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Breeding Hamsters

BREEDING SYRIAN HAMSTERS

A very pregnant hamster Since Syrians are solitary animals, breeding is more difficult than with dwarfs, who cohabitate. Hamsters can be sexually mature as early as 28 days old. However, the female should not be bred until she is between three and four months of age. (Males should be the same age before their first encounter with a female.) If she is too young the result is generally a small litter, poor quality pups and a difficult time for the female. An older female bred for the first time may experience extreme difficulties at birth, occasionally resulting in death for the mother. Females can only mate during oestrus (when in heat or in season), which occurs every four days. Putting a male and female together when the female is not in heat could result in a fight. Females have been known to seriously injure or even kill a male if there is no intervention. (If squabbling does begin, separate them immediately and try again the next evening.)

Because hamsters are nocturnal animals, mating should be done in the early evening. (In the wild, they normally mate after sundown.) Generally speaking, a female in heat will be more active and will "freeze" (body pressed to floor and tail up) when her back is stroked. Never put the male in the female's cage - there is likely to be a fight even if she is in heat. It is best to place the male in a separate container with a small amount of bedding in the bottom and then introduce the female. If she is in heat, she will freeze, he will mount, dismount and wash himself several times. They should be allowed at least 20 minutes - unless one of them shows signs of loosing interest. (Be aware that there are probably as many different methods of breeding Syrian hamsters as there are hamster breeders, but this has have been proven to be the safest and most successful method for most breeders.)

The Syrian has one of the shortest gestation periods (length of pregnancy) of all animals - between 15 and 17 days. Normally, she will begin to show signs of "bulging" on about the ninth or tenth day. By the time she is near delivery, she will look like she is carrying fully packed saddlebags! Her environment should be stress-free throughout her pregnancy and for at least the first ten days after the litter is born.

PUPS!

Hamster pups (babies) The newborn pups don't have any fur, their eyes are closed, and they're still cute.They can't see, or hear, but they can already smell and move themselves around by theirfront feet. If one does stray from the nest the mother will scoop him up and return him, don't worry, hamster mom's know what they're doing. Resist the temptation to pick them up. The mom won't like this and it could even cause her to abandon, or even worse, eat the babies. Just watch them and wait around two weeks before handling them.

At two weeks the puppies will have a soft fur coat and will be running around raising havoc in the cage. Around three weeks they'll begin leaving their mother for longer periods of time to explore and look for food on their own. They'll hardly ever fight, and will begin to burrow and hoard food. Yep they're hamsters all right!

At three to four weeks old a baby Syrian hamster is ready to go live on his own. If left with brothers and sisters a Syrian hamster will fight them viciously. So never leave them in mixed sex groups.

But you've already found them good homes long ago, right?

Read our section on RAISING HAMSTER PUPS for a more detailed report.

Graphic Artist Andy Markison
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Milk is generally not a common treat for hamsters because it is easy to spill and may spoil. Pregnant mom's however benefit more from milk than normal non pregnant hamsters and thus can be a welcome and healthy treat. Just be sure not to overdo it.
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