Judie Hausmann is a mother who raises more than 30 babies.
Judie Hausmann is a mother who raises more than 30 babies.
In a room off of her garage in Grain Valley, Hausmann breeds and sells sugar gliders as a hobby. While most other people are winding down their days, Hausmann’s is only half over. At about 9 p.m. each day, as the gliders are awakening and starting their day, she meticulously prepares their diet in tiny bowls. Until about 4 a.m., she is awake with them – clipping their fingernails, cleaning their cages and feeding them.
“I spend a lot of time with my gliders, and I guess that’s why I’m good at it,” she says.
What began as a love for the animal while she worked part-time at a pet store has grown through the years into a full-time business for Hausmann, 65.
Sugar gliders are small marsupials that are native to Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania. As nocturnal animals, gliders live in groups of 15 to 30 in their wild habitats. Their name comes from a preference for sweet food and their ability to “glide” in the air.
Within the past 25 years, gliders have gained popularity as domesticated housepets in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates the breeding of gliders, and Hausmann is a USDA-certified breeder.
Her gliders are a myriad of colors since she raises leucistics, white-face blondes, two lines of white variations and “creamino” gliders. Hausmann’s background is not in genetics, but she learned how to breed gliders for color through her research on the Internet and in discussions with veterinarians and – believe it or not, she says – snake breeders.
“They understand the Punnett square,” Hausmann says. “When I started, I didn’t know what a Punnett square was. I did not know what a heterozygous animal was or homozygous. You learn it from breeding for color. I don’t know everything, but I know the simple stuff.”
Hausmann works with veterinarians in Oak Grove, Belton, Blue Springs and Liberty on issues ranging from marsupial illnesses and health certifications for shipping. Overall, sugar gliders are healthy animals, though they are stress-prone, she says.
With 15 pairs of gliders in her breeding program, the glider room is kept at 80 degrees all year round. Gliders can become dehydrated at temperatures above 95 degrees – then, stress ensues, Hausmann says. Hydration is a critical element for the animal’s health – she says more gliders die from dehydration than actual illnesses.
“With sugar gliders, stress is an issue,” she says. “Their metabolism is very high, and when they get stressed, it boosts it even higher.”
Because gliders sleep all day, their owners often notice their illnesses at night when they are active, Hausmann says. But veterinarians often close their clinic doors at 5 p.m. and emergency clinics are then the only resource. Hausmann says she encourages her clients to examine their gliders at least once during the day and to check for any abnormalities or illness.
“Clients that purchase from me are told that they can call me any time during the day or night. I’m usually up until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning,” Hausmann says. “I sleep late in the morning, but that’s because I mess with the gliders and such, and I can do so without any interference from the household.”
In a wild habitat, sugar gliders make nests in trees and holes like squirrels would, Hausmann says. She constructed “pouches” from fleece materials and cut smaller pieces of fabric that act as “blankies” while they sleep.
“They take the edges, fold them down and cover themselves up,” she says. “That blocks out the cold and that blocks out the light.”
Like other pets, gliders have their potential drawbacks – she says they can sometimes nip or bite their owners for no reason. Hausmann encourages her potential clients to visit her home, look at the gliders, think about their possible purchase and then come back.
“This way, they’re kind of getting their feet wet, so they can kind of be prepared for it,” she says. “You can read all kinds of stuff on the Internet, but it’s nothing like having the real thing.”
At Hausmann’s Web site, www.mylittlegremlin.com, the gliders range in sale prices from $300 to $1,000. Her business has about $800 a month in expenses, including a $400 grocery bill, veterinarian and Internet bills.
“Without the Internet, I could not have this many gliders because you couldn’t sell this many gliders in the area,” she says. “If I had to sell gliders in my area, I probably wouldn’t have more than a couple pair. It would be too hard to place on average 35 to 50 babies a year.”
Because of the economic recession, the past several months have been difficult for Hausmann’s business and she, like anyone else, is worried about the recession’s effect.
It’s hardly about making a profit, though.
“This isn’t just about making money. This is about loving the animals and caring for the animals and trying to find homes for them,” Hausmann says. “I want my gliders to go into a home where they’ll stay.”
Hausmann was a sugar glider pet owner for three-and-a-half years before she started her breeding program. Her favorite aspect is the bonding time – Hausmann spends time with the gliders inside a tent and their toys that they can climb.
“There’s nothing like a bonded sugar glider. When you get it out and let it go to someone else, it will lead back to you,” she says. “It stays in tune with your emotions, so to speak. They can sense with you when you feel good or when you feel bad.”
She is particularly bonded with Lily, a tiny white glider who is a fifth-generation sugar glider that Hausmann has bred. After spending time inside Hausmann’s shirt, Lily will grab her cheek and start kissing her.
“They’re really sweet when they bond with you. I don’t know why it is that I like sugar gliders. I like them because they’re spunky and they’re sweet. You might get nipped, but despite it all, I’ve always liked sugar gliders.”
Feeding your sugar gliders
Judie Hausmann, a Grain Valley resident who breeds and sells sugar gliders, recommends the following diet for gliders on her Web site, www.mylittlegremlin.com:
Bourbon’s Modified Leadbeaters Mix
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, boil or microwave with no shell
1/4 cup of a mixed fruit blend of juice
Blend well. Turn off the blender, and add the next group of ingredients.
1, 4-ounce bottle of pre-mixed Gerber juice with yogurt
1/2 teaspoon of Rep-Cal herptivite vitamin supplement
Blend until smooth. Turn off the blender, and add the next group of ingredients.
2 teaspoons Rep-Cal calcium supplement with vitamin D3
2, 2-1/2 ounce jars of chicken with gravy or chicken with chicken broth baby food
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup dry baby cereal (mixed or oatmeal)
Blend for 5 minutes until ultra smooth. Pour into a Tupperware bowl or ice cube trays and cover. Freeze.
One cube in an ice cube tray is about 2 tablespoons. Gliders should receive 1 tablespoon of the Bourbon’s Modified Leadbeaters Mix, 1 tablespoon of fruits and 1 tablespoon of vegetables at each nightly feeding.