By Deneen Foelker
This is the story of Yoda, Chablis and Truffles.
Yoda is the only surviving male rom Anne's litter and Chablis and Truffles are sister and brother from Belle's litter. This experience was all trial and error to successfully hand raise these 3 babies. The babies started out at 8-12 grams. At the age of 5 weeks when I weaned them they weighed 42-54 grams.
Annie delivered 4 babies; 2 females and 2 males on the morning of Monday, August 7th at about 9 am. I had left for several of hours. When I returned at about 1 pm, I checked on her and the babies. There was blood everywhere. I checked Annie and it looked like a baby or placenta was possibly stuck, and the babies had not been fed. So I grabbed everyone along with some goat's milk and a pipette to feed the babies with, and rushed to the vet's office.
While the vet checked Annie, I fed the babies. He did not find anything stuck nor feel anything still inside. Our guess is she passed the mass and ate it on the way to the office. Hopefully, she would feel better and the bleeding would stop over night.
I brought everyone back home but Annie did not want anything to do with the babies. She was sleeping outside the nest and ignoring their cries. I spent the rest of the day and night putting her into the nest with the babies, so they could nurse, every 2 hrs.
At 8:30 am the next morning there was no change in Annie. She was still ignoring babies and bleeding some; so we went back to the vet's office. He gave her shots of antibiotics and sub-q fluids. He also gave her a shot of Pitocin, in case there was a retained fetus or placenta. We got back home and I again put the babies with her so they could nurse. After about 15 minutes she started gasping for air. I called the vet and said I was rushing her back in. I did CPR with my thumb as I drove the 2.5 miles back to the office. She did not make it. Her necropsy came back with moderate diffuse lipidosis with multifocal, random acute suppurative hepatitis. Basically this means she had a bacterial infection. She also had FLD (Fatty Liver Disease) and her liver had ruptured.
I had no choice at that time but to hand feed the babies. Belle was due at the same time, so hopefully it would only be a day or two. The babies weighed 10-12 grams. Belle finally delivered on Thursday, August 10th. Surprise! She had 7 babies. Well, a hedgie mom is better than me, so I put the 4 babies in, one at a time with Belle. That evening I found one of Belle's babies' dead, its head missing, and she was attacking another baby and killed it. I had to take out Annie's 4 babies.
The next morning Belle started attacking again. I was able to get her to drop that baby but it had a small wound on its side. A little while later she attacked again. I tried to save that baby but was unable to get her to drop it and it died. At that point she then tried to attack all of them; I just took her remaining 4 away from her. I could not stand there and allow her to kill her babies.
Ok, now I have 8 babies that don't have a mom, but I have 2 more moms due on Monday, August 14th. Not a problem I thought, feed 8 babies for about 4 days. I have done 6 babies for several weeks before. Finally, on Tuesday, August 15th, Cottonball delivers. I did observe her deliver a placenta before I left the room. I return about an hour later to see how many babies, so that I may add in Annie’s babies, who have been fed by me for 9 days. I peek and find no babies! So I decide to give her Annie's 4, 2 at a time. I also put in a dish of the formula that I was feeding the babies.
Cottonball didn't really do well with them and they kept wandering off. So I try to get her to lie down and put them up to her. She refused to lie down and started vomiting. I also noticed that she had dried blood and shavings on her belly. I took her out to give her a bath and when I returned Yoda was sitting in the bowl of formula. I guess 9 days with me was too long, they did not know what a hedgehog mom was. So I took them back and gave her a break. The next morning I tried Belle's 4 who were 7 days old. Cottonball did a little better with them, but still had wanderers.
I tried to get her to take Annie's 4 also, but she had too many wanderers and she would not stay in the nest. She would protect the babies from me when I came near and she would feed them, but as soon as I left, she was out of there. I even tried to just let her do it, by leaving the house for several hours and not interfering, but after a couple of hours of being gone with my husband I told him, I can't abandon these guys, and we went back home. The babies had not been fed while I was gone. I decided then that I was going to have to do this myself. Luckily, it was summer break. Had this been during the school year, I would not have been able to do this. Jelly Bean did deliver the next day, but with her 5 that would be way too many.
From the first day until the surviving 3 were 5 weeks old, I was constantly tweaking things to make it work for the babies. A year and a half ago, I tried hand raising 6 babies after they were delivered by c-section. Their mom was too sick to care for them. I made a lot of mistakes, but learned a lot from it. At that time I used puppy Esbilac.
This time, I started out with just goat's milk Esbilac with Simethicone drops added (baby gas drops) and was using a 1ml pipette to feed them. Simethicone is used to help prevent bloat. Bloat is from air or gas bubbles. Bloating causes the stomach and sometimes the intestines to swell up and burst, which is why it is so deadly. The babies were having diarrhea so I called Jeanne. After speaking with Jeanne I switched from just goat's milk to goat's milk and puppy Esbilac, and she suggested using a syringe with a butterfly syringe attachment. So, gas drops and switching to a butterfly syringe tip was hopefully going to help with the bloat problems.
After speaking with my vet, he reminded me that the babies needed good bacteria in their tummies. He suggested Bene-bac. Have you ever tried to get Bene-bac into the tiny mouths of a hedgehog baby? I had to come up with a better solution that could be mixed into the formula. I decided to try liquid Acidophilus.
Now the first group is 2 weeks old and the formula is a long list of things, Goat's milk Esbilac, Puppy Esbilac, Chamomile tea (also added to help fight bloat), acidophilus, Simethicone, and water. By now, I have lost 4 babies to bloat. The babies were always acting starved so they were sucking in lots of air during feedings. I make a trip to the vet's office for help. My vet is great; he taught me how to tube feed! Boy that saves time and no more air bubbles.
Plus a bonus, 3 hr feedings instead of 2 hours. I still lost another baby to bloat that day. She was extremely bloated. Now, I am down to my 3 survivors. I tube fed them at night and syringe fed them during the day.
At 2.5 weeks, I added in 1/8 tsp of baby rice cereal for every 1 tsp of formula. At 3 weeks, I start putting the formula into a dish. Remember, Yoda had climbed into the formula dish at 10 days old. Now how do you find a dish small enough for a baby hedgehog that weighs 15 grams to drink out of without them sitting in it? I found that the baby juice jar lids are small and low enough. They were each eating 1/4 tsp, every 3 hrs.
At about 3.5 weeks, I started adding in some canned cat food, Whiskas chicken pate, a very small amount at first to the formula mix. They were getting teeth now. At 4 weeks, they were up to 1/2 tsp of formula/canned food mix, for each baby every 4 hours. I needed to switch to 4 hour feedings because I was starting back to work. At 4.5 weeks, I found the tiniest meal worms for them to eat and a couple of days later, I started leaving a dish of dry, crushed Baby Cat 34 in the cage all the time.
After a couple of days of the dry Baby Cat, I noticed they did not want the formula mix. They were 5 weeks old now. I was getting up in the middle of the night for nothing! I decided it was time to see the vet. They weighed 42-54 grams, eating crushed kibble and mealies and not wanting the formula. He said they could be weaned and to just offer them the formula once a day. So, I can sleep all night.
The babies' nest was a small shoe boxed size Rubbermaid tub that had a baby receiving blanket as a liner and a hedgie hat to sleep under. That tub was on top of a heating pad set on low, and that was on top of a fleece blanket placed inside a larger Rubbermaid tub. I had an indoor/outdoor thermometer with the outside sensor in the tub with the babies to monitor the temperature of the nest. The nest temperature was usually in the 80's. This whole set up made the babies somewhat portable. I actually took them, at 2.5 weeks old, to the coast one day. I was not going to stay home while rest of the family scattered my mother-in-law's ashes.
There are some very important things to remember when hand raising babies! Warm only the amount of formula you need for each feeding. Never reheat or reuse formula, you will breed bad bacteria. Use a brand new heating pad! Babies need to be stimulated to go to the bathroom after every feeding because they are incapable of going on their own.
Babies get a very small amount of formula every 2 hours at first. I am not sure of the exact amount but you should see the little white spot on the abdomen where the stomach is (right hand side).
Hedgehog formula (hand feeding)
1 part Goat's milk Esbilac
1 part Puppy Esbilac
1 part Chamomile tea
1 part acidophilus (at about 3 weeks cut back on this)
1-2 parts water (depending on age)
Add baby rice cereal at about 2.5 3 weeks of age
Add canned pate at about 3.5 weeks of age
Provide a dish, at all times, crushed Baby Cat 34 at 4.5 weeks of age
* A big thank you to Brenda! She was there, by phone, everyday to help me through this and sent me supplies!