Joeys need an artificial heat supply as they can not thermo regulate, or keep themselves warm. An animal heat pad is the easiest type of heating. Very young joeys which are still furless need to be in a pouch temperature of 32 degrees. A joey with fur needs a pouch temperature of 28 degrees.
Possums over a minimum weight can generally keep themselves warm and will not need an artificial heat, as follows:
o Ringtail Possums over 90g
o Brushtail Possums over 210g
The exception may be where they have just come into care and are in a state of stress. In this case, they may need heat for at least the first 24 hours - and even up to a couple of days, or longer, if they are sick.
To make sure the temperature is correct you can use a thermometer. You can use aquarium thermometers with a probe. This can be placed between the outside pouch liner and the inside pouch liner. There are also thermometers from vet supply companies which are made specifically for the purpose.
A joey spends its first 3 months of life in its mother’s pouch. After this time, it starts to emerge, riding on its mum’s back while still spending some time in the pouch. As it gets bigger, with even less time in the pouch, it may still push its head into the pouch for an occasional drink from mum’s teat.
We need to provide orphaned joeys with an artificial pouch. We recommend pouches with an inside liner.
The pouches should be made from fabric with natural fibres, such as wool or cotton, although polyester style fabrics, such as polar fleece, can also be used for the outer layer. All edges need to be finished so that there are no loose threads. Possums sucking on the threads and swallowing them can cause bowel blockages and possible death.
The inner pouch/liner that can be made from cotton or flannelette fabric which does not ball. Balls on the fabric can find their way into the possum’s nostrils, causing suffocation, or be swallowed, causing bowel blockages.
The outer liner can be made from windcheater, polar fleece or woollen fabric. Baby pants, called “baby fluffies”, can also be used as an outside pouch - after sewing up the leg holes to prevent the baby possum falling out or getting stuck.
Suggested pouch sizes:
30cm H x 26cm W
30cm H x 23cm W
25cm H x 17cm W
25cm H x 15cm W
Baby pillow case size
(good to use if raising several possums together)
There is a website for sugar gliders, which includes instructions to make a “no sew” pouch. Go to www.suzsugargliders.com/nosewaaccessories.htm
Joeys starting to emerge from the pouch have an natural urge to cling to their mum. Providing a stuffed toy of similar size to Mum possum’s torso should provide a substitute and thus some comfort.
Wearing the Joey
Another way to try and replicate time with its mum is to ‘wear’ the joey in its pouch, under your clothing, near your skin. This only applies for pouch joeys – not emerging young.
The benefits of ‘wearing’ it for a joey are that:
o hearing your heartbeat may provide comfort
o your movement can aid its digestion and basic development.
o in the wild its mum is moving around at night and the joey experiences something of this movement.
Housing baby and juvenile possums
Possums need housing appropriate to their development stage and health. Joeys should be housed inside in a quiet room away from domestic pets.
Picnic Basket or Small Pet Carrier
o Initially, a joey needs to be housed in a plastic picnic basket or small pet carrier. Dimensions are around 430 mm long X 300 mm wide x 270mmm high
o A blanket/towel inside a pillow case, should be placed in the bottom of the basket. It is recommended the towel be placed inside a pillow case so the possum can not suck on the threads of the towel..
o A heat pad should provide heat. It can either be wrapped in a baby blanket or a small towel placed inside a pillow case.
o The heat pad can then be placed vertically against the side of the basket / pet carrier. with the pouch placed next to it – after hooking part of the pouch under the lid of the carrier so it does not fall over and away from the heat source
o Your will need a thermometer so you can check and see that you are keeping your joey at the right temperature.
o Place the substitute mum (toy) next to the pouch.
This housing is appropriate for a Brushtail Possums up to 150g and Ringtail Possums up to 60g – although these sizes can vary between states.
A joey starting to investigate its surroundings may be ready to learn how to climb. At this stage, it is generally ready to move from the picnic basket / pet carrier to a small cage. The cage should be set up so that:
o One end is similar to the basket, with the heat pad and pouch tied to the side of the cage with pegs. The other end has branches added for climbing practice. A suggested cage size is 600 mm long x 400 mm wide x 400 mm high
o After a couple of days, to a week, of practice in the small cage and once the possum has become accustomed to the larger space, it may be happy moving to a medium cage of about 800 mm square .. A nesting box or drey can be introduced at this stage.
A nesting box is made from timber and has dimensions around 300 mm Lx 280 mm W x 350 mm H. This is the preferred housing for a brushtail possum to sleep in during the day. We can assist you with this.
A drey is a spherical ball constructed mainly of leaves. Ringtail possums will use either a drey or a nesting box. For further information, see our page on ‘Housing’.
This housing is appropriate for a Brushtail Possums up between 150g to 400g and Ringtail Possums 60g to 150g – although these sizes can vary between states.
Wardrobe/ patio aviary
o A nesting box or drey must be introduced by this stage.
o You can use a two or three door wooden wardrobe which is at least 1.2 m L x 0.55 m W x 1.8 m H.
o Cut out most of the door panel and replace the wood with wire.
o Install a shelf at chest height, ready to place on a nesting box, food and water bowls.
o Put in branches for the possum to climb
o You can also drill holes in the sides to put through rope for climbing.
o A small aviary may also be used in an enclosed verandah or patio if the weather is warm.
This housing is appropriate for a Brushtail Possums up between 400g to 600g and Ringtail Possums 250g to 300g – although these sizes can vary between states.