Sugar Glider Breeding

I am not a breeder and definitely not planning on becoming one in the near future. I've got my plate full at the moment and breeding would be the last thing that I'll do with my babies.

So for a start, here are some actual facts on breeding gliders which I've searched on this very useful and informative site Suncoast Sugar Gliders.

In the wild, sugar gliders live in groups, which typically contain more females than males. Often only one dominant male will breed and the majority of the females will reproduce. Sexual maturity is reached earlier in females (8 to 12 months of age) than in males (12 to 15 months of age). In Australia, gliders tend to breed in June and July with most of the young born in the early spring (seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere).

There does not appear to be a breeding season in captive animals. They will breed year round. If you house a male and female glider together, they will eventually mate (even if it's mother/son, brother/sister, etc.) and are likely to produce young. This is an important point because keeping intact family members together means a decrease in genetic diversity which may lead to problems such as birth defects. If you are planning on keeping related gliders together, it is best that you neuter the males.

If planning on breeding gliders it is best to wait until they are at least a year old. The SunCoast Sugar Gliders' research has shown that this produces healthier, more robust babies and seems to cause less drain on the mom. When sugar gliders breed, the practice can often be brutal. Bite wounds and scratches are the resulting injuries commonly seen in breeding gliders. This is not to say that injuries are a likely outcome of breeding situations, but it is prevalent enough that you should be aware and check your breeding gliders often for bites, punctures or scratches that can lead to infection and abscessing. If the female glider is injured, your veterinarian will need to choose an antibiotic which will have the least effect on the developing young.

When the female is pregnant, it is important to keep her on a high plan of nutrition. Just consider how important it is for humans to consider prenatal care and diet. At SunCoast, they feed their would be mothers with protein levels of about 50% and its important to note that the protein should be lean, yet from animal sources. In other words chicken, meal worms, crickets and the like are good. Ground beef and other beef products are a bit too high in fat. Soy is not an animal protein and it is not recommended that you use soy products to increase protein levels. Some levels of fat are important in the breeding females diet as some fat is required as an element in lactation, just don't overdo it.

It is also critically important to keep stress levels to a minimum. When pregnant and with young, gliders need their alone "glider time". Too much human interaction can actually be an adverse stimulus.

Gliders kept for breeding are often not the same fun little pets that non-breeding gliders are. You may notice behavioral changes in the male and/or female in the presence of young. Both parents are capable of displaying protectionist behaviors. This is a natural response pattern and if your glider behaves in this manner, I suggest that you respond accordingly and give them the space that they need. Upset parents will have elevated stress levels that can influence the young, as well as create situations that can ultimately be harmful to the young. As a result of some observations, most gliders will "return to normal" once the young are old enough to care more for themselves.

Sugar gliders are not hard animals to breed. Due to their unique nature and physiology, the Suncoast sugar gliders have accumulated a rather long list of questions that will answer some of the breeders or potential breeders' questions. A follow up Q & A portion can allso be found in the next tab.

Q: How do you tell the male from the female?

A: If you check the glider's under belly, near where you would expect to see a belly button, you can clearly observe the female's pouch. Also in this same area, the male's scrotum should be visible. Additionally, the male will have a bifurcated member, which may appear to be two pink string-like appendages in the area of the cloaca.

Q: How many babies do sugar gliders have?

A: Generally sugar gliders will have one or two joeys at a time. On rare occasions they can have three offspring.

Q: How often do sugar gliders breed?

A: Typically sugar gliders will produce young twice per year, and occasionally three times a year. The average number of offspring per breeding pair is about 4 joeys per year. However, this number can be as high as 7 and as low as 1.

Q: How long does it take for gliders to have babies from the day the breeding takes place?

A: The gestation period is only sixteen days at which time a tiny underdeveloped joey will make its way into the female's pouch. Here the baby will stay for approximately ten weeks to complete most of its development. Once the baby emerges from the pouch, it will still not have a fully furred appearance and the eyes will remain closed for about ten more days.

Q: What is the youngest age a joey can be taken from the parents?

A: It is our recommendation that hobby breeders should keep the babies with the parents for a minimum of 8 weeks OOP (Out Of Pouch). Many breeders, particularly inexperienced breeders, will pull babies far too early. We've met too many people that bought sugar gliders that were only 3-4 weeks OOP age. The mortality rate of babies this young is exceedingly high.

Q: Do sugar gliders have a cannibalistic nature like hamsters and other small mammals?

A: Cannibalism is not a highly occurring event in sugar glider breeding but it can happen. We believe that three factors are the primary contributors to this situation. First, the protein levels may be insufficient. Secondly, stress conditions may be excessive. This goes back to the above statement about over observing the breeding process. Third, the female may have a health condition that affects her ability to nurture her young, thus the young are sacrificed for the sake of self preservation.

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