Birth of the babies

The babies

The gerbil is nidicolous, this means that the young are born totally helpless, furless, blind, deaf and totally depending from their parents. They weight form 2,5 to 3,5g at birth. More a litter is big, smaller the babies will be. The parents will feed them, heat and stimulate their natural functions. Newborn babies will have whiskers at birth as you can see on the picture. 

The babies are weaned form 21 to 35 days old. Normally, at 1 month, you can move the young in another tank to give the parents, a break! But it's also a good thing for the young to be left with the parents as long as possible, or until their new little brothers and sisters arrive.

Development stages

- 4 to 5 days, some hairs appear.

- 5 days, the ears open.

- At 7 days, a soft fur appears.

- At 10 days, Some small explorers get out of the nest, eyes shut!.

- Between 12 and 14 days, tooths come out.

- At about 15 days, in addition of the milk, the pups begin to drink from the water bottle and begin to eat some solid food. 

- Between 16 and 21 days, the eyes open.

- Between 21 and 35 days, the young gerbils eat alone and are independent. On the other hand, it's better to keep them with their parents until they are 4 weeks to 6 weeks. This time will allow them to grow stronger and leurn about gerbil life and take confidence. 

From 4 weeks old to 7, their weight will increase of 1g every day!



The birth usually happens in the night or in the hurly morning and last from 1 to 2 hours.  

In the beginning the she seems calm and will stretch often. When the babies are about to arrive, she reaches under to the baby and helps it by grabbing the placenta. Then she cuts the umbilical cord then she eats the placenta, that is a very good source of iron and energy that will help her with the next days. 


Some videos:

Childbirth Placenta 1 Placenta 2

She will clean and dries the new born babies by licking them. She will also eat the stillborn. When licking them, the baby will squeak, indicating to the mother that it is alive.

The new mom can count on the father that will be there to keep the babies warm when mom leaves the nest and to clean them. So, you don't need to take the dad away, unless you don't want any more babies. If you don't remove the father, they will mate again the same day, and this the most fertile period for her. If you think about having only one litter, read this.



What's next

The night following the birth, the parents will mate again. You may think that they neglect the babies, but don't worry they will be fine! Once they will be done playing around, mom will come back to the nest and take care of her babies. If all the babies are everywhere in the tank and that you stress about it, you can rub your hands in the bedding and then place the babies back all in the same place in the nest. But usually, the mother will gather them back once she is done.


For the next days, dad will be expulsed from the nest and will sleep "on the couch". This is normal. Give some days to mom so she accepts him back to the nest. Then, he will help her.


Just leave them alone!

For the 2 next weeks, try not to disturb the family unless you really need to (the water bottle broke and the bedding is totally wet). Do open the tank only to give water and food. 

Place a piece of paper on one side of the tank to insulate them form movement around the room. Beside that, you won't need to do anything else, as the gerbils will know how to take care of everything. The important thing is to provide a good environment for the family and quality food. It is better to use a type of food containing 16% or more protein. If you don't they may have difficulties to produce milk and may attack her babies in the worst cases.  


Cannibalism and abandonment of the young are very rare in gerbils, but it's not impossible. This may happen when the mother feel like a baby is too weak to survive or too sick. But most of the time, even if a baby dies from a disease or an injury, the parents will ignore the dead one. They may just move it out of the nest to keep the nest clean. So you will eventually find it buried in the bedding. Sad but true. The mother can also attack and try to kill her own babies if she is too disturbed or if she lack of experience. She may also be sick or injured.

Situation that can lead to cannibalism:

- Constantly distrubed (By us that are too hasty to see the babies) 

- An in experimented mother who doesn’t know how to take care or her babies. (If a female is mate too young)

- Lack of water or food 

- Too many babies

- Don't produce enough milk or have an infection to mammal gland. 



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