Ah! What a life! Get up every morning and play with critters! Do a little cleaning and feeding, play with some more critters! Feeling a bit stressed out? Go play with some baby critters! The life of an animal breeder is great!
Is this how you envision life at the Sugar Shack? Well, my friends, while we feel very blessed and fortunate to live our lives amongst the gliders, we did think it would make for some interesting discussion to talk about the realities of being critter breeders. So we will candidly share with you some of the sacrifices you should be prepared to make before getting involved in such a business.
But first, we thought we would start with Arnold’s top ten reasons to become an animal breeder!
#10 You see animals as the higher power and feel it only right that you subjugate yourselves to them.
#9 You have more dollars than sense!
#8 You have “no life”!
#7 You like to smell like poop!
#6 Your parents said you would never amount to nuttin’ and you wanted to prove them wrong!
#5 You are allergic to people.
#4 You are trying for your own nine lives through osmosis.
#3 You were a pampered poodle in your previous life.
#2 You love developing recipes that involve mealworms
And, the number one reason Arnold thinks you should become an Animal Breeder – drum roll, please!
#1 You like to dress up in fur and pretend that you have a tail!
Thank you, Arnold! If this doesn’t help you decide on whether or not you should consider getting into the animal breeding business, even on a hobby level, then perhaps a bit of human perspective will help you make this important and very long term decision.
Having the opportunity to work with animals on a daily basis is a blessing, but not for the less-than-committed. It takes a certain obsessive quality; perhaps many of us in the business need to “be committed”. The first thing you really need to understand and relate to is that animal care is a twenty four hour a day, seven day a week gig! So here are some of the commitments you need to make:
Do not get sick.
Do not get in a car wreck or otherwise end up in the hospital.
Do not take extended vacations; even the biggest of holidays require that animals are still cleaned, fed and watered!
So if you relate to Arnold’s reason #8 about having no life, consider that once you make this decision, you will pretty much only have one primary purpose in life and that is to care for your fuzzy guests in the best way you possibly can!
Many of us can easily consider all of the fun and exciting reasons to engage in this sort of business, but we are going to present some of the realities that also need to be considered.
The initial investment can be rather steep. You will need an appropriate place to house the sugar gliders, complete with climate control, humidity control, good ventilation, and running water! While you may breed a few pairs of sugar gliders in your home, much more than that will likely create a natural glider smell with several breeding pairs that most people will not enjoy. And garages are not suitable “breeding facilities”. As a matter of fact, using a garage is actually illegal in some jurisdictions. If not a legal issue, most garages do not have any (or enough) windows to create a suitable environment for sugar gliders because natural light is very important in helping to regulate their circadian rhythms.
Once you’ve identified where you will be breeding the gliders, you will then have to actually obtain the animals to use in the breeding program. One simple word of caution here: You get what you pay for. We’ve heard rumors of quite a few breeders posing as rescue operations to obtain “free breeding stock”. And while we can argue the ethical issues with this approach, there is a major practical problem as well. Rescue gliders have often endured a fairly high level of stress, abuse or neglect in their lives and are in many cases, very bad parents! So you risk taking in animals that may not produce and likely should not be encouraged to attempt to reproduce.
Some large breeders offer “proven breeder pairs” for sale. We really encourage you to exercise caution here as well! An honest breeder will tell you that they will not sell you their most productive breeding pairs – we wouldn’t sell our best gliders. So what you get are slow-producers, old-producers, or non-producers. Your best bet is to get joeys. This way you know what age they are (that is if you make sure they are really joeys) and sugar gliders do not take terribly long to mature. You can usually expect offspring sometime in the first year of having them.
The next step and this can be a major upfront expense is to procure your cages, feed cups, water bottles, nesting areas, toys, and other habitat enrichments. Don’t go too cheap! We made that mistake early on and have had to replace all cages a whole lot sooner than we originally anticipated.
For a long time we have wanted to offer a virtual tour of our breeding facility to show you what our breeder cages look like. But, primarily due to the lighting, their nocturnal nature, and the fact we don’t want to flood their area with flashes and abnormally bright light, we decided to bring home a typical breeder stacked setup to share instead.
These two breeder pair actually live at our home now in the nursery. And yes, we do maintain a nursery separate from the breeding building. We feel it important that the nursery is segregated…more on that later on. This cage is actually two of our sturdy cages with the stand modified to maintain a more reasonable work height for us glider gals.
Regardless of what size breeder you intend to become, you do need to make some accommodations for a quarantine / hospital area, as well as a separate area to keep your young sugar gliders. Newly arrived sugar gliders should certainly be quarantined before introducing them even into the same room as your longer-term residents. Sick sugar gliders should be treated and cared for away from all healthy animals to prevent cross contamination.
And before you even venture into any of these above considerations, allow yourself plenty of lead-time to apply and obtain all appropriate licenses that you will require. All breeders of sugar gliders require a federal license as issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, APHIS Division. This is true regardless of the size of your breeding facility. Click here if you are interested in obtaining an application kit for this license directly online.
The initial cost for this license is quite nominal, but part of the application requires your plan for veterinary care and you will need a veterinarian to review and help complete this application. Finding a vet who will do this for a reasonable cost may be challenging. We interviewed quite a few vets before finding Dr C! One of the first vets we spoke to wanted us to pay her $7 per joey, with extra costs for each full exam! Exams, neuterings, health certificates for shipping, USDA licensure requirements – all are extra costs with vets.
Then there are the normal vet fees to treat sick and injured animals. Part of being successful as a breeder depends on finding a vet who you can really work with. This was our biggest challenge to entry in this business. Vets like Dr C don’t grow on trees and we feel very fortunate to have a vet with whom we have such an outstanding relationship. We think the secret is to find a vet who is like-minded. Dr C brings a lot of passion to her practice and has a true love for animals. Perhaps this is obvious. After all, how many other vets out there spend so much time writing articles just about sugar gliders simply to help the community? OK, OK … this probably sounds like sucking up! Don’t tell Dr C, but we found vets respond much better when you do suck up! Sorry for the digression. Let’s get on track…
You may also require a state license to engage in an animal breeding business. In Florida, we require a license as issued by the State of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. You will need to contact your State’s equivalent office to see exactly what the requirements are for you state. But it doesn’t stop there – you may also have local ordinances affecting your legal rights to breed and sell exotic animals where you live.
Want to learn more? We will continue this presentation next month and hope you will join us again then!
Exotic Pet Vet
What Dr. C Says On… Dealing with Picky Eaters II
by Dr. C., of course!
Last month we started discussing the topic of dealing with picky eaters. To review the beginning of this topic, click here. As promised, I am going to offer some specific examples on things you can do to encourage better eating habits with your sugar gliders.
But first, one simple clue on glider eating behavior. Just because they ignore something one time does not necessarily mean they don’t like it. Multiple offers of the same item over time may be necessary before a glider will become adventurous enough to try it! And you may need to employ certain tricks and techniques to encourage cooperation from your gliders.
Let’s take one example and examine three different methods that you can employ to encourage your sugar gliders’ cooperation. “My sugar glider refuses to eat its _______.” Fill in the blank with whatever food group your glider avoids. Since I recommend three courses in the glider diet: a staple food (Zookeepers’ Secret), a fruit or veggie serving, and a protein, I am going to use each of these courses in my three part example.
Example 1: My sugar glider refuses to eat its fruit or veggies. Try changing the time you offer certain foods. Most people tend to feed their gliders all courses at one time. This suggestion would require that you feed the fruit or veggie first and make sure that all other food items are removed from the cage. Feed the remaining two courses an hour or two later. If this does not work, then feed only the fruit or veggie for one or two nights. Feeding an unbalanced diet for a brief period of time will not ruin your glider’s health for life. Sometimes you have to be willing to take what seems like drastic measures to get the glider’s dietary habits on track.
Example 2: My sugar glider refuses to eat its ZooKeeper’s Secret. It is generally recommended that a staple food (Happy Glider or Wholesome Balance) stay in the cage around the clock and is refreshed at least once every 24 hours. In most cases, sugar gliders will ignore the staple food in the daily offerings because the other courses are fed in too much abundance. Sugar gliders will tend to eat the fresh foods offered first and the manufactured staple foods last. If the fresh foods are offered in too large of a portion, the gliders will get full and will discontinue eating. Simply cut back on the quantity of the other food portions.
Example 3: My sugar glider refuses to eat its protein. This trick is by far one of the easiest, but takes some creativity on your part and willingness to try different things. Mix the food you want the glider to eat with something else you know the glider loves. Just like I put the oral medicines in a flavored syrup sauce, find something that will make the offering more palatable.
At SunCoast, we sometimes feed boiled eggs or boiled chicken. While most of the gliders will eat the chicken or egg as is, there are enough that won’t that we’ve found it necessary to “candy coat” the protein source to make it universally palatable amongst the whole colony. Debbie uses a few different varieties of human cereal and a few different varieties of nectar or fruit juice drinks. For example, she may mix the eggs with Special K cereal and apple juice. The important issue is not exactly what type of cereal, but one that is low in sugar that leans more toward the healthier side of the spectrum, and there is no magic in just how much you use. This is not a recipe. It’s a trick to get your glider to eat something it would otherwise not eat. Use only enough of the “trick” foods to get the desired end result. There is no need to overdo it.
Other trick foods that seem to work well are items like applesauce and yogurts. Just be conscientious to use trick foods that are basically healthful for gliders. For example, you would not want to add a lot of corn to the food as corn is really unhealthy for gliders due to the high phosphorus content.
Now, I gave you three techniques to try with three different examples, but keep in mind that I could have put any of the food items in any of the examples. I also want to mention that if you are going to use the suggestion in example three with your staple food, be sure that you don’t use a trick food that will expedite spoilage. The whole point of having a staple food is access to a food source around the clock that will not spoil. A healthy brand of cereal is likely one of your best bets in this event.
The whole point of this article is to encourage you to not give up too soon on a sound and proven glider diet. If you need more information regarding the diet I recommend and the portion sizes, click here. But keep in mind, even with these portion sizes, it is expected that there will be leftovers nearly every night. Sugar gliders will typically consume part of what is offered, throw and toss a portion of what is offered and ignore part of what is offered. This is perfectly normal glider behavior. Do not expect your sugar gliders to clean the bowl as dogs typically do.
I suspect that many people who believe their gliders are under-eating may have unrealistic expectations of normal glider behavior. I do hope this information will help better define what to expect from your sugar gliders’ eating habits.
Tune back in next month for a brand new topic!. As always, these topics are driven by your requests, so send your questions about glider health care issues by clicking here and we will do our best to include in a future edition of the GliderVet Newsletter. I send my wishes for good health to both you and your sugar gliders. I’ll see you again next month!
(Janine M Cianciolo, DVM)