Keeping and breeding mice.

Click here to print this page ->

If you have a large or growing snake collection, then obtaining good quality food, all year round, can be a problem. To ease this a lot of snake keepers also breed their own mice. Breeding you own mice can be a time consuming business and should not be undertaken without serious consideration.

Housing
Feeding
Breeding
Cycling
Conclusion


Housing

Firstly you need to find a place to set aside for the housing of the mice. Male mice can have a musk like smell. They scent their territory and if you have more than one male the smell can be offensive to some people. In any event if you are going to breed mice in numbers to feed a snake collection you will need several cages. It is therefore best to have the mice in a well ventilated loft, garage or other out building. I breed my mice in a converted loft area. The temperate can be very important. Too hot or too cold and the mice will stop breeding. If the temperature is above 40oC the mice may die. I have found the ideal temperature to be between 22 and 30oC. I maintain this most of the year by using a thematically controlled electric fan heater. In very hot spells I have a cooling fan and air conditioning unit that start up automatically. Most breeders don't resort to all this thematically controlled equipment but I like to pamper my breeding stock. By controlling their environment I am assured of continuous production all year round.
Next you need to find a "container" to house the Mice. Most people start off breeding mice in cages they buy from pet shops. These are ideal as long as you ensure you buy mouse cages and not cages designed for hamsters, gerbils or other small rodents. Mice cages have a smaller space between the bars than cages designed for other rodents. Therefore, if you choose the wrong cage you will soon have young mice squeezing through the bars. Wood shavings make an excellent substrate and doubles as a bedding material. Half bails of wood shavings can be obtained from larger pet shops or farm suppliers. These half bails work out much cheaper than the small quantities supplied by many pet shops.
Return to top.

Feeding

To start off you will most likely get your mouse food from a pet shop. Once you have a few cages it is cheaper to buy rodent pellets from a specialist supplier. If rodent pellets are not available in your area contact a farm supplier ( FARMWAY Ltd. is a very good one ) and ask about pig breeder pellets. Rodent and pig pellets come in 20 or 25kg sacks. These pellets are specially produced to contain all the nutrients that your animals need, so no other "tit bits" need to be offered. Although most of us still provide some extras. Drinking water must be available at all times. The bottles supplied by pet shops for smaller rabbits are ideal. It is possible to buy a fully automated water supply system that you just connect to a tap.
Return to top.

Breeding

Mice can start reproducing at an early age. Both sexes can start breeding at 6 weeks of age and continue until they are about 12 months old. A females first litter often produces a smaller number of babies, as do those from female over 9 months of age. Breeding mice is an easy business as long as you remember one simple rule. That is ONLY ONE MALE TO A CAGE. Multiple males will fight and can kill each other. Multiple males cause damage to females and often kill the babies that are produced. Having multiple males also results in the males producing more scent.
If you have a single male and a few females, in a cage, they should produce babies every 18 - 28 days. Producing large number of mice is best done with the harem method. (One male to several females). I have found that 2 to 4 females to one male in a standard mouse cage works fine. How many young they produce depends on their environment and breed of mice. Most "pet shop" mice produce small litters of about 3 to 12 babies. There are some laboratory breeds of mice that produce litters of up to 25 babies every 28 days. However these laboratory mice can be very difficult to obtain.
Return to top.

Cycling

To get constant production it is best to have several cages of mice at peek breeding age. ( about 3 to 9 months of age ). One way to do this is to date every cage that you set up. ( Each cage should only contain animals of the same age) As mice are weaned at 5 or 6 weeks of age I use these mice when setting up new cages. You can set up a new cage, or group of cages, every month. Once a cage is established never introduce new mice to it. The established group will attack and may kill the new "intruder". If you established a new cage every 4 weeks you would need 9 cages and have the following results.
Cage 1 approximate age of mice 6 weeks
Cage 2 approximate age of mice 10 weeks ( first small litters born )
Cage 3 approximate age of mice 14 weeks ( start of best production )
Cage 4 approximate age of mice 16 weeks (Good production at this time)
Cage 5 approximate age of mice 20 weeks (Good production at this time)
Cage 6 approximate age of mice 24 weeks (Good production at this time)
Cage 7 approximate age of mice 28 weeks (Good production at this time)
Cage 8 approximate age of mice 32 weeks (Good production at this time)
Cage 9 approximate age of mice 36 weeks ( production of babies starts to drop )
Cage 10 approximate age of mice 40 weeks ( Remove all mice from this cage and use cage to start new breeding group, This cage becomes cage 1 again).
Cage 1 is set up using young weaned mice from cages 5,6 or 7. In this way you set up new cages using weaned mice produced by adult mice that are in their peek.
Return to top.

Conclusion

In conclusion I would say that breeding your own mice can be done with a little though and effort. The better you look after the mice the better the quality and quantity of the young they produce. Breeding your own mice means that you never have to worry about running short of mice for that growing snake collection. So what are you waiting for?

Click here to print this page.