Want to know about baby gerbils?
This article aims to educate you on everything you need to know about raising a litter of baby gerbils from the day they are born to the day they begin to become more independent.
Guidelines on how to take care of baby gerbils and what to expect in their first weeks of development will all be included. So let’s get into it!
What Is A Baby Gerbil Called?
Baby gerbils are referred to as pups.
In general, a baby gerbil is known as a pup until it has been completely weaned off of its mother and has gained a good amount of independence.
From there they can be said to have fully grown up!
How Many Baby Gerbils Are There In A Litter?
The number of pups you may find in a litter can vary.
But on average, a healthy mother will give birth to around 3-6 baby gerbils. However, it is not incredibly uncommon to see only 1-2 pups, or as many as 8-10!
Therefore, it is important that you house your gerbils in a sizeable cage or tank. Once they reach independence and become bigger, there may be a lot less room.
Week-by-Week Development Of Baby Gerbils
Baby gerbils develop rapidly. Over a short period of 5-6 weeks, you will see them grow from tiny, blind babies into small independent gerbils with a lot of energy and curiosity.
We will take a look at each week of development, so you know what to expect and how to care for them!
After just being born, you will find that baby gerbils are rather vocal. They will squeak a lot during their youth, especially in the first few days of their life.
Upon being born, baby gerbils are only as long as the last joint in your smallest finger.
They will be furless and blind, and their ears will be closed.
It’s important to not handle them in the first few days, as the mother is still adapting to them.
Over this week they will begin to grow their coat.
The litter will usually huddle together in the mother’s nest for warmth. It is not uncommon for the mother to move the litter around during the first few days if she feels nervous or anxious, but she will usually calm down given time.
The mother may also kick out the father from the nest during the first few days, while she attends to the pups. This is only temporary, and the father will be allowed back into the nest after a day or two.
By the second week, your baby gerbils’ fur will be nearing fully grown. This usually happens around 10 days.
At this point in their life, they will become a lot more mobile, despite the fact that they are still blind!
They are rather fast for their size, too, and may begin exploring around the nest.
Around this age, it is a good idea to try handling the pups for the first time, so that they may become used to human hands and being picked up from a young age.
However, there are things to be aware of to do this safely.
How To Handle Baby Gerbils Safely
As baby gerbils are so small and sensitive during their first few weeks of life, it can be easy to accidentally injure them.
This, coupled with the fact that they are surprisingly mobile at this point in their development, means that it is a very good idea to know how to handle them correctly.
If the parent gerbils trust you a lot, they may have no issue with you handling the pups.
However, if they are showing signs of anxiety or discomfort when you try, you can distract them with food or cardboard to chew while you handle the pups.
Gently pick up a pup and completely enclose them with both hands. As they are somewhat mobile but completely blind, it is easy for them to wiggle out of your hand and have a fall.
Hold them outside the cage a few inches above a soft surface such as a pillow to ensure that if they do fall they will land safely.
Perform this with each pup for a few minutes the first time. From then on you can slowly increase their time outside the cage as they get more and more used to your warm hands.
This is a very important week in a gerbil’s development, as the pups will begin taking their first steps towards independence.
During this week, the baby gerbils will begin to open their eyes for the first time. They will usually open one at a time, a day or so apart.
If any pups within the litter are late opening their eyes in comparison with the other pups, gently wiping the closed eye with a warm damp cloth can help.
You will need to be very careful handling the pups the day their eyes first open and the next few days after. They are still getting used to sight and may mistake you for something dangerous upon seeing you for the first time.
Therefore, be very careful handling them and only do it for short amounts of time during this phase of development.
The baby gerbils will also begin weaning off their mother. While they will still mainly get sustenance from her milk at this time, the pups may try some of the parent’s food or anything small to nibble on, to try out their teeth.
If you find the baby gerbils are struggling to eat their parent’s food at this time, you may give them some foods such as peeled sunflower seeds or roasted peanut bits, which are easier to gnaw on.
During this week, the pup’s ears will become open and they will actually begin to look more and more like their parents.
They will continue to become more and more independent by eating more adult foods and relying on their mother’s milk less.
They will be much more mobile at this stage, engaging in play with the other members of the litter and burrowing.
Continue to handle them carefully and they should start getting used to being in your hands. They may even begin running up your arm!
But remember to handle them carefully. They may be bigger and more mobile, but injury can still be a concern.
Week Five And Onwards To Adulthood!
This can be considered the final week of infancy in most cases. Your baby gerbils should be completely weaned off their mother’s milk and eating solely solid food.
They will still have some growing to do, but by this point they will have developed an individual personality and a good amount of independence.
By week six, they will be strong enough to leave home and their mother. Over the next few weeks, they will finish growing and reach sexual maturity.
Baby Gerbil Care
To summarize, baby gerbils develop very rapidly. Each week, they will require a watchful eye to make sure they are coming along okay.
However, gerbils usually make for good parents, so it is important to not interfere too much with the natural raising process.
Exposing the baby gerbils to being handled slowly over time, making sure the cage is safe, and keeping an eye out for illness and weakness are the top priorities for you as the human parent.
The gerbil mother will handle the rest!
Have you ever had a litter of cute baby gerbils?
Have anything interesting to say about their development?
Let us know in the comments below!
References and Further Reading
- The American Gerbil Society, Breeding.
- Roswell, J. and Barker, J. (2001). Raising Baby. The National Gerbil Society UK.