A young female hamster is mature enough to breed at six or eight weeks
of age. She has the shortest known gestation period of any mammal --
sixteen days -- and may have up to seventeen babies in a litter.
A female is receptive to breeding every four days. If she
is placed in the male's cage, she will breed almost immediately if it is
the correct time in that four-day cycle. If it is not the correct time,
they will fight. In this case, the female should be removed and placed
in her own cage.
Try again the next day to put the two hamsters together. If
they do not fight, leave the female there for some hours (please be sure
they don't fight) and then place her in her own cage. If they do fight,
try again the next day. Usually a male and female will adapt to each
other and can be kept together for some hours. However, the female
should be separated after the mate.
In her own cage, provide a small box or container in which
to build a nest. The female will need dry food, vitamin supplements in
her water, bedding, and some absorbent cotton, cloth, or paper, as well
as the usual supplies. She will busily hoard and bury food, dig more
that usual, and build her nest. Do not handle her during the last part
of her gestation.
Sixteen days after breeding, she will have from one to
seventeen babies. The average number in a litter is seven.
Do not try to see the babies, handle the mother, or even
clean the cage for at least five days. This time is critical. If the
mother is frightened or feels the babies are threatened, she will try to
hide and protect them by stuffing them into her cheek pouches. The tiny
baby, which weighs only about a fifteenth of an ounce (2g), frequently
will die from this rough handling. A panicky mother will sometimes
actually eat the babies. Therefore, she must have quiet and no visitors
for a few days.
Read the facts table for more information.