To some, hedgehogs are pests. To others hedgehogs are pets. One way to identify hedgehogs is their possession of quills just like porcupines.
So, like porcupines, can hedgehogs shoot their quills? The answer is no, hedgehogs cannot shoot their quills.
Hedgehogs can use their quills for defense by pointing out their quills, tucking their head and legs into their body, and rolling into a ball to protect their stomach, but they don’t actually shoot the quills.
This article covers all you need to know about hedgehog quills.
What Are The Quills of Hedgehogs Used For?
Turtles have shells for defense. Some animals have excellent camouflaging skills that help them hide from predators.
For hedgehogs, their quills are their defense mechanism. When hedgehogs are threatened, they point out their quills into a crisscross pattern, tuck their head and limbs into their body, and roll into a ball.
The hedgehog balls with quills make it very difficult for predators to harm so they can stay safe.
Unlike porcupines, hedgehogs do not shoot their quills. Hedgehog quills, however, can break and fall off.
If you have ever seen a quill on the ground, do not think that it was shot by a hedgehog. Instead, know that it just broke or fell off (just the way our hair breaks and falls).
What Are Hedgehog Quills Made Of?
Hedgehog quills are made of keratin.
Keratin is a hard protein used by several organisms for defense. Just like hedgehog quills, your fingernails are made of keratin. The feathers of chickens are also made of keratin.
Hedgehogs use their quills for defense in the same way other animals have their defensive structures.
Are Hedgehog Quills Venomous?
Hedgehogs are not known to produce venom in their quills.
Also, keratin (i.e. the quills) is not poisonous in any way. Wild hedgehogs that live and play in the dirt, however, can promote the growth of bacteria and some protozoans that can be harmful in their quills.
You should not handle wild hedgehogs with your bare hands and before you touch a wild hedgehog, make sure that it is clean and dry.
Why Do Hedgehogs Become Defensive?
Hedgehogs raise and point out their quills when they feel threatened. Here are a reasons they can feel threatened:
1. They See a Predator
Hedgehogs get scared when they see predators, so they protect themselves with their quills. Here are common hedgehog predators:
- Birds (For example owls)
2. You Surprise Them
If you shock hedgehogs or you unsuspectedly touch them, they might get scared and become defensive (by raising their quills, tucking their head and limbs into their body, and forming a ball).
When handling hedgehogs, do so gently so that you do not get injured by their quills.
3. They Are New
Hedgehogs that are not familiar with their place will feel threatened by you a lot of the time.
Don’t worry. When they come to realize that you are not a threat to them, they will gladly accept you.
How to Make Hedgehogs Feel Safe around You
Here are a few ways to make hedgehogs feel safe around you:
1. Do Not Chase or Threaten Them
If you chase or threaten hedgehogs frequently, you can scare them and delay the time they need to get used to you.
You should always treat them with love and care so that they can get used to your presence as quickly as possible.
2. Feed Them
Give them food constantly.
If you can, you should sometimes feed them with your hands. If they accept food from your hands, it means that they are becoming used to you.
To encourage hedgehogs to feel safe around you quickly, you should feed them with insects and some of their favorite meals.
Examples of hedgehog meals include:
- Pet feed
- Insect larvae
You should have constant pet feed for your hedgehogs and supplement their diets with treats as well.
3. Pet and Play with Them
Sometimes, carry your hedgehog, rub its stomach, and play with it.
Hedgehogs are fun to be with and will also accept you faster when you play with them.
Make sure that they are clean before you handle them.
4. Keep More Than One Hedgehog
Hedgehogs can feel lonely when they are alone in their cage.
You should have other hedgehogs around. Hedgehogs can learn from other hedgehogs, so if one hedgehog sees that others are safe around you, it too will come closer to you.
5. Give Them Time
Your pet hedgehog will not feel safe around you immediately.
They need time to accept you. Just continue to follow the other tips above until you make progress.
When your hedgehogs stop to form balls of quills anytime you are around, know that they are finally feeling safe with you.
Don’t worry, they will accept you soon.
Related Questions and Answers
Common questions about hedgehogs:
1. Are Hedgehog Quills Edible?
Asking this question is like asking if chicken feathers or your fingernails are edible.
The answer is definitely not. Hedgehog quills (i.e. keratin), however, can be processed to make an ingredient in animal feeds.
2. Can Hedgehogs Roll?
When hedgehogs become balls of quills, they do not roll over to other places.
They stay in one spot. Although it would be fun to see a rolling hedgehog, sadly, this is not one of their talents.I
3. Do Hedgehogs Carry Their Food with Their Quills?
Some people have seen fruits, leaves, insects, and other items that hedgehogs eat in their quills.
Those items fell on the quill or got stuck due to exterior factors.
Hedgehogs do not purposely carry anything on their quills.
Hedgehogs are cute pets that can raise their quills when they feel threatened.
To make your pet hedgehogs feel safe around you, follow the tips in this article.
Remember that hedgehogs do not shoot their quills and you should not eat hedgehog quills.