This article is from the WSSF 2005 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Breeding & Stuff
By Karen Robbins
Jim Mackman, e-mail
Q My children have been breeding mice on a very small scale for about a year. They have had a difficult time improving their breeding stock because we cannot find any local fancy mice breeders. In addition, they are wanting to find a good pair of fancy rats.
If you have any ideas to help us find a pair of good quality fancy rats and maybe a dozen fancy mouse breeders, we would appreciate the help. Also, they have been breeding in 10-gallon aquariums. They have one male and three females per cage. They remove the females when they look pregnant and give them their own private cages until the babies are weaned. This seems like an inefficient approach. The mice go to the bathroom in their food bowl, and we are worried it is stressful for them for us to clean the cages around the time the mothers have given birth. It also takes a lot of room and it is a little too difficult for the kids to clean the cages without making a mess. There must be a better system! Any ideas?
A It would help to know where you are located so I can give you more information on where to find mice. We have a few people here in southern California that breed mice. There are also breeders in northern California in the Rat, Mouse, Hamster Fanciers club, and on the east coast (Little Mouse Club or the North American Rat & Mouse Club, Int’l.). You can also try searching on the Internet for breeders near you. If there is a club near you, I would suggest joining and attending the club’s shows, events, and meetings. The club would be a good source for breeders that might have what you are looking for. Also, a lot of times members will have animals for sale at these functions.
For fancy rats, there are lots of breeders out there so it would just be a matter of what type you are looking for and then checking our Breeder’s List on the web site www.afrma.org/breederlist.htm or doing a search on the Internet.
Female mice should be put into their own cage to have their babies unless you are into large-scale breeding and have a source for lots of mouse babies. This way you know what kind of mother the mom will be, how much milk she produces for the babies, as well as what colors/coat types she produced with a particular male.
I have no problem cleaning the cages when the babies are little as they should be handled at a young age to get them used to people. If you handle your mice frequently so they are used to you, you shouldn’t have a problem handling the babies. If you are unsure of a particular mom, then put her in a separate cage or container with a treat while you look over the babies or clean the cage. You should handle the babies or at least look in on them every couple days to see how they are doing, make sure everyone is getting enough milk, make sure the mom hasn’t done any self-culling of her litter, or there are any sickly/weedy/injured looking ones.
Another system to house mice in would be lab cages. They are lightweight, easy to clean, and the food and water is in the lid so they can’t spoil their food and it makes it quick and easy to fill the food and water. They come in various sizes—I prefer the 10½″W x 19″L x 6″ tall for a mom with a litter. I also use the Tecniplast ( http://www.tecniplast.it/en/product/conventional-housing-for-small-rodents.html) #2150E 14″L x 9¼″W x 7½″ tall for moms with newborn litters. For breeding cages I use the 147⁄8″L x 127⁄8″W x 65⁄8″ tall from Maryland Plastics [(800) 544-5582 or (410) 754-5566] or the 10½″W x 19″L x 6″ tall. You can sometimes find them through Herpetologist clubs, reptile stores, or on eBay. There is a web site of used lab cages at reasonable prices www.lab4less.com. If you are looking for a large quantity of cages, you could buy direct from a company and there are many out there—Allentown (www.allentowninc.com/), Ancare www.ancare.com), Maryland Plastics (no web site), Techiplast www.tecniplast.it Thoren (www.thoren.com), etc., etc. I have found that a lot of lab cages labeled for mice are way too small and I look for the ones labeled for hamsters or rats. I find the 6–7 inch tall to be ideal and a minimum of 14″L x 9¼″W for a single occupant—either a single young male or femalewith new babies. If you get cages 8 inches tall (ones used for rats), you could put a small wheel in the cage but have to have houses or objects underneath the food/water part to make sure everyone can reach. Be aware that lab cages are fairly expensive; however, they do last a very long time. I have some lab cages I bought used in the ’70s that are still in good shape. The stainless steel lids will last forever, so in the long run I feel they are worth the price.
People also use the large plastic storage bins you can buy at any retail store for rats and hamsters. You could try something like this for mice but be aware that they are a softer plastic than a lab cage would be, and mice could easily chew out, especially if there are any ridges inside where they can get their teeth onto. You have to cut out part of the lid and replace with screen/wire mesh for ventilation in this type of cage. You can also use the JUMBO critter carriers to house individual mice/moms with litters. Critter carriers are available in pet shops and feed stores and come in mini, small, medium, large, xlarge, and jumbo sizes. I recommend the Jumbo size to do any kind of breeding in.