Mice/Mothers and Babies
QUESTION: Ok so I got 4 females from a local reptile shop for breeding for snake food as I have several breeding pairs of snakes and some are finiky and will only eat live at this point in time (working on frozen) as well as I get alot of picky baby snakes. I have them all in a large 50L tub tank with ventilation windows in both long sides as well as most of the lid. All 4 mothers had their babies withing the same 12 hr time frame, but one started eating the babies so I removed her from the tank but now there is 25 babies and 3 mothers that all nurse the babies and get along, but I was wondering if there was too many babies for the mothers because like I said it's 4 litters of babies to 3 mothers now.
ANSWER: Hi Randy,
In answer to your question, as long as the mommas are willing to take the new pups in and feed them, this isn't too many pups at all. That's about 8 pups (plus one) per momma, which is a very normal litter size for mice. First litters are usually smaller, so it may not work as well in the future, but it should be just fine for now.
I think you're off to a good start with your set up, and I have some ideas that might help your breeding efforts regarding colony management and staggered breeding (so you always have mice on hand). Some mommas eat the babies because they are genuinely confused about what to do, but sometimes it's a result of stress, which we can relieve with a few adjustments. If you'd like some pointers please let me know and I'd be happy to give you some hard-learned tips!
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QUESTION: Sure I will take any help I can get because the healthier the mice the healthier my snakes will be.
ANSWER: That's a great way to approach it! You're absolutely right - happy mice make happy snakes. :) More info under the break:
*****WARNING TO READERS! GRAPHIC INFORMATION BELOW*****
(If other readers on this website are offended by humane breeding or euthanizing mice for the purpose of feeding reptiles, please do not continue)
First, if you need a regular supply of live mice in certain sizes, you'll need to stagger your breeding. Here's the set up I used to use with great success:
Cage 1: Male (except during breeding)
Cage 2: Female colony during recovery periods
Cages 3+: Individual mommas during pregnancy and nursing
Pair male with one or two females for a period of 2 weeks. After that time, return him to his cage, and them to individual cages (or bucket enclosures like you've got now). Females go into estrus every five days or so, so this gives you a good chance at ensuring pregnancy without leaving the males in so long that they risk the lives of the pups.
Females stay in their enclosures for 3 weeks from the date of separation - if they do not have pups, they go back to breeding or the community enclosure. If they do have pups, leave them to nurse their babies as long as they have them. Then return them to the community cage for a period of 4 weeks past the end of nursing to allow their bodies to return safely to a healthy state ready for breeding (research shows the best results when breeding occurs two months apart and between the ages of 3 months and one year).
Using this method, you can cycle females through your breeding on a regular schedule, allowing all females to recover in between without leaving you out of younger mice. The females in the community enclosure can be kept ovulating by adding a little of the male's dirty bedding to their cage, which allows them to smell his hormones and keep their cycles going.
Keep a close log of good mommas and good pairings. These traits (parenting and breeding) are genetic and can be passed to your next generation. Be careful mating offspring to their father - unless they are perfect examples of your goal mice, you risk bringing out bad recessive traits at the same time as preserving good ones. Crosses like that should be limited, but sibling to sibling or step sibling is less risky. You might choose a healthy male from one litter at some point and let him mature in case he can take over for the current buck in the future. You'll also have to watch the male - some bucks do not breed well or frequently enough, are too aggressive or stressful to the females, or are otherwise unhealthy. It sounds like you aren't having those problems, though!
Keeping the mommas isolated during the end of their pregnancy and during rearing allows them to be much less stressed, and therefore, to raise healthier litters. It also reduces the chance of back to back litters, which have a much higher risk of lethal complications to both mom and the babies.
If you aren't yet aware, just a heads up - pups without fur cannot be euthanized in the same ways as mice with fur. When the pups are first born hairless, they maintain oxygen in their skin so they can breathe underneath momma. That means they cannot be suffocated humanely. I know you are feeding them live right now, which is actually a practice I support, so don't feel like you need to change that asap or anything, especially if the young snakes are constricting them (a very fast method of euthanasia). Older mice are certainly safer fed frozen, but I didn't want you to learn about that tidbit with pinkies the hard way.
I think that's most of my tips, if you have any questions, please always feel free to let me know!
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QUESTION: Thank you for that and just one more question before I think I will close this thread, but I cleaned the Tank as per usual only this time I had to soak the igloo I normally had in for them and its the "Large Size" and is 10.5"x12" and 6.25" high so Instead I put a "Barn" style on inside that is 5.5"long, 3.75" wide and 3.25" tall and the babies have all been squeaking like crazy and more than one has been outside of the nest for over an hour before the only momma (black instead of brown) will carry them back inside the nest I was wondering if it's fine to leave them in like that or if they're all too cramped inside, because I know that mice are prey items in the wild (and their purpose here) so they like smallerish spaces but I just don't know if the barn is too small or not. I have been able to successfully remove the mothers from the babies and hold the babies for almost a week now and they are appx 1.5 weeks old, so it would be possible that once the igloo is dry I will be able to remove the mothers and put the igloo back in without disturbing the nest.
I wouldn't change anything in the cage until the pups are much older. The moms keep the nest clean, so you do not need to change that bedding (or clean cage deco) until the pups begin venturing out on their own. By leaving it alone, you keep the moms feeling safe and secure, which means they can keep their babies where they belong.
You can address dirty bedding by "spot cleaning," removing the dirty bedding a bit at a time. Each day pick a corner or section (or two or three spots if the cage is really stinky), remove a handful of bedding, and replace it with clean bedding. That's all you have to do! Easy peasy. Once the pups are weaned, or at least close to it, you can go back to cleaning hides and bowls and doing normal cage changes.
In answer to your question about space, they might indeed have been a bit squished, but the biggest concern would definitely be changing their environment while the pups are still vulnerable.