Breeding hamsters is easy due to their incredible breeding ability, however this decision must be made with knowledge of a few things, practices and methods. Indeed, if mating is the least of your worries, the babies will be born in numerous numbers, and it will be necessary to have the means to separate them, and therefore to have enough space and cages. Also, certain marriages between hamsters should be avoided because they give birth to unviable babies.
Before you start raising hamsters, ask yourself a few questions: How old should parents be? How much weight? Are they healthy enough to breed? What is the ideal breeding season? In addition, it is extremely important to ensure that the species and color of the parents are compatible: if it seems obvious that they must belong to the same race, crossing certain colors is “forbidden”, not for aesthetic, but for genetic reasons.
Indeed, some genes are carriers of abnormalities and it is desirable to obtain very accurate information on this subject from a NAC veterinarian or professional breeder. Also, if your hamsters are purchased from a pet store, it is strongly discouraged to consider breeding them as you do not have sufficient information about their lineage and genetic background.
Hamster breeding season
Hamsters naturally have a seasonal breeding cycle, meaning they only have to mate at certain times of the year. This lasts from April to September for Russian, Siberian and Roborovsky hamsters and from February to October for Chinese hamsters. On the other hand, the golden hamster stops its reproductive cycle in winter.
During the breeding season, the female is fertilized every 4 days and agrees to mate only for a few hours. If mating fails, she will go into heat again after 4 days. At this time, the female should be placed in the male’s cage (and not vice versa) to see if she will accept the mating.
If you have a pair of hamsters of the same species, there is little problem other than making sure their coat colors are compatible and that they are old enough to breed. Thus, the female should be between 3 and 10 months old and the male between 3 and 16 months old.
If you only have one female, you will need to find someone who can lend you a male of the same species to mate with. Parents must be healthy and have no physical disabilities. It is extremely important to avoid inbreeding between two white hamsters, two light gray hamsters, two white-bellied hamsters, two Dalmatian hamsters, two satin hamsters…
For mating, it is important to place the hamsters in a neutral place (hamster park) or in a male cage. At the meeting, it will be necessary to be present to follow the development of events, and separate them if they start to fight, which means that the female is not ready for mating. If the time is right, the two hamsters will sniff each other, then the female will raise her hindquarters and allow the male to impregnate her. At the end of mating, hamsters should be separated from each other so that they do not fight, and immediately placed back in their appropriate cages. In case of failure, it will be necessary to wait for the next ovulation cycle before attempting a new mating.
After successful fertilization, pregnancy begins immediately, and the female must be given additional protein: a piece of ham a day or a small handful of cat food will do the trick. Even if there is bedding in the cage, it is advisable to put cotton wool or small pieces of napkins in it so that the female prepares the nest for the arrival of the young. Then the pregnancy will last from 15 to 20 days., an average of 16 days. The female will gradually grow, and her nipples filled with milk will begin to appear.
The birth of a hamster
In the days leading up to the birth of the cubs, it is extremely important to leave the female alone in an isolated room, without the passage of people or other animals. During childbirth, stay away from the cage, otherwise a stressed mother may eat her babies at birth, even though they are healthy. After that, do not try to touch the babies, because the female, smelling a smell that does not belong to the cage, may reject them and eat them. The number of cubs varies from one species and from one litter to another (average 5 to 16 cubs). The mother keeps them warm under her belly, feeds them, licks them and stimulates their natural functions.
It is extremely important not to touch them in the first 2 weeks of life, because she may not recognize them and cannibalize. One way is to put a small spoon in the corner of the cage so that it absorbs the smell of the nest; So you can use it to discreetly retrieve a dead baby that the mother didn’t eat. Weaning will occur between 20 and 25 days, after which separation will need to begin.
Around the twentieth day, the babies must leave the mother, otherwise she may become aggressive towards them. It is therefore advisable to place them in separate cages and in turn separate small males from females to prevent them from mating between siblings. From now on, it is desirable to pick up each baby every day so that they get used to the human hand. Finally, around week 8, place each hamster in a separate cage to avoid fights. We can then switch to an adult hamster diet based on seeds, fruits, and vegetables.