The Great Breeder Debate

As someone that is generally interested in hamster care issues worldwide, I try to keep up on what is happening on various social media channels and one of the debates that I have seen crop up is the debate about how ethical it really is to actively chose to breed hamsters when there are plenty of hamsters in rescue waiting for a good home and to some people the solution to this is to ban all breeding, ethical or otherwise. I think that this would be nearly impossible to really regulate so it’s not a realistic suggestion but I believe that this also has a down side for hamsters in general.

The hamster on the right is Nero and he is a Purebred Winter White. He illustrates just what we’d be losing if all breeding were to be banned. many people know that in many countries there is no such thing as a purebred Winter White or Campbells because the only ‘Russian’ type hamsters that exist have been bred from stock originating from the rodent farms that may or may not know that the Campbells and the Winter White are an entirely different species. If it weren’t for the work of reputable breeders, the two species would eventually die out, leaving Hybrids that are known to be more prone to various health problems.

As someone who specialises primarily in Chinese Hamsters I have often been told on social media by people in the USA and Canada that they have never seen a Chinese Hamster because they are so uncommon. I think if there weren’t the breeders working with them here, the situation would be much the same. Do we really want to stop those three species from ever being kept as pets?

I don’t feel that stopping people from going to breeders is not the answer to reducing the amount of small animals in rescue, it’s the way that small animals are sold in pet shops that is the problem. At the moment hamsters and other small animals are able to be sold to pretty much anyone who sees one in a pet shop and thinks it’s cute. Some pet shops may ask a series of short questions but that still doesn’t encourage much real thought into what caring for this animal really involves on a day to day basis. When the novelty of having a new pet wears off, this small animal, that was so easy to purchase is then discarded and the animal ends up in rescue.

 

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Changing Plans

If there’s one thing being a breeder has taught me, it is that hamsters will throw a spanner in your carefully thought out plans to the point where you couldn’t be any further from your original plans.
In the case of Metallica Hamstery, the original plan was to breed James and Victoria, my first show hamsters. James had a lovely type and a good colour, as did Victoria who also had a beautifully soft fur. I felt she’d compliment James beautifully but Victoria did not have size on her size and I felt that the risk of mating Victoria to a male that was much larger than she was carried a large risk for her. So I changed my plans and brought Nobby in from Vectis Hamstery to be paired with Victoria and then I would pair James and Victoria at a later date. Victoria dutifully delivered six babies but when Victoria failed to accept James in a later mating, I had to change my plans again and decided that I would find a new partner for James and eventually mate a daughter of James’s to Victoria’s son Matthew. Unfortunately the events of the summer of 2017 would have a knock on effect on every single breeding plan I had in reserve.
James was paired to Luna, a sweet girl with a reasonably good type and colour. She had size on her side and fell pregnant with ease. Tragedy struck seven days after the birth of Luna’s pups and upon returning from a show in Emley found that she had passed away. Prior to her death she culled her pups. I was depending on these pups for not only the future of the show team but also for the breeding plans.
Meanwhile, Juno the other female I had brought in to be paired to James had failed to develop after an illness at a young age. In addition to her small stature, Juno also had a cough, caused by scarring due to her earlier illness. I could not breed Juno knowing that the toll of pregnancy alone could kill her.

At a similar time to this I became aware of issues with The Nobrias, the offspring of Victoria and Nobby. Three failed to reach their first birthday after dying suddenly of unknown causes. Victoria and Matthew then went on to develop skin splits that would inevitably bring an end to their days as reliable members of the show team. By January 2018, it became clear to me that there could be an issue on that line and I decided that breeding Matthew was not worth the risk it could have on future generations. By the time Victoria died in April 2018, there were only two of her six children still alive.

After the death of Luna and The Janas pups, the pressure was on to find another female to bear Lord James’s pups. James himself was getting on a bit and I wondered how much time I’d have left. Vectis Hamstery came to the rescue again and loaned me one of her females but the couple were not compatible so I was offered another female, who had been born in a colony. She would hopefully have fertility on her side and sure enough Cora Josephine did what she was brought to Metallica Hamstery to do. She produced seven pups and to start with I kept three of them whilst I decided who would be the most promising option. It took until April 2018 for me to realise that the girl, who would be next up in my breeding plans was not suited for breeding or showing. She remains at Metallica Hamstery for now whilst a new home is sought for her, where I hope she will become someone’s much loved pet.

So what now? Plans have changed again but I haven’t lost sight of what I am hoping to work towards. I will be seeking a new Female Normal to hopefully be bred in the Autumn of 2018.
The Show Team continues to be led by Matthew C. Nobria for the meantime but within the next few months, I am hopeful that Jack and Alexander Cormes will begin to show their potential and I can retire Matthew knowing that I have faith in the hamsters that I am putting on the show bench.

The Vices Pairing

 From the moment I intended to breed Chinese Hamsters I had always intended on breeding Lord James, the lovely boy that started Metallica’s showing career. I found him a nice wife-to-be and it was only a matter of time to allow her to grow up a bit. Or so I thought. She never grew enough for me to want to risk a first litter out of her with the size difference between her and James. Time was getting on and I wanted to get a first litter out of her before she was six months old so I borrowed a smaller boy to give Victoria her first litter. Nobby was a lovely lad and the pairing went well. The couple settled well, got on well until he had done what was required and I separated them. Eventually The Nobrias were born and I planned to re-breed Victoria in the new year. I chose my date to co-incinde with the show schedule and when the date came around I was hopeful.

Of course hamsters are going to do what hamsters want to do and Victoria most definitely did not want to get married again despite having flirted fairly continuously with James since her arrival. Literally as soon as they were put together, Victoria made her feelings for her betrothed rather clear. I continued supervising them and left them togather a little bit longer but things escalated. As soon as I saw blood, I knew it was time to rescue James. The spade that I was advised to keep handly for pairings proved its worth by putting a physical barrier between Victoria and James which gave me enough time to get him out.

My poor sweet boy had a cut on his nose that looked sore but I wasn’t going to give up on the pairing in case Victoria’s refusal to accept him was related to her heat cycle so every day I tried re-pairing them, however the outcome was never a particularly positive one.

I have decided that it was for the best that Victoria be retired from breeding and I would find a new female to be paired with James. As yet, I don’t know who that might be or where she will come from but I have to remain hopeful for now that Metallica Hamstery will be graced with another litter at some point during the year. 

Victoria’s Secrets – The Result

I said that Victoria couldn’t keep her pups secret for long but because they were so quiet, I assumed that there was only one or two in the nest. I later saw two escapees and I assumed that would be that.

However they weren’t nicknamed Victoria’s Secrets for nothing and when it came to first handling, I was rather surprised to see six pups in the nest. She had four sons and two daughters.

Considering that there were that many, I was even more amazed at how she had managed to keep them so quiet.

Victoria was an amazing mother, she was attentive but I think she enjoyed her playtimes away from them during handling. She was calm about me handling them and all six have been handled every day from that point onwards.

Eventually I made the decision to split Victoria from her daughters a couple of days after her sons had moved out and I think she was ready for it. After a quick look around her own cage again she settled down with her food and went back to flirting with James.

The Nobrias (Victoria’s Secrets) have all been provisionally reserved and will be going to their new homes shortly. One boy will be staying here to further our show lines. Victoria will be returning to the show team but we will be considering her suitability for a second litter with Lord James lined up as the possible father.

Victoria’s Secrets 

Several weeks ago I paired Miss Victoria to Nobby, a lovely lad that was here on loan from Vectis Hamstery. The couple settled in nicely but the next day Vicky decided marriage wasn’t for her any more and began telling Nobby off. The second night she decided to go for him if he even dared to cross her path so to prevent him from getting too injured, I separated them and tried again in the morning. They squabbled more and in the end they were separated before the four days were up. I didn’t know if it had worked and had heard that the girls can get cross with the boys once they have no use for them and a quick message to Vectis confirmed this. As I had no idea on what the outcome might be, I had to assume that Vicky was pregnant and began feeding her additional nutrients.

She began to look a little bit more round on 2nd October but I didn’t know if this was due to the additional nutrients or whether she was pregnant. She was moved to a maternity tank anyway on 2nd and by the 7th, she was looking rounder still. I knew I wouldn’t have long to wait – or so I thought!

I kept hoping to hear the baby squeaks or some sign that Victoria had got through delivery without any problems but Victoria had built herself a super-secure nest and was tending to those babies so that there was no chance of me finding out either way. The only thing I had to go on was her sudden slim-ness and a change in her behaviour. I had to go on the assumption that she’d had pups so as not to put them at risk until she let me know that she’d had none. I kept this up until the pups were almost two weeks old. I thought a couple of times that I might have heard rustling but it was so quiet that I couldn’t be sure and I didn’t want to get too excited just in case something had gone wrong.

Victoria tried her best to keep those babies a secret but eventually their curiosity got the better of them and on 21st October, whilst I had been preparing the pens for the show, Victoria came out for some food and was followed by a baby. She promptly chased it back inside but later on the pup appeared again and had a little wander round the tank. I didn’t see its sibling until later on whilst Victoria and the first pup were out. The second pup seemed more cautious and returned back to the nest when chased back in by Mum.

Victoria is still trying to keep those pups in the nest but I’m wondering if she’s going to be fighting a losing battle with that from now on. You’ve got to admire these mothers from the animal kingdom for raising their young without any support or intervention and to have kept it quiet for so long must have taken some work.

The litter’s official name is The Nobrias, which is a combination of both parents names, however they’re going to be nicknamed Victoria’s Secrets because, after all that effort, how could you not.