from any babies.
At the Graham house, hedgehogs eat dry Purina kitten food and get dried mealworms for treats, as well as cheese and fruit. “As with any pet, they can be moody at times,” explained Lacy. “You have to be patient, and it’s important to plan on handling them a lot to get them used to people. If they just stay in their enclosure and are never held, they’ll hide all the time.”
Patience and time are needed to build a hedgehog’s trust. For Lacy, she finds them relatively low maintenance pets, a feature she likes. She notes people need to do their research about what to expect and exactly how to take care of them correctly before making the decision to purchase one, as they aren’t the right pet for everyone. “They can be messy,” said Lacy, “like when they do their business while running on their wheels.”
She said while some people use wired cages, the wires can be problematic because hedgehog feet can get stuck if they climb. For this reason, an exercise wheel, which is a necessity for a hedgehog, should be of the variety that is smooth all the way around so their feet and legs won’t get caught when they are running. They also need an enclosure with a good amount of space – more so than a lot of pets of similar size.
Other things they need include large tubs to play in, a water dispenser that hangs on the side, a snuggle sack or blanket and a heat lamp or heating pad – the kind made for animals, not humans. Lacy said it’s also important to have special thermometers and make sure the right temperature range is maintained.
The Grahams are quick to point out that hedgehogs and porcupines are quite different, noting some people incorrectly think of hedgehogs as baby porcupines. Some people find them uncomfortable to hold, but their quills are not sharp – though petting a hedgehog is very different from petting other animals like dogs and cats.
For more information about hedgehogs and to discuss the possibility of welcoming one home, contact Lacy via her Facebook page, H&H Hedgies.