What is quilling?

Hedgehog quills are modified hairs, much like the center part of a feather, minus the fluff. When a hedgehog baby is born, it has no quills. Within the first hour or so, soft, fine, white baby quills emerge. By two weeks old, babies have another set of soft quills, often with colored bands. When they get to about four to five weeks old, they begin to grow in a set of thicker, longer, tougher quills that can cause great discomfort when they start poking through. This is referred to as "quilling."


Quilling can be very uncomfortable. Imagine the pain human babies feel when they are teething, but all over your body! This really uncomfortable phase of quilling and crankiness generally lasts from when babies are about four weeks old until they are about eight weeks old, sometimes more or less. Some hedgies continue to gain and lose quills that can change their entire color pattern (from solid to snowflake or white) over the course of up to their first year!


The baby in the picture above is about a week old and very cranky about quilling! I used the yellow circle to highlight one of the large adult quills that is partially grown in. The red circle shows one of the small, fine, dark baby quills. Directly to the right of the red circle is one of the white baby quills- you can see how much fatter it is than the newly emerging quill circled in yellow!

The majority of hedgehog babies get cranky for at least a week or two while quilling, with most calming down by the time they are 8 to 12 weeks old. Adjustment to a new home generally seems to go smoother and bonding is easier if babies are past their quilling and already calmed down. Hedgehogs seem to be an exception to the generally tendency of animals to bond better when they are younger. They bond better when they feel better! For this reason, we generally wait to place babies in their new homes when they are 7 to 8 weeks old, even though they are typically weaned at 6 weeks. We want both you and your hedgehog to have a good experience together.

This does not mean that it is automatically going to be a disaster if you bring home a  weaned but quilling baby who is experiencing discomfort and crankiness. What it means is that you have no way of knowing whether baby is always going to be shy, or if it's only because of quilling. If you are patient and spend quiet lap time with your new companion, it will help baby to know that it is safe and will promote bonding with you.

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What is quilling?

Hedgehog quills are modified hairs, much like the center part of a feather, minus the fluff. When a hedgehog baby is born, it has no quills....