Hedgehog is one mammal famous for its coat of spikes that are also called quills. The correct term to use for the quills or spikes is spines. The question that often arises is whether hedgehogs are born with quills or do they obtain them later in life?
Baby hedgehogs are born with quills or spines, but they are small. The spines are concealed carefully underneath the skin of the baby hedgehog, which has a protective layer of liquid. The protective layer prevents the mother form from getting hurt as she gives birth.
The coat of a baby hedgehog is quite different from an adult. A mature hedgehog has sharper spines that are strong and hard. On the other hand, baby hedgehogs possess a smoother and softer texture of spines.
Do Hedgehogs Come Out Spiky?
It is often an assumption that hedgehogs come out spiky. Well, that is not exactly the case.
When hedgehogs are born, their spines are underneath the surface of their skin. However, within a few hours of giving birth, the spines begin appearing on the baby hedgehog. The new spines arrive as the skin contracts.
A baby hedgehog will reveal around 150 new spikes soon after being born.
Baby hedgehogs look adorable with their white spines. Adult hedgehogs are often a combination of both white and black spines. Mature hedgehogs have around 7000 spines. As they mature, baby hedgehogs will replace their spines with adult ones.
Why Do Hedgehogs Have Quills?
Spines make an important part of a hedgehog’s body and its lifestyle. The coat of spikes provides the tiny creature with protection. If in the wild, the hedgehog can protect itself and keep enemies at bay. The spines stand if the hedgehog detects any fear.
The quills of the hedgehog are present on its back. The stomach and rest of the body have slightly stiff hair. The stomach of a hedgehog is soft, and to protect it, they curl into balls. The curled spine ball makes hedgehogs appear intimidating to their predators and makes it uncomfortable to touch.
What Do Hedgehog Quills Look Like?
People who have never had hedgehog as pets can find it difficult to imagine the quills from being anything other than prickly. Most people describe the quills are needles, and that is an unfair assumption to make.
The thick coat of spines is modified hollow hair made from keratin which is found in human hair. The hedgehog can control the spines through its muscles. The spines only stand when the hedgehog feels threatened; otherwise, they just lay flat.
Hedgehog quills are different from a porcupine. They are not barbed and are non-poisonous. Hedgehogs are safe to touch and pet, and that is why they make great pets!
Do Hedgehogs Quills Hurt?
The quills of hedgehogs are supposed to look intimidating; however, fear not! Hedgehogs make great pets and are easy and safe to hold. People are often afraid to keep hedgehogs as pets because they think that their quills are harmful.
One big misconception regarding hedgehogs is that they have barbed spines. Hedgehogs are confused with porcupines that have dangerous quills.
Hedgehogs have harmless spines with no poison or venom and are only used for defence in the wild. It is very unlikely that a hedgehog would prick you, and if it does pierce the skin, you should just disinfect the area.
How Do You Hold a Hedgehog?
Holding a hedgehog is no different from any other pet. When the spines on hedgehogs are in a relaxed position, they lay flat. You can then hold the hedgehog without any worries of it pricking you.
The quills lay flat, and all of them point in a downward direction. You should hold and pet your hedgehog in a downward direction and not against the direction of the quills.
When a hedgehog is angry, scared, or feels threatened, the quills stand upright in different directions. This is the time when you should not hold your hedgehog with bare hands as it will feel quite prickly.
You can handle your hedgehog with a thick glove or cloth to protect your hands.
Do Hedgehogs Lose their Quills?
All hedgehogs experience quilling. Quilling is a process where a baby hedgehog will lose the quills it had from birth and grow new ones. This process takes time and is slow. Quilling is rather uncomfortable for the hedgehog, just like teething for a baby.
During this time, hedgehogs might be irritable and moody.
Throughout a hedgehog’s lifetime, it will lose its spines. The process continues through adulthood, where the hedgehog’s quills will fall off and then be replaced by new ones. The hedgehog has over 5000 quills, and around 90 percent are replaced in its entire lifetime.
While quilling is normal every six to eight months, you should look out for your hedgehog’s health. If quilling occurs due to any other reason than ageing, it can be a sign your hedgehog is not well.
Some other reasons why your hedgehog may experience quilling are stress or lack of a nutritious diet.
Ensure that your hedgehog receives a complete diet and does not lack any nutrition. Keep your hedgehog in a cool and secure place where there are not any stress-triggering factors. Your hedgehog’s environment should be peaceful and calm.
Hedgehogs are born with quills, but they are hidden under their skin at the time of birth. Quills are important to the survival of hedgehogs in the wild. They keep the predators at bay and make them look intimidating.
However, as opposed to porcupines, the quills are not dangerous. You can hold pet hedgehogs without the fear of getting pricked, and therefore, they make great pets!
If you plan on housing a hedgehog, make sure they have a quiet environment. Loud noises upset hedgehogs and make them stressful causing them to lose their quills. If you have other pets, you must keep their interaction to a minimum.
While quilling is normal for hedgehogs as they progress into adulthood, the vet should check excessive quilling.