Housing an African Pygmy Hedgehog
When you’re going to make the enclosure ready for an African Pygmy Hedgehog, there are a lot of things to take a look at. We’ll talk about the size first and why that size is recommended.
An African Pygmy Hedgehog can run up to 4 kilometers per night! You can imagine them needing a big enclosure now, right? Ofcourse, a hedgehog in captivity could never run such a distance in an enclosure, but the space is needed for all the accessoires and to provide some room to play with the given toys. In The Netherlands 120 centimeters wide and 50 centimeters deep is recommended. And in Germany, the minimum size is said to be 150 cm wide and 50 cm deep, while in the USA 60×60 centimeters is said to be enough. So the sizes of enclosures differs a lot per country, however they all have one thing in common: the bigger, the better! It’s best to ask the breeder of your hedgehog for recommendations when it comes to size. But if you just want to be sure? We would definitely recommend following the size of German enclosures! That way you’ll never have an enclosure that is too small for your hedgehog.
Kinds of enclosures
There are a lot of different kinds of enclosures available. In the USA you’ll see a lot of curver bins, while you’ll see more glass terraria in The Netherlands and in Germany there are a lot of wooden vivs. And everything has it pro’s and con’s.
Picture by Victoria Rodgers. These plastic bins are available in a lot of shapes and sizes. That’s easy but also a pitfall. The sides of these bins often are oblique and a bin can look bigger than it actually is because of it. It’s recommended to measure the bins before purchase. The biggest pro’s are that these bins are very easy to clean and if they are too small, you can easily make a hole in the side and connect it to a second bin with a PVC tube which the hedgehog can walk through. This way you can make a bin for the wheel and toys and another for the house, feeding dish and water bowl. Look out for the ventilation though: ammonia can be build up easily if you use a lid on the bin and can cause a lot of health issues. You’ll often have to make a hole in the lid as well, so that the wheel fits.
Picture by Naomi Vodegel. A glass terrarium has a number of pro’s. Glass is easy to clean and doesn’t scratch as easily as plexi glass which often is used in viv stacks. Terraria often are available in different sizes, which makes them pretty popular. Ventilation strips are often build in and because these enclosures aren’t open, a hedgehog can’t escape as easily. The con is that a running wheel sometimes doesn’t fit because of the height of the terrarium. Also, the ventilation strips are often made for small rodents and reptiles which don’t need as much ventilation and it’s very hard to adjust. So always keep an eye on those ventilation strips.
Picture by Rianne Reuver. These glass bins are easy to clean and the hedgehogs are easy to see through the glass but, if the aquarium has a lid, it often isn’t good to use. Leaving the lid off or replacing it with gaze is recommended. There are special clip frames for heating lamps available which can be placed on the sides of the aquarium. Like terraria, aquaria also are available in many standard sizes.
Wooden terraria & viv stacks
Picture by Ouchmouse House. Wooden terraria and viv stacks are a good option depending on the material that is used. Concreteplex and block boards are very moisture resistant, especially when the seams are sealed. These two materials are the most popular for these types of enclosures. A major pro to a wooden enclosure is that you can make them to your own liking in color and size. Besides that, you can adjust the ventilation and a frame for your heating lamp is easly placed. A background is easy to make with tempex, tile adhesive and epoxy resin to make it more natural. A con to these enclosures is that the costs can go up really high, depending on your choice in materials. And you have to be very handy to make these enclosures or know someone who is and can help you out. These kinds of enclosures are also available in webshops, if you’re not that skillful with a saw; it often is costum made and there are multiple options offered. But these anclosures can be very pricy in webshops.
Setup & technique
Once you have the enclosure, you can focus on the setup and technique. This take quite some work, so read it thouroughly.
African Pygmy Hedgehogs need to stay between 22 and 27 degrees Celcius, which is between 71 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They can see every type of light, so using a ceramic bulb to heat the enclosure is the best option. Ceramic bulbs become very hot and a plastic lamp socket can melt, so best to also take a ceramic socket. Depending on the size and the material of your enclosure, you could choose to use one bulb or more. These, you can connect to a thermostat controller which will keep the temperature stable during night and day.
Also an important matter to think about is the bedding. African Pygmy Hedgehogs are very sensitive to dust, have poor eyesight and sensitive skin and bedding with small pieces can get stuk between quills or in genitals, causing serious infections. Below you’ll find a summup of the possible bedding types.
|Fleece & fabrics This is possibly the most popular type of bedding. It’s available in many types, colors and patterns. It’s pretty expensive, but can be reused for a long time. But it doens’t really hold moisture and smells very fast. Also, a hedgehog’s digging need is not met with this bedding type.||Wood shavings Wood shavings are often discouraged to use, because most brands are very dusty. But there are quite a few brands that ar not as dusty and can be used. It’s very good in holding moisture and doesn’t smell fast, but it will mold over when wet.||Paper pellets A bedding made from recycled paper in a pellet form. It holds a lot of moisture and doesn’t smel very fast. Little goes a long way ,but these beddings are often very expensive and some brands are very hard on their paws, causing too much friction and sometimes even blisters.|
|Soft paper shreds Made of paper and with somewhat the same characteristics as the paper pellet. However, this type of beding is softer on their paws. Just like the paper pellets, it is pretty expensive and some hedgehogs might be attracted to eat this type of bedding, causing a fair amount of issues. Opinions on this type of bedding vary because of this.||Natural soilmixture A mixture of potting soil and sand, with a top layer of dried leafs, hay and bark pieces. It looks very nice and immitates the natural environments of the species. It hardly smells, but if it does it’s REALLY bad! It’s also fairly expensive, although if done correctly you will go a long way after the first setup.||Shredded cardboard Shredded cardboard is made from paper, but despite the good traits from the other paper beddings, this type doesn’t hod on to moisture that well. It is however fairly soft to their paws.|
|Puppy pads Puppy pads are really soft and hold on to moisture really well, as expected. However, thse can be really smelly if not properly maintained and can become fairly expensive. This type of bedding is often used in combination with fleece or other fabrics.||Fake grass Fake grass is available in a lot of types and colors and varies a lot in price! It looks fairly natural, but ofcourse it has no good traits in relation to moisture and it’s not too easy to clean. Best used in combination with another bedding underneath.||Cardboard squares This crude bedding is made from exactly what it says. It barely holds moisture, but they can dig around in it and it’s easy to clean. It’s not too expensive, but can be a bit hard on their paws.|
|Newspaper Newspaper in the early days was discouraged, but newpapers have been pusheed to use baby-safe ink and therefore, it now animal-safe as well. It holds moisture for a slight bit, it’s easy to clean and soft for their paws. And ofcourse, one of the cheapest options. However it gets really smelly and moisture will be devided throughout the whole paper wihtin no-time. Used as shredded papers works best, but still.. This bedding is mainly used for hedgehogs in poor health or as nesting material.||Wood pellets Wood pellets are available in all sorts of forms and sizes and even with different scents. Make sure the bedding doen’t contain Pine tree extract, this is highly toxic for African Pygmy Hedgehogs. Wood pellets do hold a lot of moisture, but crumbles down when it gets wet, making it dusty. They also can be a bit hard on their paws, causing friction and sometimes blisters.||Corn pieces Corn pieces are mostly rounded and hard to get by as only so many countries sell it. It feels a bit like sand and despite the harsh look, don’t cause friction. However, due to the small pieces, it can get stuck in their genitals. it does hold a lot of moisture and is easy to clean. It can however be epensive as you need a lot of it to ful and enclosure.|
There are a lot of ways to setup and decorate an enclosure. Despite a background not being absolutely neccesary, hedgehogs (in particular when in a glass enclosure) like it and it looks pretty. There are a few ways to make backgrounds.
Plastic posters are available in most pet shops or online. Sizes are very variable and the posters are easy to cut in the size needed. They are also not that expensive and very easy to use in general. And there are a lot of different varieties.
You can come a long way with paint as well, to make a background. Not very suitable for glass, as the paint often peels off, stains or gets scratched off, but you can do a lot with it: a solid color, making paterns or compete paintings. Be aware of the base of the paint you use and make sure it’s fully dried before putting in your hedgehog. Acryl and chalk paints are on a water base and safe to use. Lacquer paint in general needs to be dried and fully hardened to prevent it from releasing toxic fumes, which can make a hedgehog very sick. Boat lacquers need to be fully dried as well. It releases fumes when drying, but afterwards, to wood will be waterproof and animal safe.
A background from styrofoam can be placed in any type of enclosure and you can mold it to your own liking which nothing more than a knife and a gas lighter. Ater carving and burning it into shape, you can finish it off with a few layers of tile adhesive, which you can even add a color pigment to. If you want it to be waterproof, you can add epoxy to it. This will also make it bit more easy to clean. It’s pricy, harder to make and lasts longer to finish it.
3D backgrounds for aquaria and terraria can easily be placed onto every background with a bit of sealant. It looks mor erealistic than a home made background and they’re available in different sizes. It’ll take a few hour for the sealant to dry and harder and it’s also pricier than all other options.
A natural or bio active setup is a pleasure for the eye and actually not as hard as long as you have a good plan to work of off. But what’s the actual difference between natural and bio active and what are the do’s and dont’s? With agreement of Hedgehogs of Asgard, we’ve made a good guide for beginners to take it step-by-step!
Mixing experience form both a pet owner and a breeder, to gain a full perspective. S hort summary of the things you’ll find in this chapter:
- The difference between natural and bio active substrate
- Types of substrate mixtures
- Setup decorations, plants & hiding places
- A guide on bugs: how to create a clean up crew
- Cohabitation & live feeder animals
- A breeder’s guide on bio active substrate
Wheels and freeroam
African Pygmy Hedgehogs can run over 4 kilometers per night, so it’s pure logic that they need a good amount of exercise as pets. Running wheels are a perfect way to provide such exercise. However, theyre are hedgehogs who are too athletic and drastically ose weight when using a wheel. Regular freeroaming time is a good alternative. Combining the two is perfect as well, giving them a choice of their own.
A good running wheel must be at least 30 cm in diameter. This is to prevent the hedgehog from running with an arched back, creating severe back issues over time. Running with an arched back can cause permantent deformities, with severe consequences which could make them disabled. Also, running wheels need a smooth surface to prevent wounds and blisters. They can’t make callus on their feet like we do, so for them it feels like running on outdoor tiles the entire time. Which hurts us, so why doing it to them? And also, if the surface of a running wheel has holes in it, their feet or toes can get stuck, causing broken legs or even teared off limbs. So a running wheel without slots, holes, bars or bumps. Sanding paper can’t be used either, for the same reason. Also, it woud be nice if it’s easy to clean, becuse hedgehog do poop and pee on their running wheels. They’re not too hygenic, so they will continue to walk in heir own feaces.
If a hedgehog can’t or may not use a running wheel or you just want to expand the ability to excersize, you can lt it freeroam. Freeroaming is creating a secluded area (like a bathroom or bedroom) where the hedgehog can freely move around in to run, play, hunt for insects, etc. You would have to include a hiding place ot two, a feeding dish and water bowl, toys and food (which could include live insects if you don’t mind). If your hedgehog can use the running wheel, it’s adviced to put one in this freeroaming area as well. If it can’t, you cen replace the wheel with other things to excersize with. A big box with a lot of material to dig in, for example fleece, pompoms or small balls. To make it just a little more attractive for a hedgehog, you can put a few treats in there. Be aware to make the area hedgehog-proof: secretly they are tiny little ninja’s able to escape through tiny holes.
Food en water
African pygmy hedgehog have a complex diet and it can come in handy to have a steady ritual with feeding and watering. To keep a high hygiene level you can use different bowls for vegetables, fruit, meat, insect and kibbles. If you want to be strict and avoid a crosscontamination in foods, you can use one bowl for fruits & vegetables, one for meat and insects and another for kibbles.
A waterbowl is preferred to a bottle, because most standard bottles can suck vacuum and there’s a good chance the tongue of your hedgehog can get stuck, causing severe damage. If you want to use a bottle, look for a safe one without a ball. A waterbowl needs to be heavy, so the hedgehog can’t play around with it or bump it over. And ofcourse it needs to be waterproof. Ceramic or glass bowls are best to use. The bowl also can’t be too high, as the hedgehog needs to reach it properly. Refresh water daily to prevent bacteria building up and algea growing.
Feeding bowls need to be heavy as well. A hedgehog will eat about 2 tablespoons of kibbles a day, so they don’t have to be as big. Hamster size is big enough, most of the times. Use a seperate bowl for fruits, vegetables, meat and insects to avoid molds touching kibbles or water. Remove snacks in time to avoid your hedgehog getting contaminated with worms (flies and other insects can carry worm eggs or other parasites). Make sure the bowls are clean before each use.
Toys in the viv or during freeroaming are a perfect way to enrich their behaviour and trigger some extra exercise. Four kilometer is a lot of running to make up for as a pet and only a running wheel to trigger exercise makes their behavioural pattern very platonic and could cause neurotic behaviour. This kind of behaviour can trigger a lot of mental issues as well as physical issues you rather want to prevent. Toys are a good way to avoid this and enrich their pet lives.
African Pygmy Hedgehogs love stuff that makes noise, stuff they can bit in or that triggers their natural instinct. These are a few toys they love and are often used.
Tunnels are cool to run through or sleep in and are highly valued by hedgehogs. It looks like a safe hiding place for them as their natural instinct is to hide in underground tunnels and smaller holes between rocks or in tree trunks. A diameter of bout 9 to 12 cm is perfect. PVC tubes are available in lots of sizes in DIY stores, but ferret tubes from the pet store are also fine. If the tubes have holes or slitches in them, put a fleece cover around them to make them hedgehog safe. Another good tunnel to use, but not so much for hiding, are toilet rolls or kitchen rolls. Hedgehogs like to poke their heads into them and walk around. Do cut them through in the entire length, to prevent the hedgehog from getting stuck.
Krinkle balls are are highly valued due to the noise they make. You have the ones on this picture, but also the plastic balls are fine! If they have holes in them, make a fleece cover around them to make them hedgehog proof and you’re good to go!
A digging box is a big box filled with a diggable substrate (fleece, marbles, ping pong balls, pompoms). You can hide treats in there for the hedgehog to search for, triggering their natural instinct to hunt for food. They can enjoy this for hours on end, making this a good way to get them to exercise.
Plush toys are loved by many. Fun to bite in and drag around the viv or to sleep with. Make sure it’s made from plush or fleece and it doesn’t unravel. They can get stuck with their limbs and break things or get stuck with their head and choke.
A newer toy around are snuffle mats. Much like the ones for dogs, a snuffle mat is made out of a fleece cushion with bunch of fleece straps under which you can hide a few treats. The hedgehog needs to snuffle round in the fleece straps to find the treats, triggering their natural instinct to hunt for insects. Not every hedgehog gets it in the beginning, but with a little bit of training, this can really make a perfect toy to get your hedgehog to gain weight or become a bit more active. It’s even a good way to bond with your hedgehog making it a bit more sociable!