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Old 07-19-2013, 09:34 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Raw and Home-Cooked Diets

Raw and Home-Cooked Diets

Note 1: HHC does NOT encourage raw or home-cooked diets to be fed without extensive research and care by the owner. HHC is not responsible if anyone attempts a raw or home-cooked diet for their hedgehog that results in health issues for the hedgehog. This section is for suggestions only and much more research should be done before a diet excluding kibble is attempted.

Note 2: HHC forums and moderators also do NOT condone or encourage live feeding of prey larger than insects to hedgehogs. While it could be left to an owner's decision on whether it's acceptable or cruel to feed insects live to their hedgehogs, we do not see a point to live feeding larger prey such as pinky mice & rats and 1-day old chicks to hedgehogs, given the act of killing could end up very drawn-out and messy. This is cruel to the prey and could result in injury to the hedgehog as well. There is little extra benefit to feeding live prey in this manner that cannot be obtained elsewhere. While live feeding is not illegal in the US (though it is in the UK), and we cannot stop you, HHC will not accept pictures, videos, or discussions of live feeding sessions on the forum. Thank you for your understanding.

Not much is known about hedgehog diets in the wild, but we have a general idea. They are considered to be insectivorous omnivores or opportunistic omnivores. They eat a very wide variety of foods including insects (beetles, termites, fly/moth larvae & pupae, etc.), invertebrates (spiders, millipedes, earthworms, scorpions, snails, slugs, etc.), small rodents, rodent & small mammal young/pinkies, frogs, small lizards & snakes, bird chicks & eggs, carcasses, and some plant matter (roots, mushrooms, berries). Because they have such a varied diet in the wild, a captive diet should be similarly varied in order to make sure all necessary nutrients are available. It can also be harder to balance a diet like this since there are more factors involved with the different food groups (insects, meat, and veggies/fruit).

*** Important note: Keep in mind that hedgehogs can be very picky, and should NOT go more than two days without eating or only eating a very small amount. Changes to the diet should always be made slowly. Introduce one new thing at a time. If your hedgehog is a huge fan of the new diet & jumps straight to it, you can go along with it (since some will eat only the new food, won't touch the old, and thus won't eat enough), but watch for green poop & other potential health issues. Using probiotics can help the digestive system adjust to the sudden diet change.

So where do I even start?

There are two ways you can go with a raw diet for a hedgehog. The first one uses commercial raw diets sold for dogs, and the second uses ground meat &/or complete meat grinds from grocery stores or sites/stores selling raw diets for dogs, cats, & ferrets. The first method is less work-intensive, second one is more.

Commercial raw diets

I recommend using commercial raw diets for dogs because many tend to include fruits & vegetables and have a lower protein content than those sold for cats. It's generally recommended to keep protein content for dry food around 35% or under, and while the extra moisture in raw helps with processing high protein, it's probably still best to keep it lower than it should be for cats. The other benefit to using a commercial diet that includes veggies & fruits is you fight less with trying to get your hedgie to eat them separately! Some don't mind, but many are difficult to convince to eat fruits & veggies, especially veggies.

In my opinion, a commercial raw diet should NOT be the only thing fed to a hedgehog. It can be for short periods if you're in a pinch, but insectivores should eat insects. So commercial raw diets should be supplemented with at least insects (and invertebrates if you'd like). You can also add other things to the diet such as small whole prey items (pinky mice/rats, quail & chicken chicks) and eggs. I'll cover more information on these food items below.

Ground meat & complete meat grinds

This is the method I'll be using for my hedgehog, if she cooperates. This method is more work for the owner because instead of having two main things to supply (commercial raw diet + insects), you have to provide meat (grinds & whole prey), insects/inverts, and plant matter. This can also be more difficult due to needing to make sure the different parts of the diet are balanced, particularly for calcium: phosphorus levels.

You can get ground meat from your grocery store, but keep in mind this will be muscle meat only & will lack the necessary calcium from bones & other vitamins/minerals from organs. My preference is for complete meat grinds that contain 80% muscle meat, 10% bone, and 10% organs. You can buy these from sites/companies that sell raw food for dogs & cats. These are my preferred sites:

Personally I'm planning to get complete grinds and whole prey for my hedgehog from Hare Today.

You can also get grinds sold for pet food from butchers and other locations sometimes, depending on where you live. Make sure you look at the ingredients or ask about them and find out what the ratios are. Some places will advertise a complete grind that includes organs, but this could be something like "turkey, turkey liver, turkey heart, turkey gizzard". In raw feeding, both heart & gizzard are actually muscle meat & don't have the vitamin & mineral content that organs like liver, kidney, etc. do. If you're confused or want to learn more about this, look up the 80/10/10 prey model method of feeding dogs, cats, and ferrets. If you'd rather not do the research into this, I would recommend sticking to commercial raw diets instead.

Whole prey options

Hedgehogs do not have carnivorous teeth, their teeth are designed for crushing insect exoskeletons. So whole prey options should be carefully considered and should be monitored to see how well your hedgehog handles them. IMO, whole prey helps with cleaning teeth and provides some extra enrichment for the hedgehog, similar to the benefits for cats & dogs. This is the list of whole prey I'm considering using with my hedgehog:

- pinky mice (1-4g) (LL)
- fuzzy mice (3-7g) (LL)
- pinky rats (9-13g) (LL)
- 1-3 day old quail chicks (7-9g) (weight from HT, they provide from LL)
- hopper mice (7-10g) (LL)
- fuzzy rats (14-19g) (LL)
- adult mice (10-50g) (LL)
- pup rats (20-29g) (LL)
- 1-3 day old chicken chicks (30-35g) (HT)
- weanling rats (30-39g) (LL)
- pinky rabbits (30-50g) (HT)

Weights are the ones provided on Layne Labs and Hare Today. I'm comfortable with most of the smaller options, up to 10-15 grams, but will be cautious with the larger ones, and may monitor feedings (especially at first). Another thing to keep in mind with all of these options is that a) newborn animals typically aren't considered balanced (bones aren't fully developed), and b) it's unlikely hedgehogs will eat all of the larger prey options, especially bones. So both of those are things to consider when making sure the diet is balanced. It's doubtful they would have a huge impact if given infrequently (once a week or less) & the rest of the diet is balanced, but I still wanted to mention it!

Fruits & Veggies

There is a sticky here that goes over the safe & unsafe fruits/veggies for hedgehogs: https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...s-veggies.html If you don't see one you're curious about, try searching in both that thread & in the nutrition forum to see if it's been covered before.

Fruits & veggies can be hard to convince a hedgehog to eat, but should still be a small part of their diet. Fruit should be fed more sparingly due to the sugar content. Vegetables should also be considered based on nutritional content - some can be higher in sugar (peas, carrots), some have very high levels of vitamins & should be considered if you have several high in the same vitamin (sweet potatoes & carrots are both very high in Vitamin A), and some have other issues to consider (such as spinach being high in oxalates, which can make calcium unusable by the body). Some are just not that nutritious in terms of vitamins (white potatoes, iceberg lettuce).

I wrote a sticky here that covers some different methods to try offering veggies to get your hedgehog to eat them: https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...ds-treats.html Personally I'm going to try the Chop method first, which can also be mixed with meat grinds. If my hedgehog refuses that, I'll try pureed/baby food next. I know the goal of all of this is a raw diet, but keep in mind that hard vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, etc. should either be diced very finely or should be cooked & pureed. Hedgehogs can choke on hard vegetables if the pieces are too large.

If you want to look up the nutritional information for fruits & veggies (and for meats/organs), I've found both of these sites to be useful: http://www.nutrition.gov/ and http://nutritiondata.self.com/

If you're interested in the option, there are also some commercially sold foods that have veggie-only options. Some raw brands have freeze-dried base mixes of veggies only that you can add meat to. These could be a good option for offering veggies to a hedgehog too. The Honest Kitchen is another brand who sells base mixes. This is the brand I plan on trying out with my hedgehog to see if she'll like the base mixes.


Okay, finally, let's talk about insects for the insectivores! People usually know about the most common three feeder insects: mealworms, crickets, and waxworms. These are often available from local pet stores, though quality may vary by store. It's usually normal to have a few dead mealworms in a container of 100, but there shouldn't be a lot, and the substrate should be dry, not wet. Same goes for waxworms. Crickets are smelly, but the container they're in at the store (if it's located where customers can see) shouldn't be overwhelming, and there shouldn't be tons of dead ones at the bottom.

Online suppliers typically have the main three, plus many others. Here's the list of insects/inverts I've found:

- mealworms
- superworms
- waxworms
- butterworms
- crickets
- dubia roaches
- other roaches (there are many different species sold as feeders, I'm currently looking at a couple)
- black soldier fly larvae (also called phoenix worms, calciworms, etc.)
- silkworms
- hornworms
- blue bottle fly larvae (called 'spikes', sold by Rainbow Mealworms, haven't found elsewhere)
- earthworms
- isopods (crustaceans, not insects; usually sold as cleaner crews for bio-active reptile set ups)
- grasshoppers (canned)
- snails (canned)

I'm currently working on putting together a chart that has the DMB protein, fat, & fiber values for all of these, as well as calcium: phosphorus ratios, and possibly other notable nutritional facts if I can find them (high in vitamins/minerals). I'll post it once I have it done, though I promise when that might be.

While live is best, I plan on using canned grasshoppers & canned snails as both are easier to obtain. The rest of the insects are shipped live. It's best to gut-load the insects for a couple of days before feeding them to your hedgehog. This means feeding them healthy food such as veggies & fruit. If you're getting them from a good supplier, this may be less of a concern. Personally I plan to freeze crickets because they're a pain in the butt to deal with, and frozen/thawed insects can be hidden around the cage for the hedgehog to forage for.

Some insects are quite easy to raise at home. This includes mealworms, superworms, dubia roaches (can't climb or fly), some other types of roaches (you'll want to find out how well they can climb & if they can fly), isopods, and earthworms. Most of the others could still be raised if you wanted to, but turn into moths/flies, which could be more difficult to deal with. Crickets tend to be quite annoying to raise as they're noisy, smelly, and good at escaping.

*** Note about earthworms: There are issues with feeding red wigglers (commonly used compost worm) to garter snakes. http://www.gartersnake.info/articles...htcrawlers.php This may not be a problem for hedgehogs, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. Nightcrawlers might be a better option if you want to feed earthworms.

Last note about insects for now: Wild insects/invertebrates aren't recommended, due to parasite risks & pesticide risks. If you want to catch something & breed it in captivity for several generations, that could take care of pesticide risks, but parasites could still be a factor & freezing before feeding would probably be a good idea.

Balancing the diet

Animals in the wild are able to self-regulate their diet in the wild, something they can’t do when we provide their food each night. When feeding a home-made diet to a pet, care must be taken to ensure all necessary nutrients are provided by whatever diet we offer.

As with raw diets for dogs & cats, variety is the key. If you have a lot of variety in your diet & you're not feeding the same thing daily (including veggies), there shouldn't be a ton to worry about. Make sure you have the various vitamins & minerals accounted for (which isn't too difficult if you have organs included in the diet, plus a good variety of insects & veggies), and make sure that you aren't feeding things that may cause excess amounts of fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamin A, found in high amounts in liver, plus sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.). Deficiencies are more common though.

The most important thing to watch, especially since insects are being fed, is calcium: phosphorus ratios. If you're feeding a large number of insects (as I plan to, though I haven't figured out amounts & ratios of the various foods yet), you're probably going to need to add calcium into the diet to make sure the ratio stays balanced. You're aiming for a ratio of 1:1 to 2:1, calcium: phosphorus. Growing animals need more calcium, as do pregnant and nursing moms.

You can add calcium by adding bonemeal, baked/ground eggshells, or reptile calcium powder supplements. For the third option, make sure you look at the product carefully. Some of them have vitamin D3 added, and some of those have very large amounts of D3. As I said, deficiencies are more common than overdoses, but it's still something to keep an eye out for. Insects can be dusted in reptile calcium powder. The other two things are probably better added to the meat portion of the diet.

Emergency/Vacation Options

If you end up in an emergency situation & have to feed an unbalanced diet for a couple nights (just raw muscle meat bought from the store, etc.), that's not likely to cause major problems as long as your hedgehog will eat the food & you go back to a balanced diet as soon as possible. With hedgehogs, the biggest concern is their tendency to go on food strikes if their diet changes drastically very quickly. They should NOT go more than 1-2 days without eating or with eating very little as this can quickly cause or exacerbate health issues.

So in my opinion, it's a good idea to have a back up plan already set to go for emergency situations, vacations, etc. I'm planning on trying some different freeze dried raw foods with my hedgehog to see if she likes any. If I find one she likes & eats reliably, I'll be keeping a bag of it with my emergency kit. It would be a good idea to offer them the food once in a while to make sure they'll still eat it. You could also see if there's a kibble or canned food that they like a lot & will always eat, as those could be other options to keep with your emergency kit. I know a lot of people don't like the idea of going back to kibble after settling on a raw diet, but with hedgehogs, the most important thing is to make sure they're eating enough. What they're eating comes after that. So just make sure you're prepared!

I added vacation considerations into this section as well since it could be difficult to find a pet sitter who's willing & capable of feeding a raw diet to a hedgehog, even if all of the parts are easily laid out for them. Insects could especially be the big issue with this situation. Canned/frozen insects could be a good option for a pet sitter to feed instead of live ones. It may also be easier to get a commercial raw food, freeze dried raw food, or canned food for your pet sitter to feed while you're gone. This will give them less to worry about, and you won't have to worry that your hedgehog's diet is getting messed up. Make sure whatever option you choose is something you're periodically offering to your hedgehog to make sure they'll eat it, and I would also recommend slowly introducing it to your hedgehog in increasing amounts for a week or so before your vacation, so they can adjust to having it as their main diet for the time you'll be gone. Hopefully that will avoid your pet sitter having to deal with green poops & and an upset hedgie tummy.

- For more information on the forum regarding owners that are attempting raw or home-cooked diets or discussions regarding these kinds of diets, check out these threads:
Update to the above link - https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...et-update.html
Update to the above link - https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...-progress.html

Most recent threads with currently active OPs:
https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...-raw-diet.html (This one's mine! )

More threads with information & questions:
https://www.hedgehogcentral.com/forum...t-kitchen.html (different thread)

- Other sources that may be helpful include scientific articles regarding nutritional requirements for cats and dogs (dogs would be a closer bet, as they can be more omnivorous/opportunistic scavengers rather than obligate carnivores like cats), books written about diets and nutrition for dogs, or your veterinarian - but as stated before, not all vets have a ton of knowledge regarding nutrition and diets, so be prepared if your vet doesn’t seem to be much help – your vet may also try to discourage you from a raw or home-cooked diet due to the problems they often see from incorrectly-balanced raw or cooked diets for dogs and cats.

Some links to articles regarding raw food diets:

A list of commercial raw dog foods reviewed by dogfoodadvisor:

A provider of a variety of canned insects and invertebrates - the more insects you can include in your hedgehog's diet, the better!

Note from mod: If you're considering doing a raw or natural homemade diet for your hedgehog, please consider starting a thread on the nutrition forum to post your menu and to update with changes that you make and how your hedgehog does on the diet! I would absolutely love you if you did so and allowed me to link to your thread on this sticky. Having people willing to take the leap into a DIY diet for their hedgehog gives others the confidence to do more research and try the same for their hedgehog, so the more links I can get on here, the better! With so little information about raw and natural diets for hedgehogs out there, any information that can be shared is a huge help. Thank you!
~*~*~ Kelsey ~*~*~

RIP my sweet Lily ~ 6/12/08 - 1/20/12

Last edited by Lilysmommy; 03-24-2017 at 07:20 PM.
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