Breeding Mice - The Basics

Before You Start Breeding

or Things You Need to Know

Mice are lovable creatures and baby mice are extremely cute. No wonder the idea of breeding mice has crossed the mind of many a mouse owner. Mice also breed easily - almost all too easily. However, there are several things you have to know before you put the male and the female together. This article discusses these things - not always directly giving you all the information you need, but pointing out what you need to find out!

Some Hard Facts

- More mice mean more cages/tanks.
- More cages/tanks need more space.
- More mice also smell more.
- More mice mean less of your time for each mouse.
- More mice mean you have to spend more time for the basic care.
- More mice mean bigger expenses.
- More mice mean that you are more likely to run into problems that need vet care.
- Breeding mice means that there will be babies you have to place into good new homes.
- Good homes may be very hard to find.
- You are not going to make money with breeding mice. That is, not if you do it responsibly!

Noddyn babies

10 day old babies
from the Noddyn mousery.
Breeder & pic: Satu Karhumaa

Still interested? Read on!

Do You Have Enough Knowledge?

This means that you have to know not only the basic facts of mouse care, but also facts concerning mouse reproduction.

Furthermore, you have to be knowledgeable enough to provide those who buy mice from you with correct information on mouse care.

In addition to this, you have to know about different mouse ailments, genetic defects, and inheritable troubles... The fact that you are on this site means that you're on the right track. Now, check carefully what information we have to offer here and please, learn from it.

Join a club, they are a useful source of information and knowledge. Furthermore, in a club you are more able to interact with other mouse enthusiast. Still a couple of points regarding clubs: 1) when choosing a club, pay attention to how well they are known and what they are known for. However, try to get objective views from different sources, not just from a rival. 2) when you are a member of a club, you can get opinions about people and if they are respectable or not. This may sound strange to you, but there are "con artists" in the mouse world. People who try to make you believe they are "experts" and / or highly respected in the mouse fancy. In reality they may be something completely different.

There are also good mouse books available. Among others these:

- Mice: A complete pet owner's manual, by Horst Bielfeld.
- Your First Mouse, by Nick Mays. Pub TFH
- Fancy Mice, by Chris Henwood. Pub TFH. ISBN 0-86622-342-8
- Exhibition and Pet Mice, by Tony Cooke. Pub. Spur Publications.
- Mice as a hobby, by Jack Young. Pub. TFH

Try and find one of these. There are also a number of bad books on mice - they're filled with glossy pictures, but the information is either inaccurate or downright wrong.

Remember, that you can never know too much about mice. Nobody knows everything. The learning process is continuos! Also, it is much, much better to ask even "dumb" questions than to do something wrong just because you were too shy to ask an experienced breeder.

There is information available. It does take some time and effort to find it, but it does exist. If you're not willing to learn, it is better to forget the idea of breeding mice altogether. Do not rely on information given by some pet shop. Unfortunately most pet shop owners / employees do not have the faintest idea on the basic mouse care - yet alone on good breeding. Also, try to get your information from more than just one source. This means that solely reading this site isn't enough.

Why Do You Want to Breed?

Consider your reasons for wanting to breed mice thoroughly. Why do you want to breed? Are you planning to take part in shows with your mice? Are you interested in breeding only pet mice (note: "only" in this conjunction means that you are not interested in breeding mice with standard quality appearance as well as perfect pet qualities!!!) to satisfy a need for pet mice in your are? Do you want to breed only one litter from your mouse female?

Noddyn youngsters

3,5 week old youngsters
from the Noddyn mousery.
Breeder & pic: Satu Karhumaa

In all these cases you need to know those things mentioned above! If you're interested in breeding mice and showing them, you also need to learn about genetics and colour inheritance. In any case you need to understand the meaning of "inheritance" and how it works. Not only colors and markings are inherited - it applies also to health and temperament!

You have to know about proper breeding "techniques" and understand the meaning of words "inbreeding", "line breeding" or "outcross".

If you are interested in breeding mice so that others in you area are able to get them from you, Breeding mice for fun may be fun for you, but for your mice it is always a stress. Females do not need to have at least one litter in their lifetime in order to be happy - in fact not breeding from your females can give them a longer life with a smaller risk of developing a mammary tumor. Furthermore, the babies you produce may not be at all happy to exist - especially if you have dumped them in a bad pet shop or have sold them to the first one that's interested without checking the new owners' knowledge and facilities! They did not ask to be born - it was your idea!

Have Respect for Your Mice

This is very important. Have respect for your mice, regardless of how many you have. Always think of them as living, breathing, feeling creatures they are - never as merely breeding stock or some dumb "things". Mice can adapt and survive even in not so perfect conditions, but that is not enough. They should be able to enjoy their lives, as much as possible.

Elderly mice are an important part of your mousery. They are not a "dead weight" or just taking space. You do need them. If you do not let your mice live up their natural lives, you may not find out about some serious problems. You do not know how long the life span of your mice is. You don't know how prone to tumors they are. You don't know what other kind of hereditary defects that show in later age you have bred in etc. If you neglect these things, you will some day wake up to unpleasant surprises. Furthermore - the new owners of the mice you've bred are certainly not pleased to find out the hard way about problems on the life span or health in your mice.

Be a good mouse mom or dad. That's most important.

I'm sorry if I come out a bit ranting in this article. It was inspired by huge number of questions I have received via e-mail from mouse owners, who have "just put their male and female together" before caring to learn anything about mouse reproduction...

Text by: Satu Karhumaa.