An occasional article with one question put to six fanciers encompassing a range of views, knowledge and experience relevant to the art of fancy mouse exhibiting.
I received 4 replies from the six fanciers I canvassed. I could have asked another 2 to compensate for those that didn’t wish to contribute but decided to leave it as a reflection of the fancy whether that’s good, bad or indifferent. Thanks to all those that penned a reply.
I think of good stockmanship as being someone who knows how to keep their stock well (husbandry and diet) and has an
eye for detail. Someone who dedicates their time to keeping on top of selection and this will show on the bench time and time again.
Keeping your animals in top condition is not hard. Likewise, it should be easy enough to produce healthy litters of over 6 youngsters regularly. There are some basic principles that every good stockman adheres to:
- Good food
- Enough space for the animals to move around
- A clean breeding box with a nest box for warmth and shelter
Any departure from these rules puts your animals under stress and stress causes poor condition. Besides, if your animals suffer, so will breeding performance.
I will go into these in a bit more detail but before I do, I want to mention one other factor, which is at least as important –
A good stockman has a strict regime of feeding, cleaning, checking, and a lot of deliberating which animals to breed with. The best and most successful fanciers spend a lot of time in their shed actually looking at their mice. An animal can be in poor condition and how would you notice, if you don’t spend time in the shed? I use my ears to detect coughs and sneezes and my eyes to look for the characteristic appearance of a mouse with worms or mites. If I detect one, I can take countermeasures to stop any disease from spreading or killing the animal. There are effective cures for worms and mites. If noticed in time, treatment is easy.
If you feed a seed-based diet with lots of oats, I am sure you’re doing great. If you look after your mice but still condition and breeding performance leave room for improvement, check their diet. You may be feeding your mice wrong. Make sure you provide enough protein. Mice have a higher requirement for protein than rats for example (5.9mg of total nitrogen per cal vs. 5.0mg of total nitrogen per cal *1). If you want good breeding performance, make sure your food mix provides at least 22% raw protein) *2).
Dry dog food has between 18% and 26% protein. You can use it as a protein supplement. Feeding some animal protein is very beneficial to mice because they are not vegetarians by nature. (I HARDLY EVER experience mothers eating their youngsters. If it happens, it is always because the mother is sick or has worms. Although I do not have proof of this, I am sure, lack of protein brings about cannibalism).
Depending on where you keep your mice, you may need to use a different type of box. If you keep your mice in an unheated shed, they will need a warmer nest box and plenty of bedding to breed and stay healthy throughout the winter. I use lab boxes but provide ample tea bag bedding, which my mice weave into a tight ball as soon as temperatures drop. Make sure the boxes are big enough. If boxes are too small, the mice will not get the exercise they need to stay fit.
Cleaning out should be a regular activity and never postponed. I clean 1/4 of my mice every other day, keeping each box on a 8-day rotation. If one box is a little more crowded because I use it for weaning youngsters, which double their weight within 8 days, I do some spot cleaning in-between. After each day’s cleaning, I sweep the floor and make my shed look spotless. Returning to a messy, dirty shed is no joy.
If you find cleaning is becoming a chore, you are keeping too many mice!
There are ways to help you make general tasks less cumbersome though. Get organised. Try to use similar size and similar type boxes. Try to use the same type of drinking bottle. If something breaks, it is easier to replace it with another one of the same type. If you do not have the time for daily feeding, use pellets and hoppers (but make sure you get that protein level right. Sow rolls only have 16% raw protein. If fed exclusively, your mice will not have the breeding performance you expect!)
If you decide to change anything in your feeding mix or even the type of bedding, stick with it for two or three months. You will not be able to notice an immediate difference. Changes take time to take effect. Don’t change the diet often.
If you still find it hard to keep up, you are keeping too many mice!
Are you keeping too many varieties? A rule of thumb is, you need at least 12 boxes to build a successful stud. If you keep 5 varieties, that is 60 boxes. That is as many as I have and even though I have tried to make my shed as organised as the mafia, it is still a lot of work.
1*) The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 70, Issue 3, March 1960, Pages 307–312
2*) Raw protein is not the same as total digestible protein