All hedgehogs go through a process called quilling. This is when their baby quills fall out and the adult quills fill in. Think of it as you would a baby teething. It's a slow process and it can be rather uncomfortable for the hedgehog. Much like teething, not all of the quills fall out at once; it's more like a quill here and another quill over there. The process can start at as early as 4 weeks and may continue through 6 months of age. During quilling, a hedgehog may be slightly moody and not want to be held as often. Some hedgehogs get nippy because they are sore and do not want to be touched. You can help your hedgehog through quilling by giving him an Aveeno bath. This will sooth the irritation caused by the new quills piercing the skin. Aveeno bath is a powdered oatmeal bath that is available in most grocery and drug stores. Add a little of the powder to warm water and let your hedgehog swim for about 5 mins. The water should be deep enough to force the hedgehog to swim and you can use a small cup to dump some of it over the tops of the hedgehog's quills. Never leave your hedgehog unattended because they can tire out and drown. After the bath, be sure to towel dry your them throughly and keep him or her away from drafts and out of the cold. Do not rinse off the Aveeno water, leave it on the skin to continue to do its job. Because hedgehogs have naturally dry skin, you will want to limit the number of baths you give them. Twice per week should be adequate for the toughest times.
You can tell when quilling is at its harshest point by separating your hedgehogs quills and looking at the skin on his back. You'll be able to see the new, slightly thicker, adult quills poking through. The more quills poking through, the more discomfort your hedgehog may be experiencing. Some hedgehogs go through quilling quick and relatively painlessly, while others experience it slowly with more discomfort.
However your hedgehog experiences this process, you can help them through it by being understanding to their mood swings. Don't let a moody hedgehog discourage you from picking him up. Continue your normal routine of care and play and don't let your pet bully you into getting its way. If necessary, keep a set of pot holders on the top of the cage and use them to help you retrieve your pet on those moody days.
Some hedgehogs may go through a second quilling when they are around 1 year old. The second quilling is not as harsh as the first, and most people never even realize it is happing. If you notice your hedgehog experiencing some moodiness and you see new quills poking through their skin, give them an Aveeno bath. Your hedgehog will continue to lose quills throughout its life, just as you lose a hair here and there, however you should never see a bald spot. If you do see a bald spot, it is an almost sure sign of mites and you should seek out treatment from an experienced exotics veterinarian immediately.