Sugar Glider Reproduction


Breeding Responsibly

It is important to be knowledgeable on sugarglider reproduction before you consider breeding your gliders.  The decision to breed glidersshould not be taken lightly.  A lot of time and money goes into

Sugar Glider

breeding gliders.  If you have over three breeding females, you will also need to get a USDA license in order to sell or give away your joeys.

Only the tamest and healthiest gliders should be allowed to breed.  If you have a glider that cannot hand the stress of parenthood, you will need to pull it from your breeding program.  Even though gliders a perfectly capable of raising their young on their own, you need to be there to supervise and make sure that everything goes smoothly.  There are several things that could go wrong, but we will discuss that in the next section.  Even if your breeding gliders are tame, their joeys will not be if they don’t get lots of human interaction.  Lots of time must be spent with your gliders to ensure that your joeys will make suitable pets.

If you think that you will breed gliders as a business…think again.  You can’t make much, if any money raising classic grey gliders.  You will need the money that you get from your joeys to buy your breeding gliders, large cages, toys, pouches, food, vitamins, and possible vet bills.  For a male and female glider, you will probably pay at least $300.  A cage for your breeding pair will cost around $250.  Toys, pouches, and accessories will add up to at least $75.  Can you afford $625, just to start your breeding pair?  This doesn’t include emergency supplies and possible vet bills.  If you glider needs medical attention, bills can be hundreds of dollars.  An emergency fund should be saved for future use.  Even though it seems like gliders would be very profitable because they are expensive, it costs just as much to maintain breeding gliders.

Selling gliders may seem simple, but in reality a lot of time must go into it.  You will need to make sure that your joeys are healthy, completely weaned, and eating on their own.  Who will you sell your joeys to?  It will also be your responsibility to make sure that your joeys’ adopted parents are completely prepared for glider ownership.  It might be difficult finding long term homes for your joeys.  If your joeys don’t get adopted, what will you do with them?  Extra cages should be available at all times in case you aren’t able to sell joeys immediately.


Setting Standards

Just because you own a male and female glider, that doesn’t mean that they should be bred.  If you don’t know the lineage of your gliders, or if you gliders are rescues, you shouldn’t allow them to breed – even if they are healthy.  Only healthy gliders will be able to produce healthy joeys.  Diet, housing, and human interaction are all very important – especially when breeding gliders.  To learn more about nutritional health, click here.  To learn more about housing gliders, click here.  Health is often visible by simply looking at the outward appearance of a glider.  Clear, bright eyes – soft, shiny, non-oily coats – fluffy, well groomed tails…all those attributes come with glider health.  Obese gliders or very thin gliders shouldn’t be breed.  To lean more about overall glider health and appearance, click here.  The glider below is one of our breeding males.

Sugar Glider

All breeding gliders should be tame.  What is a “tame” glider?  A tame glider does not demonstratehabits of crabbing or biting.  A tame glider will notcrab when you open its cage, and is not pouch protective.  A tame glider recognizes its owner, and will not try to run when placed on him/her.  If you had a dog that attacked people and growled at everyone, would you breed it?  Why should breeding standards be any different with gliders?  How is an unfriendly animal expected to raise pet quality joeys?  Glider University has set some excellent standards for glider breeders, and I highly recommend reading this article if you are considering raising gliders.  *disclaimer* - We don't agree with some of the thing said about other breeders, we only recommend the actual standards part of the articles - Raising The Bar.


Potential Problems

If you are a glider breeder, you need to be prepared for potential problems that could happen.  If you only breed gliders that are healthy, the likelihood of complications will greatly decrease.  Most problems are rare, but they do occasionally happen, so you will need to be prepared.  When gliders mate, the male will hold the female’s neck with his teeth.  This is normally done gently, but occasionally he will pull her hair out, or cut into her flesh.  Depending on the size of the wound, the glider might need to be taken to a vet.  A minor wound will scab over, and be healed within two weeks.  If your female is bleeding, or if the wound is deep, you will need to take her to see a veterinarian immediately.

Joey rejection is very rare, but it does happen occasionally.  Signs of rejection include bite marks on the joey, or constant crying of the joey.  If a joey is rejected, its mother is most likely not producing enough milk for her joey.  Increasing the amount of insects that your female receives while she is lactating will help with milk production.  The food portion that your female receives should also increase during this time.  Another problem that could happen is cannibalism.  This is most likely to happen if your glider rejects the joey or if you have a glider trio.  When a glider that is not the parent of the joey eats the joey, this is referred to as joey “stealing”.  If you are going to have a breeding glider trio, you should have two females that have been together since they were very young (maybe twin sisters) with a male.  If the females weren’t raised together, it is very likely that you will have joey stealing.  Do not have two intact males with one female.  They will most likely fight over the female.  If they don’t fight over the female, the male that isn’t the father will most likely cannibalize the joeys.

Sugar Glider If your glider rejects a joey, it will need to be hand raised.  None of my females have ever rejected a joey, so it is possible that you will never have to do this, but it is best to be prepared.  I have hand raised two female gliders that were five weeks oop because their mother died.  I don’t have experience raising younger joeys, so I will give you a linkwith instructions in the case of an emergency.  I would like to talk a little about the importance of mother’s milk to remind you that the decision to hand feed shouldn’t be taken lightly.  Interfering, and taking the joey away from its mother, is often NOT the best thing to do.  If you unnecessarily pull joeys, you are not taking the joeys’ health into consideration.

The very best source of nutrition for joeys is mother’s milk.  A female glider has four nipples that can produce four different kinds of milk (depending on the age of each joey).  The first type of milk that the joey receives contains high amounts of immunoglobulin.  Immunoglobulin is very important for the joey because it helps the joey build its immune system.  As the joey grows, its mother’s milk changes.  Amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats change.  The milk is made specifically for the joey at its stage of development.  When deciding weather or not your joey needs to be hand raised, you should take this into consideration.  You should never interfere unless completely necessary.  Like I said earlier, signs of rejection are wounds on the joey (bite marks) or if the joey is constantly crying.  Joey rejection can often be prevented by only allowing health gliders to reproduce.  In the rare case that a joey needs to be separated from its parents and hand raised, here are complete instructions.


Basic Anatomy

Sugar Glider

Male gliders have two penises.  New glider owners often mistake them for worms.  You will most likely only see his penises when he is sexually active, but they can come out at any time.  Male gliders also have a fully furred scrotal sack that hangs from their lower abdomen.  When a male glider is relaxed, his scrotal sack will hang from a strand of skin that is about ¼ of and inch long.  When gliding, jumping, or running, the male will pull his sack close to his body.  A male glider’s testes have usually completed the descent into the scrotal sack by the time he is eighty days old (a little over a week oop). 

Sugar Glider
Female gliders have two uteruses and two vaginas.  As I will say a bit later, female gliders don’t have a permanent birth canal. A temporary canal forms shortly before the birth of the joeys, and it closes rapidly after the joeys are born.  A female glider has a pouch on her lower abdomen.  Inside the pouch it is warm and humid.  The female has four nipples inside her pouch.  The fur in and around her pouch will become stained if she has had joeys.  The female to the left has been nursing two large joeys, so two of her teats have become enlarged.  Notice the rust colored staining around and in her pouch area.

Sexual Maturity

Gliders can become sexually mature as early as four months oop. Because the age of maturity varies for each glider, be prepared for early maturity. There is no physical change in a female glider that would indicate that she has become sexually mature, so if you don’t want her to breed, you need to separate her from an intact male before she reaches four months of age.  Even though a female can physically breed at a very young age, it is recommended that you don’t breed females under ten months oop.  Female gliders will dramatically slow down their reproduction at about four years of age, but they might be able to produce joeys till they Sugar Gliderare as old as ten.

Males have two scent glands that will slowly lose their hairas they mature. These glands are located on the forehead in the middle of their diamond stripe, and in the middle of their chest.  If you neuter a male glider, his two bald spots will slowly fill in.  Male gliders can reproduce throughout their entire lives once they have reached maturity.


Mating and Pregnancy

Gliders are seasonal breeders in the wild. Gliders generally live in colonies of five to fifteen animals, and the dominate male will breed with all of the females.  In captivity, however, gliders will breed throughout the year.  Female gliders go into heat every twenty-nine days. Ovulation usually occurs two days after the female goes into heat (estrous). If a female is housed with an intact male, he will become very interested in her when she goes into heat. The male will lick her cloaca and try to mount her back. The female might make a hissing noise to indicate that she is ready to mate.  Sperm is transported very quickly, and within and hour the sperm is in the uteri, cervices, or cervical canals.  If the female becomes pregnant, she will give birth sixteen days later.  There is no way of knowing if your glider is pregnant until after she has given birth.


The Birth

Female gliders don’t have permanent birth canals. A temporary canal forms shortly before the birth of the joeys, and it closes rapidly after the joeys are born. The joey is approximately five millimeters long when it is born. The actual birthing process is a rare site. If you count the days after mating, you might be able to watch your glider give birth. It is very important not to disturb the female during this time, as doing so could result in the joey falling. If the joey doesn't make it to its mother's pouch, it will die.  She can give birth to up to four joeys, but one or two is most common. The female glider will lick a path from the cloaca to the pouch so that her joeys don’t get stuck in her fur.  The female will aid the joey in no other way.  When a joey enters its mother’s pouch, it attaches to one of her four nipples. The nipple will swell in the baby’s mouth, making it almost impossible for the joey to detach. If the joey is knocked off for any reason, it won’t be able to reattach because the joey’s jaw is under developed.


In Pouch Development

If you think that your glider might have given birth, you can check by gently massaging her pouch area.  You can still handle your female during this time, just be careful around her pouch.  Do not try to peek in her pouch.   If the joey gets knocked off the teat, it will die.  When the joeys have been ip for two weeks, it will become very noticeable that your glider has joeys ip (in pouch). By the time the gliders are one month old, they will be about the size of a peanut shell. When a joey has been ip for approximately one month, its jaws are developed enough to reattach in the case that it gets knocked off the teat. You might see body parts such as hands, feet, or tails protruding form the pouch now.  About a week before a joey comes oop, hair will thinly cover the joey’s back and tail.

Out of Pouch Development

Depending on how many joeys your glider has, the joeys will come oop around nine weeks of age. People calculate the oop date differently, so ask the person you bought your gliders from how they determine the oop date.  When I see my joeys out of their mother’s pouch for the first time, I mark that as the oop date.  Some breeders will wait until the joey is detached from its mother’s nipple to mark the oop date.  When a joey first comes oop, it will still bury its entire head in its mother’s pouch.  This doesn’t mean that it is constantly nursing, but joeys enjoy the comfort that comes from its mother’s warm and humid pouch.  Reluctantly, over the next few days, the joey will detach form its mother’s nipple.  The joey might still be able to fit entirely into the pouch, but within a couple of days it will be too large to do this.  When a joey is this young, the mother will most likely take it with her to eat, but that is not always the case.  The father will often watch the joey while the mother eats.  Male gliders are very loving to their joeys, and are often found babysitting.  Usually about ten days after a joey comes oop, it will open its eyes for the first time.

When joeys are old enough to regulate their own body temperature, their parents will leave them in the pouch while they eat.  The joeys may cry at first.  Even if the parents ignore the joeys for several minutes, this does NOT indicate bad parenting.  If you joey is being hurt by its parents, or if it is crying constantly, then you will need to consider hand raising it.  At one week oop, the joey will begin to fur on its underside.  When handling the joey, be sure not to remove it from its mother for longer than five minutes, because the joey still needs to be stimulated to urinate and defecate and the joey nurses frequently.  The parent will now leave their joeys in the pouch when they eat every night. When the joey is between ten and twelve days oop, it will open its eyes. Often one eye will open first, or they will be partially open for a day or two.

When the joey is five weeks oop, it will start to try its parents’ food.  You do not need to add any special food for the joey, as mother’s milk is all that it needs.  At approximately six weeks oop, the joey’s tail will “fluff out”.  The joey can also go to the bathroom by its self now.

Weaning and Maturity

As the joey eats more of its parents’ food, its mother’s milk supply will begin to suppress.  By eight weeks oop, the joey will probably be completely weaned naturally, but sometimes mothers will continue to let their joeys nurse until they are over ten weeks old.  The joey can now eat exactly what its parents are being fed.  The joey will need to be separated from its parents before it reaches four months oop to prevent inbreeding.



Written by Lauren Way, owner and operator, The Glider Pouch 2007