Before you even think about breeding, you need to do tons of research and be mentored by a reputable breeder. There is a lot more involved with breeding, than just reading online and putting two PET quality hedgies together to make babies. WHS is a serious neurological disease, and responsible breeders are trying very hard to breed it OUT of our herds.
It took me over a year to acquire good BREEDING quality hedgies. Then it took a couple months to receive approval by the HBA. You must have a mentor, and agree to the HBA's CODE OF ETHICS. I visited my mentor (several hours away), many many times, with tons of questions. She (and the HHC) are still educating me, nearly 2 years later. There is always new things to learn.....as new situations arise.
Even now, I am retiring some of my original hedgies, which were considered GOOD breeding quality. Due to a recent discovery of a couple WHS hedgies, many reputable breeders are in search of hedgies with EXCEPTIONAL breeding quality.....as we continue to try and breed out the WHS genes.
Anyone interested in becoming a breeder should have AT LEAST the following:
+ Substantial financial means: emergency surgery is expensive, and a strong possibility of birthing related complications should be considered if one wishes to breed hedgehogs. A minimal of $2000, should be set aside for such emergencies.
+ A strong heart and stomach: Not only is there the possibility the babies may not survive, but there is also a possibility of losing the mother. This would be especially devastating if the hedgehog is a beloved pet, as many are.
+ A trusted mentor: Someone you can call at any time of the day or night, if anything should arise. Many people have more than one person they can call, as a safety net.
+ Hedgehogs: not just "pet quality hedgehogs". All hedgehogs should be free of disease, and should be unrelated. WHS is a devastating disease, and all steps should be taken to prevent this tragedy in further generations of hedgehogs.
+ A deep understanding of all things hedgehog: this transcends the basics such as proper diet, and temperature requirements. A strong understanding of hedgehogs behavior, physical development, physical abnormalities, possible aliments, and genetics.
+ Time, and lots of it: caring for one hedgehog is time consuming. Caring for multiple hedgehogs and there offspring is exponentially more time consuming.
There is always a chance mother hedgehogs will reject their babies. If this is the case, and there are no foster mothers available, babies will have to be hand feed. This has to take place every two hours, for weeks.
+ A fantastic exotics vet: A vet with hedgehogs experience is a must, especially in the case of an emergency.
+ Homes for all babies: Once you have bred your hedgehogs, you need a place to out them. All homes should be carefully screened.
+ Plenty of space: Once babies are weaned from their mother, they need a cage of their own. Males must be separated from females. There is a possibility males may fight with each other, and require individual cages.
Aside from everything that has been mentioned I would also like to note that unless you can fully devote your time to the litter and mother then do NOT breed.
What happens if you need to handfeed a baby every few hours?
You need to be available.
It is not about money, it is not about "experiencing" babies or the joy of birth....
It is about being responsible for another life and I don't know if a lot of people truly realize that.
This is not something to enter into blindly.
1) Please know the ins and outs of taking care of a hedgehog as a pet first.
2)Then start talking to a mentor BEFORE considering even buying breeding quality hedgehogs. The mentor will help advise you in finding suitable ones, what to look for in lineage, etc.
3) Have a network!! As Gnarly said you will very likely need to someone to call - if your mentor is not available, you should be able to call someone else.
4) If possible have a breeder nearby that you trust. I know that this is not an option for most people, however, if it is one for you then take advantage of it. Not only will there be support nearby, but possible surrogates if needed.
5) Be prepared for the worst. I really hate to sound pessimistic, but so often people get caught up in the joyous occassion of it all... The mortality rate is so high for litters. Anything from stillbirths, cannibalism, or rejection can happen. Can you handle seeing bodies and blood from a baby that has been half-eaten? Can you handle the mother dying?
6) Have a list of vets that are readily available to you. In the case of an emergency you want to have more than one resource to rely on.
7) Have money set aside, as Gnarly said.
8) Be prepared to take care of the litter until every one of them has a home.
9) Don't sell a baby to just anybody.
10) Be available to answer questions to potential owners.
There is more of course, that's all I can think of now. No, I'm not a breeder I just wanted to add my point of view on it because I too have seen people deciding out of nowhere that they want to breed. I think it was a very smart idea to make this thread. Kudos to Nancy, Gnarly, and PixiesExoticHedgies (who came up with the idea).
I think anyone contemplating breeding should own hedgehogs for at least 1 full year and ideally should have owned a few for the lifespan of the hedgehogs. Caring for ill hedgehogs, elderly hedgehogs and experiencing all life stages helps gives valuable insight into all aspects of hedgehog care and ownership. Reading information off the internet is no substitute for hands on experience. Ideally I think a breeder should have experienced illness and syringe feeding, hibernation attempts, behaviour issues, and death.
I also feel the potential breeder should be well acquainted with their vet which can only happen if the vet has been caring for other hedgehogs the person owns. Having a good relationship with the vet is very important in emergency situations or even if all you need is a phone consultation.
Finances are extremely important and vet bills can mount up quickly. Anyone who has a tight budget or who is dependent on parents to pay vet bills should not be breeding. We hear too many stories of the hedgehog needing vet care and the owner either can't afford the vet or the parent refuses to spend the money.
A room of their own. Mom and her expectant family deserve and need a quiet space for her to deliver. There also needs to be space for multiple cages for when the babies start to wean and need to be separated from mom.
I have already posted these CODE OF ETHICS on the 'Breeder Ethics' thread. But, I'm reposting them here also. Following the Breeder Code of Ethics, is definitely a REQUIREMENT!!
Breeder Code of Ethics by: HBA = Hedgehog Breeders Alliance
"Breed to Improve"
Responsible breeders do not breed unless they are convinced that their knowledge, experience, and devotion to their hedgehogs will result in a mating that will produce an exceptional litter of babies, with qualities that are as near as possible to the ideal for hedgehogs. They breed to preserve and to enhance the characteristics that make their hedgehogs unique. They breed to improve health, longevity and exceptional personalities.
I will breed discriminately and only if I am sure I can find appropriate homes for my baby hedgehogs. I will place babies in homes that I believe will provide a life long commitment of love, care and appreciation, including adequate vet care.
Any hedgehog sold, will be sold under the following conditions:
1. Breeder guarantees that the hedgehog is in good health and condition at the time of sale. 2. Breeder will encourage the new owner to have the hedgehog examined by their own vet within a few days of purchase to ensure good condition and health. Breeder will include names of vets in the area that will see and assist in the treatment of hedgehogs. 3. Breeder will inform the new owner of possible inherent health issues known to affect hedgehogs. 4. Breeder agrees to complete USDA Aphis Form 7020 (Record of Acquisition, Disposition or Transport of Animals) or other USDA approved forms if they are a USDA licensed breeder in the USA. 5. All Breeder members are required to register their hedgehogs (this includes all hedgehogs in the care of the breeder) within two months of becoming members.
Breeder will provide registration form and/or pedigree information to the new owner. 6. Breeder will encourage the new owner to contact them with questions regarding their new hedgehog, and breeder agrees to respond in a timely manner. Breeder will provide their phone number and e-mail for questions and follow up support. 7. Breeder agrees to use HBA provided forms for the deposit/sales agreements and care sheets. If breeder has their own forms, they may be used with approval of the Board. 8. Breeder will give a supply of food with each baby sold, with instructions how to feed and how to change foods if desired. 9. Breeder agrees to take the baby back should they need to find a home for the hedgie; breeder will emphasize to the new owner that the breeder is to be contacted first to provide a new home. 10. Breeder will sell their hedgehogs with a health guarantee and a WHS warranty. Breeder will adhere to both the guarantee and warranty. Any animal bred by the Breeder, which proven by necropsy to have WHS is to be guaranteed and replaced, free of charge, by the Breeder. If a necropsy is not provided, the replacement of the animal will be governed by the Breeder's individual replacement policy. Breeder will notify Buyer of his or her individual replacement policy (as well as the HBA Minimum Standard) before purchase as an item included in Buyer's purchase agreement. Breeder will supply Buyer with a copy of the guarantee, which will be signed and dated by both parties at the time of purchase. 11. Breeder has the right to refuse a sale if in any doubt the hedgehog will have a good and safe home. 12. Breeder will help the new owners consider the best way of identifying their hedgehog which can include registering with the registry or by micro-chipping. 13. The seller shall provide the purchaser with an IHR Registry transfer form, duly completed and signed by the seller. 14. Breeder agrees that no female will be bred under the age of 6 months. 15. Breeder will not willingly breed any hedgehog with a known genetic defect/disorder. Breeder will inform the new owner of any genetic defects/disorders that appear in the lineage of their hedgehog after the sale. 16. Breeder will not release a baby under the age of 6 weeks. Breeder will ensure that the baby is eating, drinking and gaining weight before being released to the new owner. 17. Breeder agrees not to breed ill animals, nor sell ill animals. 18. Breeder agrees to separate weanlings by the age of 7 weeks, except with special needs cases, so they do not breed with mother or siblings. Males will be housed separately from females. 19. Breeder will treat for parasites when needed and seek vet assistance if they are unsure if parasites are present. Breeder will not knowingly sell a hedgehog harboring parasites. 20. Breeder will examine each hedgehog carefully and recognize its flaws. If you decide to continue with the breeding process, look for a mate that will eliminate or balance those flaws. 21. Inbreeding is breeding two very closely related hedgehogs; mother-son, father-daughter, brother-sister. Inbreeding is NOT condoned by the HBA. It is not wise to inbreed because genetic flaws are more likely to surface since the gene pool is not diversified. What often causes genetic defects is recessive genes lurking in the hedgehog's backgrounds. Breeding closely related animals brings a greater chance for these defective genes to pair off and express themselves. Any weaknesses, faults, deformities, etc, are likely to show up. An example would be WHS. The disease can be magnified in hedgehogs who have it in their family and are inbred. A genetic flaw can also be "bred out". This is when a hedgehog who has a defect in its family continues to breed with other hedgehogs who are known not to have the flaw. Reputable breeders DO NOT inbreed and it should NOT be done. Line-breeding is a tool breeder use to develop, isolate and set specific desirable traits into succeeding generations. Breeding two hedgehogs that share relatives several generations back, but DO NOT share the same mother, father or grandparents is considered line-breeding. Therefore, breeding a male hedgehog and a female hedgehog that share a great-great-great grandfather would be considered line-breeding. This is done to preserve some of the aspects of the line. It is not inbreeding and reputable breeders are very careful to closely study the hedgehog's pedigrees to make the best possible match. One must remember that line-breeding is a program that produces animals from a single line of descent from a common or a few common outstanding ancestors. The goal is not to reproduce the quality of the ancestors but to try and maintain as many of their good qualities as possible while improving their deficiencies by refining the genetics of the line. Ultimately line-breeding is a simple concept that can be extremely complicated as a breeding tool. It should not be practiced unless you know exactly what you are doing. Reputable breeders do however linebreed occasionally. 22. It is recommended that breeders do not sell to any Commercial wholesale or retail pet dealers. IF the breeder does sell to the commercial or retail market, it is required that the store or dealer be USDA licensed (if in the US). NO hedgehog will be given as a prize or donation in a competition of any kind, or sold via internet auction or private auction.
A breeder selling to any commercial or retail dealer will share the info regarding that dealer, name, address and USDA number to the committee for distribution of appropriate HBA care sheet. 23. Breeders must not knowingly misrepresent the characteristics of the breed nor falsely advertise hedgehog nor mislead any person regarding the health or quality of the hedgehog. 24. Retirees shall either be kept by the breeder and cared for properly or given to an experienced, knowledgeable person who is willing to care for any geriatric problems which may arise. 25. As an ethical breeder, I will seek the advice and experience of others. I will be willing to continue educating myself about hedgehog breeding.
Breeder Code of Ethics by: IHA = International Hedgehog Association
The IHA provides this code of ethics, as a guideline by which to evaluate the practices of hedgehog breeders. We recognize that there is a wide range of acceptable practice, but ask that IHA Registered breeders adhere to this code.
As an ethical breeder, I...
· will not knowingly breed an unhealthy hedgehog.
· will not sell an animal with significant health issues. If minor health issues that are expected to resolve rapidly, such as a healing scab, are present, I will provide full disclosure and follow-up assistance.
· will keep alert for and work to eradicate inherited problems.
· will obtain and maintain all required local, regional, and/or federal licensure.
· will represent my hedgehogs as honestly as possible to prospective buyers and will try to assist the serious novice in their understanding.
· will not knowingly falsify any records, pedigrees, or registrations.
· will not perform any line breeding without serious consideration as to the potential negative consequences, and will not purposely breed first degree relatives without good reason or without first consulting with others as to the advisability.
· will ensure that I have experience with hedgehogs as a species and with breeding animals in general before undertaking a hedgehog breeding project.
· will seek an experienced mentor to assist me when I start breeding hedgehogs, and will seek to increase my knowledge and share knowledge with others as I progress.
· will ensure adequate health care for my hedgehogs.
· will not knowingly breed a hedgehog that may carry a health problem that is suspected of being genetically linked.
· will make a written copy of my policies and guarantees available to all customers, including replacement policy.
· will feed my hedgehogs a reasonably appropriate diet.
· will make reasonable efforts to keep my cages free from filth.
· will provide clean food and water.
· will provide an environment that is within an appropriate temperature range and understand that atelerix albiventris and/or atelerix algirus are not meant to hibernate.
· will keep records of my lineage and participate in the International Hedgehog Registry.
· will provide cages that are sufficiently sized for adequate movement, and that provide adequate ventilation.
· will make reasonable efforts to ensure that buyers of my hedgehogs are not making an uninformed, impulse purchase and can provide appropriate, long-term care.
· will not allow babies to leave my care until they are weaned, recognizing that this is generally around 6 weeks old, unless it is under special circumstances and care is taken to meet the baby's needs.
· Will not openly sell hedgehogs to persons in places where they are illegal, regardless of the level of enforcement that takes place and I will not willingly sell or place a hedgehog into a potentially dangerous situation and/or environment.
1. Genetic Knowledge. I believe anyone who breeds any animal should have at least a basic understanding of genetics. They should know the dangers associate with inbreeding/line breeding, as well as the associated risks involved in outcrossing. It is not as simple as putting two unrelated animals together, as the results can be the same, if not worse, as a poor-choice line breeding. The difference is the fact that you have lost the identity of the carrier in the outcross. Breeders to be should research pedigrees to know what they are buying. Knowing the names in the pedigrees does nothing if you have no knowledge of their history.
2. Honesty. I believe a breeder should be prepared to be completely honest about the strengths and weaknesses of their lines and work diligently to improve these weaknesses.
3. An Open Wallet. Something can always go wrong and in some cases, it may affect the breeder's entire stock. A breeder should be certain they are able and willing to do anything possible for the health and wellbeing of their animals. Hobbies cost money and you rarely hear of breeding being referred to as a business.
4. Plan B, C, and D. A good breeder will always have a plan for everything they do, period. They also will spend time thinking, with the best interest of the animals in mind, about what to do if that plan does not work.
5. Backbone and Open Mindedness. Although they may not necessarily go looking for it, a good breeder will have the courage to withstand criticism. No breeder will have the same views as another. In some cases, it is beneficial to research and accept criticism and apply it towards whatever it is that is being criticized. No one is perfect and stubbornness and a big head only preserves ego, it does not benefit a breeding program.
6. Love for the Animals. Animals are not cash cows. They are living, breathing creatures who deserve more than just what they need to get by. It first takes the love of the animal. If love and the best intentions are present, everything else should come naturally. If it doesn't, or if it is too much work, then I would honestly have to question the motive.
Eternal, that is thee most well written and educated comments I have read in a long time. I think you have written the code of ethics I will follow. Too many people want to lecture and make demands/requirements. It is much more empowering to inspire. I will definitely take advantage of your wisdom, and hopefully soon schedule that trip to Michigan!
I would also like to add more regarding the mentor, being that everyone is open to input and respectful of everyone opinions. As newbies, my partner and I have had hedgehogs for a year. We actually love the animal and that is our sole motivation to start a breeding program. We have already invested thousands and are completely ok with the fact we will not come near breaking even on our investment. We are committed to giving them the best environment that includes spacious cages and wheels. We have done a tremendous amount of research, but as someone stated above, that doesn't even touch what you need to know. We sought a mentor early on whom we have great respect for, but as Ashley stated, we are all individual breeders who will not always agree to how things will be done. That is human nature, and why we have chosen to reach out to many breeders for advise. It is easy to follow standards of care stated in these code of ethics, and I feel most breeders have well thought out intentions and breeding programs as we have striven too. I must also state that there are many in this breeding community who are not welcoming to newbies. For every person who received us with well wishes and advise, there were probably two who completely ignored us OR were not so kind. There seems to be an unspoken "list" that exists. A clique per say. I understand the caution, as I am sure breeders see people come and go, some with bad intent. IF it has been deserved. I have a greater amount of respect for the people who responded or reached out to us to ask us what we were about. They took what we had to say and formed their own opinion, and those who gave us a voice are now our friends. If this community wants to come together for the betterment of breeding hedgehogs AND enforce mentor ship; this community must also open their mind and impression of new breeders and how they respond to them.
This may only be my perception, but perception is everything to the person sitting in my seat.
I have been owned by Rocket, my first Hedgehog for almost a year now. Recently, out of adoration for the animal, I acquired another hedgie, and I LOVE her so much!! She is amazing! When I got her, she was pregnant. I am going through the baby thing now, and I am nervous. Of course I'm nervous! I wasn't expecting my PET to be bred! I think with a lot more research, time to prepare, and time on these boards, I would not be nervous at all. I really want to eventually breed hedgies. Maybe in a year. Maybe in ten. At some point, I want to help bring the joy of hedgehogs to my state, as there is only ONE (licensed) breeder here. My questions are: 1. Do breeding hedgies have to be kept in breeding racks to be licensed? Could I not have cages similar to guinea pig cages and aquariums with screens with proper temperature control? I used to keep snakes, and I know that snakes are kept in breeding racks, too. I'm sorry if this sounds ignorant, but I feel like breeding racks limits their interaction with us as pets? It seems to be less loving? Again...I'm not trying to offend anyone...only understand. I know with snakes, people classify them as "breeders" and "pets". Breeders are often mean. But that's not part of the hedgie code of ethics...to breed an ill-tempered animal. So could I just have multiple large enclosures?
Also: Do multiple hedgies house together? I have my separated now (Rocket and Muffin are different genders and also pet store hedgies...it'll be a no-no to mix them!), but have read about people having same-gendered animals together. I read in a book that hedgies can poke each other's eyes out?? Is this true?? I read that all hedgies have to be housed alone unless breeding. Can anyone shed some light?
If I wanted to look at making the jump into breeding in the next couple of years, would you guys recommend talking to someone now, or having a semi-mentor now? Or would I have to wait until I'm ready to buy hedgies from licensed breeders?
How do you know if your breeders are related or not?? Even if you buy them from opposite sides of the country, there's a chance they're related, right? And I notice that the code of ethics says not to breed 1st strain relations. Is it ok to breed 2nd and 3rd? That seems bizarre to me!
Any information would be appreciated. I'm not doing this any time soon, I want to research, talk to people, save a lot of money, and then make a responsible decision based upon all of the above.