Note this is when to SAFELY handle them rather than when you can. You can handle from any age but should you?
Peering into any hamster’s nest is risky enough. And if you are happy to take the risk then that’s fine, in a way. I’m sure the pups wouldn’t be too pleased about it.
If you really want to see your pups early you can take a photo with a zoom and crop it. You can do this when you feed them. See the photo below. This mum was given a box to nest under but chose not to. I would never lift a box up to see underneath at this age. This mum voluntarily got off her pups to come and eat the food I’m pouring in with one hand while clicking a pic with the other. If she were to become agitated by my merely putting food in, I’d retreat quickly but calmly and let her settle back down before feeding again. This is why I bulk feed all my mums the day before they are due so that I can leave them in peace for the first few days.
At 2 weeks old, or thereabouts, you can get them out for the first time. Although they start wandering as early as 10 days old, I still wouldn’t risk it. I know from other breeders experiences that litters can be culled by mum as late as 12-14 days old and, in my view, it’s not worth it when all you need to do is hang on a few days.
Once their eyes are open, I’ll take mum out before I touch the nest. A playbox with some toys and treats in is usually a welcome break for a nursing mum who is still feeding her pups at this age. I don’t tend to remove the litter from the cage at this age, rather I handle them in situ and add mum back along with chopped cucumber and high protein wet food.
After the first couple of days, mum should be used to the routine and pups come fully out into a handling tank. This is the first time I can go fully through all the bedding and make sure I have an accurate head count. Exploring babies are adept at tunnelling away through the bedding! At this point it is about quality handling rather than quantity. Mum shouldn’t be away from her pups for too long.
The right amount of effort put into handling at this age builds the foundation of a trust in humans that ensures a tame hamster for the rest of it’s life. But it’s important not to risk it’s like in the first place for want of a bit of patience 🙂