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Rodent Breeding Systems
Keeping & breeding your own rodent foods can be very time consuming & hard work but the effort involved is certainly worth the end results, these being good quality foods always available. Below is a guide to systems I use here, I have not added general breeding details like gestation etc
Rats - The current system I use for my rats is a Rotation & Separation system. Basically this involves setting up a group of one male & 6 - 8 females and rotating the male each week to a new group and separating and pregnant females each week. By moving the male to a new group each week, his interest in the females remains high, prompting him to try and breed with them all. Each male will work his way through 18 cages before being retired to the freezer for a well earned rest. I have 18 males running through each bank at any one time.
I use RC1 rat cages for my groups, as said above I have up to 8 females in each cage with one male, these are cleaned out each week and soft wood shavings are used as bedding. The pregnant females that are removed are then either placed in MB1 cages singular or back into RC1 cages in 3's or 4's (depending on the number of pregnant rats that week). It is far more productive to separate each female but I don't always have enough cages.
My females currently produce between 12 and 20 rat pups per litter, with first time litters sometimes dropping down to 6. Females that are kept singular are able to wean bigger litters than group housed pregnant females.
The breeding life span for my males is 18 weeks (1 week per cage), females I keep for longer, sometimes up to 6 - 9 months. Each month I hold back enough new females to replace those that are 'retiring'. To keep track of my rat colony ages I hold back a different colour each month (i.e. all blacked hooded female rats in January and all ginger rats in February), this allows me to be able to mix up the groups but still know the ages of my rats (I hold back different coloured males each month to the females, this allows for mixed coloured litters).
I remove the young at which ever size is required but potential breeding stock is left with the mothers for 5 weeks min, preferably 6 - 7 weeks.
The other advantage to this system is that you can maintain a much bigger stock of females as the breeding cages always have 1.8 in (any removed are replaced with those that have just finished with their litters).
Mice - My mouse colony is maintained with two systems, first one is similar to above, the second is a fixed system i.e. the cage is established at the beginning and no adults are removed unless the entire cage is being retired.
The Rotation & Separation system is used to produce large numbers of pinks and weaners. RC1 cages are used and house 4 males and 26 females, each week the males are moved to new cages and pregnant females split into smaller cages, 2 per cage. Again this leads to bigger litters. The male mice are also only used for 18 weeks.
The Fixed system has 1 male and 5 females housed in MB1 cages, the litters are then harvested at whatever size needed, each cage will quite often contain 2 or 3 different aged litters.
The food I use for my rodents is a high quality dog biscuit.
Also please remember, although only used as a food source, your rodents should be treated humanely at all times.
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