Litter of new born pups
A hamster ready to give birth
As an experienced breeder I have always found it preferable, safer and more hygienic to let the female use an open nest in a corner of the cage for nursing the pups. If you are using a cage with attached tubes then remove or render them inaccessible to her as she may use those to hide the pups in. If you normally let the female use a house or nesting box of any description then this should be removed, long before the birth, to prevent her from having the pups in a too confined space as this can reduce oxygen levels and become a breeding ground for bacteria as it will prevent the nest from drying out effectively from the pups urine and feces
The female hamster usually gives birth to her pups in the nest. However, on the odd occasion one may see her give birth to the pups scattered on the floor of the cage. The birth takes place on the evening of the 16th day after mating, never before, and very rarely later than this.
From this point it is not advisable to take any risks and it is better to stay well clear. Don't let curiosity get the better of you. The female will deliver one pup about every 10 minutes. Some owners may become concerned when they see new the new born pups lying around the cage, seemingly ignored by the mother. Do not become too concerned or interfere, once the delivery is completed and after a short resting period she will gather the pups together and place them in the nest for their first feed.
If the female feels threatened in any way at all she may try to move the entire litter and nest, abandon, or worst of all cannibalize the litter.
At this time we must consider her natural instincts. Her primary focus is on the caring and rearing of her litter, so give her room peace and quiet to go about her business.
This doesn't mean to say that you cannot go to the cage talk to her, offer her that usual treat and fill the food bowl and water bottle as usual. But leave it at that, don't touch the nest or the pups. Also be aware that the most socialized of hamsters may take to biting in which to protect her litter.
If you do see that she has eaten some of the pup's there will be a reason. Sometimes that reason may be beyond our understanding. The pup may have been deformed, a runt, a weakling, or dead, only she knows the answer.
It is very rare a hamster will eat its pups because there are too many if there is an abundance of food and bedding there will be no reason for her to dispose of healthy pups.
Very little will be seen of the mother for the first 4-5 days as during this time she will be nursing the litter. After this initial first 4-5 day's she may want to come out of her cage for a little run around and a break from nursing. By all means let her do so. Handling the female at this point is not a problem, some people become concerned that human scent maybe transferred from your hand to her then to the pups. Transferring your scent onto her is not a problem, it only becomes an issue if scent is on the pups and they smell different to her. When she is returned to her cage she will carry on with her duties of nursing the litter.
If the mother is leaving the nest for any length of time she may cover the pups with nesting material. In this video the mom has gone on her daily run in her play-ball, before leaving she has buried the pups in the nest. It is strange, somehow they seem to know to keep still and quite while she is away. On her return she quite happily carries on her duties of nursing the pups.
At around 10-12 days old the pups may start scurrying around with mum chasing after them taking them back to the nest.
At 14 days old their eyes should now be open, you can now safely and gently handle the pups for the first time and remove mum and pups from the cage to have its first clean since before the birth. When removing the old nesting material keep most of it and put it back where you found it. Place any new nesting material anywhere in the cage, mum will take it to the nest.
(Mum with pups at 21 days old)
At 21 days old the pups are now fully weaned.
At 28 days you can now start thinking about separating them into their own same sex cages. Here they can stay together for another 2-3 weeks before re-homing them.