How to take care of baby hamsters

Sometimes a new hamster comes with more than one surprise.
Sometimes a new hamster comes with more than one surprise. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Whether it's a planned littler of pups or a surprise, taking care of a new litter of baby hamsters can be a rewarding experience. When done right, the hamsters will grow quickly and soon be ready to separate into their own cages and go to their own homes. Unfortunately, there is also always the chance of the death of these tiny creatures, as they are extremely delicate and can even be killed by their own mother if she so desires.

Things You'll Need

  • Three cages
  • Water bottles
  • Hamster diet
  • Fresh greens and eggs
  • Fresh bedding

Remove potentially dangerous toys from the cage. This includes the wheel, as tiny babies can get caught beneath the wheel once they start to explore on their own. If the litter is planned, this can be done before the mother gives birth to keep from disturbing her after the pups are born.

Leave the nest alone. Disturbing the nest can be taken by the mother as a threat, and she may kill her own babies in her distress. Place the food and water in the opposite corner of the cage to help ensure that she is not disturbed.

Feed the mother well, and be sure she always has food and fresh water available. She's feeding her babies, and the better nutrition she has the healthier they will grow. In addition to a hamster diet, offer fresh greens and high-protein items like boiled eggs.

Keep an eye on the pups, but don't interfere except to change their water and give the mother new food.

Watch for the pups to start leaving the nest. How long this takes depends on the type of hamster. Smaller hamsters generally grow slightly faster. Once they are out of the nest, they can be handled for short periods of time; getting them used to being picked up at this young age will make them more social as adults.

Leave food around the cage for them to explore. They will be slowly weaned off their mother's milk by this age, and will start looking for their own solid food. Place food directly on the bedding rather than in bowls they might have difficulty reaching. Since the young hamsters already have teeth, both hard foods like carrots and soft foods like lettuce will be equally acceptable. The babies benefit from cucumbers and other foods with a high water content.

Lower the water bottle. They will also begin exploring this, so be sure that the water bottle is low enough that they can reach it. Clean up any water that might run out and spill in the bottom of the cage before it becomes waterlogged.

Clean the cage when the babies are about two weeks old. This can be done in stages -- one side at a time -- to keep from alarming the family too much.

When the babies are self-sufficient -- usually at about three weeks -- they can be separated from each other and their mother. Separate the family into three cages -- one for the mother, one for the male babies and one for the female babies. Allow them another week or so in this environment, continuing to feed the mother as normal and the babies as they have been fed.

By the time they are about two months old, they are socialized and friendly enough to be adopted out individually. This will also keep them from fighting among themselves.

Tips & Warnings

  • The growth rate for different breeds of hamsters differs, so research your particular breed to find out just when they are mature enough to separate from their mother.
  • Do not handle the babies before they leave the nest, or the mother may not recognize them when they are returned and view them as intruders.

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