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Rodent Breeding and Keeping 101

Epona142

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5 Year Member
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52
Knowing that many of you here feed rodents to your tegus, and many of you have other herps that eat rodents, i.e. snakes, I put together this basic guide to rodent breeding and keeping. I hope it helps!


I find mice to be more difficult than rats, as they are more shy and temperamental. However, once you find the right conditions, they can be prolific breeders, and are easy to keep. Rats often are easier to breed and keep, being more personal and friendly, and are less sensitive than mice to environment and outside stimulus.

Let's start with enclosures. You'll find there are many ways to keep both mice and rats. For small groups, you can use aquariums. I find that a group of one male to three or four female mice do well enough in a ten gallon, though you should only keep one rat with a small unweaned litter in such. I have had great success with one male to seven or eight female mice in a twenty gallon long. For rats I wouldn't put more than two or three. Most wire cages you find for mice or rats are much too small, or inadequately shaped for breeding, though for rats, some make great places to hold your male, or younger rats, or even females between breeding cycles. Tubs are also a cheap and lightweight alternative, but you must take care to ensure there are no edges the rodents can get their teeth into, because if they can, they will chew out. Lastly, racks are used for larger scale breeding and keeping. These can be bought online, or built yourself.

Substrate must be a good, absorb able particle substrate. There are many options, including aspen, carefresh, yesterday's newspaper, and many others available at most pet stores. Pine is debatable, though I can say I've used high quality pine for many years with never an ill effect. You want to stay away from anything with a lot of dust, as this can cause respiratory issues in rodents. Enclosures should be cleaned a MINIMUM of once a week, though it is advisable to scoop the corners out sometime in the week, as that is where the rodents will urinate most of the time, and can quickly become unsanitary. I scoop bedding from the corners during the week, replace all bedding once a week, and every two weeks I take the enclosures out for a good scrub and dry.

A good rodent diet has many options. There are commercial rodent blocks, used in laboratories, as well as home-made diets, which consist of cereals, rices, grains, rodent blocks, and often dog food. When feeding dog food, you'll want to avoid the "trash" brands bought at a grocery store, and spend the extra dollar for higher quality, and avoid red dyes, as there has been some evidence as to this being harmful to reptiles. As far as I know, there is no concrete proof of this, but I prefer to be safe, than sorry.

Water must always be available. I use bottles, as bowls will quickly become fouled or dumped over. Care must be taken that the bottles do not get chewed upon, and should be cleaned and refilled every day. A drop of vanilla extract in the water has been found to decrease the smell of rodent urine.

Now for the fun part, breeding. Let's start with mice. As noted before, I keep one male to seven or eight females in a twenty gallon long aquarium. They stay together all the time, as I've found if you remove mice from an established colony, there can be serious issues trying to reintroduce, and removing them causes an increase in infanticide (baby eating). I do not keep anything in the enclosure except a water bottle, food bowl, and little igloo house, and even this is not necessary, though I believe it makes them feel more comfortable. They also do better in a climate controlled room or closet where they are not bothered a whole lot, or cannot see activity all the time. It can take months for a colony to start breeding, but once they do, the gestation period for a mouse is an average of 20 days. Females will help one another care for the pinkies, but keep a close eye on them, as some females seem to have a tendacy to be baby eaters, and must be removed. Once you have babies, I do not clean the tank until they are older, nearly hoppers, to prevent disturbing the females. Once the babies are seen to be eating and drinking on their own, I remove them to a new home to grow up. If you need them at a smaller size, remove them whenever you see fit. Afterwards, a good thorough scrubbing is recommended, and if all is going well, you will have new pinks soon, as mice often breed immediately after giving birth.

Rats I have bred for many years. I even bred show rats for some time, and took home ribbons once or twice. Rats do not have to be kept in colonies, but can be. I usually keep two to four females together at all times, as they should never be alone, and a bonded group will often help take care of babies. I rotate a male in for one to two weeks, then he goes back to his bachelor pad, or has a wash and is put into another group of females. You may also keep the male with the females all the time, depending on the space and size of the enclosure, and your personal preferences, though be aware he will often breed the females right after birth, not allowing them a rest period. The gestation period of a rat is an average of 23 days. Rats are less likely to commit infanticide, but it does sometime happen to unstable, young, or exceptionally nervous females. Also with groups, you sometimes have females stealing and fighting over babies, or one female doing all the work. It can take some effort to form groups that work well together. After the babies are weaned, they can be removed, separate males from females, and placed into grow-out enclosures. For future breeding, sisters raised together often make good groups. If you need smaller or younger rats, take them from the mother at that time. The mother rat should be given a rest, anywhere from one week to three weeks, for her health, which will result in stronger babies and a healthier female able to care for them adequately.

Hopefully this is helpful to you, and please, if you ever have any questions, or suggestions, or differing opinions, post them! None of this is concrete, or the way that EVERYONE does it. There are many ways to breed and keep rodents, and the great part of the community is sharing this information, and finding the way that works best for YOU. Best of luck to you in all your rodent breeding adventures, and remember, healthy food equals a healthy reptile!

-K. E. Saucedo aka Epona
 

ApriliaRufo

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5 Year Member
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572
Well, junk I was just about to scower the net to find this out and it looks like I don't have to. You are awesome Ep. Thank you so much!
 

snakehandler

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359
i have been breeding rats and mice for twenty years now.
i feed them chicken grain and dog pellets. dog pellets also for mice as an extra to prevent them from eating their young.
rats can have a main diet of dog pellets.
 

Harveysherps

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5 Year Member
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823
I have been breeding Rats for 15 years and I use Diamond High Energy Dog food for my rats. That was a very good care sheet. You covered the subject well. Glad to see I'm not the only rat breeder. Do any of you breed your rats to look different. As in short hair, curly hair, hairless , dumbo and such. I breed all kinds of coat types just to help make things interesting. Lets start another thread and post pics of stuff. I really enjoy talking about rats. I enjoy raising them as much as I do reptiles.
 

Harveysherps

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I don't consider mine Pets, but I sell them to people that do. They make good pets. But I'd rather have a dog or cat as my companion animal.
 

Lexi

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I have a male and female rat that are my pets... but i will be using babaies as food.
 

Harveysherps

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5 Year Member
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I myself have around 40 breeders so I don't really spend much time petting them. I have bred them to be docile. I handle the babies from birth so that they are used to me and don't bite as much. But you can bet the one that bites the hand that feeds. Gets fed off right then. But like Lexi said "Things gotta eat".
 

Melissa

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5 Year Member
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105
We have had 1 male and 3 female rats for about 3 months now we are still waiting on them to decide to breed lol any ideas.
 

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