Thursday, August 9, 2007

All About breeding hamsters

I took this from http://www.freewebs.com/hamsterhighway/index.htm and this is a really good guide to follow.

Breeding Hamsters

You generally would breed hamsters according to their specific breed ie Breeding only Syrian hamsters or breeding only Chinese hamsters. It is not advisable to breed hamsters of different breed types. If you've got a friend who has a hamster of the same breed of the opposite sex, you can arrange with him/her to breed your hamsters and then share the load of having to find homes for the young. This is the case for breeding Syrian hamsters as they are more often than not kept in isolation. Dwarf hamsters are different in that they are sociable and can live in social groups - so long as they are introduced to each other after weaning and they 'grow up' together. If you have a cage of dwarf hamsters (who are not of the same sex), they will start to breed when they are ready - and they generally will pretty much 'self regulate' their breeding pattern and frequency and you just have to 'watch' it unfold.
What's the best age to start breeding hamsters?

Generally for female hamsters, the ideal age to start breeding is at 4-6 months - any younger and you would risk her having a poor litter (she has still to grow herself) and also increase the likelihood of cannibalism. Leave it any longer than 6 months and you run the risk of birth complications. For male hamsters, they are sexually active from as young as 6 weeks of age but it's probably best to leave them alone till they're about 2-3 months old before contemplating breeding from them. Dwarf hamsters kept together will start breeding at 2-3 months of age.
How often can I breed my female hamster?

Whilst you can just keep her breeding litter after litter, this will greatly shorten her lifespan. It's best to wait about 3-4 months before you breed her again. This will give her body time to 'recuperate' and put her in a better condition come mating time. If you stick to this regime, it will mean that you will probably get 2 litters out of any one breeding female hamster as they often become sterile when they turn 14 months old. Sometimes you can get a third litter from a female but this is the exception rather than the rule. Strangely enough, this is the self same pattern that dwarf hamsters will adhere to even though they have 'free rein' as to how often they mate and produce offspring. 2-3 litters per breeding female is the norm for dwarf hamsters kept as mating pairs.Breeding Syrian hamsters

Because Syrian hamsters are kept in isolation, you usually have to play 'match-maker' when it comes to breeding frivolities. Female hamsters come into 'season' once every 4 days ( they ovulate during that time) and it's only when they are in season that they are 'receptive' to the advances of the male hamster. Any other times fighting would inevitably occur.
How do I know when my female hamster is ready to breed -(or is in season)?

Given that they will go into season once every 4 days, if you get it wrong the first time, there's always the next time. Generally, the female hamster will emit a musky odor just before she comes into season and inevitably, it's always around evening time that the 'oestrus period' (time when she's fertile and accepting of the male) starts and it lasts for anywhere between 4 and 18 hours. It is during this 'window of opportunity' that she will be receptive to the male so breeding them has to take place then. After the female hamsters finish their season, there is a thick white mucous discharge that is excreted from their vagina. Less experienced hamster breeders will then take that as a starting point, count another 3 days after that and then try for a breeding encounter (anticipating the next oestrous cycle 4 days later). If the weather is cool ( winter), most hamsters will not breed. The other tell-tale sign that she is in season is that when you stroke her back towards her tail, she will freeze on the spot, flatten out and lift her tail.
The hamster breeding protocol

Okay, you've established that the female hamster is ready for breeding, what now? You have 2 choices - you can put her in the male's cage or take them both out and put them in a separate breeding box (neutral territory). Wear protective gloves, have an object ready to separate them if any fighting ensues - they often aren't very selective about who they nip and will nip you in your efforts to separate them if they choose not to breed. If you've picked the right time, the female will 'freeze' with her tail in the air and allow the male hamster to mate with her a few times. Keep them together for anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour - when they start to lose interest in the mating ritual, then it's time to separate them. Virgin males can be a bit confused initially and may turn the female hamster off by mounting her from all directions but they will soon learn 'on the job'. Breeding is generally more successful when both male and female hamsters have had previous mating encounters.
How can I tell if the mating has been successful that the female hamster is pregnant?

If the female doesn't come into season again 4 days later, she's regarded as being pregnant. She will start to become decidedly pregnant - her abdomen will swell (no, she's not getting fat), and her nipples will start to become more pronounced.
Gestation lasts 16-18 days for Syrian hamsters, 18-21 days for the Russian hamsters, 21-23 days for Chinese hamsters and 23-30 for Roborovski Hamsters. The average litter for Syrians is about 7, but can be as great as 24, which is the maximum number of pups that can be contained in the uterus. Campbell's Dwarf Hamsters tend to have 4-8 in a litter but can have up to 14. Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamsters tend to have slightly smaller litters, as do Chinese and Roborovski hamsters.

Hamsters are born hairless and blind in a nest which the mother will have prepared in advance. After 1 week they begin to explore outside the nest. They are completely weaned after 3 weeks, or 4 for Roborovski Hamsters. Most breeders will sell the hamsters to shops when the hamsters are anywhere as of about 2-8 months old.


What do I do after the mating?

You return both hamsters to their respective cages. Female hamsters will need extra food during the pregnancy. High protein foods like tofu, boiled egg, wheat germ (to aid in birthing) can be added to the diet. She can still be handled but it's best to leave her alone when it's closer to the expected birth date. Clean out her cage at day 14 and take out the exercise wheel, provide her with extra nesting material (eg shredded paper). Then put her cage in a warm, quiet spot with as little disturbance as possible and wait...
Ooo - the babies are here - what now?

Let her nurse the babies till they are about 2 weeks old. DO NOT disturb the nest during this time as she may decide to turn on them and eat them. The cage will smell during this time - that's unavoidable, any attempts to change the bedding material would increase the likelihood of cannibalism so it's best to just leave it for the moment and put up with the smell. Sometimes despite all this, the female hamster will still cannibalize her young, this is common in female hamsters bred under 4 months and in older females who will cull some babies to reduce the numbers in the litter. Continue with the high protein foods (other ideas are bread soaked in milk) during this time. At about 3 weeks of age, the hamsters are ready to be sexed and weaned - they are no longer reliant on their mum for nourishment. You can keep them in 2 different boxes/cages (all the male babies in 1 cage and the females in another). They can be kept in these groups for a further 2-3 weeks. In the meantime, you can find new homes for them and they can go to their new owners at 5-6 weeks of age.
It is part of nature that female hamsters may eat their young. If this happens to you, here are some factors that may (or may not) have caused it.

1. She was stressed out by loud noises or the father.
2. The babies were touched by a human and therefore, had another scent on them.
3. The babies were deformed or had genetic disorders.
4. The mother was a first-time, inexperienced mother.

Mothers may eat the babies for any of these reasons. I have found that the second birth is usually much larger and has a much better survival rate because the mother knew what was going on and what to do. The first litter was sort of a surprise to her and she had to learn the ropes.

Sometimes, the mother never has any trouble with the first litter. Again, it just depends on the hamster. If your mother eats her first litter, give her plenty of recovery time and try again. Unless she has problems with her health, I can guarantee more of the babies will live the second time around. It often takes a little time to get the ball rolling, but once it is done, you will have plenty of little pups.

good luck :)

16 comments:

I LOVE hamsters said...

This realy helped me two months ago me and my friend breeded hamsters and they are so cute!!!

Thanks

Sabby said...

Your Most welcome~! Just remember not to breed hamsters wihin the same family.. They tend to get gentic dieases, and their not to healthy either :)

Good Luck :)

Merry X'mas,
Sabby

Anonymous said...

My chinese dwarf hamster died yesterday... He died of old age he was 4years old.
I'm thinking getting a male and a female. and I would really love to have baby hamsters! :D But i'm really scared of what might happen. I dont want the hamster to eat the babies. Is it rare that happens?

Sabby said...

Hello Anon,

sorry to hear about the death of your hamster..

Well, as far as i know, the mother will only eat the babies if they are unhealthy at birth.. so it is like killing them once and for all other wise they might suffer when they grow up, its like mercy killing..

but to prevent it from happening , as soon as you know she is pregnant, put the dad away, and cover half the cage to give her privacy in birthing her child.


and if possible, avoid touching the babies as the mother might think you could have contaminated them, you can only touch them after they have grown fur..

and to prevent the mommy from being so hysterical, when changing the cage, put some of the old shaving with the new ones, so she can recognise the smell and not eat her babies..


Good luck :)


also do remember to have pet responsibility :)

Love,
Sabby

Hanna said...

hi anonymous, i have bred two different litters of hamsters and have been successful both times. Their are a few reasons why a mother would eat her babies but its not very likely. These reasons include: The hamsters being sick so the mother kills them. Another reason is that she is too young and panics, or that she has too big of a litter and kills a few. The most common reason is that she stressed (their is too many loud noises) or that if you touch the babies she smells their different scent and thinks their not yours. I recently had someone that i had sold my hamster to call and said she had died :( .. So dont stress about the babies, its not as big of a deal as you think. But remember too keep the mother in a quiet room, touch her as less as possible and do not touch the babies until after two weeks. Sorry about your hamster. Good luck :D !

Sabby said...

Thanks for the info Hanna :)

Nicole said...

I'm going to buy a dwarf hamster. I really don't know what gender to get. I get different opinions from people for example they tell me that they stink. I have never had a hamster in my life but my best friend has one and i find them so loving and tender. Can you please help me and give me advice on what is the best gender to get?

Thanks :)

Freaky Dragon said...

How many puppies a hamster gives birth on an average? Can u tell me plz...

Anonymous said...

I have a female Russian dwarf, Mary Jane, and a male robo dwarf, Houdini, living together in the same cage. Are they able to breed? If so will the pups be deformed in anyway?

Thanks,
sparrow

Anonymous said...

I have two Syrian hamsters and they are the opposite sex! I saw them mating but my female was screeching! Do you know why she was screeching?
I thing she is pregnant because she looks like a Grapefruit, and her nipples are getting more noticeable.
!!!!!!!!!!I NEED HELP!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I have a large cage with 4 females if they were to have babies at the same time in the same place will they all stay peaceful?

Anonymous said...

Usually the maximum of 20 pups

Anonymous said...

They are but the pups may not be the healthiest

Tiffani Gibson said...

It is not rare. The mother finds it necessary to do this to save the babies from prolonged torture or suffering, such as being killed by a predator (you if you disturb her nest within the first two weeks or so), diseases or deformities, being the runt of an overlarge litter (she will cut off the weaker links and only care for the ones she can), or anything else she might find abnormal, such as lack of food and water, or if she herself is sick and will not be around to take care of them. She does not want her babies to starve or get sick or suffer, so it's sort of like her way of "pulling the plug". Yes, she's killing them, but they will not have to suffer. Since they are not in the wild and they have you, cannibalism is not a necessity, and you could care for them yourself, just do your homework!

Tiffani Gibson said...

most likely not. mothers are even more territorial than normal hamsters... Even if it's temporary, please house them in different homes. I hope this helps...

okdogi said...

yes, we do need a lot of property to care for hamsters, they eat not only counts, but there are other things that needed

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