Handling Hedgehogs

When you first bring your hedgehog home you should let him/her settle into their new home for at least a day before handling them. Once they are settled in, then you may handle them as you please. Being nocturnal they are most active in the evening hours, but they can and will adjust to nearly any schedule. When handling a shy or sleepy one you may need to wear gloves or use a thick towel to pick him up. But once they are awake or relaxed then you can take off the gloves and use your bare hands.

Since most people can not pick up a hedgehog that has its spines up without it hurting too much, here at Dreamflower Meadows we do use and encourage others to use leather gardening-type gloves to handle their hedgehogs when they are first woken up. Many breeders are against the use of gloves at all when handling their hedgehogs. They often gives reasons like, “the hedgehog will not get used to your scent” or “you should wait for them to wake up on their own” or “they will learn to bite the gloves”. However, we have observed over the years that when a hedgehog is allowed to “wake up on their own” they are often similar to teenagers who don’t want to wake up at all. These hedgehogs often get “grumpier” over time, since they are getting their way of wanting to sleep longer and learning that this grumpy behavior keeps you from picking them up. And we have seen over and over again how, by using gloves to pick them up when you want to, most hedgehogs will actually become “friendlier” over time since they are not “rewarded” by acting nervous and they learn that the sound of your voice and the lifting of their house means that they will be picked up and they do not fear it any longer. The excuse that the hedgehog will not get used to your scent is, also, not a factor since the gloves are only needed when they are first woken up and then you can take them off once they have lowered their spines. And hedgehogs have an extremely good sense of smell and can smell you just by being held close to your body even if you have gloves on. The excuse that they will bite the gloves is easily remedied as well. Hedgehogs usually only bite things (and sometimes it can be a person’s bare hand) when there is a new or strong smell that they are fixated on and want to self-annoint with. So if your hedgehog starts to lick the new pair of gloves (or your bare hands) put them down and put the pair of gloves in their cage over night and they will fixate and self-annoint with the gloves over night and by the next day it is no longer a “new” smell that they must fixate on. Once you have worn the gloves a few times and have them in your house, then the gloves will also smell like you, so this is not a factor either. Gloves make things, like nail trimming, easier for the average person. Gloves in no way harm a hedgehog, so we say, “Why not train them right from the beginning.”

Between the ages of 6 – 10 weeks, young hedgehogs go through a phase that breeders call “quilling” and they can become a bit grumpy during this time. Basically they are getting in an adult set of spines that are considerably larger than their juvenile spines. They go through several other “quilling” phases from the time they are born until this time, but this is the most dramatic change in size of the quills of all the quilling phases. If your normally very friendly pet is suddenly grumpy, check to see if there are new spines poking through the skin. This is similar to “teething” in a human baby and they should be handled gently during this time. However, it is important that you do handle them and continue to feed treats to keep his/her trust, but do not pet him/her since this will irritate the skin even further. Don’t worry, though, once the “quilling” is over, your hedgehog will go back to it’s normal self in no time, as long as you have handled him/her regularly though this phase.