When senior Farrah Nickerson first got her hedgehog Jordi, she never expected that in a year’s time, she would be owning and running her own hedgehog breeding and selling business.
Today though, she is the proud owner of JoJo’s Hedgies, a student-run hedgehog breeding company that now breeds nearly 60 hedgehogs. This company has been growing since its conception three years ago, selling to a wide variety of clients ranging from 7 to 60 years old.
“Hedgehogs are different and that’s why I love them. You can’t just walk into PetSmart and get them, but they are just as lovable as any other pet,” Nickerson said.
As a minor, Nickerson is required to be business partners with her parents. However, when she turns 18 on Feb. 6, 2019, she will run the business on her own. When Nickerson becomes the sole owner of her company, she hopes to expand the animals she sells by breeding tenrecs, which are small mammals native to Madagascar that look like hedgehogs, but are actually more closely related to shrews and moles.
“I want to work with tenrecs because they are extremely cool animals,” Nickerson said. “They’re rare in the U.S. and not everyone has them as a pet.”
Nickerson has a Florida Wildlife Conservation license and a U.S. Department of Agriculture license. The USDA is normally associated with food; however, they have another section that is specifically for animals. At the time she formed her business, Nickerson’s ownership of 15 female hedgehogs required her to obtain a USDA license, which is mandatory if you have more than four female hedgehogs.
“It’s a confusing regulation the USDA has. If you have more than four females, you have to get this license,” Nickerson said. “It was a long process, but it wasn’t hard. I was inspected by a vet and USDA officer and couldn’t starting selling until I had their complete approval.”
Nickerson sells African pygmy hedgehogs, which normally grow to be 6 to 11 inches in length and weigh between 10 to 25 ounces and have the ability to hibernate.
The hedgehogs do not require extensive work, but Nickerson still spends her weekends cleaning their cages and taking care of them. Babies do not necessarily need extra attention; however, she has to make sure they socialize daily.
Hedgehogs are classified as insectivores, or insect eaters. However, Nickerson feeds them high protein, low fat, dry cat food. Nickerson makes her customers aware of the type of cage and accessories required for proper care.
“It is important to have the proper equipment when raising hedgehogs,” Nickerson said. “It helps them live longer and better lives.”
After they are bred, Nickerson sells each hedgehog for $150 to $200. She has sold around 117 hedgehogs and makes about $7,000 a year, minus expenses and taxes. All of her earnings either go back to caring for the hedgehogs, to her college fund, or to herself to spend in her daily life.
Nickerson sells her hedgehogs all over the United States, any location where owning a hedgehog is legal, which excludes California, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and some places in Georgia. The younger the hedgehogs are, the easier they are for her to sell. Her customers reach out to her through her website, Instagram and Facebook.
Since she is a senior and will be going to college next year, Nickerson thinks that the business will start to downsize. However, she hopes to continue a similar business and work with other animals in the future. Nickerson aspires to be a veterinarian.
“I’ve wanted to be a vet for as long as I can remember,” Nickerson said. “Animals have always been my passion.”
This story was originally published in the January 2019 Eagle Eye print edition.