I cannot stress this often enough, but this is NOT something for a newbie. Gliders are still this side of wild and unlike any type of animal you could have. It’s very important to learn the in’s and out’s of pet ownership first before venturing into breeding. I myself was a pet owner for almost 8 years before I purchased my first breeding pair.
I recommend your first pair be a pet only pair and let them teach you about the ins and outs of glider ownership for at least a couple of years before deciding to venture into breeding.
It is very important that if you decide to breed, you only obtain a pair of gliders with a minimum of 4 to 5 generations of lineage on both sides of the parents, so that you can look at the information and make sure they are not related. Remember, just one like relative within the first three generations, and you could be producing joeys with genetic defects. Without this lineage information or only partial information, you really have no idea if you are inbreeding or not. If both animals do not have full lineage and they are being bred, it is not responsible breeding practices.
Genetic defects come in many forms. They are not always visible to the naked eye and may not even show up until the animal is an adult. One of the better known defects we see is major organ failure. A heart, liver or kidney may not grow large enough to support a full sized adult glider and by the time the animal gets to adult size, the organ fails. A well bred, well fed glider has the potential of living 10 to 12 years or longer. An ill bred glider may only live a year or less.
Sugar Gliders can start breeding early with our higher protein diets. I have one male who bred his first female at the age of 3.5 months out of pouch. It is very important that male joeys be removed from family colonies before they are 3 months out of pouch or neutered. Most of my males are developing (sometimes pronounced) bald spots on their heads by the time they are weaned.
Parent\offspring breedings or sibling to sibling breedings can very well happen if you do not follow these rules. Female joeys should be removed from fathers or intact brothers around 4 to 5 months out of pouch. Most females go into first estrus later, but again, a lot earlier than in the past because our diets involve higher protein.
When male and females breed, the female becomes impregnated. Tiny jelly-like joeys are born about 14-16 days after the mother has conceived. One or two joeys will travel up to the mother’s belly and enter her moist pouch. They will attach themselves firmly to a nipple. This is where they will remain and develop for the next 60-70 days.
The mother’s pouch starts to get noticeably larger about 30 days before the joeys start to detach. A more experienced breeder may even notice a pregnant female shortly after the joeys enter the pouch. The number of pea-sized bulges in her pouch should indicate how many joeys the mother is carrying. One to two joeys are the norm, but some females can have triplets, which is rare. There are 4 nipples in every female’s pouch, but most can only handle one or two at a time. Sometimes, if there are too many joeys, a female may pull one or two in self-preservation.
Towards the 60th day in the mother’s pouch, a noticeable leg or tail will be sticking out, as the joeys are getting too large to stay inside. Mother will detach the joey from her nipple, and this day is called the “out of pouch date.”
This is the best time for me to discover what sexes and colors the babies are. This is also a good time to start the human-glider bond. When I handle the joeys a bit each day, this ensures that they will be used to humans and ready to start bonding to their new owner once they are taken home. I have a good relationship with my females; otherwise they may not let me do this easily. In fact, I do not allow people my gliders do not know, to handle the joeys at this point, because if the parents smell a strange scent on the joeys, they could reject or cannibalize them.
This is something that can happen with gliders having joeys. If we breed gliders, we need to make sure we are prepared for this. If we are lucky enough to just have the joey be rejected and thrown from the nest, we could be able to save it by feeding it marsupial replacement milk products, but it must be done every two hours around the clock. One missed feeding could mean the death of the joey. We will also have to keep it warm in a small, plastic terrarium like a Critter Keeper. You would need to put a heating pad set at low underneath the Critter Keeper, and a small bowl filled with water. This is not for the joey to drink, but the warmth of the heating pad will actually make it steam a bit and help to create the warm, moist environment of the inside of the mother’s pouch to help the joeys’ skin from drying out and cracking.
Even when we do our best to keep the joey alive, many do not make it at this point. It can be very heart-wrenching to loose a little one like this.
Joeys can be rejected for many reasons. Stress seems to be a large factor in the amount of babies lost this way. Either a change of location, loss of owner, loss of home, change of mate, or trying to introduce a new glider into an already established cage of adults can be some of the contributing factors.
Introducing a new glider to an already established adult pair or colony can be difficult. If the male is intact or was neutered after maturity, he will defend his females from any new glider placed into the cage, even another female. Females will also attempt to drive away or kill the newcomer. Even a neutered male placed in a breeding colony, can became jealous the joeys aren't his and pull them from female's pouches.
It’s always best, when starting a colony, to do so when they are all young and to have any males neutered by the time they are 3 months old if you want a pet only colony.
If you are wanting a breeding colony, introduce them all at weanling stage and you stand a better chance of a working colony. But, even at that, there may be jealous issues with the females and they will pull and steal each others joeys. Even litter-mate sisters can be jealous of one another. For a first time breeder, I highly suggest starting out with pairs.
Other reasons for joey rejection are because parents feel threatened by another cage-mate, taking away a companion, or if it’s being intimidated by another animal in the room, such as a cat, ferret or aggressive dog. Gliders have also been known to reject joeys if their owner is inexperienced and have not yet formed a bond with them. It can takes months for a glider to form a proper bond with their human counterpart, and they can very easily have joeys before that bond is complete. Gliders may also reject their joeys if they sense a deformity or defect. All the more better to make sure you breed with full lineage.
If you have another cage of gliders close by or in the same room, gliders have been known to reject their own joeys because they didn’t like their neighbor. Gliders are territorial. Move the glider to a room free of other animals, and they may start carrying joeys full term.
The idea of “getting rich quick” with any animal is absurd. For me and for many of my friends, it is a labor of love. Gliders (especially multiple cages) are a lot of work. With all the expensive foods, supplements, cages, vet bills, USDA fees, taxes, internet and web fees, etc., we are almost always running in the red rather than in the black. Most of the money goes right back into the care and other expenses associated with the animals.
It is for the love of this unique animal I do this and to properly teach people how to care for them in their home once they have them.