I've hand-raised nearly 100 wallabies since 1990, and from this have gained enough insight to know the requirements for hand-raising Joeys. I lost one Joey to a bad pouch. I had made a U-Shaped Bottom pouch out of fleece blanket material and it had raw edges. The Joey sucked on the fuzzy nylon fiber and chewed the threads from the seams and raw edges of the material. I then studied the moms with Joeys before designing products that are safe and reduce stress for the Joey.
After trial and error, I now have pouches and tote bags that keep Joeys warm, comfortable, and allow them to feel secure. They are made of breathable, quilted cotton material, sewed three times to eliminate raw edges and threads that Joeys might chew on and swallow. There is no thick fuzz for Joeys to lick and become impacted.
My hanging pouches are shaped with straight, or flat, bottoms that are designed to hang 1" above a heating pad. The heating pad is padded, and it curls up behind the pouch. Not only does the heating pad provide warmth, it also acts as a cushion for the Joey jumping into the pouch. As mentioned above, the “bad” pouch I had used had a U-Shaped bottom and it kept getting hot in one spot, even though the heating pad was on the low setting. The heating pad could not heat the pouch evenly. This can lead to burns on the Joey.
The way the pouch is tied or clipped to the side of the playpen can affect its shape. The Joeys weight can make it sag with gravity in the middle. The ends of the pouch evenly absorb heat so there are no hot spots to cause burns to the Joey.
The Joeys have enough space inside my pouches to get plenty of exercise, or they might choose to stretch out flat to soak up maximum heat, the way their moms do outdoors in the sunshine.
A 14" flap on the pouches can darken the inside to reduce stress by covering the front opening where the Joey hops in and out. Or the flap can be folded back when a Joey prefers seeing more family activity. It can also just "hang out" of its pouch the way a Joey would do if still with its mother.
The front pouch opening is edged with elastic inside a casing. It stretches and adjusts to the Joey as he grows. Joeys have no trouble hopping in or out.
I also make an inner pouch, which is made of high-quality, firmly woven flannel that is slipped down into the hanging pouch. This inner pouch will fit any size of Joey or pouch and an active Joey will shape it to suit its own need by tumbling and curling inside. Most homes and cars are air-conditioned, which can chill a small Joey. A Joey wrapped in the inner pouch prevents chills. Also, the inner pouch is very useful in helping keep the outer hanging pouch clean. Simply put a fresh clean inner pouch in the hanging pouch and take the dirty inner pouch out to be washed.
I also keep the Joey inside the inner pouch whenever I feed it or let others hold it. Bare hands grabbing at a Joey can be very stressful to the Joey. A Joey needs a pouch to feel safe and secure.
When I was raising my premature “PeeWee”, I was advised to hang him in a U-shaped pouch and to not touch him, except to feed. I did as told, and he almost died. The incubator was 98 degrees F, but his body temp fell to 95 degrees F (normal temperature for a Joey should be 98-100 degrees F). He was fading away, staring as if in a trance.
My instincts told me his body was shutting down due to lack of stimulation and human contact in the incubator, so I put him in a pouch and cuddled him to my chest keeping him warm while massaging his entire body all over with my fingertips for simulation, as his mother would with her tongue while the Joey is in her pouch. He quickly responded to the stimulation of warmth, loving words and touch. He needed to be touched and loved in order to thrive. CAUTION: Pinkys (hairless Joeys) must be massaged very lightly in order not to bruise.
I never put him back inside the U-pouch as instructed. Instead, I wrapped him in a blanket and put him in the incubator and put him on a newborn-infant pad with a rolled top. This ensured added warmth around him. After a while he propped himself up so he could watch us move about the house. He moved around and chose his own position that was either curled, flat, or propped. Later, he sat upright and before long he hopped. I did pull his legs up and down for exercise, but he exercised himself, too. He never had a problem with muscle control, and remained very active.
After learning PeeWee's needs, I designed a "Preemie Pouch," which is a smaller 10" pouch made to hang around a person's neck. The Joey is near the person's heart and can hear it beat, as he would his own mother's. The Joey stays warm from the person's body heat. I designed it with a pocket on the outside of the pouch. In this pocket I put a packet of hand warmers, which gives the Joey warmth all the way around its body.
As hand-raised Joeys grow, they spend more time out of their artificial pouch. They especially enjoy exploring and jumping around the house for exercise. But when they get tired or scared, they go to their pouch. I have seen them crawl into a pouch laying on the floor and go to sleep.
My pouches allow a Joey to feel safe inside, yet have all the freedom it needs to grow into a healthy adult. My Joeys can get into any position they want; legs above their head, looped inside with a tail out, poking their heads out, etc.
Some opponents of flat-bottomed pouches claim they cause poor digestion. This is not true. Nor do flat-bottomed pouches cause a Joey's back and neck muscles to be so weak they can't lift their head or get up from a lying down position. A Joey with these types of health problems should see a veterinarian immediately, as it may have neurological or other health problems caused by any number of genetic or environmental factors other than the type of pouch it is in. My flat-bottomed pouches are safe, able to be adjusted to provide a safe distance from a heating pad or bottom of the playpen, and ensure warmth and security for the Joey.
When raising two Joeys at the same time I have found they sometimes like to share and jump in the same pouch together. In the U-Shaped or rounded bottom pouches the smaller or weaker Joey may end up under the other Joey and this can cause broken bones or it may smother the smaller or weaker Joey. Flat bottom pouches prevent both of these problems.
Common sense would indicate that a Joey needs plenty of space to move around for exercise, and exercise is good for digestion and muscle development. Healthy Joeys will exercise themselves, in or out of the pouch or playpen.
As long as people own marsupials I will continue making pouches for those conscientious owners who want only the best for their babies. Keep in mind that all my pouches are custom made to fit the size and the species, and adapt well with playpens.