Female Syrian hamsters can become fertile as young as 3-4 weeks of age, and males sexually mature around 4-5 weeks of age. However breeding a female whilst she is still growing herself should be avoided as it can detrimental to her health, affect her own development, cause the female to reject the litter, or result in a poorly developed litter.
The ideal age to breed a female for the first time is when she is between 4 and 6 months of age. Breeding a female for the first time after 6 months can result in complications in giving birth and so is best avoided.
The strain of rearing a litter will weaken the female and so it is recommended that 3-4 months is given for her to recover her condition fully before breeding again at 8-10 months of age. This will help to ensure the successful rearing of a second healthy litter. Generally 3-4 months between litters is sufficient time for the female to regain condition.
Females often take longer to regain condition after the second litter later in life and will become sterile at around 12-14 months of age. Therefore for most females a third litter is not advisable or possible. However, if a female remains fertile at 12 months of age and is still in a good, healthy, robust condition a third litter may be bred from her but this should be given careful consideration.
Males can be used for breeding from as young as 4-5 weeks of age although may not always be able cope with a full grown female! It is usually best to wait until a male is 2-3 months before using him for breeding. Males usually remain fertile for most of their life.