The life cycle of a baby kangaroo

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 02/21/2020

Reading time: 3 mins

This cute marsupial is so abundant here the island was named after them!

Kangaroos are one of Australia’s most iconic species and there is no better place to see them in the wild than Kangaroo Island.

These fuzzy creatures have a particularly interesting life cycle, so let’s dive in!

  • Beginnings

    Kangaroos breed year-round, so there is no one ‘best time’ to see them. Female kangaroos remain pregnant for just one month after mating. After a month, they give birth to a jelly-bean sized kangaroo. They are hairless and blind and are so small the mother can’t even touch it yet.

    When the baby is born, the mother licks her fur to make a pathway. The joey then uses its sense of smell to guide its way to the mother’s pouch, pulling itself along using its sharp claws. Once in the pouch, the joey will remain here for at least another 6 months.

    During this time the joey feeds on its mothers’ milk and begins to grow. Slowly it grows fur and its eyes open before soon enough it resembles the kangaroo you know today.

  • Leaving the pouch

    After having a few months to develop in the mother’s pouch, the joey will begin to poke his had out. This is usually the first time it sees the outside world. However, just because it has poked its head out, does not mean it is ready to fully emerge.

    At approximately six months old the joey will make short trips out of its mothers’ pouch to explore and gain strength in walking. By 8 months old the joey is fully independent and remains outside of the pouch. Though out of the pouch, joeys will feed on milk for up to a year before relying only on grazing.

  • Having a joey

    Kangaroos become sexually mature at just under two years and are capable of giving birth from then on. In the wild, many kangaroos do not reach the full age of maturity and they have adapted as a species to reproduce earlier.

    Female kangaroos are quite the impressive mothers and can raise three joeys simultaneously. They can support one on foot, that is to say out of the pouch but still needing milk, one in the pouch, and one in the womb. During this time, she can produce three unique kids of milk to suit the needs of each joey – cool!

    That’s not all though. Sometimes being pregnant isn’t suitable for a kangaroo. In these times the mother can pause the development cycle and give birth at a more suitable time – how wild is that!

So, there you have it, the life cycle of a kangaroo joey. How’s that for a bit of science on a Wednesday morning.

You’ll see plenty of wildlife on all our Kangaroo Island tours and if you’re super lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a joey just emerging from its mother’s pouch.

Related article: How Many Types of Kangaroos are here in Australia?

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.