Authored by Douglas Mefford in Pets
Published on 12-09-2009
For anyone who keeps snakes or reptiles as pets, the cost of the mice to feed them can become exorbitant the more animals you have to care for. Rather than continue purchasing feeder mice from a pet store you can fairly inexpensively set up a breeding system to raise your own mice for snake food. As well as saving money, you can be assured of the health and quality of the mice that you feed your reptiles.
The first item you will need for breeding mice for snakes is a place to raise them. If you are going to use wire cages, be sure they are mice cages and not ones designed for hamsters or gerbils. A mouse cage has a finer weave with smaller holes so the young mice do not squeeze through and escape. Wire cages have the advantage in that you can place the watering bottles on the outside to prevent the mice from chewing them up. A set of ten-gallon glass aquariums will also work, though you will need to fix a ramp to the top screen so they can reach a water bottle placed there.
The mice you breed for your snake’s food will need a bedding substrate laid on the bottom of the cage. The best type for breeding purposes is aspen chips. Aspen does not contain the oils that pine or cedar chips have, which can be harmful to the infant mice. This should be changed weekly. A small container inside the cage for the mice to hide and feel secure in is also recommended.
While you can use commercial mouse and rat food, it does not contain all the nutrients needed for breeding mice. The addition of some dry dog food for protein and sunflower seeds for the fat content will give your breeder mice a better diet to grow into fat, contented snake food. Some rabbit food or corn will also help supplement a complete and healthy diet.
The next consideration to make for breeding mice for snake food is in obtaining your breeding stock. You can begin by purchasing regular pet mice breeds. While harder to obtain, specially bred mice for laboratory use are better as they grow larger and weigh more and produce larger litters. Isolate new acquisitions long enough to make sure they are not diseased.
For a consistent supply of mice to feed your reptiles, you will most likely need to have several breeding groups working on a rotating cycle. Keeping records of your mice stock will help so you can have one group conceiving, while another group is birthing and yet another is maturing into grown food stock. The most effective and least problematic method is to use the “harem” motif. Keep one male in a cage to service three or four females. Two males in a cage together will spend most of their time fighting, stinking up the area with territory marking musk, and often killing the infants along the way.
You will want to replace your aging breeding stock occasionally. As well as picking some of your mouse harvest to be breeders rather than food, you may want to also introduce new males at least once a year to keep the stock from developing genetic deficiencies. Mice can begin breeding at about six weeks from birth. They have a gestation period of about twenty-eight days. Within a year, a female will be getting to the end of her breeding cycle.
Environment is important as well. Keep your breeding stock in an area whose temperature ranges between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. A consistent lighting cycle will also produce better and healthier litters. Nine to twelve hours of light with the rest of the time in darkness is most natural for them.
It may take a little while to find the right amount of fresh mice to provide adequate food supply for your snake or reptile. By growing this food yourself, you are guaranteeing that you are providing the healthiest diet available.