The best place to get gerbils from is a breeder. A good breeder will be able to tell you about the parents and their history.
You can then ensure that your gerbils are not inbred and do not have a history of genetic defects.
Petstores are not able to provide you with this information and many stores do not give quality care to their animals.
This puts you at a risk of purchasing gerbils that are sick or carry severe genetic defects.
All three of the gerbils I have bought from a petstore had health problems.
One had severe diarrhea when I first got him, the second's teeth all fell out, and the last has nails that curl into little spirals rather than sticking out straight.
If you cannot find a reputable breeder in your area, however, then buying from a petstore is your only option. Some petstores are not that bad, just make sure that the store houses its animals properly. You want to find a store that practices good sanitation procedures and quarantines ill gerbils to make sure the gerbils you get are in the best of health. If you do choose to buy from a petstore, remember to get each gerbil from a different store. This prevents you from buying gerbils that are related and thus stops accidental inbreeding.
The only safe way to breed gerbils is to introduce one female to one male. Having more than a pair in the tank almost always results in serious injury to the adults and cannibalism of the offspring. You can't really blame them, I sure wouldn't want to compete for breeding rights with my mate! Although you may hear of success stories with a trio or more in a single cage, these people have just been extremely lucky. This sort of arrangement is far too unstable and should not be attempted.
| Links to gerbil
Health of your breeding pair
When selecting gerbils for breeding, you want to make sure that they do not have genetic defects. Do not breed gerbils that are blind, have malformed eyes, club feet, kinked tails or other undesirable traits.
Otherwise, the defects may manifest themselves in their offspring.
This is why it is particularly important to buy your gerbils from a breeder. You have a lot more information about the gerbil's lineage and thus about defects in the parents' lines.
Make sure that the gerbils you decide to breed are not too old. Although the male gerbil can concieve litters almost up to his death, the female can stop producing litters around 18-20 months of age. Breeding a female older than 18 months can result in small litters that cannot stimulate the mother's milk let-down mechanism properly. This means that the little pups cannot get enough food and thus will die of starvation unless you foster them to a lactating female.
Another problem with breeding older females, is that the small size of the litter means that the pups will be larger. I once bred a female gerbil, named Juniper, that was too old (I didn't know her age). The single pup in her litter became wedged in the vaginal passage during birth. If she had previous litters, the opening would have been stretched enough to let the baby pass through, but as it was, the baby got stuck. I had to go to the emergency vet to get the pup removed and it was still-born. If you would like to read more about Juniper, her story is here.
In addition, make sure that your gerbils are not ill before you bring them home. Their eyes should be bright and their noses free of secretions. One of the most common ailments in young gerbils is diarrhea, so check to make sure the gerbil's back end is clean and dry.
Another thing to look for in your breeding pair is an amiable disposition.
Untame gerbils are scared of people and so their pups will learn to be scared of people as well.
The gerbils you choose should be curious when you put your hand in the tank and they shouldn't bite.
If at all possible, purchase a gerbil from a breeder that keeps the older pups in with the newborns for the first week of their life.
Gerbils that have witnessed the birth and development of their siblings often make better parents themselves.
Coat colour is a very important consideration when selecting your breeding pair.
Some of the most common colours can be difficult to find homes for, especially agouti gerbils. Pink-eyed white and red-eyed white gerbils may also be difficult to place because of a supposed resemblance to rats.
Some of the most popular colours are siamese, burmese, schimmel and dark-eyed honey and so would be easier to rehome.
Pied gerbils are often very popular as well, but you usually do not want to breed two spotted gerbils together. If your gerbil has one spotting gene, it will have spots. Gerbils with two spotting genes, however, do not survive because the combination is lethal. These pups are reabsorbed by the mother early in pregnancy. What this means to the breeder is that having a pair of spotted gerbils results in litters that are smaller than normal. This is only a problem with very small litters. Litters of 1 or 2 pups often cannot cause the mother's milk to come down. The pups cannot feed and thus wind up dying of starvation.
If you are still confused about the genetics of coat colours, check out my clear and simple genetics lesson.