How To Hand-Rear Baby Hamsters


Hand-rearing baby hamsters is an exhausting task. There are only two reasons for deciding that hand-rearing is the way to go.

  1. If the mother has abandoned her nest and doesn’t feed/keep warm/defend the babies herself.
  2. If the mother has died before the litter are 14 days old

Under no other circumstances should hand-rearing be the first option unless advised so by a vet (in very rare cases).
In this article I will show you how to set up a suitable cage, how to keep the nest warm, how to hold and feed a baby hamster and how to encourage peeing and pooping.
All this information is from personal experience and through extensive research on Google.
I recommend all this information for pups upward of 7 days old.

How to set up a baby-safe cage

What you need:
A basic cage (preferably one without fancy tubes and tunnels)
Kitchen roll
Pet-safe bedding
Hamster muesli
Fresh vegetables (carrot or cucumber being better choices for babies)
A water bottle

NOTE: Do not use sawdust in a babies cage as it can be dangerous for tiny inexperienced mouths!

As you can see from the picture (right) the cage I am using doesn’t even require a lid as such yet. The babies are at such a stage that climbing out is unachievable and as the feeds are regular, its a pain to have to take a lid on and off constantly.

The base is also compromised of 4 sheets of large kitchen roll. It covers the bare plastic, provides vital heat insulation and is much safer than sawdust at this stage in the pups lives.

 Everything is very much open which is important for keeping an eye on wandering babies. As they are still blind having  places to hide is a risky move on the owners part so keeping things as simple and open is important.

I have also attached the water bottle onto the inside as low as possible to the ground so that when they are exploring if they want a little drink, they can. As of yet, they havent touched the water bottle. I think 14-21 days is the general time region to expect self-drinking babies, if not longer.

How to keep the nest warm

The nest in which you are raising these babies in is hugely important. Its where the majority of the pups time will be spent whilst growing up.
As you are rearing these babies without a mother, the necessities wont be provided naturally to the babies. For example, the heat of a mothers belly will no longer be there to maintain a healthy body temperature for the pups.
This is crucial!!
Babies will lose their body temperatures very quickly when alone and without a mothers tum to nestle into, this is literally a matter of life and death for young pups.

To compensate for a mothers tum, there are two things to do to keep your hamster babies toasty.
Firstly, an almost boiling-hot water bottle. Its incredibly difficult to maintain an even temperature but throughout the night you cant cradle the bubs against your own body for warmth! So its the easiest way to heat the nest.

This is where the layers of kitchen roll and a hot water bottle cover come in handy dispersing heat and also makes sure that the cage doesn’t overheat.

If it is too hot, the babies may squeak a little (they are letting you know its uncomfy – simply place a towel or blanket inbetween the base and bottle to take away some heat) or  they will just move out of the heated section of nest. They aren’t stupid and they will decide where they want to sleep in the nest.

This will require changes every 3 or 4 hours to maintain a decent temperature (even throughout the night) so pay attention and regular checks are a MUST!

In contrast, heat pads are available which can maintain even temperatures across a layer which can be placed in a cage however they can be costly (especially when you’ll only really need them for 2 or 3 weeks) and I was recommended by a worker at Pets at Home that heat-pads are more commonly used for reptiles and regularly-changed hot water bottles are equally as good for this situation.

The second way to keep the bubs warm?
Hold them in your hands of course! Plenty of handling can be helpful as it keeps them at body temperature which is the end game really. Like I said earlier, this isnt possible 24 hours a day but any chances you get – it can be super efficient!

How to hand-feed a baby hamster

Hand feeding a baby hamster is a challenging operation. It requires effort, patience and a very gentle touch.

What you need:
Cat/Kitten milk
(“there is no difference” said the vet)
A pipette
(I got mine from Boots Pharmacy for 99p)
Fresh vegetables/fruit
(carrot, apple and cucumber again are best)

How often?
From 1-14 days old hourly feeds are required. Yes, every hour! I never said it was easy people! Pups get dehydrated in a matter of hours so slacking on this front could kill them.
When the pups are eating soft/solid foods (approximately between 10-16 days) the milk weaning can begin reducing feeds to every 3 hours.
When the pups are comfortably feeding themselves, milk feeds can be stopped altogether.

Is cow’s milk okay?
No.
Babies need nutrients from milk to help them develop and grow properly. Milk low/without lactose is important as it is as close to the mothers milk as you can commercially get.Cat or puppy milk was recommended by the vet I visited, and she also stated that there was not much difference between cat and kitten milk so either is perfect for feeding baby hamsters.

How to hand feed milk
It is a very time-consuming task hand feeding pups.
You have to take it sloooooow. Any hurry or forceful feeding can lead to milk being inhaled into the lungs and causing death within the minute. This is serious stuff!

  • Gently hold the pup in your hand being careful not to squeeze them tightly.
  • Take a pipette full of milk and place it near the pups mouth. Remember they are not used to being fed this way so resistance is natural.
  • Try not to squeeze vast quantities into their mouth, they’ll choke! Little and often is the way to go.
  • Allow the pup to lick/bite the end of the pipette on their own to take in milk.
  • If they dont show an interest, a small drop of milk on the bottom lip can be licked up and enjoyed all the same.
  • Wait for the pup to stop ‘chewing’ the milk (its how they swallow and is normal) then repeat

About 2 or 3 drops in one sitting is plenty for a little hammy.
Anymore and you may be doing more harm than good.

If milk covers the nostrils, be quick to wipe it off as this can be inhaled and will kill your pup.

I find hand-feeding 2 pups takes between 10-15 minutes. There is no point in rushing the feeds as, like I mentioned earlier, they are still babies and can inhale just as easily as swallow which will kill them!

How to introduce solid foods
There is no use leaving a bowl full of muesli out for your babies to munch on. Their teeth are still developing and will have nowhere near enough power in their jaws to break down the solid nib-lets you get in muesli.

This is where fresh veg come into play.
Dice your chosen veg into teeny-tiny chunks – no bigger than the pups ear-size.
Place the chunk in your hand in front of them and wait for them to hoover it up.
They very well may take a good 20 minutes chewing a chunk – its new to them! Just be patient and wait for them to 100% finish the chunk before feeding a drop of milk or just retuning them to the nest. You don’t want to over-do it.

Placing these finely chopped veg into the cage near the nest encourages the pups to explore and scavenge for their food.
Finely chopped apple is also a winning food as its hydrating as well as nutritious.

How to encourage peeing and pooping

You may very well giggle at this but until about 12-15 days of age they wont be able to pee or poop on their own. Their mother would have to lick their bottoms to encourage them to relieve themselves which is where you have to step in and play surrogate.
If you don’t do this, it can lead to “backing-up”. Can you imagine how uncomfortable that would be for a bub?! Its also a cause of death for infant rodents, so dont slack about at this stage!

What you need:
Lukewarm clean water
Cotton bud
A tissue

Basically heat the water to about body temperature (you are mimic-ing a mothers lick here).
Dip the cotton bud into the water, drain any excess water off.
Hold the baby so their bottoms are hanging free from your grip.
Gently rub the damp end on the babies bottom area. A regular up-and-down motion for no more than 10 seconds will encourage the babies to relax enough to pee. They even tend to hold still at this stage so you know they’re concentrating!
Having placed the tissue underneath the pup, it should catch any drips from their little wee! Any poop may need a bit of extra rubbing with a cotton bud. Stubborn things!

How often should you do this?
Really as often as you can manage!
I do my two every 2 hours or so however at 10 days old they have started peeing and pooping without encouragement – phew! I only discovered this however when they were causally exploring my bed and both managed to pee in unison.

————–

As I said at the start, the whole process is not for the faint-hearted. Its all very well thinking its best for your pups to be hand-raised by yourself but are you prepared to sacrifice everything that comes with it? (Sleep being a biggie! I haven’t slept for more than 2 hours at any stage since Friday)

Taking the babies away from the mother may be the only option but it needs to be considered in respect to everything else – do you have the time to hand-raise a litter?
Tomorrow I shall post a 24 hour ‘diary’ of my day caring for the pups, just to give you an idea of how much my life currently revolves around these tiny rodents!

Hope this information is helpful to someone out there!
If you have further questions/worries you can contact me for free of course.

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Categories: animals, Care, FAQs, Hamsters, Health, Pets | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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19 thoughts on “How To Hand-Rear Baby Hamsters

  1. So glad to see them doing so well. It’s a hard job for you but it must be so rewarding!

    • Its very rewarding. I have found myself applauding a weeing hamster or cheering them on when they munch an apple chunk etc. Anyone would think Ive lost my marbles! 😛

  2. I hope Mom appreciates how easy it is to take care of me!! I am NO work whatsoever for her…. practically….

    Love and licks,
    Cupcake

  3. Pingback: Liver Failure in Baby Hamsters « Hamster Diaries

  4. Laura Belliveau

    Day 12 I had to take 2 pups away from their siblings. They were being trampled and not fed. They were about to die. It is now day 18 and they are still alive
    I have been bottle feeding them with kitten milk replacement and they drink lots of it now. They also sometimes drink water.
    My only concern is that they are noticeably smaller than the pups that are with mommy. Will they eventually grow as big?

    I have been trying to introduce them to some of the more calm babies and right now three of them accept the orphans and cuddle with them. There is one mean baby at the moment, do you think I could take the mean ones out and put the small babies in when the others are feeding from the mom?
    I had also tried putting the babies back with the mom just now. She didn’t attack them but didn’t feed them becaus

  5. Laura Belliveau

    Day 12 I had to take 2 pups away from their siblings. They were being trampled and not fed. They were about to die. It is now day 18 and they are still alive
    I have been bottle feeding them with kitten milk replacement and they drink lots of it now. They also sometimes drink water.
    My only concern is that they are noticeably smaller than the pups that are with mommy. Will they eventually grow as big?

    I have been trying to introduce them to some of the more calm babies and right now three of them accept the orphans and cuddle with them. There is one mean baby at the moment, do you think I could take the mean ones out and put the small babies in when the others are feeding from the mom?
    I had also tried putting the babies back with the mom just now. She didn’t attack them but didn’t feed them because she just finished feeding the others.
    Do you think this could work?

    • They will be noticeably smaller, mainly because the mothers milk will be providing them with nutrients kitten milk just wont. Its nothing to worry about. It may also be because by 18 days they should be introduced to solids. Are the ones your handrearing eating solids?? If you havent tried, finely chop red apple or cucumber and they should work out the rest. Its imprtant they start on solids as soon as now because its going to help them develop.
      I dont think you should take out any of the babies that are currently with the mother. It could distress the mother and it could lead to her abandoning the entire litter. I think its unwise to be mixing the ‘orphan’ pups in with the other babies as well as the mother. Your scent on the orphans will confuse her and it could lead to bigger problems. I think its worth keeping them seperate now until they are at an age where you can either pass them on or cage them individually. Try not to worry about their size. They will grow and mature in their own time. You have done very well with them to raise them from day 12 🙂 Welldone, hope this helps. Try the soft, solid foods. (chicken baby food or peanut butter is also very good for young pups) any other questions feel free to ask. 🙂

  6. brandon edmunds

    so glad that I have found this it will help me a lot thanks for posting this but one question remains that I have tried to breed my teddy bare hamster 3 times already and every time she has eaten them or just abandons them after birth the mother is about 1 and a half years of age to so she is not a young mother is it possible to just take the pups and hand raise the babies once they are born because I don’t want to lose another litter of pups the last litter I had was 3 days ago and they lasted only 3 days before they where eaten so I am looking for other options in making sure that the next litter survives but yet I am a college guy too,

  7. philippe

    Wonderful info, I came upon this to save a rat puppy I found freezing to death on the road wish me luck

  8. Amy

    Hi my teddy bear hamster abandoned her babies (2 of them) I’m not sure how old they are but they can poo and eat soft food ( the stuff inside sunflower seeds and small pieces of carrot) by themselves. I have them on a hot-water bottle for warmth. Their eyes aren’t open yet, would you maybe know when they might open and if you have any advice it would really help……

  9. Krista

    Thanks so much for this! Our mother hamster escaped from the cage by accident so I have left the nest on the floor for her to come back to. 24 hours have gone by and the babies (5 dasys old) are still alive so I assume she has been comming back to feed them. Not really sure if I sould strt hand feeding or not. What do you think?

  10. Margie

    When should you start “licking there bottoms” to encourage them to pee and poop?

  11. Pingback: Please Help Me My Hamster Mother Died - Hamster Central

  12. Patrick

    I’m so sad that I have to take care of the four babies without a mother. It’s so difficult because I don’t know what to do with them without their mom! Any ideas?

  13. Stephanie

    I am now the proud mum of 5 orphan hammys! 5! They are only 3 days old, but their mum sadly passed away, so we had no other option. I’m feeding them through a syringe every hour, I hope they get enough. Obviously they are too young to get any solid foods at all. Any other tips?

  14. samuel ting

    Hi, i have 2 female and two male hamsters, both mothers have given birth as i have already separated the mothers +cubs and the males in different cages. 1 mother has given birth to 6 and has eaten 3 pups as soon as we moved them to a new cage the mother starts eating another. what do we do? do we continue to let the mother eat away at her pups or separate them and start feeding manually? on the other side the other hamster who has 5 pups has no problem whatsoever given the upper hand of the larger cage. what do we do? can i mix the remaining two pups with the other litter of 5? please give some advice plz.

    • Izzy

      Try wiping off the scent form the 3 remaining pups and give them to the more competent mother to care for. It’s not a 100% guarantee but adoption is their best chance of survival at this point. Oh and btw I think what happened was when you moved them to another cage, their scent wore off so the mother started eating them. Next time if you suspect a mommy hamster is pregnant, put her in another cage straight away and do not disturb the nest for 2 weeks as soon as she has her babies.

      • Great advice about separating the mother straight away – although its rare a mother will adopt a new pup. Mothers eat their own babies even when the do smell of themselves, I agree having a hammy-mommy is the best chance for them but without their birth moms the risk increase!

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