|Before setting up a breeding pair, it is good to understand basic gerbil genetics so you know what colors the pair will produce. Great temperament and top health are the first considerations as both will be passed on to the offspring, but certain colors can be harder to place, such as pink eyed whit.
In breeding gerbils I do check on the babies from day one, but *try*to leave raising the litter to the mom and dad without interfering. Female and male gerbils are wonderful parents.
My breeding emergency kit consists of three things: 1) powered kitten replacement milk and infant medicine dispenser or eye dropper. (I have in a few cases intervened in warming up pups or giving an extra feeding -- see stories below.) 2) A clamp lamp with 40 watt grow bulb. And 3) to treat respiratory infection (clicking) Ornyacycline (brand name for tetracycline) which is sold in pet stores in the bird section.
The breeding tank is kept very simple -- no levels, wheels, toys.. The tank contains only a water bottle and bedding (about 3 inches of Carefresh and unscented toilet paper - no material or fibers or "fluff" sold in pet stores). I throw in a half toilet paper roll for the parents to gnaw up every day so they don't go too loopy.
Gerbil gestation is 24 days for a first litter. Gerbils mate the night of the birth. But a repeat litter is delayed; gestation varies a lot (but pups are birthed about five weeks after the previous birth.). Litters of one usually don't survive. If your gerbil has only one pup you should foster it with a nursing female - or find an AGS gerbil breeder who will foster for you at http://www.agsgerbils.org/Breeders.html
Once the pups are born, from day 1-7, I check on the nest in the morning and evening to make sure all the pups are okay and are together in one nest; it a pup get separated, I return him to the nest (make sure your hands are washed first!!) My gerbils are fine with this, but sometimes will move the pups after I've touched the nest. It is important not to disturb or change their environment when the pups are very young. So do not clean out the tank, move it, remove old objects, or give them new objects in these early days. If the parents are nervous, drape a towel over half of the tank.
At one week, I take the pups all out (carefully -- they will leap right out of your hands (see story below) resulting in head trauma) to count fingers and toes. Alway wash your hands before touching the pups! While gerbils don't mind your smell on the pups, the mom will attack a pup if the pup smells of a strange gerbil or of certain other foreign smells, such as strange gerbils, soot/ashes, or stale litter.
By day 10, I check on the sexes (nipple dents on girls' upper thighs and arm pits, smooth bellies on boys) and take them out for longer periods of several minutes to socialize and tame them. Now they are crawling around and will fall asleep in my hand -- this is the best part about breeding gerbils.
Gerbils open their eyes on or about 19 days. Some get jittery and previously calm pups might leap out of your hands and take off like a shot. It takes a couple of days for them to figure out vision and associate you by sight. Then pups are back to their old selves.
Gerbils wean from milk at 3 through 4 weeks; watch carefully for signs of respiratory infection. You can give softer foods like cherios, raw oatmeal, and canary seed. Remove the pups from the parents at 5-6 weeks or when a next litter arrives. You can leave 1-2 older pups in with mom, but gerbils can mate as young as 8 weeks.
|Stories about the birth of our first litter...The day Blossom had her first litter, she seemed to know what to do. But I was pretty much a wreck. Here's what happened and all my questions to my new gerbil buddies on the Gerbil Mailing List....My daughter when she got up at 6:30 did not see any babies and briefly held Blossom, who she said felt "lumpy". At about 7:30 I found one dark gray pup in the tank with Blossom. She was moving it around in her mouth/paws and it was squeaking. I did not see any others in the tank, so I turned down the lights, shooed out the other pets and left her alone, to reduce her stress level and let her instincts kick-in. I wondered, Is it possible that she is having her babies now? Or are they always born at night
Blossom had a second pup that morning, a pink one. When I saw her with the first one it was in the front right corner of the cage. Then several hours later I checked back and there were two in the nest/box where she sleeps (left back corner). Shortly after I checked on them, she moved them both to the left back corner of the tank. The pups seem fine -- moving and squeaking. Is it normal and healthy for the mother to move the newborn pups around the tank? Does it take a while for a mother gerbil to settle on a nest place? or I am agitating her by checking on them, i.e., opening the lid an moving the bedding material? Also, I accidentally touched the babies when I was moving bedding material trying find, them. Is that bad? Okay?
|The time I dropped Petal on her head...I learned that at a very young age, a gerbil pup will leap right out of your hand. This happened the very first time I took the very first pup out of the tank (at about a week old). Fortunately, the fall was only two feet and onto a rug, so she was okay, but that image of her twisting and flying from my hands has stuck with me! We now take them out cupped in two hands (one on the bottom and one on the top) and right onto a pillow until they open their eyes.|
|The night Blossom deserted her babies to chew on a box...I made the mistake of replacing the chewed up box Blossom had birthed and raised her 2 pups in with an identical type one, but new. Blossom, who can get rather obsessive about such things, started right in chewing up and just kept gnawing on it (I tried giving her the old one back -- she began gnawing up this one too). She ignored the pups completely and they seemed to be getting cooler and more listless. I took out the box altogether, but the mother was still agitated, digging in the corners, and not nursing. (She had always slept in a box). Help! What could I do to help her settle down and nurse? I sent my husband (not a big gerbil fan but very tolerant) out into the night in the search of kitten replacement milk. My daughter, ever calm, suggested I put the SOS out to the gerbil mailing list. Again, my gerbil buddies came to the rescue and talked me through this gerbil emergency...I borrowed my leopard gecko's heat lamp to keep the pups warm placing them in a high sided bowl with some bedding. For hours straight I dropped one drop of milk at a time into their tiny 10 day old mouths until my neck and back ached thinking, "I refuse to let you die". Blossom went on gnawing vigerously in the background. I gave her some paper towels and tissues hoping to get her back in the nesting mood. This story had a happy ending. As I reported to the gerbil list the next day, "After 6 hours straight of compulsive gnawing and digging, Blossom has settled down with her two pups (named by my daughter Rubyus and Petal) and is nursing them." That was frightening, I decided after that to not take a thing out of the cage until those pups are weaned!|
|The American Gerbil Society published an
in-depth article I wrote on Breeding Gerbils