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Keeping and Breeding Macropods

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Obviously keeping kangaroos and wallabies isn't for everyone.  We are VERY particular who we sell our animals to.  Successful applicants must live in a rural farm setting with plenty of room for a roo to run and graze.  We look for people who are already animal oriented and who are looking to add roos to enrich their lives and enjoyment of their farm.  We will not sell animals to people under 30, who don't own their own property and who we suspect may be seeking attention through ownership of an unusual animal.  Roos are not house pets.  The don't ride in cars, walk on leashes or do tricks.  If that's what you want then get a dog.  Roos tend to be shy and easilly stressed in strange situations.  Bottle reared animals are friendly and affectionate with people but they will not come when they are called and they need to be kept in a secure environment at all times.

   
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Housing

Kangaroos and wallabies are surprisingly hardy in cold temperatures.  They will adapt if they can aclimatize over the course of the fall and grow a good winter coat.  If you only have a few wallabies or smaller breed kangaroos then a simple 8' x8' insulated garden shed will surfice as shelter.  We build low bunks that the roos can hop up on that have shavings for bedding.  They like raised beds.  Once the temperature dips below zero in their house, we add enough heat lamps to keep their water barely defrosted.  You don't want to over-do the heat.  Animals that go from hot to cold and back again don't do so well.  Your building needs to be big enough to accomodate all your roos comfortably.  Building more than one shelter in the same pen will not work as the roos will insist on all sleeping together.

   
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Fencing

Most people assume that a roo will try and get over a fence.  This is generally untrue.  Roos usually try to get under or through a fence.  Fencing should be at least 6 ft high and tight to the ground.  It's best to either bury the fence or peg it down.  Wire should be heavy guage and no bigger than 2" x 4" mesh.  Roos are extremely nosy.  If there is a flaw in the fencing, the roo WILL find it.  The fence is only as strong as its weakest point.  Any trees that might come down on the fence should be removed.  GATES NEED TO BE KEPT LOCKED.  I cannot over-emphasize this point.  People are even nosier than roos.  Some people will think nothing of opening an unlocked gate to get a closer look at an unusual animal.  This same brand of person will also think nothing of leaving the gate open when they leave.  Security is all important.  As far as enclosure size, that really depends on the quality of grazing and the number of animals.  Generally speaking, if the number of animals in the pen are not overgrazing the area and they have enough room to run and exercise properly, the pen is large enough.  A pen for one animal certainly should not be smaller than 50' x 50' at a very bare minimum and it should all be in pasture.

 

Feeding

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Before you ask, yes those are dog beds in the picture.  Roos are definitely creatures of comfort.  They also like to get up high like a goat.  That's why we put the beds on that little rise.  We are going to try and get some sunning platforms built this spring to get their dog beds off the ground.  But to get back to feeding;  Roos are browsers.  That means they like to graze but they also like to nibble on brush.  This is essential to the health of their digestive tract and teeth.  If there is no browse material in your pasture then consider bringing in trimmings from an organic orchard or willow boughes.  They love to chew on those.  As far as your pasture is concerned, it should not be too wet.  If there are muddy areas, try to eliminate them as they will become a resevoir for bacteria.  Roos continually groom themselves and having them ingesting large quantities of bacteria laden dirt is not a good thing.  If there is a pond or a stream in the pen, put gravel down along its margins so the roos are not getting muddy.  We feed a good quality brood mare pellet to our roos.  Some breeders prefer goat tex.  Roos have very similar digestive tracts to alpacas.  Feed a good quality hay in the winter along with greens such as apples and carrots.  Roos are not "piggy" eaters.  Food doesn't have to be rationed.  We put an entire bag of feed in an automatic hopper.

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Hand-rearing of Joeys

Why bottle rear joeys?  There's a number of reasons.  Bottle reared joeys become very tame.  Having tame animals is beneficial from a number of perspectives.  They are more enjoyable as a hobby farm pet and if you need to handle them for any reason it's a lot easier and less stressful for all concerned.  Roo mums don't get overly stressed when a joey is taken away.  In the wild they often "toss" their joey if they are being persued by a predator.  This allows the female to escape and live to breed another day.  And due to their ability to replace a baby very quickly (see the page on kangaroo reproduction), this only makes sense from a survival perspective.  They are not inclined to grieve and search for their young like some animals.  Most female roos go right back to grazing after we take a joey.  If they do look around, they don't do it for very long.  A newly "pulled" joey is taken into the house and placed in a warmed soft cloth pouch.  For the next few hours someone sits quietly and holds the joey in their lap.  Very quickly, the joey becomes curious about what's going on and starts to peak out and look around.

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It's important to get your timing right when taking a joey.  The one pictured to the left is definitely a bit under-done.  We took this joey away from it's mother at this stage because mum was in need of surgery on her jaw that couldn't wait.  We knew we were the joey's best chance at survival.  The joey did very well but was always stuck with the name "Pinky".

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This joey is at an ideal stage of development for bottle rearing.  It has barely furred in but isn't "fluffy" yet.  If the joey is left with it's mum much longer than this, it can be very difficult, if not impossible to get it properly tame.  It might put up with being bottle fed but as soon as you put the joey outside on pasture it will quickly revert to a wild state.

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To hand rear a joey you will need cloth pouches, a heating pad, a child's play pen, bottles, specialized marsupial nipples and a supply of Puppy Esbilac powder (by PetAg).  There are specialized milk replacers on the market.  I've tried them as have many other breeders and we all find that the Puppy Esbilac works the best.  Do NOT substitute other brands of puppy milk replacer or milk replacer for other mammals.  They are not all created equal and I've seen some nasty reactions to stuff like goat and lamb milk replacers.  Bottle feeding is easy but there is a knack to it.  If you are new to this, it is essential to find a breeder that is willing (she should INSIST actually) on coaching you until you are proficient.  Joeys adapt to a bottle very quickly and tend to guzzle their feed within a minute or two.  Once they are taking their feed well and in full measure, it is necessary to only feed 4 times a day.  It is not necessary to feed through the night.  Very easy compared to a lot of other animals.

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A joey in the house when it is little is delightful.  But please remember that this is only a temporary situation.  While the joey is on a purely liquid diet, it will be very easy to keep in the house.  Most of our joeys will not soil their pouch.  They prefer to wait until they are taken to the washroom.  Obviously this needs to be done every few hours during the day to avoid accidents and it should certainly be done before you let them run around and exercise.  To "potty" a roo, hold it over the toilet and gently rub the cloacal area at the base of the tail.  The roo will promptly do its business in the toilet.  You can then let the baby exercise for a while under close supervision.  The joey might go on a "roo run" around the house for a while and then find the next best place to a pouch to take a nap.

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A roo in the house will get into everything.  Once it starts eating solid food, potty training goes right down the tubes too.  At this stage you won't be able to wait to get it out of the house.  And when I say they get into everything I mean it.  My husband forgot to close the bathroom door and this roo decided to join him in the tub.  I've said it before and I'll say it again...NOT a house pet.

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Interactions With Other Pets.

Generally, a roo will get along with a dog if the dog doesn't chase, bite or act aggressively towards it.  Kato and Quigly the black lab played together for hours at a time.  But it was usually Kato that came off the winner.  But...ROOS AND CATS ARE NOT COMPATIBLE.  Cats can carry a bacteria called Toxoplasmosis.  This bacteria is generally harmless.  If a person gets toxo they might feel a bit under the weather for a few days or they might not have any symptoms at all.  However, toxo can be very damanging to human fetuses.  A pregnant woman who contracts toxo might miscarry or the baby might be born with brain damage.  Marsupials react to toxoplasmosis the same way that a human fetus does.  They did not evolve in the presence of cats and so they have never learned the immune response necessary to fight toxo off.  Most of the time there is no warning when a roo contracts toxoplasmosis.  It is simply found dead.  However, sometimes the animal develops neurological signs first.  Most efforts at treatment fail.  It is absolutley essential to keep cats out of your pens as the toxo is transmitted through feces. 

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