There are many things to carefully consider before
deciding to breed your hamsters. Itís fun to think about all the cute little
hamsters you will have as a result of breeding, but how will you care for
all of them? Eventually, you will need to find homes for your new litter of
hamsters. A Syrian hamster can have as many as 16 or 17 babies with the
average litter size being about 9-10. You will need to have extra cages
ready when the babies need to be separated by sex and then later, depending
on the type of hamsters you have, in solitary cages or pairs. Think
carefully before undertaking such a venture. There are many hamsters that
need homes, so please consider a rescued hamster before breeding. Please be
If you do
decide to breed your hamsters, be prepared for how time-consuming and
costly your venture will be.
There are differences in the breeding process depending
on the type of hamsters you have. Many things are the same or similar
though, no matter what type of hamsters you have.
There are important steps and precautions you need to take to guarantee the
well-being of the adult and baby hamsters. With that said, if you do decide
to proceed with hamster breeding, here are some things to help you along.
First, you must have a male and female hamster from
different litters. Breeding siblings is not advised. They should be young
and healthy. Syrian hamsters can mate as early as 5-6 weeks of age, but itís
best to wait until theyíre about 4-6 months old.
Females bred too young will have small and weak litters and it's not good
for the mother's health. A female hamster should not be bred for the first
time after the age of 6 months, since a female hamster's hips become
stabilized at about this time. Breeding a female for the first time after
this would make it very difficult for her to give birth and could result in
her death as well as that of the pups.
Peak breeding age for a female is about 10-15 months.
After that, her litters will become smaller. Females need about 3
months to recover before having another litter.
Never breed a hamster that is unhealthy in any way.
The female comes into heat about every 4 days.
Estrous usually lasts about 10-12 hours. Always place the
female into the housing of the male-not the other way around. If the male is
introduced into the femaleís cage, she will most likely be even more
aggressive towards him. Evening is the best time to attempt this. If the
female is not ready to mate, she will act aggressively towards the male,
possibly biting him. Be prepared to quickly remove the female to avoid
injury to either hamster. If the female hamster is ready to mate, she will
stand stiff with her tail raised. Mating will usually take place very
quickly if the female is ready and may be repeated several times before the
female has decided sheís done. After about 30 minutes, the female can be
removed. Always supervise the mating process and be ready with
gloves if you have to separate or remove a hamster.
You can also use a neutral cage for breeding. If you
decide to do this, place the male hamster in the cage for about an hour and
then remove him. Next, repeat the process with the female hamster. After
removing the female, place a wire mesh divider in the center of the cage.
Place the male on one side and the female on the other. Observe the female
to see if she seems interested in the male. If she does, remove the divider
so they may mate. If the female becomes aggressive, remove her, replace the
divider, and keep each hamster on its own side. Try to mate them again the
next day. You may need to try this for a few days until mating takes place.
If pregnancy has occurred in your Syrian hamster, you
will be blessed with a litter of pups in about 16 days. Sometimes, gestation
can take up to 18 days, but not usually. During her pregnancy, you will
notice some changes in your female hamsterís behavior. She will get bigger
and rounder, of course, and sheíll most likely start hoarding larger amounts
of food. Sheíll do more burrowing and preparing of her nest.
Itís not a good idea to handle or hold your pregnant
hamster during this time. You can help her best by making sure she has a
well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and protein with some fresh fruits and
veggies as well. A small piece of bread soaked in milk adds needed calcium,
but be sure to remove the uneaten part right away
as the milk will spoil within a couple of hours. Tofu and
boiled eggs are good sources of protein as well. About 3 or 4 days before
her due date, clean your hamsterís cage (leave the nest alone) and make sure
she has an ample supply of fresh bedding material. My hamsters like to shred
paper towels or tissue. Never use the stringy, fluffy cotton-ball type
bedding for hamsters. Their tiny feet and paws can
get tangled and twisted in the fluff causing damage, dismemberment or death.
Most likely youíll know when your hamster has given birth
because she wonít come out of her nest when she usually would. You may also
be able to hear the tiny peeping of the new pups. Birth usually occurs at
night. The average size litter for a Syrian hamster is about 9-10 pups. They
are born blind, naked and about 1/2Ē long.
Itís not unusual for a mother hamster to eat her young.
There are many reasons this could happen. If the mother or the babies are
disturbed, she may feel threatened and eat her babies. Also, if a pup is
stillborn or weak in any way, the mother will most likely eat it. Other
causes could be too frequent breeding, breeding at too young an age
or protein deficiency in the mother.
To be safe, before birth, the motherís cage should be
placed in a dark, quiet area and kept there. After the birth, your new
mother hamster and babies should be left alone as much as possible. Only the
normal caregiver should do the feeding and then be as non-intrusive as
possible. Never disturb the nest.
The mother will barely leave the pups the first few days.
After a few days, she will cover the babies with some bedding to keep them
warm if she leaves the nest. Sometimes a baby will accidentally get out of
the nest, and the mother will have to carry it back in her cheek pouch.
The pups will start to grow fur in about 5-6 days and
markings will become visible. They can be handled when theyíre about 10 days
old. Theyíll probably start crawling out of the nest about this time as well
even though their eyes and ears are not open yet. You can supplement their
diet of motherís milk with some finely chopped veggies and fruits. Also,
make sure the water bottle is within their reach.
By day 15, the pups will open their eyes. By day 18,
their ears will pop open as well. They will start becoming much more active
at this stage. Theyíll need seeds and fresh fruits and veggies now. Babies
are weaned from motherís milk by 3 weeks of age. At this time, you need to
remove the males from the group and place them in a cage by themselves. The
females can remain with their mother another week, but then they should also
be removed to their own cage.
Syrian hamsters can continue to live in these small
groups for a short while longer, but once they reach sexual maturity (about
8 or 9 weeks), they will start to fight and should be put into separate
cages. That is why itís very important to make arrangements for good homes
for your pups before you decide to breed.
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There are four basic types of dwarf hamsters. The
Djungarian (aka Russian Campbell),
the Siberian (aka Winter White),
the Roborovski and the Chinese. There are some differences in the breeding
process among these types.
Since some dwarf hamsters can be kept in pairs or small
groups, your hamsters could mate without your knowing it. However, if you
keep your hamsters in separate cages, generally you can follow the
guidelines above for introducing the female to the male when attempting
mating. Once mating has occurred, gestation takes about 18-21 days.
An exception is the Djungarian (Russian Campbell). These
male and female hamsters must stay together in the same cage even after they
mate. The male actually produces pheromones which stimulate the female
hamsterís reproductive cycle. If the male is removed within two days of
mating, the femaleís pregnancy will fail. Russian Campbell hamsters become
sexually mature as early as 30 days of age. You can also introduce a
younger female to an older male, but not vice-versa. Itís not recommended to
try to introduce two adults.
You may not know exactly when a litter is due, since it
may be hard to know when mating has occurred , but the gestation time of
18-21 days is the same for Russian Campbells as the other types of dwarf
hamsters. If you check your female hamster daily,
you may see what is called a copulatory plug. This is a whitish vaginal
discharge occurring five days after breeding. This is normal and means your
hamster is pregnant. You can check any type of dwarf hamster for this plug.
Also, if your hamster is pregnant, she will exhibit the
same type of signs as listed above for Syrian hamsters. That is, sheíll
start hoarding more food and busy herself preparing a nest. She may also
become more aggressive as her due date approaches.
The males of the Siberian and Roborovski type hamsters
also help the female raise pups, but their roles are not as crucial as the
male Djungarian Russian Campbell. A female Siberian or Roboroski hamster can
raise a litter of pups on her own, if need be.
The Chinese dwarf hamster is much less sociable than the
other types of dwarf hamsters. Pregnant females can be very aggressive. Some
people do keep these types of hamsters in a group setting which can be done
if they have been raised together and the habitat is large enough with
plenty of hiding places in case of fighting. My experience has been that
itís best to keep a pregnant female in her own cage and definitely never
expect to keep the male in with her after mating.
Dwarf hamster babies develop a bit faster than Syrian
babies do. They should have full fur by about one week of age and their eyes
open by 12 days. At three weeks, they are ready to leave Mom and should be
separated by sex.
If your male and female hamsters are in a cage together,
be warned, the parents can mate again as soon as 24 hours after giving
birth, so you can expect another litter to arrive just as the previous
litter is leaving!
Buying A Hamster • Hamster Care • Hamster Health • Health Care Chart • Types of Hamsters
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