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Breeding Hamsters
Detailed Description:

   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.

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