Gerbil Breeding

baby gerbilsBefore breeding gerbils some things need to be taken into consideration - do you have the space and time for up to eight new gerbils, and the subsequent cages for when they need to be separated?  If you are doing it for the money, don’t bother!  If you are determined to breed gerbils, then the process begins of genetic combinations which can be found on various internet websites such as 

These combinations are varied, and can produce different coloring of the fur and eyes.  These combinations are complicated and require research on the breeders’ part.  Main points of consideration in breeding are:  Temperament; Health; and Color.  Overall, health and temperament are the most important, but color is as well, as it will make it easier to place your pups if they are in demand colors. Avoid gerbils that had any illnesses or were frail as pups.  Temperamentally, the best gerbils are those that will sit on your hand, and are easy in human company.  Avoid those that bite, as this is not a common trait of gerbils, except when they feel threatened. 

If purchasing your mating pair from pet stores or breeders, make sure you ask a lot of questions about the health of the pair as pups.  Ask about the health of the litter of the parents, if any siblings died, if they were ill, how long the parents lived for.  Even ask for their pedigree.  If purchasing from pet stores, make sure they are a good distance from each other to avoid inbreeding.  Once you find your mating pair, they must be introduced.  If they are less then eight weeks old, direct introduction may be possible.  However, older gerbils will require a split-cage introduction, so they get used to each other.  Once they are happy in each other’s company, create the breeding space in a quiet area of the house that is not prone to sudden or loud noises.  Give the tank privacy from other tanks and animals.  Never breed more than one female in a tank, as gerbils are matriarchal and will fight to the death over a male.  After birth, leave the father in the cage to help with the raising of the pups.  If this is not possible, place an older daughter from the last litter in there to help out. 

Gerbil females can mate until they are two years old, and male gerbils for their lifetime.  Gestation lasts 24 days, up to 28 days.  The mother will not “show” until a few days before birth.  When the babies are born, the mother will reach underneath her and take the baby and clean it.  The mother may be fidgety in the days after birth, and want to be alone.  If she does this, put a heated lamp - not too hot - on the babies, and give the mother half an old toilet roll to chew on.  If babies are removed by the father, return them to the mother.  When handling gerbil babies, always clean your hands, as foreign scents such as soot and dust can cause the mother to reject or even attack a baby. 

In an emergency, babies can be fed using kitten replacement milk through a small syringe, although this is best avoided by encouraging the mother to take care of her babies. 

Always handle the pups with one hand cupping the pup, and the other underneath.  Following the birth, do not change the cage environment and generally leave the parents to care for their pups.  In general, gerbils make excellent parents, and intervention should only be made if things are going drastically wrong.  Just let them do their thing.