When I first entered the hedgehog breeding community ( Made an online profile and joined their online group) I was shocked and saddened to discover that not one other breeder in the USA was observing and tracking color genetics.
Understanding color genetics is super important when breeding animals. I helps you discover which genes carry illness.
I have worked hard over the course of several years to better understand color genetics in hedgehogs and their interaction. This discovered knowledge has greatly benefited my herd. For example, after one genetic related illness discovery, I retired nearly 1/3rd of my herd. I refuse to breed animals that are more likely to develop illness and I strive to understand their genetics.
* Understanding which genes can increase illness chances, does not 100% prevent illness, but it does help reduce the chances.
In 2015 I purchased a puppy from a man who claimed to be a licensed breeder. This puppy ended up being very sick. After several months of stress and extreme financial struggle, we lost our puppy. After investigation we learned that the breeder wasn't even licensed.
When I became USDA licensed I decided that I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to breed quality hedgehogs and offer them for a fair price, reducing the temptation of the illegal breeder's cheap prices. .
Hedgehog nutrition is a subject that has had very little official study. I have partnered with another breeder in offering my herd more natural food items. I have noticed a great improvement in my animals since offering a diet primarily of natural meats and insects. My animals still eat kibble, juts to a lesser extent. I adore natural nutrition so much that I have included it in my Care Plan.
I enjoy providing information about how owners can offer a more biologically appropriate diet to their animals. I contribute to the wonderful website gwww.hedgehogownersusa.com
All of the adult breeder hedgehogs here receive regular veterinary care. Each hoggo is given an exam by a licensed veterinarian and receives emergency medical attention should the need arise.
My facility also receives veterinarian oversight. A licensed veterinarian visits my hedgehogs to observe my care methods in order to be sure my hoggos are cared for properly I use Accredited Veterinarians. This means that our Vets have additional training that ensures all animal welfare acts are practiced and upheld here!
Every hedgehog within my care is viewed as a unique individual. Although all hedgehogs have the same basic needs, they are all a little bit different from each other in their preferences. Some of my hoggos will only drink from a bowl rather than a bottle. Some will only use certain toys. It takes a little time and work to learn each hogs individual preferences, but it's totally worth it!
Ethical breeding practices are very important to me. My breeder females are given ample time in between litters. Sure a longer wait in between births means less hoglets born per female, but I don't mind. I'd rather have my females have plenty of time to recoup and settle after a litter. Happy mothers are extremely important to me!
I do not practice inbreeding or line breeding. Line breeding IS just another term for inbreeding. Relatives do not have babies together here.
I am very big on sanitation. Those who know me personally might say I'm a bit of a "germ-a-phobe", to which I cannot deny.
Cleanliness is very important to me. For this reason, I do not allow members of the public to visit my hedgehogs at home. We can unknowingly carry bacteria, viruses, and fungi on our clothing or shoes. These little buggers can very easily be transmitted to a hedgehog. Bio security is very important when maintaining a breeding herd of hoggos!
All of those who adopt a hedgehog are important! I value each and every wonderful adopter! I am proud to offer continuing advice and educative support to those who have made a hoglet born here part of their family!
I am unable to take in rescues at this time due to bio security measures and lack of space, I am quite pleased to continue supporting rescue efforts via financial contribution. Several times per year a portion of sale proceeds are donated to various animal rescue organisations. I firmly believe that both breeding and rescue are very important in the preservation of hedgehogs as a species kept as a pet.
One of the most exciting "projects" that will be worked on this year (and over the next few years as it's a long collection process) Is participation in data collection in order to break ground on biological understanding of the African Pygmy Hedgehog.
There have been very few data collection and sample cataloging studies done regarding hedgehogs. This is why there is so much confusion regarding their care and medical treatment.
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding hedgehogs is "Wobbly Hedgehog Syndrome".
Through this sample and data collection process, I hope to aide in determining the cause of WHS and effective treatment (or even prevention) development.
I feel strongly that breeding hedgehogs is more than "producing and selling pretty babies". As someone who works with these animals that bring us such gratification, we owe it to the species to learn everything we can about them and ultimately better our understanding and enhance the medical treatment we can offer them.
I call this Breeding with a purpose.
This project has a long road ahead of it, but I sure am excited!
This past season has been a great adventure in acquiring the perfect hedgehogs to produce some very nice offspring! All of the hard work is finally paying off! This current season there have been several silver, freckled, odd eyed and lilac hedgehogs born here!
Pictured is Ozzy, a very special and quite unique hoglet that was recently born here! Ozzy looks to be a mixture between silver, lilac, and tri -color! He's quite special!
Updte; Another generation of this very pretty gene combo has been born. The entire litter will be held back here in order to prove out this new line and see how it develops.
Update: lilac/ lavender and calico (formally tricolor, more has been noted about how the gene interacts and displays, hence the name change) have shown great promise and expression in the color lines. These genetics are producing healthy animals of mid size. There have been no incidents of color related disease or abnormality.
Often times in certain colors of animals we will see certain health ailments associated with them.
For example; White dogs have a higher incident of being deaf, two Merle colored dogs cannot be bred together due to complications, and the list goes on. These type of color gene notations even branch out into other species such as horses, guinea pigs, rats, and even lesser domesticated species.
So far with these currently observed genes, there have been no defects associated with the color. Possible genetic tied illness has been noted in regards to other color genes in hedgehogs. It has been noted that darker colored inbred or line bred animals (many- if not most- dark animals are produced via inbreeding to quickly produce in demand colors) have a higher occurrence of cancers, mostly oral. I don't work much with darker colored animals due to the history of inbreeding and line breeding within them, however it is entirely possible to produce well rounded darker colored animals with out resorting to inbreeding, it just takes a very long time.
I *hope* to produce a few litters that contain darker animals this year. These are from non inbred lines that produce sporadic darks, depending on what genes they're combined with. I haven't yet "perfected the genetic recipe " for producing exceptionally dark animals without the use of inbreeding. I don't like inbreeding so will not resort to it.
note-line breeding is inbreeding, just to a "lesser" extent. They both involve breeding together animals that are related. A practice that I consider very risky in our already limited USA gene pool.
I am super excited to share the news that a both a light and dark freckle line has been established here at The Alternative Hedgehog! Freckled hedgehogs are some of my absolute favorites. They have little splotches all over their face that gives them a unique look! Vintage was my first freckle face light male that was born here. Many thought his freckles would fade with age, but here we are a over a year later and he's still a freckled cutie!
Depending on what other genes a freckled hedgehog carries, their freckles could very well fade over time, particularly in the Silver hedgehogs.
However, I am seeing hoglets that produce more or darker freckles by age 12 weeks.
This has been such a fun and exciting en devour and I have learned so much about hoggo genetics through working with the freckle gene!
Pictured above is a recently produced light freckle hedgehog.
As the Weather gets warmer you may be tempted to take your hoggo outside! In their native habitat it is our equivalent of fall!
I do not recommend taking your hoggo outside due to the risk of parasite transmission.
If you're firm in taking your hedgehog outside please take these safety precautions.
1.) Use a parasite preventative from your veterinarian.
2.) Keep a keen eye out for predators. Cats, dogs, hawks, birds and even snakes and ants.
3.) Be aware of toxins.Pesticides, fertilizers and trash/cleaning product disposal areas.
4.) Never leave your hedgehog alone outside.
**Hedgehogs are nocturnal animals. Going outside and being exposed to the giant fire ball in the sky that we call the sun, will most likely prompt your hoggo to flee and hide/ seek a darker area. Hedgehogs are also prey animals so being in open spaces may set them into flee mode. **
During our winter in the hedgehogs natural habitat it is (what we call) summer. Here in little Rhode Island USA, we're coming into winter. Be sure to increase your temps in your hoggos cage slightly to help prevent weather related medical issues.
Sometimes the cooler weather can cause hedgehogs to become less active, eat less, and even succumb to hibernation attempts. Hibernation attempts are usually fatal in hedgehogs, so proper temps are important.
It's a good idea to bump your hoggos cage temp a few degrees during the winter months.
In the wild, hedgehogs go into a state of lessened activity when the temps cool. However, in captivity we haven't yet mastered the ability to help our hedgehogs through a state of torpor/semi hibernation.
Naturally their temps would gradually decrease along with light/dark ratios (hrs of day light/ night darkness). The hedgehog would slowly begin to eat less and sleep more while becoming sluggish..the metabolism would slow down as well. A delicate balance of many factors will take place in order to keep the hedgehog alive during this period of scarce food and weather change.
As pet owners/breeders/ hedgehog fanatics we haven't had enough conclusive reasearch provided to us to completely understand this complicated process.
So for now, our beloved hoggos remain temperature sensitive.
Now that winter is upon us, please bump up your temps & provide your hoggo with a few extra hours of light per day. You may also find that your hoggo will benefit from a slight boost in fat intake this winter. Offering more feeder insects or a food with a higher fat content can help accomplish this!