|To Breed...or Not to Breed?|
|Should I breed my gerbils?
Well....maybe. Do you have the money? - you'll need breeding supplies, extra tanks, and money for advertising (often you lose money on placing a pair). Do you have the market? (gerbil breeding requires a large gerbil-loving population.) Do you have the time? (getting the word out, educating the new owners, and often driving some distance to meet them all take effort.) Are you prepared to handle sick and dying pups? -- even top gerbil breeding pairs have a loss of 1 pup in 10 or 20. Lower quality gerbils or ill-informed humans produce a survival rate that can be much lower.
If the answer to all of the above questions is "Yes" controlled gerbil breeding can be an absolutely wonderful experience. Controlled breeding means starting with heathly, friendly gerbils. Learn about gerbil genetics and get educated on how to breed. In that way you will have a high survival rate and produce color variety and colors that are easier to place. Most importantly, you will be able to sex and sort gerbils and avoid the very real possibility of a population explosion (for example, did you know gerbils mate the night of the birth and a seven week old pup can become pregnant!)
You may want to have your mom-gerbil raise the first litter on her own. Use that experience to gage whether your local market will support your gerbil breeding. Decide whether the effort it takes to raise and place pups is worth it for you. If you find you have a good gerbil-market and have the means and energy to place the pups, then consider establishing a breeding pair. Gerbils produce a litter of 4-7 every 35 days for about two years.
Below is some fine story telling by S.D. Ryan about gerbil breeding getting out of control.
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|Population Explosion Story Page 1 of 2|
|My gerbils lied to me. I had a black one, #5, and a white one, #7 (named in order of acquisition, since I'm horrifically uncreative when it comes to pet names). I made sure to only get male gerbils, since otherwise I'd be mayor of Gerbil City. When I got 7, I had a sneaking suspicion he was female. The pet shop guy seemed as reliable as a crepe paper seat belt. He pulled 7 out of a big bin o' gerbils, gave an obligatory look at the belly, and pronounced him male. I figured the odds were about 50/50 he was dead wrong. But I bought 7 anyway.
Just a few hours after dropping 7 in the tank with 5, 7 began to stomp his feet. I looked it up in both of the gerbil care books I have, and it was a mating dance. A male mating dance. So 7's definitely a male (phew), and is either as ill-informed as I am regarding gerbil gender, or practicing the love that dare not squeak its name.
7 seemed to grow a bit over the next few weeks. Day by day, you don't really notice something gaining weight, so I thought 7 was just enjoying the increased access to the food dish. 5 stayed the same size, while 7 slowly doubled, all in the stomach.
One night after work, I heard cheeping. The gerbils were usually silent, but there were cheeps, like baby birds. I checked in the cage, and mulch had been piled in a corner with 7 on top of it. I gave a good stare, and 7 moved. Something red and scary squirmed underneath. What the...?
As I'm sure everyone guessed several paragraphs ago, it was a gerbil baby. Pup, to be technical. Six, to be mathematical. 8 through 13, to be consistant with the names. They were squished together in their little nest, wriggling like second graders in the big parachute they brought out at gym class. Five were beet red, the other one was black.
I showed 7 my gerbil care books, pointing out to HER that SHE was dancing like a man. She didn't seem to care. Illiterate gerbils.
The kids were jellybeans with legs. They were blind, hairless, toothless, and their limbs were just a few millimeters long. It couldn't even be said that their eyes were closed: a thin layer of skin was over black nubbins that would eventually be eyes. Their eyes weren't even formed.
They were cute, of course. I secretly wanted to have them. That's why I took the word of someone who was probably operating a cock fighting ring in the basement: passive aggressiveness in action. I wanted a puppy and kitten and grizzly bear cub and babies of all other animals, but didn't want the responsibility that went with them. Gerbils are as low maintenance as you get: five minutes of work a week is all it takes. Adding babies doesn't add any maintenance time to the tank, but it greatly increases the cuteness factor of said tank.
My gerbil books gave me their growth cycle, which I still consulted despite at least one factual error per book. Hair grows at six days, and the eyes open at 10-12 days. They're weaned for about 21 days, until they start eating solid food. At nine to ten weeks, they become sexually mature. I was going to have two months of fun watching the little guys sprout hair and eyeballs, but then they'd have to go. Pawning the little kids off to someone else, that was what I really didn't want to do. But now I'd have to.
75% grew to maturity, on average. Some gerbils have genetic problems and don't live outside the womb past a few days. Statistically, that was 1.5 of my six. Hopefully that wouldn't happen; the parents weren't related, so inbreeding wasn't a problem. There was also an outside chance 5 and 7 would cannibalize the kids, but flying over the Andes with them wasn't on my agenda.
I didn't think I'd be able to notice day by day growth (my track record with 7 proves that) but there was a noticeable size difference every single day for 8-13. On the fourth day, they started getting an all over five o'clock shadow. A tiny bit of white or gray on top (the black one had black hair, so he/she looked the same). They were either developing early, or I didn't discover their existence until a few days after their birth.
The parents were always sleeping on top of the pups, keeping them warm. Mom and Dad were both putting in a lot of work: it renewed my faith in modern day parenting, at least among rodents. It was hard to keep track of all the kids, but seeing as they couldn't escape the tank, checking on them was just a page out of Where's Waldo. Some little guy would usually fall asleep and then get buried in mulch, and he'd be the hard one to find...
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