In the world of hamsters, there is no breed more popular than the Syrian. With documentation dating as far back as 1797 and having been first domesticated in the 1930s, the Syrian is the first hamster to ever be domesticated and arguably began the rise in popularity of hamsters as household pets.
Interestingly enough, when zoologist Israel Aharoni went on an expedition to locate the Syrian hamster, which was believed to be extinct back then, the goal was to study the rodent species. After a fateful discovery of a Syrian hamster female with 12 babies, they were immediately taken to Jerusalem to be studied and researchers were surprised to find out how easy it was to breed and domesticate the species.
Despite having an unfortunately limited lifespan – being able to live only up to an average of 2.5 years, it didn’t take long before Syrian hamsters entered people’s homes and become one of the most popular pets in the world.
Breeding Syrian Hamsters – What You Should Know
If you’re planning to breed Syrian hamster, you should first find a good reason why you must do so. Breeding Syrian hamsters can provide you an opportunity to earn extra money but know that this may not go as planned since there isn’t really a big market on hamsters unless you plan on selling them to pet stores or giving them away to reliable people.
If things don’t come as planned, you should make sure that you have enough resources to properly care for the hamsters until you know what to do. This means you should have enough money, food, and cages among other things.
Researching the hamster market would be ideal before actually making the decision to breed your Syrian hamster. Once you decide on going with the plan to breed, you should carefully decide on how you’ll approach both the breeding process and how you’ll advertise your furry pets.
Not A Family Affair
When breeding hamsters, it would be best to pick out a male and female that is unrelated to each other. There are a lot of risks when breeding hamsters that are closely related to each other, just like in the case of humans.
Breeding daughters with fathers, or mothers with sons, may produce offspring with genetic defects that would cause you more harm than good. The closer the genes, the more chances of defects.
For this, you can try to get a male and female from different breeders or suppliers to make sure that they are unrelated to each other.
Age Does Matter
Forget the saying “age doesn’t matter” because, in hamster breeding, it does. Syrian hamsters, and most other hamster breeds, in general can, begin breeding 28 days after their birth. However, the appropriate age for breeding hamsters is 3 to 4 months.
Remember that since hamsters have short lifespans, a 3 to 4-month-old hamster can be considered to be at its prime age and is able to effectively carry offspring with little risks. Make sure to breed hamsters that are of the same age. Breeding them at a young age can produce smaller babies or “pups,” smaller litters, and even harbor genetic defects among the offspring.
Breeding Syrian hamsters that are far in age may produce similar repercussions so it would be better to go for a couple of the same age group.
Preparing For the Breeding
Before you start breeding your pet Syrian hamsters, you should first make sure that prior to the mating process, both male and female are in a comfortable and stress-free environment.
For this, their cages must be big enough for them, at least 450 square inches, and should have sufficient food, water, bedding, and exercise equipment (hamster wheels, chew toys, etc.).
Furthermore, it would be a great idea for you to put the cages of the male-female pair closer to each other. That way, they would be able to become better acquainted with each other and familiar with the other’s scent.
The Mating Process
Once the hamsters have come of age and are comfortable enough for them to be able to breed, the mating can then commence.
- The mating process cannot happen if the female is not in heat. If you place a male and a female in the same cage without the latter going into estrus, it might result in her attacking the intruder and could even kill him; worst case scenario.
- To make sure that the female is in heat, you can gently brush the female’s bottom and if her tail becomes erect, it’s a sign that she has gone into estrus and will be receptive to mating with a male. Females go into heat every 4 or 5 days.
- Gently place the pair in the same cage or the female inside the male’s cage to help them begin the mating process. Never place the male inside the female’s cage because hamsters are solitary creatures and the females, in particular, are highly territorial. She might fight him for trespassing on her territory instead of mating with him.
- If the hamsters start fighting, quickly separate them from each other.
- Make sure to be there during the mating process in case it goes wrong. The male would readily mount the female when she has her tail erect; a sign of receptiveness on her part.
The mating process can last up to 30 minutes. When it ends, quickly separate the two so that fighting could not occur.
- The mating process can occur many times. You’ll know that it is finished when both parties look particularly uninterested with each other.
- Make sure to record the date of the mating as it will prove useful to you for when the female becomes pregnant.
Syrian Hamster Pregnancy
After the mating is done, observe the female for one week for behavioral changes. The female may exhibit changes in behavior when she becomes pregnant. Signs that a female Syrian hamster is pregnant may include uncharacteristic silence and inactivity, overeating or drinking, and nest building.
The behavioral changes are the only signs you can get that a hamster is pregnant because the physical changes only show a few days before the female gives birth.
If you think the female is pregnant, use the date the female last mated and add 15 days to it. This may be the closest possible date the Syrian hamster would give birth. Hamster pregnancies can be quite quick, lasting an average of 17 days, the fastest of any hamster breed.
Because a pregnant female hamster would naturally want to build a nest for her soon-to-arrive offspring, you can help her out by providing nesting materials such as paper towels or shredded tissue. Furthermore, don’t forget to prepare her a clean cage that she can use during her pregnancy because it may take a while before you can clean her cage properly once she gives birth.
During the latter stages of the pregnancy, refrain from handling the female because hamsters have the ability to forego giving birth until they are comfortable. Since hamsters are nocturnal creatures, she may give birth during the evening hours without you knowing about it.
You don’t have to worry much about the pups because the mother will take it upon herself to clean up and cut their umbilical cords.
After The Birth
Once the female gives birth, it would be best not to disturb them for a while because hamsters are known to eat their young when they feel stressed or threatened. They may also cannibalize their children if they detect a scent on them other than their own so you shouldn’t touch the offspring immediately after the birth.
You still need to provide food and water to the female hamster and you can try to do that while being as quiet as possible so as to not disturb the mother and her litter. As for the pups, they only need their mother to provide for them their nutritional needs.
The female can give birth to a normal range of 4 to 6 pups but there are times where it can either fall short of that amount or exceed it. It is not uncommon for female Syrian hamsters to give birth to as much as 12 offspring.
Syrian Hamster Pups
Newborn hamsters are also known as “pinkies.” These little hairless gummy candy-like pups can neither see nor hear but they would already be able to smell and move around with their front feet.
In a span of two weeks, their soft fur would begin to develop, would start hearing, and will open their eyes. One week after their birth, you may be able to see what color the pups’ coat would be.
Also in two weeks, the pups may start to drink water and in 16 to 21 days, they may also begin eating food. Because of this, you must adjust your hamster’s cage to the needs of the offspring. Add an extra food bowl and a water bottle placed lower in order for the babies to reach it. Carefully place little pieces of dried food around the cage for the mother to pick up and feed to her children.
The babies will stay with their mother for about 3 weeks. Afterward, you can separate them from their mother and place them in different cages according to their sex because hamsters can start breeding early and you wouldn’t want any accidental breeding to happen.
A week or two after their birth and once they start moving around, you can begin getting the pups ready for human handling by letting them get used to your scent. You can do this by gently placing your hand near the cage or even the pups (without touching them).
Once they have completely developed and matured, you can even scoop them up using a small cup and start petting them; provided that they have been separated from their mother.
Determining the Sex of the Pups
Identifying the pups’ sex can be quite a difficult thing especially since they don’t exactly mature at the same rate. While they may be uncomfortable with the action, you can hold them upright to get a better view of their reproductive organs.
Females would have their genitals closer to their anus while males will have theirs separated by a short distance and at about 5 weeks, their testes will start falling into the edge and would appear as two pale pink lumps.
Make sure to double check the sex of the hamsters even after you’ve separated them because there are instances when maturity is delayed and a male could be accidentally placed with the females.
Getting the Pups to Their New Homes
Unless you want to be responsible for a dozen hamsters all at once, you would want to sell them or give them to responsible owners that would properly take care of them. Selling the hamsters would definitely earn you a few extra cash. You can use the Internet to find suitable customers or you can even sell them to a pet store.
However, since you are responsible for bringing them into the world, you should make sure that the people you sell your hamster pups would be able to provide them the care they need to survive.