There are many reasons a person might want to breed mice, and if you do, you've come to the right place! Maybe you own reptiles and things are getting expensive at the pet store. Maybe you have pet mice and you think it would be interesting to breed them. You might want to make a little money on Craigslist while you're at it. No matter what your reason is, it will only take a small start up cost and the mice will soon pay for themselves, in cash, or in their love for you as wonderful pets.
- How long are mice pregnant? 21 days.
- Can I handle the pregnant mother? Yes, if she will come to you to be held. Never pick her up by the stomach.
- When do baby mice get fur? Around 7 days.
- When are baby mice fully weaned? 6 weeks. It is important that you separate males and females at this time, otherwise you will have inferior litters born to too young mothers.
- How many babies will my mouse have? Anywhere from 1-20. The most I've gotten from a single litter is 14. Make sure, if you aren't breeding for snake food, that you have a place to keep them all or people to give them to, preferably before you breed.
- What color babies will I get? A very complex question! Depends on many factors. With most pet store mice, you will likely have a wide range. Several colors dominate over all others, such as agouti, which is a ticked brown.
- How can I breed for healthier/larger mice? Be very selective about which mice you breed. Understand though that most pet store mice carry genetic diseases. Be ready to cull an entire line if one pops up.
The Rules of the Game
- NEVER house more than one male together for any length of time after the age of 4 weeks. Male mice will fight with each other for territory. Some females will as well.
- When introducing two mice of any sex for the first time, clean out the cage well to remove all previous scents. Never place a new mouse into another's cage or, as they see it, territory without cleaning it completely out first.
- Wait until female mice are at least 10 weeks old to mate them. Anything less and its like getting a 16 year old pregnant. You run the risk of the scared, inexperienced mother cannibalizing her babies.
- Don't handle baby mice in front of their mother. Always take the mother out and preferably put her in a cage in a different room so she doesn't hear the squeaking. I give the mothers a treat and a wheel while I handle their babies.
- Wait at least 3 days to handle baby mice after they're born (If you hear squeaking, leave it alone) Mice will cannibalize their babies if they feel threatened or believe they've run out of food. This is especially true of mice from large chain pet stores that are skittish. Keep your food and water supply full at all times and don't clean the tank for the first week. I almost never disturb the nesting box for cleaning until the baby mice's eyes open.
- The best nesting box to use is something you can lift up and inspect the babies but is also private. A kleenex box with one side cut out works well. Pet stores also sell plastic igloos that are great for this. The mouse will need plenty of nesting material to stuff in the opening of her nesting box and create a soft spot for her babies.
- DO handle the baby mice regularly, especially any females you wish to breed again. Even if they're snake food! Taming the mice and getting them to trust you will prevent cannibalization down the road when you breed them.
Your start up costs will depend mainly on how large your breeding program will be. To start out you may consider only one male and a number of females. You will need to purchase a cage for each male, and a cages large enough for several females. If you buy 3 females to start out with, you may be able to house them all together peacefully, but in case they fight, have an extra cage ready.
I use medium sized Rubbermaid containers from the dollar store, and drill around 40 holes into each lid. These containers are cheap, durable and can hold up to 3 female mice each.
You can also buy those commercial small rodent cages they make for hamsters, and other small rodents but make sure the cage you buy has very little space between the bars. Make sure that the cage you buy supports a water bottle.
Try to buy bedding in bulk if you possibly can. Good places to look are farming supply stores where you may be able to get large quantities of hay or kiln dried wood chips. Make sure not to buy untreated pine or other hard wood, as it has been shown to cause respiratory problems in small mammals. If you're looking for wood chips and the package says "treated" or "kiln dried" you're safe, otherwise all bets are off.
I find that making your own mix of food is much cheaper than buying "mouse food" at the pet store. To fulfill your mice's requirement for protein, find a lower protein bag of dog or cat food and add around 1/5 of it to the total mixture. Natural Balance Vegetarian Formula Ultra Premium Dog Food has the right amount of protein that isn't derived from meat and is a good choice for mice. A large bag will last for 6+ months, depending on how many mice you're feeding.
You will also want to add the most varied bird seed you can find and any other goodies. Nuts, grains, and dried fruit will all be appreciated. Try to keep most of the mixture grain derived. Bread that you no longer can use and has only gone slightly stale can be used for mice, as can other grain leftovers.
Hides are essential to a mouse's well being. For snake owners, this comes as no surprise, as many snakes also need something to hide in to feel secure. Pregnant or nursing mice are especially vulnerable and absolutely need a dark quiet haven to give birth and raise a litter in. For the cost conscious, hides can be made out of almost anything. Old cardboard food containers lying around make great hides. The more creative you are, the less money you'll spend.