Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Young? The Surprising Truth!

You may have heard stories that hedgehogs eat their young and that they often choose the weakest babies or hoglets in their litter.

But is this actually true? Or are the stories of hedgehogs eating their young only myth?

In this post, you will find all your questions answered regarding hedgehogs eating their babies.

We have used our insights and experience as well as using the research of top animal care experts to give you all the answers you need.

So do hedgehogs eat their young? Hedgehogs are known to eat their young in certain circumstances. There are many reasons why a hedgehog will eat their hoglets, one of which is not having enough food resources to feed all of the babies. This may result in the mother eating a hoglet so she can adequately feed the rest of the litter.

Read on to discover…

Do Wild Hedgehogs Eat Their Young?

Wild hedgehogs do actually eat their young if they need to. This is backed up by Live Science who states in a recent article that both the mother and male hedgehogs are known to eat hoglets in the wild.

Hedgehogs can have anywhere between 1-7 hoglets in the wild and the average litter size is 3 hoglets according to Veteriankey.

Out of each litter, only around 50% of the hoglets will be successfully weaned.

You can find out exactly how long it takes a baby hedgehog to be weaned in this post right here…spoiler – it’s not as long as you may think!

There could be many reasons for the high mortality rate of these baby hedgehogs, however, it has to be said that some of these deaths can be accounted to either the mother or another male eating babies in some cases.

While this may sound disturbing to many people reading this for the first time, it’s actually natural and sometimes necessary for survival.

Later in the post, we walk you through the 4 big reasons why hedgehogs eat their babies and also how you can reduce this risk if you have a pet hedgehog with hoglets.

Do Domesticated Hedgehogs Eat Their Young?

Just like wild hedgehogs, domesticated/pets hedgehogs are also known to eat their young.

Even though the hedgehogs are bred in a captive environment, they still hold many of their natural instincts and behaviours.

This includes basic survival instincts that a mother hedgehog may be forced to use if necessary.

At the bottom of the post, we list several things you can do as an owner that ensure a mother hedgehog doesn’t feel stressed when rearing her hoglets.

If you want to know if hedgehogs can actually live together in the same cage then check out this post that shares everything you need to know…

Now let’s take a closer look at exactly why a hedgehog may eat their young…

Why Do Hedgehogs Eat Their Young?

According to National Geographic, lots of animals eat their babies throughout the animal kingdom so this isn’t a behaviour that’s exclusive to hedgehogs.

The fundamental reason for a mother to eat their hoglets is for survival although we can break this down into 4 specific reasons and situations.

Let’s take a closer look at each situation below…

1. Can’t Consistently Find Enough Food

One of the main reasons why a mother will eat one or more of her hoglets is because she is struggling to find enough food to feed her and all of her babies.

Her survival instincts kick in and she understands that if all of the hoglets stay alive and need feeding then there’s a chance that she and all the hoglets will starve and possibly die.

On the other hand, if she kills and eats 1 or possibly 2 hoglets then there are 2 fewer mouths to feed and she and the rest of her hoglets have a chance of surviving on what food is available.

This might sound very harsh and even heartless but when it comes down to survival the mother hedgehog is thinking, “we either all starve and die or two of us die and the rest of us survive”.

In effect, she has sacrificed two of her hoglets to save the others.

As for why she will actually eat them once they are dead, this can be to not waste any nutrients and hard to come by food and also to hide the smell and carcass from any predators that may pass by.

2. Unhealthy Hoggett

Sometimes mothers will eat one of their young if they feel that it has some sort of birth defect or illness that is problematic.

The world of nature is far removed from that of our own and for the most part, is very unforgiving.

Any animal that’s struggling is a target for predators and doesn’t have much of a chance of making it very long once they leave their mother.

If a mother notices that one of her hoglets isn’t going to be able to make it in the wild or if it’s even compromising the safety of the other hoglets when they are out looking for food together for example, then she might make the decision to end the hoglets live early.

Again, to us humans this sounds barbaric but the mother hedgehogs natural instincts are to look at the welfare of the majority of her hoglets as opposed to just the one.

3. Fear Of a Predator

Hedgehogs also eat their young if they suspect that a predator is going to eat them.

This may sound counter-productive but it actually makes perfect sense even if it’s very harsh.

Let me explain…If a predator is going to eat the hoglets and the mother hedgehog is in a position where she is struggling for food and thinks that if she is going to lose her hoglets anyway then she might as well be the one to eat them and gain the nutrients.

This will then allow her to stay alive, have another litter next year and hopefully, next time more of her hoglets will survive.

Again, this is a ruthless survival technique that us humans wouldn’t even contemplate but many of the animal kingdoms do this by nature.

4. Males Eat Babies to Mate

Something that often gets overlooked is that males can sometimes eat hoglets too.

This doesn’t have to be the father of the young either, this can be any male in the area.

If a male sees a female with hoglets it can sometimes eat the hoglets so it has the chance to mate again with the female.

This is another practice that’s seen throughout the animal kingdom and not just with hedgehogs.

Do Hedgehogs Eat All Their Young?

While all hedgehogs can have the natural instincts to eat their young, not all will eat their young.

This will hugely depend on the factors in the hedgehog’s environment which we mentioned above.

If you have a pet hedgehog that has given birth to hoglets then there are a few things you can do to minimize the stress of the mother and help to reduce the risk of her eating any of her young.

If you look at the bottom of this post, we have included a list of things you can do to help keep your hedgehog stress free until she has weaned her young.

Can I Reduce The Chance Of My Hedgehog Eating Her Young?

If you have a pet hedgehog that just gave birth to hoglets then keeping the mother stress free can help to reduce the possibility of her eating any of her young.

While it’s not a guarantee, if the mother feels like the hoglets are in any kind of danger or don’t have enough food then this can trigger her to go into a survival mode.

It’s also handy to know at what age a hedgehog is fully grown? Head over to this guide where we show the surprising age that hedgehogs are fully grown…

Take a look at the list below, it will give you an idea as to the sort of things that can trigger stress in a mother hedgehog and possibly allow her to think her hoglets are in danger…

  • No male in the cage (can eat babies)
  • No loud noises (TV or radio)
  • No large pets (can be mistaken for a predator)
  • Places to hide in the cage (allows the mother to feel safe with her hoglets)
  • Don’t put your scent of the babies (can make the mother not recognise her hoglets)
  • Always provide lots of food and water (ensures the mother always feels she can feed the babies)

Adam Woods

Hi, My name is Adam. I'm the main author of Pocket Pets Forever. I'm a pocket pet enthusiast and I love sharing my knowledge and passion for these amazing animals. Thank you for supporting us on our journey as we continue to publish content with the aim of helping owners care for their pets in the best way possible!

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