This article is from the Summer 2001 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Nichole Royer
Housing the Small Colony for the Serious Fancier - Part 2
|Adding Cages and Critters to your rodent room or shed.|
Before an area is officially chosen, or a shed built, you will need to take a serious look at your current cage system and your future plans. Are you going to be increasing your numbers? Will that mean increasing your number of cages? Or their size? How many litters are you going to have this year? How many at the same time? How many babies will you keep from each? The list is endless, but the time to think about all these things is BEFORE you set up an area for your animals. Make sure to take them into account when planning out an area or building a shed.
Unless your cages are of the large freestanding variety, you will need a shelving system of some sort. Even large cages are best elevated off the ground. Figure out the general dimensions of your cages, then go look at what is available. For a very small investment ($20–$50) shelving systems can be purchased or built. For a little more, they can even be quite elaborate. Once in, the area between the floor and the first shelf should be used for storing supplies. Bedding can be left in its original bags, or it and all food items can be placed in separate plastic or metal containers with secure lids. This gives a neater look to your area, and keeps supplies safe from insects and contamination.
|Here is our rodent room shortly after adding the cages and critters (above; photo by Craig Robbins) and later when more cages were added (below; photo by Mickey Maeckelbergh).|
Add to this a small trash can, a watering can with a small spout (for filling water bottles; unless you have a sink in the same room), and a place for cleaning supplies; all your needs will be at your fingertips. Remember, every time you must leave the immediate area to get supplies, it’s that much less time you get to spend enjoying your critters. If everything you need is instantly available, you will clean more often and more thoroughly, it will seem a lot less like work, and you will get much more out of your hobby.
Additional levels of shelving should be used with some thought. If you have aquariums, several levels can be built, but they must have enough top clearance to provide proper ventilation and air circulation. Aquariums are also heavy, so you won’t want to be lifting them off of shelves above shoulder height. Plastic carriers for mice can be successfully placed higher so long as there is no danger of them falling. Folks who use laboratory cages should take the same things into consideration.
Wire cages on the other hand require a different setup. They are often
larger and odd sizes, but they can often be successfully stacked.
This is particularly true of the cat litter-pan type. If multiple
shelves are used, cages do not require extra clearance since ventilation
is from all sides. Small aquariums and other similar sized containers
can be easily placed on top of most cages.
|A view of our rodent shed from outside the door (right) and inside on the left (below left) and right (below right). This shed has adequate room to store supplies and cages while the cages that house our animals are on shelves and stacked on top of cages. Photos by Nichole Royer.|
For the ultimate in rat and mouse care, some people have cage systems built to meet their needs. Though not practical for many, these are particularly ideal for the folks who have large numbers of critters or need to fit them into a specific compact space. Built for ease of maintenance in mind, these are similar to the setups many other small animal fanciers use. They often include slide out trays, external feeding baskets, and even automatic watering systems.
There are as many different ways to house rats and mice as there are people who keep them. What’s perfect for one person may not work at all for another. These are just a few thoughts on what has worked successfully for some folks. Though perhaps not as easy as that one single cage on the coffee table, housing a larger number of critters does not have to be a huge undertaking. A little planning and the proper preparations can make it a very pleasant experience.
Note: For those that are curious on whose facilities were portrayed in this series of articles, the rodent room is Karen Robbins’ “Karen’s Kritters” mousery/rattery and the rodent shed is Nichole Royer’s “Tarot Rats” abode.