Breeding Hamsters

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A note before you consider breeding

Raising pups sounds like a lot of fun, and yes it can be, but so many things can go wrong, so please take some time to research and think carefully.

You must have vast knowledge on every aspect of hamster care for a start, and all the information you need can be found on this website and many others. You must also have a very experienced small animal/exotic vet in your area, if not, don’t even risk breeding.

However, I want you to take a step back and think about this, which is not always found on sites with breeding information:

There are hundreds of thousands of hamsters sitting in shelters, homeless, and by breeding you are creating more lives, that WILL take place of those in a shelter when they are homed. Every hamster you breed, and that goes to a new home, is taking a place of a rescue hamster that could have been sitting in that very house.

Also, the hamsters you breed could end up in a shelter or in a neglectful home if you do not bother to find caring homes. You cannot dump off the excess in the litter to your local petshop, that is extremely irresponsible as they could end up anywhere, including a snake’s belly.

If you wish to breed, you must be prepared to keep every single baby yourself, syrians can have more than 20! I can promise you this- Do not rely on enthusiastic friends, family and neighbours, as although they may promise to take one or two babies, they will often pull out at the last minute, and can you rely on the few that stick with their promise to take proper care of the hamsters? Do they have any proper knowledge on hamsters and will they take them to the vet when ill?

You should offer to take back any hamsters at any time should the owner need to give them up, that is part of being responsible for the lives you create and also to ensure no hamsters you breed end up taking place in a shelter. You should provide all new owners with a detailed caresheet and a contact number.

There are more than enough hamsters out there, and so please consider as to whether bringing even more into this world is in the hamsters best interest, and not purely for your own.

I know that despite knowing this, many people will strug this off, which is why I have created this whole page with advice on proper breeding and genetics.

If you want to breed still, then read on, however, if you have room, knowledge and time for breeding hamsters, then why not start up a rescue focusing on hamsters? That will be of great benefit no matter where you live.

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So You want to breed hamsters?

You want to breed hamsters?

Many hamster owners think at one time or another about breeding hamsters, and for a variety of reasons. So why do you want to breed hamsters? Do you want to for fun? money? because you want more babies like the parents or for an educational adventure for your kids? If any of those are purely your reasons for breeding, then forget about breeding hamsters as those are all the wrong reasons!

Breeding hamsters should never be attempted ‘just for fun’ as so many things can go wrong and it is more stressful, time consuming and expensive than fun. You cannot make money on breeding hamsters…well unless you charge an awful lot for the offspring. By the time you pay for food, caging etc it will cost a lot more than what you get back.  If it is for ‘educational’ purposes, best find another way to show nature to the kids as what happens if mum decides she can’t cope with a litter a starts ripping off their little heads so as you can clean the little bodies away, or if mum eats them. How do you explain that to the kids?  If you want more little ones like yours, forget it, because the babies may not even be the same colour, let alone the same personality as the parents! True, good natured hamsters generally have good natured offspring, but the chances of getting a child just like the parents is virtually impossible! Also, by breeding just any old petshop hamsters you put the new lives at risk from defects, poor health etc.

So why should you want to breed hamsters? Well, the main reason should only ever be to improve the species, by improving upon the parents, you improve the species. If you want to know what I mean by this, read the article below, after this one.

As I said above, breeding hamsters is stressful, time consuming and expensive, and it requires you to have a vast knowledge of hamsters, not just breeding knowledge but on every aspect of hamster care. It takes many months, prehaps years to gain a vast knowledge of hamsters, and even by the end of it, there will always be stuff to learn, I’m still learning so are vets, experienced breeders etc, but the important thing is you know more than just the basics and are willing to spend hours researching. You should never breed your first hamsters, get to know what it is like to keep hamsters for a year or so, if you like them as pets, then buy in breeding stock after you have done your research. It is important to know from first hand what hamsters are like, and not judging them by what you read in books and off websites.

So if you are willing to spend a lot of money and time researching and caring for the hamsters, and time to seek out good stock and have thought about this thoroughly, please read the following sections below.

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Are you ready to breed hamsters?

Test Your Knowledge

Do not even consider breeding until you know all the answers to these questions, any new lifes you create are purely your responsibility and breeding is pretty risky unless you know what you are doing, even then things CAN and DO go wrong, but if you are prepared, mum and babies have a better chance of surviving and you won’t feel so guilty if fatalities do occur.

Section A-The basics

1./Do you know how often females are in heat, and how you can tell they are in heat?

2./Do you know at what age hamsters should be bred to help avoid problems?

3./What is the maximum age a female should be bred for have her first litter?

4./When should a female stop having litters?

5./How many litters is the maximum a female should have?

6./How long between each litter should a female have for rest?

7./How long is the gestation period for you type of hamster (syrian/dwarf)?

8./What is the average litter size?

9./What should you be feeding a pregnant hamster and the nursing mother?

10./When should you start introducing solid food to the babies? which soilds foods are recommended?

11./What should you do if mum dies or abandones the litter?

12./If mum kills the babies, can you remove half eaten, decaying bodies from the cage?

13./What foods do you feed the pups  when they are old enough and venturing outside the nest?

14./At what age can you handle the pups?

15./At what age can you clean the cage?

16./What age should they be seperated by sex? how do you tell male from female?

17./What age can they go to their new homes?

Section B-The breeding stock

1./Are your stock from healthy, tame lines?

2./Do you know their full family background and full genotypes?

3./Are they from reputable breeders? they should be!

4./What will be the outcome of the litter? Colours? patterns?

5./Do the parents carry any lethal genes? what are lethal genes?

6./What are your goals with this litter?

7./Do you know the standard for your hamster’s type, colour and coat type etc?

8./Are the parents a good example of their colour, type etc?

Section C-Preparation

1./Do you have 20 good homes lined up or can you afford to keep them all?

2./Do you have a good exotics vet that takes in emergencies at all times of the day and night?

3./Do you have room for 20 hamsters should no one want to take yours?

4./Do you have a caresheet and pedigree made up for all the pups?

5./Do you know if all the homes you’ve lined up are suitable?

6./Do you have �300  ready for vet fees and feeding, caging etc?

7./Are you willing to take in any hamsters that don’t fit in to their new home?

8./Can you answer all these questions?

Until you know the answer to all these questions, do not breed your hamsters, and don’t forget that when/if things go wrong YOU have to be ready for it! Breeding is not easy, but can be a very rewarding experience.

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Breeding Pairs/traits to avoid!

Breeding pairs to avoid

Any male hamster can breed with any female of the same species, but that doesn’t always mean they should, so before you even consider breeding hamsters you have got to know the lethal combinations to avoid getting severally mutated pups. Also this is yet another reason to buy hamsters from reputable breeders so as you know your hamsters’ genetic background!! 

We will start with…

 Syrians

Roan/whitebellied gene

A roan hamster is one with white ticking through the body, with the white ticking seen heaviest on the head and decreasing down the body, this pattern is most often seen on sables and other self-coloured syrians (ie all one colour like sables and creams). A white bellied hamster is bascially an agouti coloured (ie golden or cinnamon) hamster with a white belly, but not every hamster with a white belly carries the white bellied gene, as some colours naturally have an occuring white belly. Banded, dominant spotted hamsters and other patterned hamsters all have white bellies, but that doesn’t mean they carry this gene, making it all very confusing.  So never breed two patterned hamsters together unless you a positive at least one doesn’t carry this gene. If you do breed together two roans/whitebellies it is almost certain you will get a few white pups with little/no eyes and these hamsters are generally weaker too.   So never risk this happening! Still confused? Let me explain it in genetic terms:

A roan/white bellied hamster is (Whwh)                         

 A non roan/white bellied hamster is (whwh)

If you breed two roans/white bellies (assuming the white belly is the result of the Whwh gene) together some of the pups will get a double dose of the gene, making them (WhWh) which results in them being eyeless whites. 

The table below shows what I mean:

 Wh  wh
 Wh  WhWh  Whwh
 wh  whWh  whwh

WhWh= Eyeless whites (25%)

Whwh/whWh=Roan/whitebellied hamsters(50%)

whwh=Non roan/whitebellied (25%)

One other way to tell if you have a roan/white bellied hamster to shine a bright light in their eyes to see if they have a red glow in them. However, if you are still unsure, don’t risk it!!!

 

Satin coated Hamsters

A satin coated hamster is one with a lovely super shiny coat, that is quite fine. Two satin hamsters should never be bred together as approximately 25% of the offspring could end up with a double dose of the satin gene, which means these individuals have a patchy coat as the fur is extra fine, which is unattractive and can cause skin irratitions. 

A satin hamster is shown as (Sasa)

A non-satin is (sasa)

A double satin is (SaSa)

NOTE You can breed two satin  campbell dwarves together without the problems caused by doing so with syrians

 

Kinked tails

This is most commonly found in dark grey hamsters, probably because dark greys were first discovered in a litter of heavily inbred rusts, making dark greys and all other dark grey associated colours like beige, smoke pearl and lilac  all prone to it, but kinked tails can be found in any colour. It can be felt by running finger and thumb along the tail and can sometimes even be clearly seen! Hamsters like this should not be bred from, as it is feared that over generations, it could cause spine problems! 

If you do bred dark greys, lilacs, beiges and smoke pearls, it is best to mate them to the appropiate colour every few generations, ie: dark grey(dgdg) to dark golden(++), lilac(dgdgpp) to cinnamon(pp), beige(dgdgbb) to rust(bb) and smoke pearl(dgdgTo_) to yellow(To_ to help strenghten the line. Also mating dark greys to dark goldens, usually produces dark goldens with improved ticking.

 

Campbell Russian Dwarves

NOTE You can breed two satin dwarves together without the problems caused by doing so with syrians

Ruby Eyed Mottled

Similar to the roan/white bellied gene in syrians, and if two ruby eyed mottled dwarves are bred together, it results in about 25% of litter being eyeless, toothless whites, that generally never make it to adulthood.

Chinese

Dominant spot

It is feared that if two dominant spot chinese hamsters are bred that the offspring with a double dose of the dominant spot gene will be eyeless whites, similar to the roan/whitebellied syrians. So always breed a normal to a dominant spot if you want some spotted offspring.  

 

All Types 

Temperment and Health

Only breed hamsters with good temperment and health, as sick or timid/agressive hamsters are likely to pass these traits onto their offspring.

Diabetes

Only breed Russian dwarves and chinese that have a family history of not being prone to diabetes, as parents who are very prone to diabetes will pass this trait onto their young. This is a prime reason never to breed petstore dwarf hamsters as they seem to be even more likely to develop diabetes, whereas reputable breeders only breed healthy animals, making their stock less prone. 

Type

Read the show standards for your breed of hamster and try to only breed those that are a good example of their breed. For example, petstore syrian hamsters bred by commerical breeders tend to be small, runty, with a narrow head and body and their colours tend to be a very poor example, making commerically bred hamsters only suitable for pets.

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Syrian Genotypes

Syrian genotypes

Single gene colours                                                                         

 Colour  Genotype
 Golden(wild colour)  ++
 Black eyed Cream ee 
 Black  aa
 Rust  bb
 cinnamon  pp
 Dark Grey  dgdg
 Silver Grey  SgSg
 Light Grey  Lglg
 Dark eared white  cdcd
 Yellow (sex linked) ToY(males) ToTo(females)

Multi-gene colours

 Colour  Genotype colours needed 
 Sable  eeU_  Cream and Umbrous gene
 Red eyed cream eepp   Cream and cinnamon
 Chocolate  aabb  Black and rust
 Blonde Lglgpp  Light grey and cinnamon
 Beige  dgdgbb  Dark grey and rust
 Lilac  dgdgpp  Dark grey and cinnamon
 Honey  To_pp  Yellow and cinnamon
 Flesh eared white  cdcdpp  Dark eared white and cinnamon
 Black eyed white  eeSg_/dsds  cream and silver grey/dominant spot combinations
 Black eyed Ivory  eedgdg/eeLglg  Cream and light grey or dark grey
 Red eyed Ivory  eeppdgdg/eeppLglg  Cream, cinnamon and light grey or dark grey
 Smoke Pearl dgdgTo_   Dark grey and yellow
 Copper eebbppU_  Cream, rust, cinnamon and Umbrous gene 

Unstandardised colours

 Colour  Genotype Colours needed 
 Mink eeppU_  cream,cinnamon and umbrous 
 Blue mink dgdgeeppU_  Dark Grey,cream,cinnamon and umbrous 
 Dove aapp  Black and cinnamon 
 Chocolate sable eebbU_   cream, rust and umbrous
 Yellow Black aaTo_  Black and yellow 
 Silver grey (hetrozygous)  Sgsg Silver grey can be either SgSg or Sgsg, this version has a ‘buttermilk’ colour to it, unlike the homozygous SgSg 
 Dingy Black  aaSgsg/aaLglg/aadgdg Black and any shade of grey-It isn’t really a good idea to get black into grey lines, so avoid this to preserve the grey lines 
 Silver grey pearl SgsgTo_  Silver grey and yellow 
 Light grey pearl LglgTo_  Light grey and yellow 
 Black eyed blonde Lglgbb  Light grey and rust 
 lilac pearl dgdgppTo_  Dark grey, cinnamon and yellow 
 Honey Black aappTo_  Black, cinnamon and yellow 
 Silver Sable  Sg_eeU_ Silver grey,cream,umbrous 

Coat Patterns

 Pattern  Genotype
 Banded  Baba or BaBa
 Dominant Spot  Dsds
 Dominant spot banded  DsdsBa_
 Roan/white bellied  Whwh
 Tortoiseshell  Toto
 Tortoisehell and white TotoBa_/TotoDsds 

Fur Type

 Coat Type Genotype 
 Shorthaired  LL or Ll
 Longhaired  ll
 Satin  Sasa
 Rex  rxrx

Also see Syrian Colour Page

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Breeding Syrian Hamsters

Syrians are soliatary animals making them more difficult to breed than the more sociable dwarf breeds. Note: any syrians who have suffered from wet tail shouldn’t be bred. 

Males can be bred at any age, and usually remain fertile all their lives, although males often used for breeding maybe become infertile as they get older. Males should be left to develop before mating as too young may result in unsucessful fertilisation or will not show any interest in mating. It is best to wait until they reach 3-4 months before any mating attempts and best to try them before they reach 8-10 months, although they can be used for breeding for the first time after 8 months.

The females should be left until fully mature and capable to handle a litter and should be bred for the first time at 4-5 months, but should never be bred for the first time after 6 months as  their pelvic bones may have set, causing birth problems which may result in the death of the mother and/or litter. 

To prepare both the male and female for breeding, they should be fed a good diet starting from when they are in the nest as babies themselves, which you probably have no control over, but by buying from a reputable breeder (like you should be doing) you should have nothing to worry about. When picking up your stock you should ask the breeder what they have been feeding the babies so as you can continue to feed them the same foods without having to go through the whole ‘introducing-new-foods’ process. Of course you may want to add in other foods gradually for variety. You should feed them exactly as stated in the later parts of this article:  Rearing baby Hamsters properly so as they can develop and grow up healthy. The breeder may also suggest other foods as well which haven’t been mentioned on here.

As adults, they will need to be fed the same good quality hamster mix like Hazel/Harry Hamster made by Surpreme. They will also greatly benefit from having wheatgerm sprinkled in along with the normal mix (to provide them with vit B and E and for folic acid for the females, but store wheatgerm in the fridge) and feed vegetables at least every 2-3 days as this helps to provide them with all the nutrients they need and dark green vegetables may help to increase the chances of a sucessful mating. Also breeding hamsters need a diet slightly higher in protein, so feed some cooked plain chicken/turkey, hard boiled egg or rolled oats soaked in plain unsweetened soya milk twice a week. There is a debate that females allowed to eat meat makes them more prone to destroying the litter, but there is no solid proof in that, in my opinion it is myth, not fact, but you can avoid feeding meat to females if so wish. 

When the hamsters are old enough to be mated, you can start checking the female each night for signs of her being in ‘heat’, which happens every 4 days, although, sometimes it can occur 3 or 5 days after the previous. This cycle is known as the oestrus, and is around the time ovaluation occurs (eggs are released, ready for fertillising) and is the only time the female will accept the advances of the male. Oestrus only lasts a few hours, usually beginning in late evening and lasting till early morning. As oestrus approaches, the female will release a clear mucus from her vulva, and as it ends she releases a thick, sticky white mucus, which most beginners use as a indication their female will be ready to breed in 3-4 days time. The female may smell ‘musky’ when in heat. All mating attempts should occur when both hamsters are active in the evening.

When in heat, the female will usually freeze with her tail in the air and body pressed close to the floor, when the male (or you) firmly stroke her back, it is unmistakable. It is then that she is ready to be bred. However, as syrians are so territorial, you have to be careful to avoid them fighting. So, rule number 1, never ever place the male in the female’s cage, she will attack him, kill him if she gets the chance. The mating should take place in neutral territory, a large cardboard box that is tall enough for them not to climb out from, but large enough for them to freely move about in is good.  Do not place any objects in the cage, and make sure it doesn’t smell like either hamster. Put the male and female in together and watch them very closely, a female not in heat will likely be very quick to attack the male, and a female in heat will rarely attack the male. If they do not show any interest in each other, it might be too early in the evening, try waiting until about 10pm, later if necessary.

Once placed in the female may try and run, but when the male touches her, she will do the freeze position, with her tail in the air. The male will wash the female’s rear before mounting, and once he mounts there are rarely any problems, but you must supervise them constantly just incase. The male will mount many times and inbetween he will wash himself and the female before re-mounting. The pair can be left together for 20-35 minutes and should be undisturbed unless fighting occurs or one of them loses interest after 15-20 minutes. They can then be returned back to their own seperate cages.

It is always advisable to have a thick glove and something to seperate them should the female begin to fight as the male will probably make no effort to defend himself. If the male bites the female’s neck or any other area whilst mating, stroke him gentley and hopefully that will make him stop.

If sucessful, the female will become pregnant, and one way to test this, is too see if she is receptive 3-4 nights later to the male. If she is pregnant, she will not come into heat and will turn very quickly on the male, so be prepared to spilt them quickly with a glove, however, if she is receptive then mating can occur again. This method is usually, but not always sucessful as sometimes the female will refuse the male even if she isn’t pregnant or very rarely the female will accept the male even though she is pregnant.

After every mating you should assume she is pregnant and start feeding the high protein foods like hard boiled egg, rolled oats soaked in puppymilk/KMR (kitten milk replacement) daily and minimise the handling. The female is only pregnant for 16 days,  and some signs she is pregnant is that she may become more territorial, may start hoarding a lot more food and start buliding a nest. The female’s abdomen may swell from 10 days onwards, but sometimes it may take until 24-48hours before the birth until she is noticably pregnant.  

At 14 days the cage should be cleaned out thoroughly, and you should remove the wheel and supply the mother with extra plain unscented toilet paper for her to make a nice big nest.The cage will not be cleaned out again until the pups are about 16 days old. The cage should not be one with bars as the pups are pretty mobile from day one, so a barless cage is recommended and the cage should be situated somewhere out of direct sunlight, warm and quiet. Remember too much warmth can be worse than a cooler room, so keep the temperature constant and a room where people always enter and leave may be a stressful enviroment for the first time mother.

Birth usually occurs on the 16th night, if however, birth has not occured by the 18th night and the mother shows signs of pregnancy/trouble giving birth, consult your vet immediately. When it is time to give birth, the mother may become aggitated and restless, she should not be disturbed at this time. Each pup arrives individually whilst mum goes about her buisness, do not be alarmed, she will gather them all up after she has delivered all her pups. There will be spots of blood, which is normal, but if there is a lot of blood lost, consult your vet.

The mother will clean the pups and eat the afterbirth, she will then begin to nurse the pups, rarely leaving the nest for the first few days unless to collect food or go to the toilet. You will often know when the pups have arrived as they tend to be quite vocal, but the squeaking should not be a cause for alarm. 

The cage should only be disturbed once a day when you come to feed her the protein foods and more hamster mix. The pups CANNOT be touched until they are 14 days old!  It is better to sprinkle the mix on the cage floor so as mum can spend time foraging, it usually helps to keep mums from becoming very restless.

The pups are pretty mobile considering their size, so no deep dishes, all water should be in bottles, all runny protein foods should be served in very shallow dishes as pups drown easily.

Baby hamsters are very quick growers, and it only takes a few days before fur starts to grow and at 7 days you can tell if the babies are dark or light coloured, and if you can see the eyes through the eyelids, then you have black eyed pups, if you can’t, then you will have red eyed babies  in the litter. It will take a while longer though befor you can indentify what colours you have though.

From 7 days onwards, you can sprinkle wheatgerm into the nest  (remember-do not touch the nest!) from a clean teaspoon, and best do this whilst mum is distracted at the other end of the cage so as she doesn’t eat it all on them. It is usually at around 10 days the pups will venture out and eat whatever mum is eating, so lower the water bottle, and spread the hamster mix all around the floor and start offering more protein foods. Runny porridge (rolled oats, wholemeal bread and puffed plain low sugar cereal (ie Original Kashi) soaked in puppymilk is a good idea) and  hard boiled egg are all perfect for little babies. Also see Rearing baby Hamsters properly for further  information on feeding pups.

At 14 days, you can try putting your hand in the cage, away from the nest, if mum doesn’t frantically gather up the pups, you can let the little ones explore your hand, and try offering them food. You can try to carefully pick them up, but as they are VERY jumpy, only handle them close over the cage floor. If they jump, let them, as they will not fall far, and you will make them nervous if you try and restrain them.  Try and handle them everyday and they should become braver. 

At 16 days the cage can be thoroughly cleaned out, put mum in her run-around-ball (lid stuck down well) and the pups can be transferred to a bucket. Then once the cage is clean, put in new bedding, but replace some old bedding so as mum isn’t so stressed. Replace the pups first, then mum.  Pups are weaned at around 17 days, but still may suckle from time to time.

                                                                        Black and cream banded syrian babies

The pups should be taken away from mum at 21 days , the pups can be left until no later than 21 days as they have been known to breed from 4 weeks so must be spilt into same sex groups! 

To sex the babies, hold them on their backs and put your thumb over their upper body to support them. Males have two ‘holes’ with a gap, whereas the females have two holes with no gaps. If you compare a boy and girl, it will become clear. If in doubt, ask advice from a reputable breeder or exotic vet.

It is best to leave them together for another week or two in their same sex groups, as seperating them all up and sending them to new homes will be very stressful, and hamsters seem to do better if left to ‘run-on’ with others.  Offer them lots of food, you’d be surprised at how much such a small animal consumes. Protein foods, quality hamster mix and safe vegetables should make up their diet. 

Remember to leave mum for another 3 months at least if you are thinking of breeding her again. Females shouldn’t be expected to be more than 2 litters and will need some protein foods after the litter has left her help her recover.

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Campbells Dwarf genotypes

Coat colours

 Name

 Genotype

Colours needed 

 Normal (wild colour)

++ 

 Albino

 cc

 Aregente

 pp

 Black eyed white

 Black

 aa

 Opal

 dd

 Black eyed argente

 bb

 Dark Grey

 dgdg

 Chocolate

 aabb

 Black + Black eyed argente

 Blue

 aadd

 Black + Opal

 Dove

 aapp

 Black + Argente

 Beige

 bbpp

 Black eyed Argenete+ Argente

 Blue Beige

 bbppdd

 Black eyed Argente +Argente + Opal

 Dark Beige

aabbpp

 Black + Black eyed Argente + Argente

Blue Fawn

 ddpp

 Opal + Argente

 Lilac Fawn

 bbdd

 Black eyed Argente + Opal

 Black eyed Lilac

 aabbdd

 Black + Black eyed Argente + Opal

 Red eye Lilac

 aaddpp

 Black + Opal + Argente

 Champagne

 aabbppdd

 Black + Black eyed Argente + Argente + Opal

Coat Patterns

 Name

Genotype 

Notes 

 Mottled

Momo/MoMo 

 

 Ruby Eyed Mottled

 Mimi

 A doble dose of Mi (MiMi) produces toothless white babies, never breed two Ruby Eyed Mottleds together!

 Platinum

 

 

 

 

Bringing up the babies

Prehaps you are thinking of breeding or are just curious and either way, knowing what is in this article could prove to be a lifesaver. Some petshops have quite a problem sexing their hamsters or don’t bother to spilt them by gender, and as hamsters can breed so young, quite a lot of people leave the petstore with a pregnant hamster and they only find out when their hamster gives birth to a lot of little pink hairless babies!

If you are planning to breed, please do all the proper research and remember that females cannot be bred for the first time after 6 months as their pelvic bones set, causing possible birth problems which may result in death of mum and/or pups. Also, before you ever even think of breeding your hamsters make sure you know their full parental and genetic background to try and avoid physical and mental defects. Also you should have bought your hamsters from a reputable breeder, not a petshop, rescue or backyard breeder as your aim should be to improve the species, not produce tempermental, unhealthy runty hamsters. Read the standards for your hamster’s type to see what your aims should be off a hamster club website.  

A syrians gestation period is one of the shortest of any mammals as it is only 16 days long and a dwarves is around 21 days. Syrians sometimes show they are pregnant from 12 days but on average, its not until 24-48hours before they give birth. Dwarves may give no warning at all and the only other signs may be that they show all the typical traits like becoming slightly aggressive/territorial, nest building, hoarding food and not coming into heat every 4 days, as well as usually, but not always, becoming very aggressive to any advances of the male.

The proper rearing of babies should start even before they are born, by feeding mum well so as she can cope with the pregnancy and the babies recieve the nutrients they need in the womb. Mum should be fed protein foods daily and have a fresh supply of good quality hamster mix and fresh water. Good protein foods for mum are some hard boiled egg, wholemeal bread or rolled oats soaked in unsweetened soya milk or prefierably KMR (kitten milk replacement)/puppymilk which can be bought at most good petstores. Also mum will benefit from fresh vegetables off the safe food list like broccoli.  Also several extra sunflower seeds a couple of days before birth can help with milk production.

During the pregnancy mum should not be handled often, especially in the first and last few days of the pregnancy. Stress should be kept to a minimum during this time and do not forget to remove the wheel 4 days before the pups are due. The cage will need to be thoroughly cleaned two days before the pups are born, and cannot be cleaned until the pups are 14-16 days! Mum will also need extra plain unscented toilet paper to make a nice big nest. The cage should be left somewhere dark and quiet.

The babies are usally born at night and around the time of birth the mother should not be disturbed apart from quick checks to make sure all is well. Mum may become anxious and restless before and up to the birth. When mum does give birth, she will do so to one pup at a time and she will usually continue to go about her buisness, so do not try and move her or the pups to the nest or closer, just leave well alone. When all the pups are born she will collect them, sometimes by pouching them and put them back in the nest, where she will nurse them. Some spots of blood is normal, but if mum seems unable to give birth or there is a lot of blood loss, you may need to contact your vet. Do not interfere though, leave and wait as if you do disturb her and nothing is wrong you risk her culling the litter, and problems are rare.

The pups will be born hairless, blind and with their ears will lie flat to their head. They make squeak loudly which is normal. Mum will rearly leave the nest for the first few days and although it may be hard to contain  your excitement do not try and peak into the nest. Mum will leave only to collect food and go to the toilet, and some mothers will cover the nest with bedding when they leave. Don’t forget to continue to feed the daily protein food and fresh foods daily, right upto and after the pups are weaned, serve all porridges in  shallow dishes to prevent pups from drowning, and make sure all water is served in bottles and not dishes! Usually when mum leaves no pups will still be attached to her teats, if the pups are scattered and ONLY if mum returns to the nest showing no interest in collecting a stranded pup should you try and return the pup. However, as mothers are so protective and will cull any with a strange smell (ie your hand). So first distract mum in a corner with some tasty treats and using a clean spoon return the pup to the nest and leave them well alone.

At seven days the pups are old enough to eat soild food and you can sprinkle some crushed hamster mix and wheatgerm into the nest, (and some in mums dish to stop her from consuming all the babies share!). At 10-12 days the pups may venture out (still blind) and will eat mums protein and fresh foods, so provide extra, still in very shallow dishes of course! The best protein foods are rolled oats soaked in puppy/KMR as they are an easy digestible meal. Celery leaves are also a good first fresh food as they are very mild on little tummies and often eaten with relish. Remember any celery should be diced small to avoid the stringy bits choking any of the hamsters. Supply mum and pups with lots and lots of hamster mix as well as plenty protein and fresh foods and scatter all around the cage to avoid conflicts. The family will consume an alarming amount of food, so let them eat all they can, cause they all need the nutrients! Continue sprinkling in the wheathgerm as well! The water bottle should be lowered to allow the pups to drink from it. Adding moist foods is important as some may not know how to use the water bottle until a later stage.

The pups can be handled as soon as mum stops running around frantically trying to collect them when you approach, handle them no earlier than 14 days. At around 16-17days, the mum should be let out in a hamster ball (stick the lid down and have someone supervise her!) or in a dry bath tub with the plug covered and food hidden. The pups can go into a bucket whilst you clean the cage really well. Try and be quick and be sure not to scrub the toys too well and do replace some of the old soiled bedding and nesting material. Always return the pups first and then mum. Leave them well alone to settle in.  Continue to handle them everyday for short periods over the cage floor and of course still continiue to feed them all the food they can eat! They should have a diet that consists of the hamster mix, wheatgerm, fresh vegetables and protein foods daily. Try and ensure you feed them good quality puppy milk or KMR with oats soaked in it.

The pups are usually weaned (stop drinking the mums milk) at 17 days but still may suckle from time to time after this time. At 21 days onwards dwarves should be spilt into single sex groups and syrians should be spilt by sex no longer than 28 days as they can breed from this age, onwards! Mums will need a thorough break and they should still be fed the same diet of extras for the next week or so. If they are to be bred again, a three month gap to allow them to recover should follow and no hamster should ever be expected to have more than 2 litters as 3 litters usually is pushing it too much. The last litter should be taken at the latest of 11 months. Female russian and robo dwarves can have their daughter(s) left with them for life for company, provided they get along.

Now that the pups are away from mum, they should be kept together in their groups for another 2-3 weeks as this seems to help them develop. Syrians should be spilt into their own cage at 6-7 weeks and dwarves can be kept together in same sex groups, although pairs usually do better.

The pups should be fed an unlimited amount of mix until they stop growing a 12 weeks, then their dish just needs to be filled as normal from there onwards. They should continue to get protein foods every 2-3 days until the age of 12 weeks. This means they can reach their potentiual. Fresh foods should still be fed every day or every other day for the rest of their lives, but the hamster mix must always form the basis of their diet!

Note that pups are quite likely to suffer from constipation after weaning if not fed fresh foods and/or don’t know how to use the water bottle. Also, in contrast, they can be quite prone to dirrhoea if fed too much watery foods and/or as they are exposed to a lot of stress- moving away from mum, then from siblings to a new home.

Always provide a caresheet for the new owners if you are not keeping them yourself so as the new owners can care for their new pet properly.

If you have longhaired males in the litter it can take up to 6 months before you see how well their coats are going to develop and remember hamsters continue to broaden out until 4-5 months, so they still are developing!

Dealing with ophan or abandoned Pups

Sadly, sometimes mums die giving birth, escape or refuse to rear the babies for an unknown reason, and then it is up to you to take over. It is a vey time consuming and often heartbreaking job, and I must warn you that any pups under 7 days old have the odds stacked against them but it is always worth a try. Pups 12 days and older have a pretty high chance of suriving. 

The best thing to do is get a foster mum, and if you got your hamsters from a reputable breeder, they may already have a litter the same age that you could transfer at least some of the babies. If you yourself have a litter the same age, then you could try to add some to the other mums litter. Of course, you cannot add really anymore than 3 or 4 pups, depending on how large the foster mum’s litter is. Of course this is not always sucessful and care must be taken not to put the foster mother’s own babies at risk. To add the new babies to the litter, you must remove the foster mum, put her in a box with a few treats, and then carefully, using gloves and a clean teaspoon transfer the babies to their new home. First rub the babies in the soiled bedding so as they smell like the foster mum and then put them in the nest with their foster siblings. Leave them for 3-4 minutes and then return mum, giving her some tasty treats to help distract her. Leave the nest undisturbed, and be extremely careful not to get your scent on any of the pups.

If no foster mum is available, you will have to raise them yourself, the two main problems are keeping the babies warm and feeding them. To keep the babies warm, you must provide a heat source, and the best way to do this is to move them into a small carrying cage or other small container they can’t climb out off. Fill the container with a thin layer of safe bedding and ensure there is lots of  shredded toliet paper to make a nest, do not use cotten wool or any other fabrics, if you are unsure, check the safe bedding list in the hamster section. You will then need to find a heatsource, a snugglesafe heatpad  or other pet heatpad works well if you have one, if not a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel can be placed under the cage, but you must be careful that you don’t overheat the babies. You could use a 15 watt lightbulb, but care must be taken that the babies don’t overheat or are too cold.

When it comes to feeding, I advise against cows milk, as it is too high in lactose and some nutrients, making it very hard for pups to digest. Instead a high quailty kitten or puppymilk replacement should ideally be used. Kitten milk is prefered as it is higher in protein, and the best brand is KMR. If you are in the UK, try to find Sherley’s Lactol Puppy and Kitten milk. Lactol needs to be diluted down, 1 part lactol, to 2 parts boiled, cooled water. If you are using another brand, dilute as appropiate, seek advice from a vet or breeder if you are unsure!

Do not use cows milk as it is too high in lactose making it hard to digest, even for human babies!

To feed the pups, use a glass eyedropper or needless syringe, however a needless syringe tends to go mouldy quickly, so a glass eyedropper is better, and can easily be cleaned in boiling water after each feeding session.

Pups less than 7 days old, only require 2 drops of formula, followed by 1 drop of cooled, boiled water to help with any sickness caused by the milk. After every feeding you must gently rub their tummies so as they get rid of their waste, clean their bottoms afterwards. This needs to be done every two hours, even through the night. However, you must ensure that they do not inhale any of the formula as that will almost certainly kill them.

For pups aged between 10-21 days old you can instead feed them every 4 hours and increase the amount they are being fed to 3-4 drops of KMR or Lactol. After  17-21 days they would normally be weaned from their mothers, and can also be spilt by sex from here. 

From 10 days onwards they can begin to eat some solid foods, but the food must be small and/or easy to eat, so wheatgerm and broken up hamster mix is recommended and protein foods like hard boiled egg and rolled oats soaked in KMR/puppymilk are good. Pups can easily become dehydrated, so be sure to lower the water bottle and add 1 part water to 1 part electrolytes which will help prevent dehydration. In the USA a popular brand of electrolyte is pedialyte, but be sure to buy unflavoured, plain pedialyte from your local chemists.

Read the Feeding Pups Properly section for further information on feeding pups.