Natural enclosure or bio active
There are two ways to housing a hedgehog as natural as possible. A natural setup or a bio active setup which maintains itself. But what does is all mean and what are the differences between the two?
In a natural setup you recreate a natural environment of the animal that’s supposed to live in the enclosure. The bedding, hides, background, everything is modified to the natural needs of the animal.
Bio active enclosure
A bio active setup goes a little further. You’ll do the same as with a natural setup, but the bedding is modified to keep small animals alive which clean up all of the mess a hedgehog makes; a clean up crew. They will feed on stools but also on rotting vegetables or meat. The stools of those small animals are than used as fertilizer for the plants and that’s how you get an enclosure which maintains itsef and doesn’t need to be cleaned.
After an enclosure and a background the first step is: the bedding. However there are multiple options and you don’t really need a modified bedding if you’re only going natural, the basics are pretty much the same. Cocopeat and play sand are the most used kinds of bedding and often get mixed in about 2:1 parts. For a natural setup this doesn’t mean too much; the hedgehogs themselves prefer a dryer bedding and thus a bit more sand. That’s also good with cleaning because dirty, wet sand is easily recognizable in the enclosure. In a mix with cocopeat it’s harer but it will smell less and is a bit firmer when walking. Also quartz sand for reptiles is often used in enclosures that are made even more like the Sahel region. Do not use calci sand (both calci and quartz sands are referred to as reptile sand) as it will clump and may cause internal issues when eaten.
In a bio active setup the soil mixture of cocopeat and sand is a bit more important as you want your clen up crew to survive and preferably thriving. The more small animals the better they’ll clean up. For this way of setting up an enclosure it’s common to used 2 parts of moist cocopeat and 1 part of sand, but some people also do a full layer of moist cocopeat on the bottom and put a layer of sand on top and under the litter.
The next step is the litter that comes on top of the bedding. This layer is to give a bit firmness when walking but also to provide nesting material to the hedgehog and close off the bedding so it’ll stay moist enough for the clean up crew. It can consist out of all different kinds of litter: little twigs, dried leafs, coco husk or tree bark pieces and hay.
Wood & stones
After the litter you can add rocks, wood and plants. For the rocks slates, lava rocks and boulders are often used. You can creat higher platforms with it for example to let a hide disappear in the bedding. driftwood or spiderwood are often used woods but you could also use wood from fruit trees.
Hides and sleeping spots
Hollow out a piece of treetrunk and disguise it as a hide is a good solution as alternative to plastic houses.
With plants it’s mainly case to search for safe plants. Safe for cats, dogs and small rodents is a good guideline. Below you’ll see a few plants that are safe to use. Caution: not all hedgehogs leave plants alone.
Be cautious with Aloë species: some of them are etremely toxic while others in the familie are completely safe or only cause minor issues when a hedgehog eats a lot of it. Aloë buettneri is one of the few safe species as it only causes minor diarrhea when eaten a lot regularly.
Clean up crew
Caring for the clean up crew
Food & humidity