I get asked this question a lot. I am going to give my opinion based on my years of experience with sugar gliders.
Pet ownership in itself can be a challenge for some. Sugar Gliders are not like the average cat or dog who usually are pretty friendly and loving to the owner almost from the start. Sugar Gilders are still exotic animals. They are creatures of habit, and this side of wild. If you change just one thing in their lives, it can become stressful. When moving to a new home, we are changing many things for them within the course of a week, so you can imagine their level of stress and anxiety at this point. Plus, every glider handles stress differently.
Gliders in the new home may crab, lunge and even bite their owners out of fear. You are a stranger to them and they are unsure if they can trust you. You must do your part in working out the trust bond with them. In other areas of the site, I have given you tips on how this can be done. If you purchase gliders from me and have one glider that is a hard nut to crack, I am here to help you figure it out and offer advice on how to get the bond going.
Proper diet is important and essential for your gliders. If a diet is as easy as taking a pellet out of the bag, then it’s not a good diet. Those are “junk” foods and very unhealthy and can be the matter of life or death for your pets. I have spoken about this in the “Diet” section of the website. You must feed them correctly, and that can take a little time to learn.
There can also be emotional difficulties with some gliders if they go through a traumatic experience or feel stressed by the presence of another animal such as a cat or dog in the home. Sometimes certain people who are high-strung, loud and aggressive will have an adverse effect on the emotional state of a sugar glider. These are all things you need to be aware of. Even after a trust bond is formed with you, other people or animals in the house may stress them out later on. A good breeder can help you to deal with that as well.
I do not like to sell people sugar gliders as breeders, unless they have kept a pair as pets for at least a couple of years. It’s important to know and to be comfortable with all the basics of glider care and well being first, before venturing into breeding.
To be a good and responsible breeder, a person must need to know about the genetics. A breeder needs to know about Recessive, Dominant and Co-Dominant genes and how they work. They need to understand how to read pedigrees and to be able to look at a family tree from a male and female, and to determine if there are any like relatives within the first 4 generations.
To be a breeder, a person must be comfortable and confident around the gliders. If they are not, the animals will pick up on it. Male Sugar Gliders can breed as young as 12-14 weeks out of pouch. A female can come into her first estrus cycle by the time she is 4 to 6 months out of pouch. Males generally do not tend to breed the female until she is ready, so long as the male is around the same age or younger than the female. If a new owner is not yet fully bonded to a pair when the female puts her first joeys in pouch, they may not feel comfortable enough in the environment. If they sense an owner is inexperienced or nervous around them, they will not hesitate to pull and cannibalize their own joeys. It’s a natural instinct. Gliders must feel good with everything, including their owner, before they will be good parents.
Some joeys are rejected at the time they are ready to detach from nipple. If this happens, even the most experienced of breeders loose the joeys about 50% of the time. Even though there are ways to keep the joeys warm and feed them, there is no better replacement milk out there for them but mother’s milk. Joeys rejected this young must be fed every 2 hours around the clock for several weeks, or they will die. That means you can’t go to sleep (or you must keep re-setting an alarm clock and getting up) for the first two to three weeks of fostering them.
Even the most experienced of breeders will have rejected joeys from time to time. If the parents just discard them for you to care for, you have a big challenge ahead of you. Speaking from my place in which I have lost some of these hand fed babies, when you work with them day after day, night after night and still lose them, it can be very emotional and draining for a person. No matter how many times I have lost a joey I was trying to save, it’s still really hard on you. Fortunately, I have good bonds with all my breeders and I understand what not to do to encourage joey pulling, so it doesn’t happen very often here. But, I never say never. I have had brand new mothers get nervous if I brought a person they did not know into the glider room, and they will pull the joeys. For this reason, I can no longer have people in the glider room when they come to my house to pick up their babies.
And then there is the finding of homes for the joeys. Finding good homes can be a challenge sometimes. You want to do right for the babies. And it can also be hard to part with them once you have worked with them and spent time. On rare events, you may have triplets. The only time this has ever happened to me, I had to help the mother hand supplement the smaller of the 3 joeys because he was half the size of his brother and sister, and she wasn’t producing enough milk for all of them. The two bigger siblings would push him aside. He made it and was close to his brother’s weight by the time they weaned, but it was hard. A female in her prime can have joeys 4 times a year. She will have one to two joeys at a time. That means she can possibly have 8 joeys in one year. Even with one female, that’s a lot of joeys to find homes for.
If you think you will be able to handle these things, then perhaps you will make a fine breeder. If you don’t think you have the stomach for it, best to leave the breeding to someone who can handle it better.
Those who wish to purchase breeding gliders from me may only be considered if they are either already esteemed members of the sugar glider community with breeding practices in place receptive of the integrity of these unique animals, or someone who has kept gliders are pets in their lives for a period of time. There is no better teacher of learning of the proper care, housing and unique emotions and characteristics of this animal, then keeping them as pets a couple of years. Most who do this first at my urging, thank me later on saying they love and enjoy their pets, but respect the hard work it took in getting them there and realized that breeding was not for them.
Sugar gliders are work. They are not going to be cute and cuddly with a new owner right off the bat. They go through a lot of stressors in preparing to come to their new homes. Plus, you are strangers to them. Each glider handles stress differently. Some form a full trust bond in a few weeks, while many others can take months. A glider who is afraid can crab, lunge and even bite. You need to have patience with all of them and if you are a breeder, you will have a lot of joeys to work with too. In the end, once you have formed the trust bond, the rewards are great, but it can only be done on your sugar glider’s terms and their pace. You can’t make them go any faster than they are able, or you will destroy any advancements in bonding that you have made with them, and can go back to square one.
Breeding is a whole other level. Not only do we need to give the animals some space to be parents, but we also need to know how to pair them correctly by reading lineage and knowing how and why each pair is safe to breed, and what we can expect to get from the pairing. Good breeders breed with a minimum of 5 generations lineage on each side to prevent genetic defects due from inbreeding. While you are learning how to raise them as pets and forming your trust bond, there is a lot to read on this and to understand. It took several years for the genetic information to sink in for me. You cannot possibly learn this overnight. Nobody does.
We do not get these marvelous colors by pure luck alone. There is research and years of experience behind us with it. Not only are responsible breeders getting great colors, but we would not risk harming our animals by breeding too closely or incorrectly. It takes each of us time to learn this information.
I will leave you with a link to a website from a former breeder, with some of the best information we have out there on sugar glider breeding and learning to read the pedigrees. It will look very Greek to you and take a long time to fully understand. If I am your mentor, I am here to guide and answer any and all of your questions. If you have another good mentor, they can help your though this too:
Shelly no longer breeds sugar gliders, but is kind enough to continue to pay hosting on her website, so that everyone can benefit from this information.