Caring for Your Pregnant Hamster and Her Babies
Due to young hamsters sometimes being difficult to properly sex, mistakes can be made with housing males and females together, and you could end up with a pregnant female. Some females may not show signs of being pregnant or be overly large until the very end, so you may even check on your female one day to be surprised she’s not alone and now has a litter of babies! Raising a litter of hamsters can be a taxing process but can also be a rewarding one!
Make Your Pregnant Hamster Comfortable
If you are aware, or as soon as you become aware that your female hamster is pregnant, there are steps you can take to help reduce stress and risks to her and the babies. Gestation in hamsters can range between 16 – 22 days depending on species, so taking this time to prepare a home for her and the new babies is important. Trying to make the expectant mom as comfortable as possible is important for delivery of healthy babies. Separate her from any other hamsters to reduce stress or chance of fighting with other hamsters. Nesting material should be added to make the new mother more comfortable and feel secure. This is especially important with new mothers to reduce the chances of mom being insecure and abandoning her babies. Nesting material can consist of home-based products such as shredded newspaper or paper towels, or store-bought bedding. Mom should be fed a high-quality, high-protein diet while pregnant and nursing. Adding extra protein such as boiled egg and chicken is also beneficial to mom’s pregnancy and growing babies.
Caring for The New Litter of Babies
Litter size averages from 6-10 babies, although smaller or larger litters can happen. Once the babies are born, both the mother and newborns will benefit from extra privacy for the first week. You should avoid handling them at this time and have minimal interactions beyond what is needed to provide them appropriate care. Partially covering the habitat or placing it in a quiet room where there is less activity will also help reduce stress on the new mom. If the babies must be moved during this first week, gently scooping them up with some of their bedding will help reduce the scent you put on the babies and the risk of mom rejecting them. Syringe feeding orphaned baby hamsters is often unsuccessful, so a healthy nursing mother until the babies are weaned is vital for the health and growth of the babies. After the first two weeks, you can slowly start handling the babies to get them used to human handling, but be vigilant when attempting to pick up the babies as mom may be overly protective and try to bite. Always watch her body language and if she appears too distressed about you interacting with her family it’s best to leave them alone and try again in a few days.
Weaning Baby Hamsters
Food softened with water can start being offered around 10 days old. Babies will generally be weaned onto solid foods around 3 weeks old and dwarf species should be separated from their mother and opposite genders at this time to reduce the risk of fights or unintentional breeding. Syrian hamster babies should be separated by 5 weeks of age. Continue to closely monitor their activity and eating habits once separated to ensure they are weaning appropriately and thriving. If you do not plan on keeping the babies, they should be quickly growing and independent enough to go to their new homes when they reach 6 weeks old.