Actually there’s not that much involved in raising hamster pups. No hammie diapers to change, No 2am feedings, no hammie burping. Just sit back and let Mama hamster do her thing! Well, maybe not quite THAT easy there is still the matter of clean cages, food, water, etc. And, baby hamsters eat an astonishing amount of food – it is imperative that an ample supply of food is available at all times. Plus, pregnant and nursing mothers require a lot of water. Perhaps the most important aspect of raising good healthy pups is prior to the conception with the selection of a good healthy male and female, who are carrying good bloodlines.
Three or four days prior to delivery, it is important that Mom have a nice clean cage with plenty of nesting material to make a nice soft bed for the little ones. (A big piece of plain toilet paper makes excellent nesting material. She will tear it up and build a nest fit for a prince. When some are done it almost appears as though the toilet tissue has been weaved into the bedding. Commercial “Fluff” or nesting materials are not recommended. One of the primary concerns with it is the fact that babies can easily get tangled in it, causing the loss of limbs; or even death if it gets wrapped around their necks.)
When the new pups are born they are blind, deaf, naked and totally dependent on Mom. Litter sizes will vary from one to 20. It’s not necessary to remove any of the pups, mama knows how many she is capable of raising and will reduce the number herself if she considers it necessary – she will cull out the weakest first.
Pups are born singly and covered with a caul (skin-like membrane). Occasionally the pups are scattered around the cage during delivery. Don’t disturb them, after mom has had an opportunity to rest, she will gather them up, put them in the nest and begin nursing. The cauls, afterbirth, etc. are eaten by the mother, which replaces some of the hormones and other nutrients that were used for the maturity of the pups prior to birth. This is an important part of the birthing process for mom (you should not interfere druing this process and certainly don’t stop her from eating the afterbirth).
As a rule of thumb, the nest should not be disturbed for at least ten days. If a newborn goes astray, leave it, the mother will retrieve it. Or, the pup will find its own way back to the warmth of its bed and Mama. If the nest is disturbed, especially a first-time Mom, she may “defend” her litter the only way she knows, by killing and eating them. (Like everything else, the female’s acceptance of initial disturbances varies with individuals.) It is extremely important to insure that there is an abundant supply of food and fresh water. If Mama Hamster feels threatened that there is not sufficient nourishment and water available to sustain her new family, by instinct, she will mercifully kill the pups rather than let them die the agonizing death of starvation or dehydration.
By the third day a dark covering of fur will appear on the darker varieties and the ears, which have been laying flat against the head will start to become erect. Markings on the dark varieties will start to show on the fifth day and a thin coat of light fur will be apparent on the lighter varieties.
This is a good point to lower the water level so the pups can reach it when they start exploring the cage.
Covered with fur and with more distinct markings, they actually start looking like tiny hamsters by the seventh or eighth day. Although still blind, they will start wandering around the cage and are frequently seen holding a piece of food in their front paws while they nibble.
Their eyes will start to open about the thirteenth day. At this time, the cage should be cleaned and will probably need to be cleaned again before the little ones are weaned.
They will be ready to leave Mom between 21 and 28 days. The sexes should be separated and placed in separate cages at the time they are weaned.
If more litters are on the agenda, make sure Mama gets at least a full week’s rest in a nice clean cage before breeding her again. (She has worked hard and deserves a little R & R!!)
WET CAGES AND NEW PUPS DON’T MIX!!
Occasionally a water bottle leaks, or some other disaster occurs, which leaves a cage unhealthy for both Mama hamster and new pups. Although the rule of thumb is not to disturb the nest for at least the first ten days, there are exceptions to every rule. Since hamsters, by nature, are clean animals they do appreciate a clean dry house. To read the full article on wet cages and pups visit our Homes and Accessories page or simply CLICK HERE.