Which Bedding?

Choosing a bedding or substrate for the main floor of your cage can be a daunting task for both the newcomer and the seasoned hamster owner. It could be that you are purchasing your first hamster or that you are having to switch bedding.

I’ve recently had to move away from shavings due to developing an asthmatic sensitivity to this type of natural bedding. So I’ve had some very recent experience of a familiar exercise. What on earth do I try this time?

Please read on to see some of the examples of bedding or litter you can buy and my experience of them. Note that anything you buy for your hamster should always be dust extracted and unscented/treated. Scented bedding just makes your hamster mark more in order to make their cage smell like them and has been shown to stress the kidneys in other species of rodents. Plus, if you don’t like the smell of a hamster then it’s likely not the right pet for you.

Woodshavings

The most controversial bedding on the market are woodshavings. I’ll group them all here together as they are all very similar. You can buy quite large flaked bedding such as Littlemax or Bedmax and some smaller grade flakes like Snowflake Supreme or similar. You may even find you can buy unbranded woodshavings from your local farm shop.

I avoided this bedding for a very long time as I had rodents with sensitive lungs such as mice who really are very picky about their bedding options. Hamsters, however, do very well on these and you should choose a flake size suitable for your species. Roborovski, for example, prefer the smaller flakes. As long as your shavings are unscented, dust extracted and kiln dried then they are perfectly safe. After keeping 100 odd roborovski on Snowflake supreme I noticed no impact on health or lifespan and they are were, if anything, healthier looking with bigger litter sizes.
Quality of brands seems to be comparable as long as you heed the above advice.

Pros – Naturally scent free, very absorbent, good for burrowing, both warm in winter and cool in summer
Cons – Allergies can happen in both humans and animals. If you notice itching or sneezing that isn’t to do with another health condition or parasites then change the bedding to see if this is the cause.

Snowflake Supreme

Paper Bedding – Fitch

I’ll split these up as they are two very different kinds of bedding. Fitch used to be very good when it was first spotted by hamster keepers. It was reasonably priced, soft and of very good quality.
However, these days it is very expensive and the quality is not as good. Fitch was the only contender for decent paper bedding on the market a couple of years ago.
Paper bedding is a very good alternative to shavings if you have small animals. If you want a small size of bedding pieces and are willing to pay for it then Fitch could still be an option for you. I note that Carefresh (not reviewed here as I’ve never used it myself) is a similar price and I’ve been told it is softer.

Pros – Of Fitch, it is mostly hypoallergenic and relatively dust free (packs may vary). The pieces are small enough for dwarf species. Absorbent
Cons – The price does not reflect the quality. Does not have the natural odour control of shavings for bigger species

Fitch

Paper Bedding – Shredded Teabag Bedding

I have to note that I’m not getting a commission for any of this blog! Shredded teabag bedding is hands down the best alternative to shavings I’ve ever used. Some people say they do not like the long strands and I believe some companies do offer different kinds of cuts. I will review The Teabag Bedding Company as this is the only kind I have used so far.
Roborovski particularly enjoy tunneling through the long strands and I’ve found that not all the food immediately falls through to the bottom. For breeding, they seem to like using the strands for the nest, which my hamsters did not prefer to do with the Fitch.
It can be a bit tricky to extricate your hamster if it’s not cooperating but it’s not too difficult. Again, it’s not as good as shavings but it is the best alternative I’ve found so far.

Pros – Well priced, cosy, soft, holds tunnels well. Hypoallergenic and dust free. Somewhat absorbent
Cons – Lacks the natural odour control, long shreds not for everyone

Teabag Bedding

Cardboard Bedding

Shredded and squared cardboard beddings are another alternative but more appropriate for your syrians than your dwarfs. Dwarfs can live on it happily but they just don’t get around or tunnel in it as well as with other, less bulky, bedding options. If you have a diabetic dwarf or a large species of rodent, you will find the cardboard tends to compact into a kind of papier mache at the corners. I found this with both Finacard and Eco Pet Bed (now just called cardboard squares) so I assume this would be a problem with other, similar, products.
Hypoallergenic compared to other beddings but interestingly not as dust free as you may think. Poorly stored cardboard bedding bales can also grow mould in the corrugations so do make sure your supplier hasn’t had the bales sitting around too long, and don’t store yours where it’s damp.
A note about hoovering…..if you want an easy to clean up bedding then don’t get cardboard. It’s large size means it’s a pain to hoover.

Pros – Mostly hypoallergenic, largely dust free, somewhat absorbent
Cons – Bulky, not suitable for very small or very old/frail hamsters

Finacard
Cardboard Squares

Natural/Plant Based Bedding

Chopped hemp, wheat and flax are becoming more popular for small animals. Aubiose and Flaxcore particularly. I have found this to be either too hard and sharp (Aubiose) or too fragile (Flaxcore) to be suitable for my pets. In addition, very early on, I became very allergic to Aubiose and couldn’t even open a bag without a lot of antihistamines. I’m very wary of using bedding that gives me very bad hayfever, given the hamsters are nose deep in it 24/7.
Very absorbent, I was also concerned that bits of bedding would end up stuck in eyeballs and up noses and sure enough it wasn’t long before a mouse had an unfortunate accident with Aubiose in it’s eye. This type of bedding should really stay for the horses in my opinion

Pros – Absordent, natural odour control
Cons – Can cause allergies, not dust free (despite claims), not comfortable

Aubiose

Other Bedding – Pellets

I have used wood and paper pellets for the long haired syrians in the past. Wood pellets just grind up into dust in my experience so this review will focus on paper pellets.
Somewhat absorbent, paper pellets are as uncomfortable underfoot as you might think. The biggest drawback, aside from making your cage weigh more when full is that the hamsters can’t burrow in it. Of course, your precious show syrian probably shouldn’t be burrowing into anything with that lovely long hair but I like a bedding that they can dig into and larger flake shavings pull out of a syrian coat just fine.
Pellets like Back To Nature don’t yet come in the nice big bales that we breeders like to buy in but the bags are an ideal size for a pet owner.

Pros – Somewhat absorbent, largely hypoallergenic, mostly dust free (bags can vary). Ideal for long haired syrian coats
Cons – Can be pricey, does not provide the opportunity for burrowing behaviour. Can be heavy

Other Bedding Not Mentioned Above

So I can’t possibly cover all your options. There is Megazorb, shredded egg box bedding, shredded newspaper bedding and more on the market. I have never used these and perhaps that’s a telling review in itself.

Carefresh and Kaytee Cozy is a different matter. The only reason I’ve never used these is the price and bag size. I’ve heard good things about them but I would refer to the sections on Fitch and Pellets for a comparison.

A Note on Hay and Straw

I haven’t included these above because I don’t believe they are a suitable substrate material on their own. Straw can be absorbent but hamsters do like to eat straw and hay so I offer this as a complimentary food as part of their balanced diet. I wouldn’t want them eating soiled food/bedding.

**I have not been paid to review any of the brands mentioned above. I include no links for this reason. All reviews are due to my own first hand experience

Hamstery Management: Parasite Control

It’s been awhile since my last blog post! Back at the beginning of the year I handled a major crisis surrounding an outbreak of Ornithonyssus sylviarum, the Northern Fowl Mite, that normally prefers chickens and other birds but is readily zoonotic to other animals. I detailed my, somewhat despairing, journey towards their identification and ultimately finding they were resistant to Ivermectin. I’ve decided to update my advice as below.

I’ve been mite free since April following three doses of Stronghold (salamectin). There’s a stigma about these things but by being honest about what is happening to your hamsters, you can save others a lot of grief.

Sadly, I find myself again under siege. It seems these mites, or similar mites and fleas, are rampant amongst keepers and needless to say it will take us all treating them with something stronger than Ivermectin before they will truly disappear. Thankfully I’ve only lost a couple of elderly hamsters this time, as I would have expected to due to their age.

As a pet owner you may find yourself encountering fur mites, fleas, lice or the more visible mites of other species. If you visit shows (main class or pet class, or socially) your first step is to stop. For the benefit of containing any outbreak, whether its an illness or a parasite, you have to assume you could pass it around on your clothes, on hamsters that look clear but who live in the same house etc.

The next step is to identify and get to know what you have. You can do this via your vet and mine were sent to the lab for an ID. Knowing this is invaluable when it comes to judging treatment and isolation. These mites, for example, can spend 3 weeks without eating and often travel, especially once their host has been removed. This makes them highly contagious. It also means that when an animal dies, their entire burden of mites immediately travels to the nearest cage and this is what causes the outbreak of deaths as each infested animal becomes overwhelmed by an exponential increase in mite load.

This can happen in the space of a week.

They are also likely to be found more in the bedding than on the animal, making them hard to spot early on. In chicken houses they have been known to readily infest small mammals and can complete their lifecycle on mammals (but not on humans although they do cause a lot of irritation when they bite us). Moreover, it means that these mites, unlike lice or hamster fur mites, will readily move into the bedding off the animal and so will be in the show pen, for example, and then kicked out on to the show table, onto clothes or shoes and they have three weeks to find a new host. The early life stages are almost invisible to the naked eye, becoming visible and black as adults and red once they’ve fed. You won’t see just one, or a few if they are young. Easy, and scary, when you think about it.

NorthernFowlMitesonChickenFeathershaftwithnitsviaTheChickenChick

Chicken farmers have long found these, and similar mites, to be resistant to Ivermectin. Your next step is to treat your animals with a prescription strength treatment that is ovicidal. As detailed above, you want your treatment to kick in as quickly as possible. Most of the hamsters I lost died in the first week of treatment. Biting the hamster will kill the bug but they’ve still taken blood. Anaemia kills small animals very quickly.

The identifiable difference between these and Ornithonyssus bacoti, the Rat Mite, is that these do not cause itching to the hamsters (according to the lab). So you don’t see them scratching, they don’t get scabs and they don’t lose fur. Again, this makes them very hard to spot. If you have the Rat Mite, please read up carefully on it’s lifecycle and, most importantly, how long it can go between feeds. This is the minimum amount of time you will have to dose your hamsters for to make sure you get them all. Some mites (such as the red mite, Dermanyssus gallinae) can survive for up to 9 months……..The nice thing is they will be within a close range of the ‘nest’ so are unlikely to occupy your bedding storage or food bins. Again, this will be different for each parasite so do check.

If they are zoonotic for Syrians, they will be for dwarfs. I found these things on the gerbils, the Chinese, the robos and the Syrians. Thankfully none made it to the pygmy mice who were in complete lock down bar me feeding and watering them using fully disinfected hands/arms and rolled up sleeves!

Next is the length of treatment. Initially, Stronghold requires three treatments spaced 2 weeks apart (according to vet advice). It’s really important that you follow this regime, even if the cages and animals start looking clear. It’s very hard to spot just one mite, or flea or louse but you only need to miss one.

Unfortunately, then you have to evaluate your whole hamstery plan. If you regularly attend shows it’s not enough to just treat those that go there. If the parasites you encounter are like these, they can come in on your clothes, show pen carriers etc. If you treat the hamsters that have been, the mites on them may choose to wander (quite far) to find a new food source and still infect your hamstery. Therefore, you would need to treat your entire room/shed monthly like you would for your cat or dog. This can be done relatively cheaply using a prescription and taking advantage of online prices. Vets are starting to come around to the idea that small furries need medication marketed for bigger animals and it is possible to get a 1ml vial of stronghold for your hamsters (assuming you need that much!) and dilute it as needed depending on whether you are treating dwarfs or Syrians.

Think about yourself during treatment. These mites will be all over your hands, clothes and shoes/socks so consider stripping down and washing after each treatment, or even while feeding/handling the hamsters during the initial treatment phase. These things are not fun when they bite you and as you haven’t treated yourself, every mite that picks you isn’t getting killed by the treatment!

Lastly, be vigilant not complacent. Treat everyone, not just the one or two you’ve seen. Assume everyone has it, whatever ‘it’ is or at least has been in contact with it. Assume, if it’s bugs, that they are on your shoes, clothes, other pets, carpet etc and treat accordingly. If you have to flea spray areas, use something like Indorex. Rethink your procedures. I now use Poultry Shield regularly to clean my cages as this kills most things and as it affects the outer coating of the mite, they can’t become resistant to it.

This time I spotted these little buggers a lot quicker, before I became infested, and treatment has already started. Stronghold is so effective that most of them will have died by now but I’m not complacent and I’ll follow the full plan.

You may read this and think that you’ve only got a couple of hamsters that go to pet class and you need not worry. Please bear in mind that other exhibitors, with many more hamsters, judge your pets and so are at risk of bringing these back to their hamsteries. All of us need to treat these things when they appear, and treat them seriously.

The same can be said about a virus or bacterial infection. Isolate, identify, treat, complete the course, prevent.

It only takes one. One bug, one shaving, one sneeze.

My preferred method of treatment, if hamsters weren’t so flammable of course –

xm42-modualr-x-products-4

 

**references

http://eol.org/pages/4318169/overview

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/ornithonyssus

Photo credit:-

http://www.the-chicken-chick.com

http://www.petprescription.co.uk

http://www.xproducts.com

Mitepocalypse!!

Coming in to 2018 I experienced something that no hamstery should. A heavy attack of parasites!

Brought in by complacent quarantine procedures, I was super lucky and my parasites turned out to be Ornithyssus bursa….the northern fowl mite. By the time I’d realised that Ivermectin wasn’t working, and got the vet to send a sample (yuk!) for the lab to identify, I’d lost a significant amount of hamsters to the anaemia that these blood sucking mites cause. At it’s height, my infestation was visible all over the cages and it doesn’t take many to cause the death of an animal the size of a hamster.

Here’s what I learned:-

  • Mites are visible to the naked eye if they aren’t species specific. Don’t assume fleas or lice, get a sticky tape sample to your vets asap. Some species are immune to Ivermectin and Permethrin so will need something stronger. I used Stronghold but you have to use this under direction of a vet.
  • Other breeders and exhibitors aren’t always careful to check their animals for parasites so even if you get hamsters from someone you know, quarantine, quarantine, quarantine! Even visible mites are hard to spot when there are only one or two of them.
  • Mites can be zoonotic. Ornithyssus is a perfect example of this with the rat species also being zoonotic. I’d always thought that mites and lice were species specific.
  • Infestations can occur in the cleanest of hamster rooms!

I’m not intending to write a lengthy process of how to sort out this kind of issue. My top tips are as follows:-

  • Use prescription strength spot on at the intervals and dosage recommended by your vet.
  • Treat the cages with a spray like Total Mite Kill or Poultry Shield (or both!) and understand how they work.
  • Treat the room with Indorex aerosol and follow the instructions carefully.
  • During treatment be aware of the need to wash your own clothes and not transfer bugs to different areas of the house. Do not move untreated cages to other rooms
  • Treat other animals in the house like dogs or cats

There are many different types of mites, fleas and lice that you can find on hamsters. Some suck blood, some feed on dead skin and all are a significant health concern in a hamstery situation where populations of parasites can get out of control really quickly. I won’t list them all here, the list would be extensive. I cannot stress the importance of getting your parasites identified. Each species lives and behaves differently with different amounts of time they can survive away from the host too. Chicken red mites, for example, would require spot on treatment to last up to 6 months in order to catch them all whereas the northern fowl mite lives off host for three weeks. Most fur mites cannot live off host at all.

Ick!

Needless to say I’ve been in the clear for a month now with no signs of any repeat offenders. And I’ve got a stock of Stronghold to treat my show team, once I’m brave enough to risk putting any in a show again. I note that parasites are still being spotted at shows so I’m cautious but hoping to exhibit again soon. With tight quarantine procedures there’s no reason to fear exposing the show hams. For now, my whole focus is on making the pups I need to rescue the remains of my lines. Fingers crossed!

 

Waiting For Spring – Planning The Spring Clean

The blog has been quiet recently as I’m spending much of my time pairing up hamsters!

I’m still suffering the fallout from cutting back in 2015 and then being elsewhere in 2016. I’m largely trying to breed older animals to limited effect. Despite having had three litters in September, none of those were for my black Syrian lines, my last litter for them being April 2016. Luckily I kept a male!
My line still run back to Dougal, my first black, luckily. I do also still have a boy whose father was another hamster I’d bred, Lorne. Thanks to another breeder, Roma Hamstery, I have a black boy here who came from my Engineers litter. So all is not lost! However, when faced with an in season female, none of these boys were interested. Perhaps she wasn’t really in season…they would know haha.

Despite some action a couple of weeks ago, no Syrians have produced pups yet although, annoyingly, spring has sprung in other hamsteries! I’m sure it won’t be long for us. I’ve been off my game for a while and it’s going to take a while to get things back on track.

One thing on my list is a full Spring Clean. It’s not something any hamster owner looks forward to but it’s time. It involves pulling out cages and cleaning in the crannies. Getting rid of any cobwebs and dust in the corners. There is a surprising build up of dust over time from skin, bedding and food. Even dust extracted  bedding leaves a layer behind once it’s been chewed and sat on.

ML6WAb

I normally  do partial cleans. It’s impossible to do the whole room at once anymore, not without help. So a section of cages get done at each feed so that all the cages are fully cleaned each month with part cleans done through the week to keep everything fresh. This time I will be moving each section to one side of the room, hovering behind and underneath and washing the wall. Yup, hamsters pee on the walls from time to time! I also get Indian Moths sleeping up where the wall meets the ceiling and this silk nests need removing to avoid a build up. Indian Meal Moths like hamster food, a lot. Then each cage in the section gets fully cleaned, both inside and out, before being put back. This is sort of a deep clean. As I have a lot of hamsters I don’t get a chance to fuss over cleaning the cages on an every week basis like I used to. So I revel in the opportunity to clear space in my schedule for this purpose.

With my back the way it is, I can’t get this done in a weekend like I used to, even with hubby’s help but we’ll make good progress. It’s a great feeling 🙂

I also take this opportunity to photograph hamsters as I put them back. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth the effort. There’s nothing worse than a smelly hamster room. Last year, with going back and forth the hospital to visit Mum and various appointments with my own doctors, that hamster room got the basic treatment and it showed. I’m looking forward to sprucing the place up a bit.

What I am also hoping to achieve is redoing my rosette holders and I’ll definitely be posting photos of these.

I have to also remember I have other rooms in my house that need a spring clean too…..

 

*featured image courtesy of Pinterest.

**embedded picture courtesy of wallpaper safari (click pic for link)

 

Surprise!

My husky robo girl Frigg showed me an excellent reason not to use cardboard boxes as nesting boxes without first removing the base!

Having paired her up during the first two weeks of April, I’d diligently checked her tub regularly to carefully see if pups had appeared. I’d seen nothing, heard nothing. I’d assumed the pairing had failed and was even feeling quite miserable about it!

Imagine my face when I fed everyone today and did my usual checks *poke* *poke* still alive? Still in one piece? Still one in there, still two in there? Hang on….two? That’s Frigg’s cage. She lives on her own. It took me a second. PUPPY!! But wait. That’s a big puppy…now there’s another one..and another. SIX puppies. Six! All look somewhere around 3-3 and a half weeks old. All husky or possibly husky pied. As you can see from the photo below, Frigg is not a big girl herself and hadn’t looked pregnant at all. It didn’t surprise me when I didn’t find any babies in her nest. I mean, what has she been feeding them!

She’s a bit skinny and a couple of the pups need fattening up which is what they’ll get now. I’ve got to sex them and check their colouring properly (once I’m over the shock!) but yay to her! I’ve not had a secret litter before and been surprised like that so I need a sit down and a strong drink I reckon.

Frod litter - 29-04-2016 - Day 21a

First Babies of 2016 and Black Breeding Plans

Hooray! Lilliput Jocasta and Doric Donnan have had a litter. He’s a short haired golden carrying black and she’s a short haired black rex. She’s had one black pup and the rest look to be golden. Still only around a week old, I’ll have photos soon.

I was asked ‘why don’t you breed black to black and have a whole litter of blacks?’

Well, the first answer to that question is always going to be because I breed for me. I choose my pairs based on what I need and what I’d like to see improved in my lines. Or, like this pairing, there are other motivations. I’ve got a few goldens in the lines now who are unrelated. I’m mating each one to a black partner. Some will already carry black and some only have a chance as I’ve introduced some size and type from cinnamon last year. I’ll be left with keepers that are either black or golden definitely carrying black. Later this year or next year all my litters will capable of producing blacks and then I’ll have a year of solely black to black pairings.

The reason that I’ve not done this yet is due to type. I’ve got nice colour and my blacks are placing or winning classes when entered because of this but I’m not far enough up the table for certificates of merit because they fall down on size and type. Size is something I’ve worked on enough but type is sacrificed with each black to black pairing because of the effect the gene seems to have on head shape. Even nice, broad, chunky headed parents produce narrow, long heads at the moment and those are the genes I’m looking to get rid of.

Have no fear, there is planning here!

Next up are Doric Grenouille and Doric Nebbiolo who are both goldens and will be paired with Doric Mr Black who has come back from Roxy Hams. As both girls are a generation down from blacks it’s anyone’s guess if there’ll be any in these two litters. Watch this space!

You Fall Down, You Get Back Up

Ughh, 2016 is a challenging year so far for sure. Mainly with regards to the curse of the Chinese hamsters that seems to still be plaguing the hamstery. Out of my recent planned pairings I’ve had two boys die, had some disappointing diabetic results and my last black eyed white girl also passed away shortly after she tested positive for the horrible disease.

None of the Roborovski are breeding yet and my first attempt at a Syrian litter also failed after mum got rid of her litter.

It’s been 18 months or more since I last had a Chinese litter of my own. 18 months! So my boys all went off for breeding holidays. I’m pleased to say they were very productive!

Doric Bardane has brought home two little spotty girls and a normal girl from Vectis hams and has now made some lovely boys for Willow Tree hamstery. A white girl too who will be staying with her breeder.

Sadly, Astere passed away with his girlfriend but before he died he managed to pass on his genes and I’m so happy I get to have a spotty back from him too.

Hopefully, some of these hamsters will breed for me!  There are no whites here now, only spotty carriers but with a change of luck I’m hoping that will also change. I’m determined to break this run.

All the robos I own that are of breeding age are now paired up so if I get no babies soon then I’ve done everything I can haha. You can introduce the hamsters but it’s down to them if they are feeling romantic.

Syrians are a whole other kettle of fish. I’m going to have to accept that I need to mate up multiple females again. Otherwise the girls I need will be too old, especially if they don’t take first time around. With the fresh spring in the air, with any luck, I’ll get three for three like I did in November last year.

Easter is generally the time I tend to look forward for the year and my main aim is to knit together my Syrian lines, and not lose any more of my Robo or Chinese lines.

Watch this space!

 

A Typical Show Day.

*sigh* The last show of the year! Well, for an exhibitor who attends both sets of club shows. Sadly, for a lot of exhibitors the last show was the Wootton Bassett Christmas show last week held by the Southern Hamster Club.
Barnt Green is a new venue for the Midland Hamster Club and replaces the previous Kingswinford show. As the last show of the year, this is also a Christmas show for the Midland members.
I always hitch a lift to shows with fellow exhibitor Vectis and we try to get there fairly early. That usually means getting up on or before 6am but as we had relatively few things to pack and few hamsters to take, it was a much more relaxed affair this weekend.

I only brought Astere, my black eyed white hamster that was born at Vectis. I’ve had a whole week of being woken at 5am by my neighbours new cockerel so I didn’t feel confident that my usually scatty brain could manage too many things this time. It’s funny how I can be very organised when it comes to other people’s lives or needs but so very forgetful when it comes to myself!

This is Astere in his show pen. The pen is designed for dwarf hamsters and is notably different to those used for syrians or roborovski hamsters. All dwarfs and short haired syrians are penned on woodshavings even if it isn’t the substrate you would use at home. I know of a few hamsters (not many but a few nonetheless) who can’t go to shows as the wood shavings cause eye irritations even over the course of just one day. This is one reason I use paper bedding from Fitch.

Barnt Green 2015 a

In addition to the bedding, every hamster needs a piece of veg for moisture and a dog biscuit for food. I use cucumber as it stays wetter for longer and Biscroks are recommended by the clubs as being the lowest in salt out of the dog biscuits generally available. You can buy your own or the club provides them at the show. The veg should be added at home to account for having enough water during the car journey there. We always take extra too. The additions of extras is not allowed, the toilet roll tube was for the journey up and back only. The pens look quite small to newcomers but the hamsters feel safe enough in them to sleep the day away.

Transported in special show pen carriers, the hamsters are quite safe and guarded against injury during the car journey as they could fall and hurt themselves in a cage or carriers could topple over if we brought too many of them. Many exhibitors paint their carriers according to their hamstery colours. Mine are red but Astere is travelling in these as I’ve only him and it saves on car space. The carriers are made to hold either four or six pens and even hold mouse pens. They have a special, removable, wooden ‘divider’ that sits between the two levels so that the hamsters can’t chew the pens above.

Barnt Green 2015 b

Close to Birmingham, Barnt Green is slightly closer than Kingswinford but we still weren’t sure how much we could rely on the directions so we left little to chance and set off just after 7am. We knew there were 183 syrians entered and over 80 dwarfs so we needed to be there on time. I was hoping to be able to see how the sales were set up in the morning  and collect the paperwork as I’ll be the official sales manager next year.

The syrians were split between two judges and we all managed to get out of the hall before 6pm. The syrian pens are shown below. As you can see the hamsters are all happily asleep. These guys were judged first and still sleeping come the end of the day. I even got to book steward for judge Andrew Bryan. I thoroughly recommend book or pen stewarding for judges when you first start as you learn a lot about colours and standards that all helps towards breeding.

Barnt Green 2015 c

And the trophies and prize cards set out for the end of the day presentation. We went a bit quick today so we could all leave on time. Prize cards are generally collected straight from the table as you go, trophies, medals and rosettes are handed out by the judge.

Barnt Green 2015 d

In addition to bringing home second place black eyed white chinese and third place in the ‘members points’ class, I also brought these lovely hamsters back:-

At the top is a sable boy called Assam from Bourne Valley Hamsters, the black and the cream are Ceana and Perzik from Wyeside Hamstery. I also have a black girl called Jocasta from Lilliput Hams who is a fidget so I couldn’t grab any non blurry pics of her just yet.

I look forward to 2016 and the Ferndown show. You can find all the details of shows on the National Hamster Council show page.

Multiple litters are here!

All three girls gave birth as expected. Over the next few weeks I’m hoping to do a sort of breeders diary to give people an idea of what’s actually involved in raising these guys. My aim is to bridge the gap between those who think that multiple litters are horrendously time consuming and those who think they are very easy.
The reality is in between the two. Assuming the timing is right you can raise multiple litters without too much extra hassle. There’s not a lot of difference between one, two or three at the same time. But when you put in a degree of effort for one litter then you do have to plan in advance how to achieve this times two or three extras.
The hardest part, for syrians, is anticipating how many temporary cages you need for the youngsters when they get old enough to split up. The point at which they fall out with their siblings is hard to predict, as is the size of any litter. But the nice thing about hamsters is that they usually aren’t too difficult to rehome, especially when they are quality animals that are tame, healthy and good looking. This is why it’s worth putting in the extra time.

Contrary to popular opinion, mostly expressed online, a good breeder can breed multiple litters and across different species, assuming that they put the time in. I am not expecting to do much but eat, sleep and breathe baby hamsters for the next 6-8 weeks. In terms of profit. There are easier ways to make this small amount of money. The money we make is really more of a token towards the cost of raising them and to discourage those looking for a freebie. I like the idea of being the same price, or cheaper that major pet store chains as you get so much more for your money.

The coming tidal wave?

I’ve had to go all out and pair up everything I have to avoid losing lines as females get older. I’m hoping that I’ve got enough litters on the way to take my various bloodlines into 2016.

My own fault, in a way. I’ve had a crisis of career over the previous couple of months, so haven’t been 100% focused. I mean, if I were to get a full time job outside of the house then how would I have time for my breeding.

In any case, I’m happy with my two part time jobs that fit in quite nicely but it means I’ve looked at my list and had a bit of a panic. It’s the wrong time of year for prolific amounts of babies.

But if I wait til spring then half my girls will be retired so here I go. My list of expected litter on the website is the longest it’s ever been! I’ve got spare baby boxes coming out of my ears and disappearing under an increasing stack of baby food/kitten food/kitten milk.

I’m ready! Hopefully they are too. And, if I’m lucky, I’ll have time to make some videos although I’m not promising anything.