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Chinese Hamster


All about Chinese hamsters. All in one place.

Chinese Hamster Library

All about Chinese hamsters. All in one place.

Chinese Hamster Litter Care

Looking after a litter of pups is hard work for a mother Chinese hamster.

In the first week after birth, the female will spend about 45 minutes out of every hour in the nest. In the second week this reduces to 35-40 minutes and by the third week it is down to 20-25 minutes.

There are things you can do to support the female hamster, prepare the pups for a happy confident life, and keep both mother and pups healthy. Compared to litter rearing in the wild, captive conditions are over-stimulating for pups before they are weaned. They would be secluded in burrows which are insulated from the noise and light of the outside world. After weaning in the wild, they would range outside the burrow and have more stimulation.

Before the Pups Open their Eyes

For the first two weeks do not disturb the mother or pups. There is no evidence in hamsters that early handling is beneficial. In fact, there is a high risk of the female killing the pups because of the disturbance. You should allow the female to spend her time with the pups and not take her out of the cage for handling. Separation from the mother, even for just 15 minutes each day, has been shown to be a stressor in the early life of rodents and impact the adult behaviour of the pups.


Each day you need to check that there is plentiful dry hamster food available. In the first week the female does not usually eat significantly more than usual, but you will find that she does during the second week. Add foods rich in protein to help the female maintain condition and the growing pups.

Throughout the second week, vary the supplemental foods that you give, including wet, dry, large and small food items. Hamsters learn to prefer odors and food sizes that they were exposed to when they were very young.

After the Pups Open their Eyes

Chinese hamster pups start leaving the nest at around 10 days old, and open their eyes at 14 days old. When their eyes are fully open, you can begin to handle them. They can be fast so handle them over a carrier or cage for safety. You can tell the sexes of the pups from the first time they are handled, but it is best to check this several times over the next two weeks.

When you are handling the pups, put the female into her own separate carrier or playbox with a hidey hole and some delicious food, perhaps even a wheel. This gives her a chance to rest and eat in peace for a moment. Remember to give the female a health check, paying attention to her body condition, her nipples and her vent.

On the second or third day of handling the pups, you can clean the cage while the female and the pups are in their handling boxes. It will be in need of a good clean by this stage! Putting some used substrate back into the clean cage helps reduce the distress to the litter.

You can start to introduce the pups to more variety so that they become familiar with novelty and things that they will encounter later in life. Consider safety, especially when adding height. Some objects may be suitable only for supervised activities in a playbox.

Introducing Variety

Enrichment items: materials (wood, plastic, ceramic), sizes, shapes, activity (on, over, through)

Floor surfaces: carpet, tile, fabric, plastic, wood

Substrates: soft and hard, large and small pieces

Nesting materials: paper, soft hay

When to Separate the Pups

At four weeks old you need to determine the sexes of the pups and separate the male and female pups. The male pups will need their own cage. Generally the female pups will also need their own cage. In some cases the female pups can stay in with their mother for a few weeks, especially if there is only one female pup.  The young hamsters can be more quiet or nervous for the first couple of days after leaving their mother.

Continue to handle the pups and allow them to experience items and situations they will come across in future, for example movement near their cage and being in a hamster carrier. The pups can be rehomed from five to six weeks old.

After all the hard work and care you have put into raising this litter, you will want to take care to find each Chinese hamster a good home. As the breeder, you need to make sure that the new homes have the information they need to care for their new pet; a care sheet is ideal. Ensure there is a responsible adult present when rehoming hamsters to young people as they will need to sign the rehoming agreement form.

Your care of a Chinese hamster litter does not end with the rehoming of the hamsters. You should be prepared to take back any hamster you have bred throughout their life if the owner is no longer able to keep them. Owners can contact you to ask for advice – and to share wonderful photos of the hamsters as they grow and enjoy their new lives.


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