Hedgehogs are among the currently popular pets. Owing to their appearance, they are sometimes called pin cushions on wheels. They are small mammals with short legs and cone-shaped faces.
Like other mammals, hedgehogs have soft and somewhat flexible fur that is covered by modified hair or thick spikes known as quills. Keratin, the same element that makes fingernails and hair, is the primary constituent of quills.
Hedgehogs are either black, light brown, or white in different shades across their quills. Coarse hair covers their faces, necks, and bellies, with some animals sporting a black or dark brown mask across their eyes.
The feet of hedgehogs are big and powerful, with five toes each, apart from the appropriately-named four-toed hedgehog. Their curved claws support their burrowing habits, while their long snouts with excellent noses give them an exceptional sense of smell. Compared to their small body sizes, their large ears give these spiky creatures a good hearing sense.
Hedgehogs have 3000-5000 quills on their backs. This spiky outer armor is a defense mechanism. When threatened, a hedgehog will raise its quills straight in crisscross patterns. This makes its body sharp and pointy.
The back muscles, skin, and belly muscles are used by the animal to tuck in its legs, tail, and head such that it is in a ball, while protecting its soft abdomen. The solid ball of spikes-formed is hard for a predator to open.
Along with these physical characteristics, it is essential to know the size of your hedgehog so that you can appropriately plan for your pet.
Hedgehog Size and Weight Chart
There are about seventeen hedgehog species that can be kept as pets. Below is a table detailing the weights and body lengths of these hedgehogs.
|African Hedgehog||24 oz (680 g)||7-9 in (18-23 cm)|
|Asian Hedgehogs||7-24 oz (200-680 g)||8 in (20 cm)|
|European Hedgehogs||80 oz (2.2 kg)||9-14 in (23-35 cm)|
|Wild Hedgehogs||50-55 oz (1.4-1.6 kg)||4-12 in (10-30 cm)|
|Bare Bellied Hedgehogs||16 oz (450 g)||10 in (25 cm)|
|Brandt’s Hedgehogs||32 oz (900 g)||10 in (25 cm)|
|Daurian Hedgehogs||16 oz (450 g)||8 in (20 cm)|
|Desert Hedgehogs||9-17 oz (250-480 g)||5.5-11 in (14-28 cm)|
|Four-Toed Hedgehogs||15 oz (425 g)||8 in (20 cm)|
|Hugh’s Hedgehogs||10 oz (280 g)||7.8 in (19 cm)|
|Indian Hedgehogs||16 oz (450 g)||6 in (15 cm)|
|Indian Long-Eared Hedgehogs||4.6 oz (130 g)||6 in (15 cm)|
|Long-Eared Hedgehogs||12 oz (340 g)||8 in (20 cm)|
|Northern White-Breasted Hedgehogs||28 oz (800 g)||9 in (23 cm)|
|Somali Hedgehogs||2 oz (55-60 g)||5 in (13 cm)|
|Southern White-Breasted Hedgehogs||11 oz (300 g)||7 in (18 cm)|
|South African Hedgehog||10-11 oz (280-300 g)||6-7 in (15-18 cm)|
Factors Which Affect Hedgehog Size and Weight
The sizes detailed in the table are, however, only general ones for specific hedgehog breeds. Several elements determine the exact size of your pet hedgehog. Below are tidbits to help you understand the determinants of your hedgehog’s size:
The size of your hedgehog is primarily determined by its breed. The three commonly domesticated hedgehog breeds are the European long-eared, African pygmy, and Indian long-eared.
These are smaller than the wild breeds because of selective breeding that ensures the hedgehog remains small enough for domestication.
This is because most people looking for pets want one with minimal care and housing needs. Too large an animal might thus be an issue and cause people to shun hedgehogs.
In general, male hedgehogs are bigger than females. Even so, this size difference is sometimes masked by age and seasonal variations. When your pet is young, it might be hard to know whether it is a male or female.
In older male hedgehogs, a penile sheath looks like a belly button positioned approximately halfway up its belly. In females, their sex organs are located just next to the anus. In both sexes, there is a row of nipples on each side of the tummy’s fur.
The genetic makeup of your hedgehog will also determine its size. While you might assume that there is not much to do over the genetic makeup of your pet, choosing the right breeder will assure you of a favorable genetic makeup.
If, for instance, the parents of your hedgehog were small, then probably your hedgehog will also be small. Even so, breeders are now well-versed with genetic diversity and might tweak breeding to guarantee favorable genes for your hedgehog.
– Size of litter
Keeping too many hedgehogs will also affect the size of your pets. This is often because the animals will fight for the little space in the cage and the resources you give them.
Furthermore, hedgehogs are, by nature, solitary pets. Too many of them might thus bring in-fighting or stress to the animals.
Which Is The Smallest And Fastest Hedgehog?
The smallest yet fastest hedgehog species is the African pygmy. This is the most popular pet species and is a cross-breed of the Algerian and four-toed hedgehogs. However, some publications erroneously refer to the African pygmy hedgehog as an Algerian hedgehog.
In the wild, African pygmy hedgehogs live in the savanna, steppes, and grasslands of East, Central, and West Africa. With an average body length of 7-9 inches, they are among the smallest hedgehogs and can be the size of a grapefruit when curled up.
Even so, unlike most small hedgehog species, African Pygmy hedgehogs are quite fast. Owing to their natural environments that feature wide expanses of land, the hedgehogs can travel large distances and are quite active.
They can run at speeds of 4 mph but will not roll so fast. To keep them happy in captivity, provide an exercise wheel, cardboard tubes, and climbing structures in their cages.
How Fast Do Hedgehogs Grow?
The gestation period of female hedgehogs is 4-6 weeks. They give birth to 4-7 young ones called hoglets that weigh approximately one-third of an ounce (10g). For 3-4 weeks after their birth, the hoglets only consume their mother’s milk.
At this age, they exclusively stay in their nest because their spines are not fully developed, and they cannot defend themselves. Though not blind after birth, hoglets will open their eyes after two weeks.
After two months, the hoglets stop taking their mother’s milk and leave the nests. They can thrive on solid food from this age onwards. The hoglets will keep growing after leaving their mother’s nest.
Hedgehogs attain sexual maturity at two years old. They mostly breed in summer so that the hoglets reach their adult weights before winter. This is because most hoglets do not survive the winter cold.
Male or Female Hedgehog – Which Grow Bigger?
In most hedgehog species, male hedgehogs grow bigger than females. Even so, this changes when the female is pregnant. Moreover, some female hedgehogs will not shed their pregnancy weight even after birth and might thus remain larger than their male counterparts.
In general, a 24″ x 24″ cage will suffice for most hedgehogs since it has enough living and playing space for their bodies.
Can a Hedgehog Be Overweight?
Yes, obesity is a common issue in domesticated hedgehogs. It can follow a lack of exercise, excessive treats, or the consumption of foods that have a lot of fats. In hedgehogs, being overweight is linked to an increased risk of getting heart attacks and fatty liver disease.
The ideal weight will depend on your hedgehog’s species. However, while healthy hedgehogs are plump and somewhat round, overweight ones have fat waddles on their armpits and are often unable to roll. Below are some tips to avoid obesity in your pet hedgehog:
- Weigh your hedgehog regularly so that you notice a rapid weight increase early.
- Give your pet the right feeds.
- Ensure the hedgehog gets as much exercise as it would in the wild.
- Minimize the treats you give your pet.
- Pay attention to the portions you are feeding your hedgehog since some animals gorge on food, and this contributes to their excessive weight gain.
Why Is My Hedgehog Skinny?
Your hedgehog should neither be too fat nor too skinny. When it is too skinny, it might not survive the harsh winter cold, and its immunity to most health conditions is reduced.
To have a good chance of survival, hedgehogs should be at least 650 g though this depends on their species. You can hold a hedgehog by its back using a gloved hand then looking at its rear.
When skinny, the hedgehog’s rear end might appear ‘’baggy’’ or have a tapered V-shape. Too much exercise, lack of enough food, feeding the wrong foods, and sickness are the common causes of weight loss in hedgehogs.
At What Age Is a Hedgehog Fully Grown?
Hedgehogs are considered fully grown when they reach six months old. They can, however, reach their adult sizes and weights after or before this age based on genetics.
Other than genetics, the rate of growth in a hedgehog will be determined by its diet. The recommended diet for a hedgehog is one comprising 28-35% protein, 12-15% fat, and 4% fiber.
The above guidelines on the body lengths and weights of hedgehogs will make your choice of one as well as its care easy. Even so, before getting a pet hedgehog, check your local animal laws. In some states, it is illegal to have a pet hedgehog.
If you want your hedgehog to remain tame and social, ensure you handle it at least once daily. The animal will mostly be active at night and in the evenings, so this is the best time to handle it. When comfortable, a hedgehog may sit in your hand or settle in your lap for a nap.