Just recently, with the increase in hamsters at Metallica, I have found that I have had to order Fitch more frequently so I decided that I’d have a shop around to see if there were other options that may work out better for us. I came across Megazorb when I was in an equine shop and decided to give it a go. I tried it with James and Matthew first who accepted the change without batting an eyelid and noticed that it held up to Matthew’s burrowing attempts fairly well so thought I’d give it a go with Victoria who is Metallica’s best nest builder and she loved all of the landscaping opportunities it gave her and it actually seemed to hold out better than the Fitch did. 

After two weeks, I usually notice that the cages need a clean but with Megazorb, there just wasn’t that same telltale odour that there would be after two weeks on Fitch so I ended up getting longer out of it which helped towards its cost effectiveness. For what I was paying for a 20kg bag of Fitch, that would usually last us two months, I was getting two 15kg bags of Megazorb that would last us three months. 

I was a bit concerned about the reports that some bags of Megazorb have had a funny smell but I have yet to notice this in the bags I have bought. From speaking to other members from the hamster fancy, I understand this is to do with how it is stored at the suppliers rather than it being due to the substrate itself. The other issue that some people have mentioned is that it can be dusty however I do have allergies to other substrate types and have not found Megazorb to make these worse.


New Roles

The past 12 months has held a couple of new roles for me to try and the chance for me to give something back to the hamster-y community as well as giving me the opportunity to further my knowledge.

Those that have met me at shows will probably know that I have done both Pen and Book Stewarding before and these were invaluable when learning about the standards and what they looked like in real life. I tried to apply this when choosing my keeper from The Nobrias and whilst at one point I thought I might have got it wrong, my ‘keeper’ ended up as RBIS at Hereford so as you can imagine, I was mighty proud of him and grateful to the judges that have passed their knowledge on to me whilst I have stewarded for them.

October saw the AGM’s for both Southern and Midland Hamster Clubs and I intended to stand as a Committee Member for both, however I came home as the new Southern Webmaster which gave me the opportunity to use the skills I have developed in another hobby for the benefit of someone else. We had a few teething problems with the domain but all is now up and running and I have plans to build on what we have to increase the club’s online presence.

In Dawlish, I took on yet another new role as I’d volunteered to be the Show Secretary. It can be a busy role but Dawlish is one of the smaller shows and a good place to start. I think I did reasonably well although a little frazzled when the Pet Class was coming in at the same time as the duplicates from the Main Show. From speaking to several others who have done the job, this can happen from time to time and I hope that I will get more efficient with practice. I’ve asked the Show Manager to put me down for the same role next year so I guess it couldn’t have been that horrific.


Matthew C. Nobria – The One That Surprised Me

Matthew was one of Metallica Hamstery’s first litter and I had intended to use my keeper to boost my rather limited show team numbers. I picked who I believed was the best option but after Matthew’s first two shows I was beginning to wonder if I had got it rather wrong. He was sweet and I loved him dearly but I thought that he may actually be better off joining Jess as a Pet-Only hamster as I wasn’t sure that he’d ever be anything more than an average show hamster. Then Hereford happened.

I was uncertain about entering him but thought I’d give him a couple more shows because after all, he was still quite young and he might improve.

I went over to the show bench to see how my three had done and saw that Victoria hadn’t placed but couldn’t see either of my boys at first glance. The pen steward told me that the hamster in pen number D808 was currently in the running to be Best in Show. I knew that was one of my numbers and believing that it might be James, was actually rather excited.  Later on when the entire class had been judged and D808 had been knocked down to the Reserve Best in Show position, I saw that the hamster in D808 had been entered in D16 which is the class for hamsters bred by the exhibitor. This meant that it couldn’t be James. I double checked my pen numbers just in case I’d got it wrong but it was definitely one of mine. I saw James further down the bench which meant that the current Reserve Best In Show was Matthew. For a hamster that I was contemplating retiring to a ‘Pet-Only’ status, I was rather surprised to say the least.

Matthew stayed in that Reserve Best In Show position for the rest of the show and won himself his first Certificate of Merit. I’m proud of him but also feeling a little guilty that I was prepared to write him off. I genuinely believed that he wouldn’t stand a chance against James, my normally reliable show hamster but as this experience has taught me that sometimes you just never know!

Victoria – The One That Never Grew Into Her Potential

Victoria was brought home in June 2016o as the betrothed of Lord James but also to give my rather limited show team a boost.

She started well, bringing home 1st placings in her very first show and was deemed to be ‘Young With Potential’ at her second show. This gave me some hope that she may one day go on to win one of the top titles in the show. Unfortunately she never grew into her potential and although she is cute and charming, she stayed as a rather small Chinesey despite my efforts to help her grow.

Because of her small size and James’s much larger one, I decided not to risk a first pairing with her and those of you that have followed us for a while will remember that I borrowed a boy from Vectis Hamstery for our first pairing instead. They were a lovely couple and in three weeks The Nobrias were born. Victoria was a good mother so I hoped to pair her with Lord James earlier this year. When it came to pairing, Victoria was having none of it and was consequently retired from breeding.

This normally would have meant that I could allow her to focus on her show career but with her small size being one of the things working against her, I didn’t hold out much hope that she’d do exceptionally well in showing although that being said, she seemed to be a fairly consistent average show hamster until she got a skin split in September 2017 that threatened her position on the show team. Whilst the split itself has now healed, the ruffling of her fur has not improved and I made the decision to retire Victoria in November 2017.

Lord James

I’ve been updating the show records of every hamster that has ever been showed and in particular Lord James’s show record is one I am particularly proud of. This hamster was Metallica’s first show hamster and still is the strongest member of my show team. When he had to sit a show out recentely due to an injury inflicted on him during an unsuccessful mating, his absence was noticed as I came away with a lot less prize cards. Thankfully, showing for me is not about prize cards (although they’re nice) it’s about what I can learn about ‘what good looks like’ to help with my breeding plans going forward. From reading the judges comments I have learnt that James is a good example of a nice head but his dorsal stripe is a bit short so I know when pairing him that colour is something we might need to work on. I also know that James is rather prone to moult lines but often that nice head has been enough to put him in line for placings. 

The one show that he didn’t place, I agreed with everything the judge said and this was the start of his midlife crisis. I was skeptical as to whether he could recover from it and retirement was on the cards. Then somehow he managed it, he recovered enough to be put back in the Show team at Bath this year and somehow managed to go on to win a RBIS and another COM at Dawlish. Rather conveniently, he got his most of his rather typically James moult lines after the show and I’m hoping that as the weather warms up that he will recover again. 

I’m uncertain as to whether or not he’ll manage that 3rd COM that he’ll need to become a Champion but even if he doesn’t he’ll still have done me proud and I hope he’ll go on to produce some nice pups when the time is right so we can continue to develop our show team. 

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. 

Entering Shows – The Classes

So I’ve been doing my preparations for the start of Southern Hamster Club’s show season and it’s all very well getting things like show pens ready but it would be rather silly to do so without actually remembering to send off entries to the Show Secretary before the deadline and so I thought, as I was doing my entry for the show on Saturday I’d write a little bit for those who are new to showing on the things you need to know when entering the show. Now there’s a great blog post on Vectis Hamstery’s blog about how to write the perfect email to enter and it would be silly to re-write that as she’s done a great job so I thought I’d explain about the classes which is something that bewildered me slightly when I entered my first show.

This is an explanation of the classes used in the Southern and Midland Hamster Clubs. It varies slightly with Northern shows.

Straight Classes: This refers to your hamster’s species, colour and coat type and when submitting, the coat type takes priority over colour so if you’ve got a satin coated hamster then you will need to enter them in this class rather than in the class for their colour. If you’re not sure on the official name for your hamster’s colouring and coat type then it should be on their pedigree or you can check the colour guides on the club website or you can ask the Show Sec for help (it’s easier to send a photo if you’re not sure on how best to describe their colour). However, if you are thinking of entering a pet shop Russian Hamster, then these are unlikely to be a pure Campbell’s or Winter White and will not be able to be entered in the main show.

Duplicate Classes: These tend to refer more to the type of exhibitor you are rather than the hamster itself and after your hamster has been judged against those of their Straight Class, they will go up against the others from either the Syrian or Dwarf Section who have also been entered in that class. The points that they are allocated when being judged for their straight class will be used to determine placings and the highest pointed hamster entered in each class will win. Sometimes a judge may find that there are two hamsters on the same score and in that incidence, they will look at each hamster again and rank one above the other depending how good of an example of their species they are. The one that the judge determines to be slightly better will receive a plus for that particular class and will be placed higher than the other.

Junior: This is a class for our younger exhibitors and any hamster entered in this class must belong to someone under the age of 16.

Novice: To enter the Novice class you must still be in your first year of membership with an NHC affiliated club. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been showing since you’ve joined or whether you only shown once during that time, it refers to your date of joining rather than the anniversary of your first show. Members showing in this class will not have Prefixes as Members are only eligible to register Prefixes after one year of club membership.

Intermediate: As with the Novice class, this depends on how long you have been a member of the club and is only open to those in their second year of membership. Members who enter this class may have prefixes but this is not compulsory. 

Small Hamstery: This class is only open to members that have 10 or less hamsters in either section however if you have a litter of baby hamsters still with their mother then these don’t count towards this total.

Breeders: Although many exhibitors will breed litters of hamsters from time to time, members may only enter this class with a hamster they have bred themselves.

Young Stock: If you have a young hamster that is between 6-16 weeks old then you can enter them into this class but if you have a Chinese or a Roborovski then you will need to wait until they are 8 weeks old before you can enter them. Sometimes if a judge is suspicious about a hamster’s eligibility into this class then they will ask the Show Secretary to confirm with the exhibitor as to the hamster’s age.

Members Points Class/Free Membership Class: This class tends to be entered by regular exhibitors as the points obtained for each placing in this class will count towards an annual award which is decided by each club. Hamsters that do not place in this class will not receive any points. If you don’t go to all the shows but don’t mind the additional 5p entry fee, then you may still decide to enter because after all, you never know. 

Grand Challenge: If there’s one duplicate class that all exhibitors should consider entering then it’s this one because without it, your hamster will not be eligible to receive a Certificate of Merit and Certificates of Merit can later lead to your hamster being crowned a Champion.

Diploma: This special class is only offered when the judge for that section is a National Hamster Council judge (as opposed to a club judge) and winners of this class will be given a special NHC Diploma Certificate. No rosettes or trophies are awarded for this class.

Special Class – Non Standard: If your hamster is a recognised breed but no colour standard exists for them then they may be entered into this class. Hamsters entered into this category are not eligible for entry to any duplicate classes and are usually judged at the end of the day after the duplicates have been determined.  

The Show Season Approaches

The start of the show season is approaching! I know that for some exhibitors there was the Bradford Champs show a couple of weeks ago but we couldn’t make that one so that meant that we had a couple more weeks to get things sorted. Firstly I decided it was worth checking the show pens as stewarding has taught me that a poorly presented show pen can lose marks and can sometimes cost that exhibitor a first place. Thankfully I’ve not yet had that happen to me but I’d rather it didn’t.

Chinese Hamsters are shown in the brown dwarf pens so I wanted to make sure that they didn’t need re-staining before I did anything else. I came across two of my spare pens that looked like they’d been varnished rather than stained so to be on the safe side, I’ll take them out of use, sand them down and re-stain them to the correct colour. I have discovered, thanks to a blog post from Doric Hamstery that the correct colour should be Ronseal’s Deep Mahogany so I had to make sure that I’d got a supply of this before I got started. I’ve not actually done these pens yet and they’re still sitting in the garage waiting for it to warm up a bit.

The other pens need a proper clean as they’ve been sat around in the hamster room getting dusty and thanks to the rather enthusiastic ‘housekeeping’ efforts of one of the hamsters, seemed to be that much more dusty looking than they probably would have been. I’ve also numbered each pen so each one of my show hamsters will have an allocated pen. I’m still not happy with my show pen carrier but I’ve not got red paint in the right colour so that’ll have to wait… once that’s done I’ll redo the lettering. Hopefully I’ll find a way of doing it in the proper Metallica Hamstery font.

I’ve made sure that I’ve got sufficient woodshavings from the Guinea Pigs supply set aside for use in the show pens and plenty of dog biscuits. I know that the clubs supply these but I prefer to give the hams something to chew on during the journey and it helps if it’s the same type that the club use so that I can leave it in the pen after benching if they’ve not eaten too much of it.

The hamsters themselves get checked over and prepared for the show in the run up to the individual shows. James had hit some kind of hamster mid-life crisis at the end of last year so his place on the show bench looked doubtful but since switching all four of the hams on to a different food, I’ve found that he’s improved so I’m hoping he’ll be back on the show bench again.

With the start of this show year comes my thoughts about what I’d like to achieve this year. I already know that I will be taking on the Show Sec’s role for the first time in 2017 after being shown the ropes by Vectis last year. As I will be coming out of Intermediate in March, I will also be starting to enter the Breeder class with Matthew (who was born last October) and hopefully James will provide me with some nice pups too. I already have my name down for several stints as a steward but I’d like to take this further during 2017 and train as a Dwarf Hamster Judge.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you during 2017!


Jessie’s Caging Issues

For some time I’ve had to keep my Chinese in smaller cages as they’ve refused to settle in the larger ones and I actually became quite good at noticing the signs of a hamster that is unhappy in a larger cage. In light of this, I tend to start them small and with a hamster that has had trouble adjusting to being separated from his siblings, this has been the most effective method. Just recently though, we’ve had a few problems with the behaviour of Jessie Jaye, the cheeky little Dom Spot that arrived at Metallica just under a year ago. She’s a tiny bundle of mischief but is a generally a happy hamster.

To start with Jessie seemed to be more hyper than normal so I made sure she had enough to keep her occupied in her cage as well as ensuring I varied her playtimes. I also tested her for diabetes which can cause changes in behaviour. Thankfully she came back negative for diabetes so I thought that in a day or so, she’d settle down again. She didn’t…she got worse and began bar chewing. I checked her wheel, ensured that she had sufficient chews and that her teeth looked as they were supposed to. No change so I consulted a friend for advice and she gave me another tip to try but unfortunately Jessie’s behaviour began to take a dramatic turn for the worst. Instead of being just hyper, she was frantic. My poor little girl seemed stressed in her body language and was obsessively bar chewing so I decided that I’d put her in one of my larger bin cages. It  had very little potential for chewing, which would at least help to stop her from hurting herself. The transformation in Jessie was apparent almost straight away. She was no longer frantic and was happily running on her wheel and doing her housekeeping. I’m relieved that things have improved for her but I also think that it’s a reminder that every hamster is different in what they want out of their living environment and as responsible owners we have to pay attention to our hamsters behaviour and body language to ensure that we are providing them with the cage they need.

Chinese Hamsters – difficult to find. 

I’d always known Chinese Hamsters were harder to find than their more common cousins, after all the first I’d heard of them when I went to buy a pair of Russian Hamsters and saw them in the shop. I’d fallen for them and came away with a pair of brothers. It wasn’t long after that when that particular store stopped selling them but other stores seemed to follow the same pattern.

Three years after that I came across one in a rehoming section of that particular store, that was the last time I’d see a Chinese Hamster in that store. I realised that I might need to go elsewhere to find a Chinese Hamster in the future.

On two occasions I had known of Chinese Hamsters being available in a smaller pet shop chain but later on, even they stopped selling them. In fact that company have stopped selling Dwarf Hamsters too and are focusing on Syrian Hamsters instead.

From reading discussions on a hamster forum it would appear that others are having the same issues with finding this endearing species and it often makes you wonder why. I was once told that it was because they just don’t sell very well as people want the more stereotypically cute, rounder other species. After all, any sensible retailer is going to stock what sells but I think there is a lack of knowledge of these species, meaning they are being sold as pairs and inevitably most pairs seem to fall out. Chinese Hamsters can be vicious towards each other and can inflict serious injury or worse on their opponent. If they’re lucky and survive a fight with minor injury then they will need to be caged separately and some people are reluctant to pay out for another cage, particularly when pet shops are pretty insistent that this species would be fine as a pair. I’ve heard stories of hamsters being returned to the store or given away free to whoever asks for it as a result of the fight. Maybe the pet shops think that this species presents more problems than their worth which is a shame because housed correctly this species can make a wonderful and loving pet.

So where do people turn? For those lucky enough to be able to travel for a breeder or to a show, that represents the next option and for most, the last resort. Whilst this option should ensure that healthy and tame pets are going to new homes with the additional support a breeder can offer, it is not an option for everybody and unfortunately those people have had to go without.

Jessie Jaye was my last Pet Shop Chinesey and she’s probably going to be our last. Obviously it will be beneficial for our show team if we were to source all of our Chinese from breeders but it has made me reflect on what pet shop Chineseys have done for me too. They have been such a huge part of Metallica Hamstery’s history and without them, I wouldn’t even have known the joy of owning the species let alone got involved in breeding and showing them.