When Do Gerbils Start Breeding?

Gerbils are adorable little rodents with round eyes, long tails, and soft fur. They are social animals, enjoying the company of their peers and easily forming close bonds with humans. With a lifespan of around 3-5 years, gerbils are lively, curious creatures that love to explore and play. Keeping gerbils is not complicated – providing a clean cage, adequate food and water, along with toys and chew sticks, ensures a happy life for them.

If you’re interested in having your gerbils breed, understanding gerbil breeding is essential. The process involves factors such as gender, maturity, mating behavior, pregnancy duration, birthing, caring for pups, social training, weaning, and separating cages. Drawing from my years of gerbil care experience, this article delves into these aspects, aiming to help you successfully nurture healthy and cute gerbil babies.

Determining Gerbil Gender

Before diving into gerbil breeding, it’s crucial to determine their gender. Gerbil sexes are challenging to distinguish, especially when they are young. If you want to prevent unplanned breeding or control their population, it’s essential to separate male and female gerbils promptly.

To identify gerbil gender, gently hold the tail, spread the hind legs, and observe the genital area. Males have obvious testicles, while females do not. However, this method is not foolproof, as testicles can retract in males or swelling may occur in females.

For more accurate gender determination, compare gerbils of known gender. A male’s genital distance is greater, and the anus and genital openings align, while a female’s exhibit a slight angle. This method is suitable for gerbils under 7 weeks old when gender characteristics are less distinct.

If uncertain or unwilling to judge, consulting a vet is the most reliable option, albeit requiring time and money.

Gerbil Maturity

After establishing gender, consider breeding, but not all gerbils are suitable. Gerbils mature faster than humans, typically reaching maturity at 3 months. Females mature even earlier, sometimes at 2 months, allowing them to become pregnant.

Gerbils have a short maturity period, indicating strong breeding capabilities. They mate indiscriminately, even with relatives, leading to rapid population growth and potential genetic or health issues.

To facilitate breeding responsibly:

  • Avoid early breeding; wait at least 6 months for full physical development.

  • Limit breeding to prevent excessive strain on gerbils’ health; three times a year with 3-month intervals is advisable.

  • Avoid inbreeding by selecting mates from different lineages, ensuring genetic diversity and health.

Gerbil Mating Behavior

After determining gender and maturity, observe gerbils’ mating behavior. Their estrus cycles occur more frequently than humans, typically lasting 4 days, with days 1-4 being receptive to mating. Individual differences, environmental factors, and seasonal changes influence estrus duration.

Mating behavior can be deduced by observing their activities and genitals:

  • Females become more active and curious, exhibiting vaginal secretions and sometimes blood. Their urine emits a specific odor attracting males, and they show interest or make advances toward males.

  • Males become more excited and aggressive, constantly sniffing and chasing females, or competing for female attention. Male testicles enlarge, and genital secretions become noticeable.

If breeding is desired, placing males and females together during estrus allows for natural mating, a quick process occurring multiple times a day. Control the duration to avoid fatigue and stress, typically not exceeding a week.

If breeding is undesired, separate gerbils during estrus or provide distractions like toys and chew sticks. Alternatively, consider spaying/neutering, a delicate procedure requiring professional veterinary care.

In conclusion, understanding gerbil breeding involves recognizing gender, maturity, and mating behavior. Responsible breeding practices ensure the health and well-being of gerbils, preventing overpopulation and genetic issues.

Pregnancy and Birth

After successful gerbil mating, you can eagerly anticipate the pregnancy and birth of your gerbils. Unlike humans, gerbils have a shorter gestation period, typically lasting between 24-28 days. This means that within a month after mating, gerbils can give birth to their pups. The length of gestation can vary based on individual differences, environmental factors, and the number of embryos, but it generally does not exceed 28 days.

You can gauge a gerbil’s pregnancy by observing its body shape and behavior. Here are some typical signs of pregnancy:

  • The pregnant female gerbil will become rounder, especially in the later stages when you can visibly see her belly swelling, and sometimes even notice the movement of the embryos. Her nipples will become more pronounced and reddish, preparing for nursing. The pregnant gerbil’s appetite will increase, requiring more food and water to replenish nutrients. She will become calmer and more docile, searching for a comfortable and secure place in the cage in preparation for giving birth.

  • The male gerbil will become more attentive and protective of the pregnant female, staying close and helping build a nesting area. His appetite will also increase, needing more food and water to maintain his strength. The male gerbil will become more alert and territorial, showing hostility towards external threats to protect the pregnant female and unborn pups.

To ensure a smooth pregnancy and birth, consider the following:

  • Avoid disturbing or frightening the pregnant gerbil. A quiet and comfortable environment is essential for the psychological and physiological well-being of a pregnant gerbil. Minimize excessive handling or movement to prevent stress, fear, and potential complications like miscarriage or stillbirth. Also, avoid exposing the pregnant gerbil to other animals or humans to prevent aggression.

  • Provide ample food and water. Pregnant gerbils need more nutrients and water to support their own growth and that of the embryos. Offer fresh food and water daily, including high-protein and high-calcium foods like eggs, cheese, nuts, and dried fruits to enhance the gerbil’s health. Fresh fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and tomatoes can supplement vitamins and hydration.

  • Create a comfortable nesting area. Pregnant gerbils require a comfortable and safe space for birthing. Provide a sufficiently large and clean cage for ample space and privacy. Offer soft and warm materials like cotton, tissues, and hay for the gerbil to build its nest. Regularly clean the cage to maintain hygiene and dryness.

  • Do not interfere with the gerbil’s birthing process. Gerbils typically give birth naturally, often within a few minutes. The number of pups can range from 2-8, depending on the gerbil’s breed and individual differences. Birth usually occurs in the morning or evening, the gerbil’s most active times. Avoid disturbing or observing the birthing process to prevent stress, panic, aggression, or pup abandonment. Wait quietly from a distance and check the gerbil and pups afterward for any abnormalities or injuries.

  • Allow both male and female gerbils to care for the pups. Gerbils are loving and responsible animals that share parental duties. Both male and female gerbils will assist in cleaning, keeping the pups warm, providing food, teaching skills, and ensuring safety. Avoid separating male and female gerbils arbitrarily, as this may cause anxiety, dissatisfaction, and hinder pup development. However, be cautious as males may attempt to mate again post-birth; if continuous breeding is undesired, consider removing the male or opting for sterilization.

Care of Newborn Pups

After a successful gerbil birth, you can start enjoying the presence of the newborn pups. Gerbil pups grow and develop faster than humans. They are born with fur and teeth and quickly open their eyes to begin exploring. Gerbil pups usually wean completely by 4-5 weeks and can live independently. However, during the initial weeks, they are fragile and require careful attention:

  • Minimize disturbance within the first week. The first week post-birth is crucial for gerbil pups as they need close contact with the mother for sufficient nutrition and warmth. Avoid excessive handling or movement to prevent startling the pups or disrupting the mother’s nursing and rest. Check the cage daily for any abnormalities or deaths and address them promptly.

  • Gentle interaction starting at 1 week old. When gerbil pups reach one week old, they can begin interacting with humans. Use this time to let them become accustomed to your scent and sound, fostering a close relationship. Spend some time each day gently stroking or picking up the pups, allowing them to feel your warmth and breath while hearing your voice and heartbeat. Ensure your movements are extremely gentle and slow to avoid discomfort or harm to the pups, and monitor the mother’s reaction to prevent dissatisfaction or pup abandonment.

  • Social training beginning at 2 weeks old. By the time gerbil pups are two weeks old, they can start social training. This phase is crucial for them to learn how to interact with humans and other gerbils, developing essential skills and habits. Dedicate some time each day for social training, letting the pups play and explore outside the cage and interact with other gerbils or animals. Make the training enjoyable and beneficial to stimulate the pups’ interest and learning desire, while ensuring their safety and health, preventing any harm or infection.

Weaning and Cage Separation

When gerbil pups reach 4-5 weeks old, they can be fully weaned. This indicates that they no longer need their mother’s milk and can feed and drink independently. The weaning process occurs naturally as the pups gradually reduce their dependence on the mother and increase their intake of solid food. Provide suitable food for the pups, such as small pellets of gerbil feed or chopped fruits and vegetables, to meet their nutritional needs. Ensure they have ample water to maintain hydration and aid digestion.

Around 7-8 weeks old, gerbil pups can be separated into different cages. This is because gerbil pups start reaching sexual maturity around this age, and failure to separate males and females promptly can lead to premature and excessive breeding, increasing stress and conflicts among gerbils. Depending on the pups’ gender, place them into separate cages or consider giving them to other caretakers or friends to ensure the gerbils’ health and happiness. Note that you should not allow gerbil pups to breed before reaching 9 weeks old, as this could cause severe damage to their bodies and affect their quality of life and lifespan.


Gerbils are adorable and fascinating pets that can bring joy and companionship into your life. If you’re interested in breeding gerbil offspring, it’s essential to understand various aspects of gerbil breeding, including gender differences, sexual maturity, mating behavior, pregnancy, birth, pup care, social training, weaning, and cage separation. In this article, based on my years of experience in gerbil care, I’ve provided detailed information on these topics, aiming to help you successfully raise healthy and cute gerbil babies.

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