Brush-tailed Bettong

(Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi)

 Some Notes on the Keeping and Breeding of the Brush-tailed Bettong

by 

Tim Keynes

 

Introduction 

 

I acquired my first Brush-tailed Bettong, "Bennie", a single male, during July 1983 and a few months later, in December 1983, I acquired three more males. All four animals were between three and four years old at the time I acquired them - i.e. they all left the pouch during early 1980. As Bettongs are good climbers, these four animals were housed in aviary-type enclosures. Two were compatible and were housed together, while the other two were housed separately. 

 

All four were forced to lead a bachelor life until August 1987 when I was able to acquire two females from the S.A. National Parks and Wildlife Service. Both females, an adult female of unknown age and her daughter (just out of the pouch), were placed in a planted enclosure (8 m long by 3 m wide by 2 m high) with Bennie. These three animals were quite compatible and commenced breeding immediately.  

 

The table below shows the breeding records of these three Bettongs. For convenience, I will call Bennie M01,the older female F01 and the younger female F02. 

 

MALE

FEMALE

JOEY

DATE LEFT POUCH

M01

F01

F04

31-DEC-87

M01

F01

M05

30-MAR-88

M01

F01

M08

23-AUG-88

M01

F01

M09

06-FEB-89

M01

F01

?01

??-JUN-89

M01

F02

F03

10-DEC-87

M01

F02

F05

16-MAR-88

M01

F02

F06

30-JUN-88

M01

F02

F07

18-OCT-88

M01

F02

?02

??-MAY-89

 

These three animals were still together in 1989 and, as shown above, both females were still breeding (?01 and ?02). 

 

The first two female joeys bred, F03 and F04, were mated with one of the other males, M02, in a separate enclosure (5 m long by 4 m wide by 2 m high). The other two males were given away to two other members of The Marsupial Society during 1987. 

 

The table below shows the breeding records of the second trio of Bettongs. 

 

MALE

FEMALE

JOEY

DATE LEFT POUCH

M02

F03

M06

18-JUN-88

M02

F03

F08

03-NOV-88

M02

F03

F09

??-MAR-89

M02

F04

M07

04-AUG-88

 

It can be seen from the above tables that Bettongs are exceptionally prolific breeders with most females capable of producing three joeys each year. At one stage, each female was producing a joey every 97 days. 

 

According to the literature (Strahan, 1983), breeding is continuous, a female giving birth to its first young at the age of 170 - 180 days and approximately every 100 days thereafter for the rest of its life of 4 - 6 years. The Brush-tailed Bettong exhibits embryonic diapause. 

 

There does not appear to be a specific breeding season in captivity. 

 

Longevity 

 

In captivity, Bettongs can live to quite an age for such a small animal, much longer than the 4 - 6 years quoted above for wild animals. "Bennie", for example, lived for over 14 years and left his two "widows" pregnant! 

 

Disease and Other Problems 

 

In contrast to the other types of small macropods I have kept, my Bettongs have been remarkably healthy little animals. In fact, during the many years I have been keeping Bettongs, nearly all have died from old age and none of my Bettongs have ever required veterinary treatment. 

 

Only one adult male can be kept in an enclosure with one or more females. Serious fighting will occur otherwise. Mating can be quite noisy, with animals fighting and fur flying. Large quantities of straw must be provided for nesting. If the enclosure is large enough and not overcrowded, 

 

Bettongs will co-exist with Potoroos, however I would not recommend trying this if both species are expected to breed, unless the enclosure is very large. I also keep Squirrel Gliders with my Bettongs and have also kept them with Sugar Gliders and Tawny Frogmouths, without any problems. 

 

Apart from their climbing abilities and minor diggings, Bettongs must surely be one of the easiest of the macropods to house and maintain in captivity. 

 

Diet 

 

Bettongs are very easily catered for. They appreciate most types of fruits and vegetables, nuts, mushrooms, etc. I feed my animals any of the following : fresh sweet corn, apple (diced), banana, almonds, bread spread with peanut paste, pear, carrot, rockmelon, sultanas, peanuts, dog biscuits, various grains (such as wheat, sunflower, rolled oats, etc) 

 

Fresh water should be available at all times. 

 

My Bettongs will often fill their water dish with the almonds, wheat and sunflower. I don't know why, but perhaps to soften it prior to eating. They will also bury their almonds like a dog will with a bone. 

 

Reference 
 

Strahan, R. (Ed.) 1983. The Australian Museum Complete Book of Australian Mammals. PP. 184 - 5. The National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife. Angus and Robertson

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