Unlike the Syrians, dwarf hamsters are sociable and can exist peacefully both in the wild and in captivity. They do well when paired up young and allowed to mature together.
Although some dwarfs may be sexually mature at 30 days, the Campbells, Siberians and Chinese hamsters will normally begin breeding when they are between 60 and 90 days old. Roborovskis are not as predictable, they have been known to produce their first litters from anywhere between 4 to 18 months of age.
The gestation period for dwarfs runs between 18 and 30 days, with 21 days being the average for all dwarfs besides the Roborovski which is normally about 30 days long. With all dwarfs, there is always the possibility that the pair will mate again within a period as short as 24 hours after giving birth to a litter. Other pairs have been known not to mate again until the litter is weaned.
Just prior to giving birth, the female Siberian, Chinese dwarf and Roborovski will chase the male from the nest for a few days of bachelorhood. It isn’t very long however before he becomes a valuable contributor in assisting with the little ones.
The Campbells male, however, interacts from the time of birth and doesn’t get these few days of rest and relaxation before being called upon to help with the young. According to a study conducted in 1998 by Katherin Wynne-Edwards at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, “Djungarian (Campbells) hamsters are paws-on dads.”. Canadian scientists have observed the Campbells males helping tp pull babies from the birth canal of the mother, lick off birth membranes, open the pup’s airways and then “share a snack of afterbirth with the mother”. The report also states, “Djungarian fathers have hormonal fluctuations similar to the mother’s around the time of birth. Estrogen and cortisol levels rise before the birth, and then fall away afterwards as testosterone levels rise. This does not happen in the closely related Siberian hamster.”
Although most dwarfs are from the same geographic area, Campbells dwarfs are found in a harsher desert environment. As a result, it is believed that males remain in the burrow at the time of birth to help keep the female and young warm enough to survive. “We have hypothesized that because of the early hormonal changes, Djungarians would show the full range of paternal behavior,” says Wynn-Edwards. “They did. Not only were they exemplary midwives,” she added, “we saw the mother and father both holding the afterbirth with four little paws, sharing it fifty-fifty”.
Newborn pups don’t have any fur, their eyes are closed, and they are still cute. They can’t see, can’t hear, but they can smell and move themselves around with the help of their front feet. If a pup does stray from the nest, the mother will scoop him up and return him. You should always resist the temptation to pick a pup up, the mother will not like it and can even cause her to abandon or even worse, cannibalize the handled pup. It is much better (and safer to the pup) to just watch them and wait for about two weeks before handing. At two weeks, the pups will have a soft fur coat and will be running around raising havoc in the cage. At three weeks the pups will begin leaving their mother for longer periods of time to explore and search for food on their own. They will rarely fight and they’ll begin to burrow and hoarde their food. Yep! Their hamsters all right! Read our section on RAISING PUPS for much more information on raising your young hamsters.