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 as long as the male is around the same age or younger than the female, then it should be a good pairing. 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.
Also, the following information was written by Jennifer Bender some years ago. Jennifer no longer maintains her website, but she told me I was welcome to share this information with others:
Joey Rejection & Cannibalization
Unfortunately there are many factors that can contribute to joey rejection and/or canalization. It is impossible to say exactly why this happens. Some of the reasons we know of may be preventable, others are not. Here are a few that we are aware of:
- Poor Diet or Diet Deficiency: Lactating parents require a very special dietary balance with increased amounts of both calcium and protein. Protein and calcium are directly related to the amount of milk the mother can produce. If the mother does not have enough milk production, she may reject or cannibalize her joey(s). It is quite painful for a mother to have a suckling joey on her teat with little milk production, so she may bite at the joey(s), reject or cannibalize them. To avoid this, we recommend following proven diet plans which you can find here. Remember, a sugar glider mother will put herself before her young. If she is lacking necessary vitamins or minerals, she will dispose of her babies for her own survival and health. If your female was recently on an unhealthy diet, wait at least 6 months after getting her on a proven diet before allowing her to breeding.
- Inexperienced and/or Young Mothers: Sometimes a mother may breed too young, and not be prepared for raising joeys. Young mothers may not have developed the instincts needed to raise her babies successfully. In addition, her body is still growing, and may not be able to support proper lactation to raise healthy babies. A female should be at least 9-12 months before attempting to breed to avoid this.
- Physical and/or Medical Problem with Joey: Even if the joey(s) may have appeared normal to you, there may have been a problem. Sugar Gliders are very intuitive creatures. Joey(s) that are sickly, genetically deformed, or have other problems may attract predators to the nest. If there is a problem with their young, they will dispose of it as necessary.
- Stress: Stress can have many effects on a mother as well as the pair/colony. Remember, a mother will not risk her own health for her joey(s). She will reject and/or cannibalize her young if her stress level is too high. Some stress triggers include:
1. Relocating or changing their cage while female has joeys in/out of pouch. Avoid relocating or changing cages (permeate housing changes) while the female has joeys in/out of pouch. New sights and smells will make them more nervous until they establish their new “territory”. They may reject or dispose of their young until they deem their new environment safe.
2. Moving the gliders to a new home while the female has joey in/out of pouch. Try to avoid relocating your sugar gliders to a new home if at all possible when a female has joeys in/out of pouch. The new surroundings, smells, and people may cause the gliders to become very defensive and nervous. They may dispose or reject any young until they have established a new territory and feel safe once more.
3. Adding sugar gliders to an established pair/colony or changing a females mate. Introducing new sugar gliders to an established pair/colony is rarely ever recommended, this is especially true when breeding. New males will most likely kill another males joeys to produce his own. Newly introduced females may kill or attempt to steal another females young. Introducing any sugar glider to an established pair/colony can create a break down in “pecking order”, cause territorial issues, as well as possible jealousy and dominance problems.
4. Removing the male from the female. Do not remove the male from the female when she has joeys. Males help to raise their young. Mothers are very much dependant on them to baby sit, keep the joey(s)warm, and to help teach the joey(s) what being a glider is all about.
5. Seeing or Smelling another glider outside of her colony. Sugar gliders are very territorial. If you have more than one glider pair/colony in the same room, but in different cages, try using a full cage cover over their cage. This way they will not see each other, and it will help keep their colonies scent within their cage. By doing this the pair will feel more secure in their territory. Placing the cages as far apart as possible, or placing each cage of gliders in a different room will help as well.
6. Mother or joeys being handled with joeys ip/oop before being completely bonded to you. Sugar gliders that are not completely bonded to their human companions may see you as a threat. If you are not completely bonded to the parents, and have had rejection/canalization issues in the past, try waiting to hold the joey until it is 10-14 days out of pouch. After this time period chances of rejection and cannibalization go down. Start off handling the joey in the presence of the parents for short times, and then increase increments as the parents become accustom to you handling their joey(s).
- Illness: The female will not risk her own health to raise her joey(s). She will reject or cannibalize her young to save or maintain her own health. To help avoid this, take the pair/colony to the vet prior to breeding to ensure there isn’t an underlaying health issue. Sugar gliders can easily hide illnesses until it has become extremely advanced.
- Trio or Colony Settings: Females within a colony setting may fight, steal babies, or attempt to kill each others offspring. Sometimes colonies/trios will work out well with twin sisters or females that have been raise together from a very young age. Please understand that even though the trio/colony works out a few times, it does not mean you are in the clear. Some trios have been noted to work out well for years, and then have severe problems later on.
Why do glider cannibalize their young?
Sugar gliders are exotic animals still maintain many of their “wild” instincts. To avoid drawing predictors or sickness to the colony, sugar gliders will cannibalize young. If there are any remains, usually they will remove it as far away from their nest as possible.
She cannibalized/rejected her babies will she do it next time?
There is no way to know for sure if she will or not. The best you can do is rectify any situations that may have caused her to loose her joeys in the past. If the behavior continue, you will need to neuter the male to avoid further rejections and heart ache for you and the sugar gliders. We usually use the 3 strikes rule. Not all pairs/colonies are meant to be parents.
Joey Rejection/Hand feeding
It is very hard to understand why a mother will reject a joey, as there could be many reasons. Sometimes a mother is unable to produce enough milk to support the joey, a diet deficiency may be the cause, or the mother may “sense” something is wrong with the baby. A yeast infection could be another cause, making it painful for the female to feed her little one. What ever the reason may be, you may be able to intervene by supplementing, or if necessary, pulling the joey all together.
Where to start: You will know that the joey has been rejected if it is found on the cage floor, or alone in the nesting area for long periods of time. Always try putting the joey back in with mother. If the mother finds no interest in the baby, then it is your choice on what to do. The first thing to do when finding a rejected joey is remain calm, animals sense stress. Next check to see if the joey is warm, if not wrap it in tissues or warm fleece scrap, and place under your shirt. Next, look to see if your baby is hydrated by checking the skin. Should it be slightly shriveled, try feed .20 ml of water or Pedialyte with a supplemental feeding within a half hour of the feeding. If the glider is severely dehydrated, you will need to get it to the vet ASAP.
How to mix the formula: Mix the puppy milk, marsupial milk, or Wombaroo to the directions on the container. Next get make the baby BML (mixture listed below). Finally mix one part milk to one part Baby BML. Warm a small amount of the mixture in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Stir and test with your finger to be sure mix is not too hot for your baby joey baby. Mixture should be warm to the touch, but not hot. Fill a 1cc syringe with the warmed mixture. Cover and store the remaining mixture in the refrigerator for later use. If the joey develops diarrhea, mix Pedialyte in with the powder every other feeding.
Joey BML Recipe
- 1 boiled egg, shell removed
- 4 oz bottle premixed Gerber Fruit Juice with Yogurt (Banana or Mixed Fruit)
if you can not find this, then use 2 oz of fruit juice and 2oz of plain yogurt.
- 1 teaspoon RepCal Herptivite Vitamin Supplement
- 2 teaspoons RepCal Calcium Supplement with Vitamin D3 Phosphorous Free
- 4 oz of Chicken Baby food (NO GARLIC OR ONION)
- 1/2 cup of Honey
- 1/4 cup of apple juice
- 1/2 cup dry Heinz or Gerber dry baby cereal (Mixed, Oatmeal, or Rice with Fruit Bits)
Put egg, honey and apple juice in electric blender. Blend. Add the yogurt with juice and RepCal Herptivite Vitamin Supplement. Blend. Add RepCal Calcium supplement, chicken baby food, and dry baby cereal. Blend. Pour into ice cube frays and freeze. This recipe will have the same consistency of ice cream. One cube is about 2 table spoons.
How to feed: Attach your size 5 cather or feeding tube to the syringe. Cut the cather at about two to four inches in length. Be sure that your hands and the baby is warm. You can warm the baby up by wrapping it in tissues or warm fleece scrap, and placing in your bra or under your shirt. Be sure the baby is warm before feeding. If the baby is not warm, it will have problems digesting food. Once the baby is warm, use your tissues or warm fleece scrap to hold the baby in a slight forward position for feeding. This will help in preventing the mixture from going up the joey’s nose. Feed the joey one small drop by placing the feeding tube on the babies mouth, being careful not to squirt any mixture into the joey’s nostrils or directly down the throat. Some joeys may be stubborn at first. If this happens try adding a little pressure in between the side of the mouth until the baby opens it’s mouth. Make sure the cather is over the tongue so you do not cause the joey to aspirate. Remember to feed slowly. A new joey will eat between .40mg to .60mg of the mixture. In the first day of feeding, it may take 30-45 minutes for each feeding. After several feeding, your joey will get the idea, and feeding will get down to about 15-20 minutes. Overfeeding a joey can be very harmful, and may ultimately kill your joey. If your joeys stomach appears to be bloated, or to be round, then you will need to skip a feeding. You can check to see if the joey is full by holding the joey up to a bright light. In the center of the abdomen and usually slightly off to the left you should be able to see a white patch under the translucent skin if the stomach is filled with milk. If you can not find a white patch, the the stomach is empty.
When to feed:
Supplement feeding: When supplement feeding, you will feed the joey every 2 to 3 hours. Allowing mom to keep the joey warm, taking care of bathroom breaks, and of the “in between” feedings. When supplement feeding, make sure you see that Mom or Dad are doing their job to clean the baby up (making sure it goes to the bathroom). If they are not, you can do it by gently stroking the area between the base of the tail and the cloaca with a warm wet Q-Tip. Sometimes supplementing is all that is only needed for a couple of weeks until the mother’s milk supply catches up with the babies. It is best to supplement feed rather than pull a joey all together, as it is less stressful on the caregiver, and the joey will have the best chance in surviving and growing into a healthy adult. When supplementing the baby always look for more signs of rejection by the mother. If the baby appears to be dehydrated or cold between feeding, look into pulling the baby or feeding more often.
Pulling: When pulling a joey you will need to feed it on demand or every two hours around the clock. Joeys tend to tire quickly when feeding. Place the baby in the warm aquarium until it begins to cry again, then you can resume feeding. You will also have to stimulate the joey to go to the bathroom at least 2 times a day. You can do this by gently stroking the area between the base of the tail and the cloaca with a warm wet Q-Tip. In order to keep your pulled joey warm, it is best to set up a small aquarium or critter keeper, with a vented top. Attach a heat pad to the underside of the tank. Set the heat pad to the lowest setting, and adjust the heat pad as needed. Fill the tank with about 3 to 4 inches of aspen bedding. Check the temperature of the set up often to ensure the joey is not too cold, or that the set up doesn’t get too hot. This process must continue for a least three weeks. At about three weeks you should be able to feed your little joey every four hours. As your joey grows, offer fruits and veggies slowly. Once the joey is 5 weeks out of pouch encourage your joey to go to the feeding dishes, as feeding should only take place during the day. At 6 weeks out of pouch, your joey will be able to eat and go to the bathroom on it’s own.
Joey Rejection Kit
When dealing with exotic animals, it is always best to be prepared for any emergency that may come up and need treated right away. However, always follow-up with a good and knowledgeable vet. Here is a list of items to start your “joey rejection kit”. All items should be placed in a sealed and marked container. Please place your “joey rejection kit” in an easy to reach and find area.
E-mail me if you have anything you would like to see added to our list
- Puppy Milk Replacer (powdered form or premixed formula) or Wombaroo Supplement. Do not use kitten milk replacer as the fat content is very high and causes diarrhea.
- 1 French Cather size #5 cut to 2″ in length, this can be purchased from a local vet, or a local hospital.
- 6-10 1 ml(1cc) Sterile Syringes, with out needle
- Critter keeper or empty 10 gallon aquarium w/vented top.
- Small heating pad
- Small bag of Aspen litter
- Box of Tissues