Movement is very important for hedgehogs; especially in captivity! They walk an average of 4 kilometers per night and some hedgehogs can cover up to double that in one night. This is of course not possible in captivity in an enclosure, so it is important to look for a good alternative. This can be done in two ways: by means of a running wheel in the accommodation or by means of ‘freeroaming’.
A running wheel is the easiest solution to make a hedgehog move a lot. They can easily get on the running wheel at any time and start running until they don't want to anymore. You can simply leave a running wheel in the enclosure, unless the hedgehog is sick or has injuries. Many different types of running wheels are available. Wooden running wheels are less suitable because they get dirty very quickly and are not easy to clean. You can paint them yourself with boat paint, so that they are easier to clean, then they are often suitable. Running wheels made of iron bars are not suitable, these hurt the sensitive legs of a hedgehog and can cause serious injuries. Plastic running wheels are suitable, as long as they have a smooth running surface. Aluminum running wheels are also suitable, although they are often quite pricey.
A running wheel must also meet a few conditions. For example, running wheels must be large enough for the hedgehog to walk with a straight back, the running surface must be smooth, the running wheel must be easy to clean (hedgehogs often do their job while walking, so also on the running wheel) and the running wheel must be wheel steady. The minimum size for a White-bellied Cone is 28.5 centimeters in diameter for a smaller Hedgehog and a White-bellied Cone with a normal build needs a running wheel of at least 30 centimeters in diameter. For North African hedgehogs this is at least 33 centimeters, but a larger one may certainly be necessary depending on the size of the hedgehog. Other types often fall in between these two types, so a minimum size of 30 centimeters in diameter is always recommended. if the hedgehog is larger than the largest available running wheel size, you can also make a running wheel yourself. The running wheel as in the photo is made with a large bucket, a roller skate wheel as wheel bearing and a collection of drain pipes to make a standard. These are usually silent due to the bearing in the roller skate wheel and with the drain pipes you can make a very sturdy standard. With this technique you can make a running wheel as big as you want!
The term freeroaming means 'to roam freely'. And that is exactly what is meant by this. Freeroaming is a good option if you have the space to expand the hedgehog enclosure with a large run of toys and houses that the hedgehog can access day and night. You then use the enclosure itself as a base with everything in it and you decorate the run with all kinds of different, interesting items such as a sand bath, a digging bucket, balls, plush toys and a sniffing mat. In this way you offer the hedgehog, next to his own enclosure, a space to play and move around. This is ideal for hedgehogs that are too large for standard sized running wheels or hedgehogs that are unable to run on a running wheel due to illness. But a combination of a running wheel and a run is also possible! If you place the running wheel in the enclosure, you can open and close the run and even determine how often and when the hedgehog can play in the run. If you only want to do free roaming, a space of at least 4 by 4 meters is really recommended to optimally encourage the movement of the hedgehog. A room that is safe enough to walk around freely is ideal. And of course the room has to be warm enough for the hedgehog too, so you will have to take the temperature of the room into account or if you are using a smaller run you could use an extra heat lamp in a clamp lamp.