The often heard comment that “hedgehogs like to keep us guessing” is especially true when it comes to trying to predict what color a baby hedgehog will grow up to be. As a breeder, this can be very frustrating when people want to purchase a baby in a specific color. Some people get very irritated with me when I tell them that I cannot promise that babies from white parents will grow up to be whites, or that babies from apricot parents will grow up to be apricots! Quite frankly, they just might or might not. I prefer to watch and wait before promising a specific color. What happens while we wait?
Initially, all babies are born pink and without quills. Within about an hour, they start to get little white quills. Then in the next day or so, if they are going to be a darker hedgie, they begin to get some pigment to the skin, and quills with pigmented bands grow in. Sometimes these banded quills have really odd shades of gray or tan, and people think they have a new color of hedgie. At about two to three weeks, they go through a quilling process and get a second set of baby spines that may be another different shade. The adult quills usually start to emerge when baby is about 6 to 8 weeks old. A hedgehog that will be a white or snowflake usually looks just like any other solid color hedgie until this process begins.
By about three weeks old, the eyes open. If the hedgehog is Algerian or in the darker color range, then the eyes will look black. If the hedgie is going to be in the lighter color range, then its eyes will look red. An albino will have pink eyes. Sometimes eyes can look garnet colored at 3 weeks old, but may darken to black by 6 or so weeks old in the case of a dark cinnacot or a black- eyed cinncot. The skin and nose may also slightly darken in pigment, so that a baby that looked apricot at 1 or 2 weeks may look like a red-eyed cinnacot at 3 weeks, and a black-eyed cinnacot at 6 weeks. Likewise, a baby that is very, very dark and has black spines at 3 weeks may lighten skin pigment and grow in slightly lighter bands during this time.
With all these changes going on, sometimes it seems like baby changes from day to day or week to week. It can be really fun or really frustrating when trying to guess what the final color will be! One thing that you usually can tell all along is whether the baby will be a pinto or papillion, if it has pigmented skin. This is because the areas where the white quills will grow in have only pink skin underneath. Sometimes the areas grow smaller as hedgie grows larger, but you can tell where the spots will be! Most babies finish changing by the time they are about 12 to 16 weeks old. Occasionally, hedgies will turn white or snowflake at older ages, but for the most part, you only have to wait the 3 to 4 months for the guessing game to be done!
This article was originally featured in the International Hedgehog Club Newsletter. This newsletter offers many informative articles about hedgehogs, and you can subscribe at the club's website! The hedgehog color identification system was developed by Bryan Smith. You can read more about his work on hedgehog colors at the Hedgehog Hobby page. This article may not be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2000/2001