How to Raise Baby Dwarf Hamsters
If you have been a dwarf hamster owner for any length of time, it's a safe bet to say that you've fallen in love with them. What's not to love? They're cute, friendly and … prolific breeders.
Perhaps you are exploring the possibility of becoming a breeder yourself.
Or maybe you just adopted your first dwarf hamster last week only to discover this morning that you got a "package deal". In either case, you need to know what to expect of the new mother and how to raise your baby dwarf hamsters.
The Big Event
If you have owned your pregnant hamster for a while, you should be fairly familiar with her personality and will quickly recognize the changes in behavior that occurs when your precious pet is about to give birth. She'll place herself in a hunched over position and appear to be a little agitated, moving around quite a bit.
If you're really quiet and look very close you may even see one of these very tiny babies actually being born. It does not make much difference whether they emerge head first or feet first because it has no bearing on the ultimate health of the baby.
Your birth mom hamster may deliver all of her pups (the "official" term for baby hamsters) right in the nest – all neat and tidy. However, if she's moving around a lot, you might have tiny babies scattered through the cage. Do not let this worry you. Once she is through giving birth, she'll gather up her new family and place them in the nest.
Your primary duty, at this point in time, is to leave the new mom alone and minimize any discrepancies by keeping her cage in a quiet room.
Whatever you do, you do not want to touch her babies until they are at least two weeks old. Once you touch them, those babies have your scent on them. And then mom might eat them. It may sound harsh, but it is a fact of hamster life.
There are several other reasons why a mom may eat her young.
- If she was stressed by loud noises or by the father hamster
- The babies were born with a defect or a genetic disorder
- If this is her first litter
If she does eat her babies, you may shy away from breeding your hamsters again. And understandably so. But do not be discouraged. Generally speaking, the second time around will go much smoother, the pregnancy will be much healthier and and more of the litter survives.
What to Expect If All Goes Smoothly
Congratulations! You are now a proud grandparent of a family of dwarf hamsters. You could, in fact, be the proud grandparent of between 4 to 14 little ones.
Your life as a dwarf hamster owner is about to change – big time.
Newborn dwarf hamsters are extremely small, weighing about 3 grams. They are pink, hairless, deaf and blind. Their tiny little eyes can barely be seen under their skin, and surprisingly, unlike human babies, these little ones are born with teeth. This allows them to suckle.
If you are sufficient enough to actually see a nursing baby, you may be able to discern the milk traveling from his mouth to his stomach! That's because, although they look pink at birth, the skin of a newborn hamster is actually transparent.
In fact, it's a huge temptation to move the mother as to get a quick look at the wee ones, but Mom hamster should never be disturbed while she's nursing. You should not even clean the cage at this point. (But do not worry, your duties as hamster housekeeper will resume much sooner than you might expect. These little guys mature super fast!).
You may also be tempted to help re-arrange the pups for her. In order to feed them properly, she'll no doubt end up lying on her babies. This will not harm them. In fact, it helps them to stay warm.
When Mom leaves the nest, she'll cover them with bedding or shavings. If she does this, you may not be able to see them at all, but you will most certainly hear them squeaking for her return.
Helping Out the New Mom
If your hamster has given birth before she has reached the age of four months, she will be more prone than an older hamster to actually neglect her children. In some instances, very young mothers reject or even eat their young.
These young moms are confused – both physically and mentally – by the entire birthing process. If your particular hamster is very young when she gives birth, then you want to make sure that you do your level best not to disturb her at all. You want to provide her with every chance of taking care of them.
But even older hamsters sometimes cull the litter. A mom may reduce the number of pups in her litter to more manageable levels for her. Oddly enough, research has shown that a mom will reduce the size of the litter in a smaller group to ensure that proportionally more males are there. If the litter is larger, then mom makes sure that more females remain in the family.
As your mom hamster continues to feed her young, you'll want to make sure that you feed her high protein foods which are so necessary in helping her provide her babies with nutrition. Try offering her a little scrambled or boiled egg, wheat germ and tofu. You can even feed her a small amount of peanut butter. Be careful, though. Remember the size of your little mom. It's easy to over-feed her and that's something that you definitely want to avoid.
Baby Hamster Development
Between four to six days after birth, the young pups' skin will become either dark or flesh colored. Around the fifth day after birth and continuing on to the seventh, you'll notice that the hair of these new arrivals begins to emerge. This is also when the ears open.
By nine to ten days of age, the babies are covered in short fur. Their eyesballs are developing as well. You'll also note that the eyelids are beginning to develop. They may start roaming about the cage, even though they are still blind.
At two weeks to 16 days, the eyes of the newborns are now open. The babies are also completely covered in fur. After all this occurs, you can safely start handling them. But it's best to limit this to very short periods when you must clean the nest.
At this age the pups are also ready to eat solid food. You can feed them some grated carrots, wheat germ and sometimes a smidgen of scrambled or boiled egg. As they grow, you'll also feed them commercially prepared hamster food. Look for one that is protein-rich.
Fully Weaned At Three Weeks
Somewhere between the age of three to four weeks, they will be fully weaned. But the pups do not know that. They'll still try to suckle on Mom.
You can now safely separate the babies from Mom and, since hamsters are sexually mature at the tender age of one month, you should also separate the boys from the girls.
Moving the babies from their mom is, no doubt, stressful for the little guys. But do not discount the fact that this initial separation can be just as stressful for Mom. She'll need several days to adjust to her empty nest.
You'll want to keep the babies together for another two to three weeks before you place them in their individual living quarters. Be sure to handle them, it helps make the adjustment to a new living situation a little easier. And because they are still growing, you'll want to continue feeding them high-protein foods.
Once the babies are five weeks old, you can confidently find new homes for them.
Raising baby dwarf hamsters can be a lot of fun. But deciding to breed your hamster should not be a decision that you treat lightly. Research the subject thoroughly. Carefully consider the responsibility of raising the pups, the added expense (especially if something goes wrong and you have to call a vet), and the prospective future of your young brood. Above all, do not assume that you can have your fun raising baby hamsters and then just go to your local pet store and sell them. Most pet stores will not take animals from anyone but a professional breeder.
Source by Nancianne Beetleman