Joey Development

At about ten weeks after birth, the joey will come out-of-pouch (o.o.p.). For the first day or two, the joey will still be attached to its mother's nipple. The joey is not officially considered out-of-pouch until it is fully detached. Once released from the nipple, the joey will still spend the majority of its time nursing. If there are multiple joeys, they may not come o.o.p. on the same day. For the first week or two, the joey will still go back into the mother's pouch a lot of the time until it is too large to fit inside anymore. You may even notice the mother tucking the joey back inside when you approach her.

Sugar glider fathers have a very important role in raising their joeys once they come out-of-pouch (o.o.p.). Since the joey is so small, it can not regulate its own body heat yet. This is one of the reasons why the father's role is so crucial at this stage. The mother will leave the joey in the nest with the father for short periods of time in the evening when she needs to come out of the nest to eat, play and exercise. The father will be the one taking care of the joey during this time. Even when the mother is in the nest, the father will take care of the joey when it is not nursing by keeping it warm and by cleaning it. Until the joey is about one or two weeks o.o.p., the father will stay with the joey whenever the mother is out of the nest. If the joey wanders out of the nest looking for food, the father will probably be the one to go get the joey and bring it back to the nest.

Once the joey is fully out-of-pouch and detached from its mother's nipple, you can determine whether it is a male or female. Both genders will have a cloacal extension that at first glance appears to be a penis. This extension enables the parents to stimulate the joey to defecate and urinate. However, since both genders have this, further observation is necessary for determining gender. Female joeys have a small slit at about the point where you would expect to find a belly button. This slit is the pouch opening. It runs vertically and will only be about three millimeters long. Male joeys have a small scrotal sac that is only about three millimeters in diameter. The scrotal sac is located on the joey?s abdomen just above the cloaca.

Once out of pouch, all extra nesting areas within the cage should be removed so that there is only ONE area for the parents to sleep. This is very important as otherwise, the parents may leave the joeys in one pouch and then go to sleep in another one. Since joeys can not regulate their own body temperature, they can get hypothermia quickly if left alone for too long. In addition, some breeders like to lower the nesting pouch or box within the cage to help prevent traumatic falls. Another option is to put shelf hammocks in the cage, just outside of the nesting area, to give a soft landing spot in case the joey does fall out. Do not put a piece of fleece directly on the bottom of the cage. Joeys may end up being abandoned by their parents under such pieces of fleece where they quickly become too cold and get dehydrated.

It is very important that you keep a close eye on the family to make sure the joey is not being left alone for more than a few minutes (10-15) at a time. If you ever find a young joey that is cold, outside of the nest and/or crying by itself, you should check on the joey to make sure that it is warm and has a full belly. If the joey is cold or its tummy is empty, try placing the joey on the mother IF she is in the nesting pouch. She should immediately start to clean the joey and guide it to her pouch. If she doesn?t, then it is very likely that she is rejecting the joey for some reason. Only close observation will help you to determine if this happening. Intervention may become necessary if the parents do not return to the joey to care for it. If the mother is out of the nesting pouch, then place the joey onto the father's back. He should immediately carry the joey back to the nesting pouch and start caring for it. This is very important because if the mother is out of the nesting pouch, then it is her "free time" and if you place the joey onto her, she may become very frustrated and start to nip at the joey in aggravation.

To socialize the joey and get it used to be handled by humans, you should start holding the joey right away. The easiest time to do this is in the evening when the mother is having her "free time". It is easier to take the joey away from the father when he is joey-sitting. During this time, you should weigh the joey on a jeweler's scale that weighs in increments of 0.01grams. Daily weighing is important to make sure the joey is consistently gaining weight and not losing at all. Here is a basic guideline for how long to hold the joey each day:

Day 1   -   7:  5 minutes, in sight of parents

Day 8   - 14:  7-10 min., in sight of parents

Day 15 - 21:  10-15 min., near parents, not necessarily in sight

Day 22 - 28:  15-20 min.

Day 29 - 35:  20-25 min.

Day 36 - 42:  25-30 min.

Day 43 - 49:  30-45 min.

Day 50 - 56:  45-60 min.

Day 57 - 63:  up to 3 hours

Day 64 onward: should be ready to be weaned completely

Once the joey is about 10-14 days o.o.p., it will open its eyes. At this stage, you will notice that it is starting to grow fur on its belly and the fur on the rest of its body is filling in more. By this time, the parents will be leaving the joey alone in the nest for short periods of time. As soon as the joey starts to cry, one of the parents should return to the nest to check on it.

By the time the joey is about five weeks o.o.p., it will start the weaning process.  Since the joey will be eating as well, make sure there is enough for all of them. Once the joey starts the weaning process you will begin to notice that its tail will start to get fluffier and it will look more like an adult glider in miniature.