Some Rodent Breeding Tips

I’ve been breeding all of my own rodents for about the last 5 years. Here are some things that I’ve learned, between them and raising other livestock.

  1. Rodent food is rodent food, dog food is not rodent food. Doesn’t matter which lab block you use or if you prepare your own diet, quality rodent food is an important foundation to a quality snake. If you’re feeding cheap dog food, expect a low quality feeder for your snake.

  2. Livestock feed stores can order rodent food through their suppliers and it will save you a ton of money. Any good feed store will work with you on it. My feed store carries Mazuri products and is happy to stock 6F for me. Saves me freight on a pallet and having to store it.

  3. Varied diets are a benefit, even if just for enrichment. Enrichment can be as simple as small blocks of raw wood to chew on. Happy rats are healthy rats.

  4. Heat/cool your rodent room, your production will pay you back on the overhead cost. Rats produce substantially better between 70-85 degrees than they do above or below those temps.

  5. Cull, cull, cull. Selection is a powerful tool. Not one rat in my racks will bite, I never have issues with bad mothers, I don’t have problems with tumors, respiratory ailments, etc. all of that and much more can be controlled with selection pressure.

  6. Keep them happy and eliminate any stressors in their environment. Stress causes a chain reaction of biological processes that will impact the quality of the animal from a livestock standpoint.

  7. Stop using soda streams and CO2 cartridges to gas them please. A tank, a regulator, a plastic tub, and some weather stripping total out under $200. Respect your rodents, that’s not a lot to ask. Follow AVMA guidelines for flow rate relative to container size. If you aren’t sure about flow rate, send me a PM and I’ll walk you through the equation.

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This is definitely info that is needed in this hobby.

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Thanks! I’ll add to it as I think about it. Rodents are where it all starts so I don’t think the importance of a quality feeder can be understated.

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  1. Hygiene is often the first indication of health issues or geriatric deterioration. Your rodents should look clean, and their coats should look nice. Greasy rats are not grooming themselves and should be isolated and treated/rested or humanely euthanized.

  2. Never feed sick or wounded rats to your reptiles. Wounds can have all sorts of nasty infections, sick rats could have any number of ailments. I can’t say what the side effects of feeding them would be, but that aside, they’ll make for a poor quality meal anyway. Immediately isolate any weak rodents or those with open wounds, or you’ll have a dead rat which will be cannibalized.

  3. Cannibalism is instinctive to them. Wild animals inherently understand some important aspects of colony survival. Weaklings bring disease, potentially waste resources, and attract predators. Culling them is the most practical option to ensure survival of the colony. Most colonial animals also understand that rotting flesh in your house isn’t good for you either. So they consume it before that becomes a concern. Cycling breeders and/or culling any weak or sick rodents will keep cannibalism to a minimum.

  4. They do sneeze less on aspen. Pine is cheap and it works, but it does cause them more respiratory discomfort than aspen does.

  5. Assume that all rats carry Mycoplamsa Pulmonis unless you work at a university and producing specific pathogen free rats in a clean room. If you hear a rattle when they breath, see nasal discharge, or experience excessive sneezing using dustless bedding, it’s probably a secondary infection due to the presence of MP. A multi drug antibiotic regimen is usually required to bring severe cases through alive. That’s not to say there aren’t other common respiratory ailments in rodents either. If you use pine I recommend making a screen sift with 1/4 wire to remove as much dust as possible. Keep them between 75-85 degrees too!

  6. Treat your rodents for parasites at least once a year. They can get parasites from all sorts of intermediary hosts like flies or ants. Use Ivermectin or similar horse dewormer (I know, I know, let’s not go there).

For adult rats a dab of paste the size of a grain of rice needs to given orally, once a week for 3 consecutive weeks. For juveniles do your best to adjust the dose accordingly. Err on the side of caution.

Some of your rats are going to have side effects. Most commonly they will become agitated and start to sweat profusely. Do not treat on hot days! It’s rare but occasionally out of 100-125 I will lose one or two rats during a treatment cycle. Overdosing will cause side effects 100% of the time.

  1. Ventilation is critical for your health and theirs. Wear a respirator or N95 dust mask during cleaning. You can’t begin to imagine the aerosolized nastiness floating around a rodent room.

  2. Vector control is a must. Wild rats are constantly trying to make their way into my rodent room and flies are a big pain. If you have flies in a room, there is no such thing as bio security anymore. You can’t stop them, but you have keep fighting them.

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