Random Rant #12 – How to Raise Joeys (when everything goes right)

Prepare for OOP Day

Have a joey rejection kit on hand, at least enough formula ingredients to last two weeks (gets you through shipping time for a full kit if needed) Read up on the signs of rejection and how to hand raise a joey beforehand. This is not a subject you want to learn on the fly when it becomes necessary.

In the lead up to joeys coming OOP, handle momma as much as humanly possible. The more she is used to being handled by you, the more she will trust you with her joeys.

Weigh momma (and dad too), you’ll want to see good high numbers on mom that increase over time as the joeys grow. If she is a healthy 95 grams on her own, and has 2 joeys at 12 grams each ready to come OOP, she would weigh 119 grams. If you are getting weights under 100 grams before the joeys are OOP then consider supplementing her diet with a week of Glider Crack to encourage strong milk production. Protein, fat, and calcium will help momma make good milk.

Go overboard with treats, especially worms, avocado, chicken, pinky mice, and yogurt. Worms and avocado have a good amount of fat. Worms, chicken, pinky mice and yogurt have protein. Pinky mice and yogurt have calcium. No, eating pinky mice does not confuse the momma into harming her joeys. They use scent to recognize their offspring, not the visual cues that make joeys and mice look similar to us.

Strip the cage of excessive sleeping options. One large pouch with some blankies hung on the lower door is my go-to. I also put a scrap of fleece on the grate underneath the pouch after hearing a sad story of a joey getting stuck in the drop pan (not necessary once the joey is about 3 weeks OOP).

I position a water bottle so that momma can drink from it without having to fully leave the pouch (but aim the spout so it doesn’t drip onto the pouch), and a foraging cup within reach as well.

I double the number of bridges, corner hammocks, or anything that could catch a falling joey.

I don’t wash anything for a week or two before or after OOP day, except the drop pan. Washing during this month will seriously piss off daddy, who is already agitated and scenting more aggressively than usual. Forgive his biting, nipping, booty dancing, and scent-stained chest/head.

Listen for momma’s “singing” to know when joeys are ready to be OOP. “Singing” is a nice euphemism for momma grunting and shaking, which I believe is to dislodge the joeys off her nipples for the first time.

Once joeys have dislodged from the nipple, they will be in and out of the pouch for about a week. Some moms will hoard their joeys in their pouch for as long as possible, until eyes open sometimes. Listen for joey cries to know when they are out of mom’s pouch.

Fresh OOP Joeys

Squee! New joeys are amazing, tiny, squirming, ugly alienfaces. They will bounce around in your hands like jumping beans, so prepare for that by sitting or having something soft beneath your hands to catch them.

Weigh the joeys every day until their eyes open, and weekly thereafter. Hope to see 12 grams or higher on OOP day, under 10 grams is an issue. Any loss of weight is an issue. Hope to see roughly 0.5+ grams of weight gain per day for the first couple weeks, and weight gain should not stall for more than 3 consecutive days. I like to see 20+ grams on eye opening day (10 days OOP). Single joeys will be heavier and gain faster than twins.

Joeys cannot regulate their own body temperatures and can’t be left alone for very long. If the parents are sleeping separately from the joeys, warm the joeys up with a cuddle and then place them on the parents, remove the extra sleeping spots. I keep the house around 75 degrees, if you use a space heater also use a humidifier, and do not use heat rocks or heat lamps.

It can sometimes be difficult to catch the joeys when their faces are out of mom’s pouch, but I never pull a joey off from moms nipple. If I can see their face, they are fair game for joey cuddle time. I do not hesitate to take a joey out of the sleeping pouch even if a parent is guarding them, but I understand that not all glider parents are amiable to that.

Some parents will trade joeys for treats, or at least they are so distracted by the worms they don’t stop me from taking the kids. Some parents can be lured out with feathers or the dinner plate. Glider parents will usually leave the joeys alone for short periods while they eat, exercise, and rest the nipples, and the joeys will usually cry to alert you to the opportunity.

If you find it very difficult to get to the joeys, I recommend a Flapper pouch made by Suz, which can open up to give you direct access into the pouch pile (I found this to be immensely useful when supplement feeding joeys as I could leave them in the warm parent pile while feeding them).

Joey Bonding: Eyes Open Until 5 Weeks OOP

There are three very important joey bonding routines to practice consistently as they grow up, anti-bite training, hand-bonding and crabby joeys come out of pouches.

Joey Hand Bonding/Bra Bonding

Young joeys cannot regulate their own body temps, and they crave warmth. Set joeys on your chest and cup a warm hand overtop them in a dome or tuck them into the open space in your bra. They will be asleep in minutes and will cuddle up into your palm to absorb your warmth. You can keep them for an hour or two until they wake up and cry, which means they need a parent for a potty break or a meal. If you routinely do bra bonding, it’s still important to sprinkle in a few hand bonding sessions as well to get them comfortable with hands.

Crabby Joeys Come Out of Pouches

Whenever the joey crabs while in a pouch pull the joey out of the warm dark pouch into the bright chilly air, let them look around a bit and then wander back into the pouch on their own. If they crab again, immediately pull them out again. It usually only take 3-4 times in a row before they get the idea, though some are more stubborn. Be consistent about this from the time their eyes open until they go to their new home and it will greatly decrease the chances of them growing up to be pouch protective.

Anti-Bite Training

Somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks OOP joeys get super nippy. They are learning what is food and chewing on everything to discover it. They will start by chewing on your nails and trying to lever them off, then chewing on the fingertips or the skin next to the nail bed. I wear rings and watches to draw their teeth away from my skin.

But whenever they nip in a way that hurts, I blow air in their face like blowing out a candle. I match bite intensity to blow intensity, and after a few times of testing it, they seem to make the association. With consistency, this method can discourage a biting habit from developing.

Worm Eating

I strongly advise that breeders who plan to sell their joeys introduce the joeys to live mealworms, even if they don’t normally feed worms to their gliders. Worm eating is a learned behavior that is easier to teach to a joey than an adult, and it will give the new owners an excellent method of bonding and control. Worms are often my joeys first food that they lick directly out of a parent’s mouth as they eat it. Joeys will lick worm guts (or smooshed yoggie) a good two weeks before any other solid foods.

Joey Jumps Stage: 5-7 Weeks OOP

Joeys will start eating on their own between 5 and 7 weeks OOP. Mom will stop letting them into her pouch by the beginning of the 8th week. You may hear some snitting as they argue over that.

A joey’s nose will point around 6 weeks OOP, around the same time that their ears grow, giving them a distinctly mousy face that lasts into their teen months.

Joeys will usually be very pouchy until 5 or 6 weeks OOP when they start coming out to explore and try food. I call this age the “Joey Jumps” age. They will bounce around and make tiny jumps, but not yet leap or glide. At this age I make a point of carrying them around to new places, letting them walk off to sniff things and then return to my hand on their own to check out the next spot. I feel it is important to teach them that they are free to explore but that I am their safe place to return to when they are through.

During the joey jumps stage, joeys are super hyper, playful, and exploratory. They will face hug, climb on top of your head, pull your hair, nibble you in sensitive places, run amok, chew on everything, chase feathers, and get into all the trouble they can find. They will lose interest in cuddling under your hand for naps, and will instead want to wrestle with your fingers or pounce your hair.

Letting the joeys have tent time with the parents is essential for them to learn how to be a good glider. They will follow the parents around a mimic their behaviors, which is adorable to watch. And they will ride on the parents back until the parents get sick of it and start throwing them off or leaving them in inconvenient spots.

Ready to Go: 8-10 Weeks OOP

Once a glider is between 8 and 10 weeks OOP they are no longer drinking moms milk, can leap and glide, regulate their temperatures, potty on their own, and are ready to leave the parents for their forever home. Boys can be neutered at this age. Most breeders will wait until at least 10 weeks if they are shipping the glider so its a bit more mature for the stressful experience.

My personal rule is 8 weeks OOP or 60 grams, whichever comes second. I find that my single joeys hit their 60 grams at or before 8 weeks, but my twins send to be closer to 55 grams at 8 weeks. Under 50 grams at 8 weeks is an issue.

Joeys can stay with parents until about 4 months OOP, after which there is significant risk of inbreeding.

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