The Care and Feeding of Baby Dwarf Hamsters
Raising baby dwarf hamsters is not tremendously difficult, although it will take some time and care to do properly. In fact, one of the hardest parts of breeding and raising dwarf hamsters is leaving the babies alone with the mother for a long enough period of time before starting to touch them, mostly because – like all babies of all species – the little ones are so darned cute.
There are five major types of coloring that dwarf hamsters have, and these are often a help in identifying which type of dwarf hamster one owns. These are:
Agouti: Medium brown back, white belly.
Albino: All white, no dorsal stripe, red eyes, and pinkish ears
Argente: Light brown that ranges from sandy through cream to apricot, with a usually gray dorsal stripe. They generally have ruby eyes, unless they are BEAs (black-eyed argentes), which have black eyes instead.
Black: The darkest browns and black, with a black dorsal stripe that is almost invisible because of the darkness of the rest of their fur.
Opal: Silvery-blue, with a white or cream belly, and a dark gray dorsal stripe.
Within these groups, there are many variations, such as Fawn, Blue, Dove, and Champagne. Some coats are banded (which means having a white collar at the neck), and some are solid colors, with no visible dorsal stripe.
Dwarf Hamster Baby Development Period
The dwarf hamster has, like other hamsters, a relatively short gestational period, Approximately eighteen to twenty days after becoming pregnant, the female dwarf hamster will give birth to a litter ranging in size from one to ten baby dwarf hamsters, although litters generally consist of five to six pups.
While the thought of breeding dwarf hamsters is an attractive one to owners, in order for the project to enjoy success, one must be careful and do one's homework, starting to research even before acquiring the dwarf hamsters to breed. The biggest reason for problems in breeding dwarf hamsters generally stems from the owner failing to do the proper research on both the process of breeding, and the process of raising the resulting baby dwarf hamsters.
However, from the birth until the hamsters open their eyes and start crawling around their cage (in approximately ten days to two weeks), one should refrain from touching them. Leave the baby dwarf hamsters in the cage alone with their mother. She will provide all that they need for this period. Don't try to change the cage liner during this period either. It will be fine.
In about four days, the owner should be able to see that the babies' skin pigments are appearing. At about seven days, their fur starts to come in. Finally, somewhere between ten and fourteen days, the babies' eyes will open, and they will start becoming active, and crawling about the floor of the cage.
At this point, the owner may begin to handle the babies briefly, although he or she should watch the mother fur cues as to whether this is alright with her. She may not want a human handling her babies at this point, and if so, she may indicate this by nipping, scratching, or biting the owner's hand. If the mother does allow the owner to handle the baby dwarf hamsters, special care should be taken to make sure that they do not fall or become injured.
Baby dwarf hamsters are very jumpy creatures, and can make sudden moves that will cause them to fall, risking serious or fatal injury. Even the height of an upraised human hand can be far enough from the ground that a falling baby dwarf hamster could sustain a serious injury. Once an owner has determined that it is safe, and okay with the mother, to handle the baby dwarf hamsters, one should continue to handle them on a regular basis, because this acclimates them to humans and helps with taming them overall.
Baby Dwarf Hamsters Food
After about two weeks, it should be safe to start feeding the babies regular potions of solid foods. Foods that are beneficial to baby dwarf hamster babies include fresh servings of oatmeal, oats, wheat germ, small birdseed, and tiny slices of red apple or cucumber.
While they can begin to nibble at lab blocks from the time they are about three weeks old, they cannot get enough nutrition from them to thrive until they get older. Nevertheless, it is not a bad idea to have the lab blocks in the cage, so that they can accustom themselves to nibbling. Further, baby dwarf hamsters faster and be healthier if they are offered small grains. As a treat, some owners even offer their baby dwarf hamsters small slices of cucumber or of apple.
How To Feed Baby Dwarf Hamster
When the babies become approximately ten days of age, they finally are able to reach the drinking tube of most cage hung water bottles. This heralds the start of the weaning process because once the hamster babies are able to find eat and drink, they are able to find alternatives to nursing; their mother, therefore, will start to nurse them less often. Until baby hamsters are able to reach the water bottle, however, feeding them foods that contain high water content, such as cucumber and red apple, will help them to stay properly hydrated.
After the babies are fully weaned, which occurs at approximately four weeks, the babies should be ready to be moved to their own cage. If the male hamster she bred with stays in the cage with the mother, she will very likely be pregnant again, even while she is nursing the current litter. If that occurs, the first litter of babies should be removed to another cage when the mother has the second litter, at approximately eighteen to twenty days; in other words, when the mother has the second litter.
When moving the babies, by the way, they should be separated by gender; with the males in one cage and the females in a different cage. This precaution is necessary to prevent any unwanted pregnancies caused by inbreeding, because most hamsters are capable of reproducing when they are approximately one month old.
While this is true for all dwarf hamsters, it is especially important to remember not to use cedar or pine bedding in the cage. Cedar bedding can cause respiratory issues in dwarf hamsters, and will seriously endanger the babies. Aspen or other woods that are soft will work. Also, remember to leave some unscented toilet paper pieces, cotton, or tissues in the cage, so that the hamsters will have something to shred and build a nest from.
Once the baby dwarf hamsters are in their own cage, apart from their mother, they require the same level of care that one would give to any other hamster. The owner should thoroughly clean the cage once a week, unless (as noted above) there are babies that have not yet been weaned (who should not be touched yet) in a cage with their mother.
Occasionally, one might have to clean the cage more often, if one notices that the cage is getting dirtier in less time. Also, the bedding in a hamster cage should be changed weekly. Further, a mild detergent should be used monthly to clean out the cage thoroughly. Make sure the cage is fully dry after cleaning so that it will be sanitary when one puts the hamsters back into it. Lay a new bedding of the chosen material, and use enough so that there is material for the hamsters to build nests with, since hamsters are relatively shy, and prefer privacy.
Dwarf Hamster Baby Safety Tips
Make sure that all joints, such as compartment openings, doors, and add-ons are secure and tight, and that the cage containing the babies is safely away from where other family pets, or children, might knock it over (accidentally or on purpose). Remember, cats and dogs find hamsters endlessly fascinating, and children will want to play with the babies, often before it is safe for them to do so.
In addition to lab blocks of food being in the cage, the weaned baby dwarf hamsters should be given fresh food and fresh water daily, which will help them to grow and thrive. Never leave fresh food in the cage for more than 24 hours, lest it spoil and make the babies ill. Since hamsters are hoarders, one should check their nests to make sure that food hidden there has not spoiled or gone rotten, since eating spoiled food can make the babies very ill. And remember, hamsters eat a lot. Salt wheels are great treats for hamsters, and come in flavors such as corn, celery, and apple.
Another important factor of breeding baby dwarf hamsters is that it is vital to constantly check on their well-being regularly. One needs to make certain that all of the baby dwarf hamsters are getting enough food and water, that they have not gotten injured through fighting with litter mates, that they are active (a hamster wheel and some toys, or one of those hamster tunnel habitat kits in the cage are good for this), and that they are staying physically healthy. A hamster's normal temperature range is 60 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Check to make sure your hamsters are within this range. If they are not, it could indicate that something is seriously wrong with the hamster. Play with and handle your baby hamsters as much as possible once they have been fully weaned. This will encourage them to stay tame, and will help keep them healthy. Hamster chew toys are made of soft woods, and will keep a hamster happily chewing on a safe (unlike plastic, which can injure them) object, so that their teeth grow properly. Signs of a healthy dwarf hamster are lots of activity, a smooth coat, and bright eyes.
Make sure there is some chinchilla sand in the cage, so that they can roll in it, which will help them stay clean and remove any excess oil from the babies' fur.
Different types of dwarf hamsters have slightly different care requirements.
Chinese dwarf hamsters, for example, should be fed from ceramic bowls, because they chew on everything. Further, they are always teething, so they should be amply supplied with chew toys. Further, the ideal time to breed them is at six months. Also, they survive best in solid-sided containers or tanks.
Siberian dwarf hamsters have coats that are sensitive to light, and their pigmentation may not change color when kept indoors as pets. They love shredding and peeling their food, so that owners may find placing whole fruits and vegetables in the cage to be beneficial. They particularly are fond of apples, broccoli, melons, and peas. With Siberian dwarf hamsters, water bottles with drinking tubes are much better to use than bowls of water, because these little guys are constantly rehydrating themselves.
Russian dwarf hamsters require a bit more specialized feeding than the others; either pellets or a loose mix can be purchased fairly easily, and – of course – an owner can supplement that with fresh food items as treats. Because Russian dwarf hamster mothers are more aggressive than other hamsters, the owner must be very careful to not get his or her scent on the fur of the babies, or the mother might kill them.
She should, once pregnant, be given a diet of bread and low fat milk, to make sure she gets enough calcium, and should be given unscented toilet paper for nest building. While Russian dwarf hamsters are more aggressive than other hamsters, they are also more sociable, which makes them ideal. They do well in wired cages that are fairly spacious.
All dwarf hamsters have in common that they are full of energy, love to dart away and hide. A secure, ten to twenty gallon tank or a wire cage with the sides of the bottom half blocked by a solid material (Plexiglas or Lucite are two good examples) is one of the most important things an owner can do for his or her dwarf hamsters. A standard aquarium, which is one of the least expensive options for housing dwarf hamsters, can easily accommodate up to four adults.
Again, all dwarf hamsters (and pretty much all hamsters in general) love to run, and can do up to five miles daily on a hamster wheel. However, a smaller than standard wheel is a good idea when purchasing a wheel for dwarf hamsters. Also when purchasing a habitat kit for dwarf hamsters, look for a tubular one that is recommended for use with mice. This size will be much better suited to dwarf hamsters.
Baby Dwarf Hamsters Problems To Look Out For
Once the hamsters can be handled safely (that is, without the mother turning on them), it is a good idea to check the babies for the following problems: bites, problems with the cheek pouch, ear problems, diarrhea, stomach problems, nails being excessively long, heatstroke, breathing problems or difficulties, and injury or trauma.
Dealing with these problems early on prevents bigger problems down the road. When in doubt, the owner should not try to treat the babies on his or her own, but should get them to a veterinarian with experience in dealing with hamsters. A simple toothbrush (preferably soft-bristled) is a good tool for smoothing the fur of both baby and adult dwarf hamsters.
Once the baby dwarf hamsters reach four weeks of age, they can, depending on the local laws in the owner's area, either be sold or given away as pets.
Dwarf hamsters are fun to breed although, as noted above, they do require a degree of care and responsibility to raise properly. Further, if an owner does his or her homework, and undertakes the breeding project having done the appropriate research and preparation, he or she will raise healthy litters, and know the feeling of having accomplished a job well done.