I originally had pet mice when I was in primary school. When my dad took me to get a couple of mice, the usual pet shop mistake ocurred, with us ending up with a pair instead of two girls. Well we didn't realise this at first, even after "Albino" my pew girl had babies, thinking that she must have gotten pregnant at the pet store. It wasn't until 3 weeks later when she had a second litter, that we got to thinking that something isn't right here. Even though we separated them the next day, "Scotch" had already mated her again, and a third litter followed another 3 weeks later.
"Scotch" was the most amazing mouse I've ever owned. He was my favorite pet. He was a longhair who's fur was really only fluffy rather than long, and he was five different colours. Black, White, Chocolate, a type or orangey colour, and cream. Many of his babies were tricolours, and there was even one that had four colours on it too.
However one day in the not too distant future, my dad decided that enough was enough, and took all the male mice and most of the females to the pet shop one day while I was at school, leaving me with 5 girls. I was devastated that "Scotch" was gone, but no amount of begging would make my father go back to the shop and get him. I have never seen a mouse like him since.
Many years later........
Carawatha Rodents started with mice in 1994 after helping a friend out, finding homes for his mousery mice when he had to move due to a promotion at work. He informed us that he'd had one of his Siamese girls (who we later christened "Thai") in breeding with a Siamese boy, and that she was probably pregnant. So we kept her to see if she was. Turned out we got rather attached to her, and after she had her litter we not only decided to keep her, but also a pair of her babies, "Siam" and "Zhar". These three Siamese mice were the foundation of our Siamese line that we still have today.
Because we'd had to hang onto "Thai", we couldn't have her live alone now could we, especially in her condition, So we kept two other female mice for her companionship. They were a Chocolate Even marked girl we named "Cindi" and a self stone girl we named "Sharon Stone".
Now because "Sharon" was such an uncommon colour, and one that our friend had been working on for a while, we decided to keep a male stone coloured mouse too. I couldn't just throw away this new colour, when new varieties come along so seldom. So we also kept the self stone boy "Old Stoney" and a companion for him in "Walt" a black&white Pied Tan.
At this time we had recently joined the mouse club that was running, and at a show one day we heard someone say that tricolour mice didn't exist. I found this hard to believe, after my first mouse and all his offspring, and the fact that I'd been breeding rats for the last decade with very little to do with mice, I figured, 'how hard could it be', so I set about trying to breed some more tricolour mice.
A close friend of mine Tanya, who also bred rats, was often on the lookout for mice for me after I told her about this. With neither of us knowing a whole lot about mouse genetics at that time, over the ensuing 6 months she gave me three little mice she thought may be helpful in my quest for tricolours. A Tiger pair, we named "Tigah" and "Tigress", and a little female pied tan just like 'Walt', that we named "Disney".
I myself found two other tricolour mice, one in a local pet shop who was an even mixture of dove, cream and white, we named her "Carly", who was never able to fall pregnant. And a little longhair almost variegated female of the same three colours from a fellow breeder in the club, her name was "Multimice Tiffany". However we never did breed a tricolour from tiffany either. Of course now that we understand the genetics of mouse breeding, it's not surprising to us that we were unsuccessful in our quest.
However little "Tiffany" turned out to carry lots of recessives, it was from her babies that we started our Manx and longhair lines, that we still have today.
Over the years we've bred every colour and pattern of mouse available in Australia, recently however we've decided to concentrate on a select few breeds and colours, our favourites. These varieties are, Texels&Astrex, Manx, Longhairs, the Tiger varieties, Selfs in blue, silver & dark-eyed cream, Marked mice in Banded, Berkshire & Calico, Agouti's, and Shaded mice in Javanese, Balinese & Siamese. While this list may still sound long, it's a lot less than we used to have. ANRA have around 4 times this amount in their official breed standard
One variety I am particularly fond of is the self reds, fawns & creams. But due to the lethal nature of the genes causing these exquisite colours, they usually end up obese and dying of heart or other major organ failure. In the time we did breed these, we did reduce the mortality rate and increase the life span considerably, by outcrossing continuously. However we weren't able to eliminate the fatal obesity completely, and so our red/fawn lines ended with "Samba" in 1999.
She is pictured below, at a time when she could still walk. She is only 6 months old in that photo and already weighing near the 70gram mark. We euthanased her at the age of nearly 11 months at a weight of just on 120grams.
Towards the end we put her in a home by herself. She could not walk much at all, only shuffling from the food dish to the water bottle. She made her bed each night between these two items. She had managed to rub all the fur off her tummy, so we had her bedded on pieces of cut up cloth made out of babies nappies. It got to the stage, where if you picked her up, her heart rate increasing just that little bit would cause her to have a funny little vague spell. When she was 10 months old she developed a tumour directly under her chin. It was pea-shaped and rock hard. We kept an even closer eye on her now, and nearly three weeks later she appeared to have one of her eyes half closed all the time. The vet informed us that this was more than likely due to the tumour. It was at this stage that we decided it would be kinder to let her go to heaven.
So we no longer breed any Ay (Dominant lethal yellow) variety mice, instead sticking to the Avy (or Dominant viable yellow) varieties instead. That's the tiger mice and the Homozygous of this type that create another type of D/E cream. Avy mice do often have weight problems, but these are not of the fatal nature of the Ay mice. Through outcrossing we have managed to minimise the weight gain tendencies of these varieties, and look forward to a day when we can breed this trait out altogether.
When we breed our mice, we pay special attention to temperament as well as breeding towards improving the type, pattern or colour as per the standard. When we started in mice, the average mouse wasn't very good 'pet' quality. They were hard to handle, and seemingly impossible to tame. I'd hazard at a guess, by saying that around 1 in 50 would have had a good temperament. This problem was especially evident in the males. While testosterone is a key contributor to male aggression, it is by no means the only factor. This has been proved, when desexed males we know of have continued to fight. In general, desexing does calm most males down, but this is not an option if you want to breed with the mouse in question. Temperament is at least 50% hereditary.
Thankfully today, through careful selection for sweet natures, the majority of our males will live with other males, even after they've been bred themselves. Of course good socialisation with both mice and people is also essential. There is also another reason to breed with good tempered mice. Mice that are flighty, nippy or unhandleable are more likely to hurt or kill their young if you disturb the nest. The mother mouse has to feel comfortable with you being around her babies. Mice usually make wonderful doting mothers, but instinct can kick in at the most inopportune time, and if your mouse is not comfortable enough with you then it's going to make handling and socialising the babies a risky exercise.
Mouse fathers also usually make for doting parents too. However leaving the male in is not an appropriate gesture, due to the fact that female mice have a postpartum oestrus (meaning they come into heat again at the time of birth) Some immediately after giving birth, and some just before giving birth. In the latter case, if there is a male in the same cage he can be observed following the female around with his nose where it's not wanted. If this is observed it's a sure sign that she is not far off giving birth.
While the obvious reason for not leaving 'dad' in, is to prevent another pregnancy, there is the possibility that the mouselings may be injured or killed from being trodden on, while the male is busily trying to re-mate the female and there are cases where the male becomes aggravated with the babies getting in the way and may hurt or kill them for this reason, although from what I've heard this is rare.
We use a genetics approach to breeding in all regards not just temperament. The genetics of fancy mice today is well understood, with literature about this fairly easy to find. With selective breeding for type, pattern and colour improvement, each successive generation in a line is working towards improving that particular variety.
We only breed one or two litters at a time now, so that we can devote a lot of time to raising the babies. If you're looking for a particular type of mouse, we can probably breed a litter especially for you. We maintain strict breeding guidelines within our mousery. Both Females & Males must be a minimum of 3 months old and weigh 20grams before they can be bred with and both sexes must be in good health and condition. They must also have a minimum rest period of 4 weeks between litters. This gives the mouse a maximum amount of 4 litters per year. While some may say that this is not a very high amount, if you break it down, you realise just how much it really is.
*Once the mouse falls pregnant, she will gestate for approx. 3 weeks, then she lactates for approx. 4-5 weeks, followed by a 4 week rest. Add this up and you get 3 months, so you see 4 litters a year really is a very full schedule for a mouse. We prefer for our females to have no more than 2 litters per year.
Pregnancy and Lactation take a lot of energy from the mother and they benefit greatly from dietary supplementation during the lactation period. We use wholemeal bread soaked in organic soy milk (vitasoy brand) and nutrigel a few times a week. Plus they get more protein and haem-iron based treats than they would normally.
We house our mother mice in their own special birthing cage before they are due to give birth. They stay in this area until the mouselings open their eyes and start to move around, which is usually around 2 weeks old.
At such time mother and babies are moved to one of our nursery tanks, where they will stay until they are sexed and/or rehomed. These nursery tanks have lots of toys, and activities to stimulate the young mice. Also a high up area where mum can get away from the babies if she wants to. Our nursery tanks are a minimum size of 24" x 12" x 12". This gives even a large litter plenty of room to move and play.
The majority of our mother mice, tend to wean their babies at around 3.5 to 4 weeks of age. It depends largely on the size of the litter as to the growth rate of the babies and the subsequent weaning age. Here is a good example of two extremes.
"C. Quizzie" a little marked Siamese we had, believed in quality rather than quantity. She gave birth 4 times, and each time, to only one baby. It was so hard even knowing if she had even fallen pregnant. This one baby was usually weaned at around the 3 week age, and by 4 weeks of age, was the size of a regular 8 week old mouse.
On the other end of the scale is "C.Chandon" a longhaired self champagne, who had litters with amounts in the high teens. One of her litters, of 17 were not fully weaned until they were 6 weeks old, and at that stage looked the right size for 5 week old mice.
Usually at around 3 weeks of age the baby mice are sampling mums food. At this stage we give them tinned Gerber brand toddler food once a day for them to pick at.
All our mouselings are wormed with small animal wormer after they have been weaned, and not before they're 5 weeks old.
We worm our mice with small animal wormer every 3 months and treat them with an ivomectin paste once every 6 months as well, for more broad spectrum coverage. We don't advise using ivomectin on mice under 8 weeks of age.
It's important to note, that mice should not be wormed from the week before they're intended for breeding, right through the whole breeding cycle, until after the mouselings have been weaned.
To do so too close to breeding and/or while the doe is pregnant, can cause deformity in developing foetuses and/or in-utero death.
To do so while she is nursing can cause the death of the mouselings by filtering through to them through her milk. The babies systems at this age, are too immature to handle the drugs/chemicals used in worming preparations.
All Carawatha mice have papers, while many are fully pedigreed (4 or more generations not including themselves) mice that are not fully pedigreed still have a 1, 2 or 3 generation history data sheet.
All of our mice and our litters are registered with ANRA Qld. We also offer a breeders guarantee of hereditary soundness. Basically if we sell a mouse for show/breeding quality, then they will be of that quality. Likewise when we sell a pet, they are a well socialised pet mouse. We guarantee it. We never sell any of our mice as feeders, nor any that would go as breeders who's babies will be feeders. We like to be notified if a mouse having come from us, is being sold or re-homed, as we usually will offer to take them back.
We usually use aquariums with 5mm diameter wire mesh tops to house our mice. These we've found, are the easiest to keep clean. In the winter months we use habitrail systems because they hold in heat much more effectively.
We have noticed that in general, mice feel the cold a lot more than rats do. Whereas rats appear to feel the heat more than mice. For this reason any litters we breed in the Winter months are kept inside the house with us at all times. With our states variable weather, we highly recommend the use of a reverse cycle air conditioner, to keep a constant year round temperature.
As bedding we use a number of things. Lucerne pellets, Breeders choice pellets & sometimes Max's pet litter, plus all our mice have their beds lined with Handee Ultra paper toweling & tissues. If we can get hold of wood shavings that are guaranteed to be from a hardwood tree, which we do from time to time from a carpenter friend of ours, then we will use shavings.
Our mice have lots of toys to play in and places to nest. Wooden & cardboard boxes, specially made plastic mouse houses and activity items, ladders, tunnels and numerous running wheels, which mice simply adore.
Our mice have a regular diet consisting of a dry mixture I make up myself, containing 7grains, rat&mouse cubes, premium lucerne and a high quality animal pellet, usually horse show pellets(never any type of poultry pellet). To this mixture I also add various cereals & uncooked dry noodles.
They get fresh fruit and veggies at least every second day, and as treats they get tidbits of what we eat, some of our leftovers and occasionally dried fish cat-treats. Every third month we supplement their water with an echinacea tonic and a couple of times a week each mouse gets a portion of chewable kids garlic&herbs tablet.
We hope you've enjoyed reading about our beloved pets and our mousery. I'm happy to chat to any mouse lover about all aspects of these wonderful little creatures, be it simply about how to care for your pet mouse, showing, breeding or a more complicated genetic matter. While I am not currently working, I am a qualified veterinary nurse, with extensive experience in all mouse & rat matters, and may be able assist with advice on any health issues too. Our own vet is a rodent expert, he is also ANRA's
official vet. We highly recommend Drs. Michael Pyne and Amanda Hulands-Nave at the Brighton Vet Clinic.
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