Social Factors

Social Enrichment

Contact Social Enrichment

Social Housing

Housing marmosets with other marmosets in harmonious social groups is an essential foundation for good welfare.

Non-contact Social Enrichment

As well as contact social enrichment, marmosets also benefit from social enrichment that does not involve direct contact with other marmosets

– e.g. responding to the smells or calls of other marmosets

Olfactory: Smell

  • A log that has been scent marked by marmosets in another group can be placed in the enclosure


  • Audio recordings of amicable calls made by other marmosets
  • An ipod, attached to a mini-speaker, plays marmoset chirp calls inside a covered box


  • Video recordings of other marmosets engaged in amicable behaviour
  • Marmosets can watch the video, displayed on a computer monitor, through an internal window

Important: Always assess safety of any enrichment before and after introduction.

Grouping and Breeding


Family Groups

Large family groups are the most stable (up to 8-10 marmosets if there is space).

  • This is the optimum and most harmonious social grouping
  • Young marmosets housed in family groups develop well socially
  • The dominant female in a group usually suppresses breeding of subordinate females
  • Offspring should never be removed before they are sexually mature
  • Changes to the group composition should be kept to a minimum
  • Strangers introduced to the group may result in aggression and stress within the group

Breeding Pairs

  • Pairing a male and female marmoset together is usually straightforward
  • However, certain guidelines should be followed

Same-sex Pairs

  • Compatible same-sex pairs are preferable to single housing but they can be difficult unless they are related or one is younger than the other

Single Housing

  • Marmosets should not be housed alone (unless advised to do so by a veterinarian with expertise in primate care)
  • If single housing is necessary then it ought to be for as short a time as is possible and the separated marmoset should be allowed to hear, see and smell fellow group members

Other Group Types

  • Social grouping different from that seen in the wild can lead to fighting (especially likely in large same-sex groups of young adults)


Co-operative Rearing Experience

  • Family groups are vital for successful breeding
  • Parental care is a behaviour that has to be learned through experience
  • It is essential that all the group members get an opportunity to carry and care for the infants if they are to make good parents themselves
  • Youngsters born to females that first breed at a later age (> 4 years) have more chance of surviving than those born to females that start to reproduce earlier (< 2.5 years)
  • Dominant females continue to breed throughout their life
  • Due to in-breeding avoidance it is very rare for offspring to breed within their family group

Pregnancy and Birth

  • Pregnancy lasts 150 days and can be detected through palpating (examining the abdominal area by touch with a light pressure) from 5 weeks
  • Only palpate on veterinary advice as it may be stressful
  • Marmosets usually give birth during the night

Litter Size and Welfare

  • Marmosets normally give birth to twins
  • Triplets are sometimes born in captivity but it is very difficult for the marmosets to rear all three
  • Triplets and quadruplets, are less likely to survive past weaning than twins or a single infant
  • They tend to be smaller (of lower weight), making them more vulnerable to injury from other group members
  • Hand rearing is not advised as it might have an adverse impact on the marmoset
  • Alternative solutions are to:
    • leave the triplets with their group and supplement their feeding (requires very well habituated family)
    • foster one of the infants to surrogate parents with plenty of rearing experience but on contraception and supplement the feeding as above
  • Marmosets are bred for use in research. It is not appropriate to breed pet marmosets

Neighbouring Social Groups