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The Fun Mouse: Mouse Information: Maternity Nannies


Using a Nanny

A nanny is another doe who helps the mother rear her litter. Her nanny should be introduced to her at least 4 days before she is due. This helps her settle in with her new friend. A mouse nanny can be very helpful to the mom. Nannies will bring food into the moms nest while she's heavily pregnant and can't move well. She will also do so while mom is taking care of her young, such as nursing them. When a mother gives birth, her nanny usually assists in the delivery. As the mother has a baby she will often pass it off to the nanny to clean while she delivers another baby. This is a big help for the mom. A nanny will also help take care of the young when mom needs a break from being with the babies. She will clean them and keep them warm. Nannies often spend far more time with the babies than mom does. Using a nanny takes a lot of stress off mom. It also helps the mother recover much faster than if she was to raise the babies on her own. Having so many babies at a time can be very hard and stressful, which will take a lot out of a mouse. Keeping track of them all, cleaning, feeding, etc is a lot for a little mousie to do alone. Mothers with nannies recover from litters a great deal faster as mothers with no nannies.

There is a potential down side to nannies though. On a rare occasion, some nannies have been known to kill the babies. Sometimes they do this on purpose and sometimes they kill them with kindness. The nanny might get jealous and kill the babies. She may feel threatened that the babies will get more attention than her. She feels the need to eliminate the babies for her own gain. There are also some nannies that want the babies all for themselves. In theses cases the nanny takes the babies and doesn't let the mom near them. When this happens the babies eventually starve to death because the nanny doesn't have any milk to give them. Different lines of mice tend to have higher or lower risks for bad nanny behavior. Some lines are extremely good nannies and others have bad tenancies. Selecting a nanny can greatly help eliminate the risks of a bad nanny.

Rarely will a mother and nanny from well bred stock not get along. Additionally, nanny theft or harm to the babies from the nanny is extremely rare with well bred and well tracked lines, so long as nanny selection is done properly. With that said, keeping a nanny in with a mom is a personal choice that only the mouse caregiver can make after hearing both sides of the debate.

Nanny Selection

You should never use more than one nanny. Using more than one nanny greatly increases the risks that something can go horribly wrong, including death of the babies. Adding more factors, such as more mice, can only possibly increase the risk. In no way can using more than one nanny help. Additionally, mom deserves a relaxed environment. More mice adds more commotion, increasing her stress.

Using a nanny that has previously helped rear a litter is the safest (repeat nanny). This way you have a much better idea of knowing what to expect from the nanny, be it how she interacts with the mother or how she treats the babies. Like people, some nannies are great with babies and some are not as great. Most nannies are fabulous. However, some (few) nannies will ignore the babies completely because they don't know what to do. Some (few) nannies may also cause problems for the mother and babies. Repeat nannies have a better idea what to do and can help the mother more. If a nanny isn't taking to the babies it is best to remove her from the mothers tank. However, understand that being a first time nanny can be startling to her. It might take her a day or 2 to adjust. If a nanny causes problems for the mother and/or babies, remove her immediately.

A nanny mouse should be between the general breeding age, 3-8 months old. A doe that is too young will only cause more problems for the mother than she is worth. The mother will do more babysitting the young doe than the young doe will actually help her. This only adds to the stress and work for the mother. On the other side, an old doe should never be used either because being a nanny is hard work and can take a lot out of a mouse. Older does should be in retirement, not helping rear young. Rearing babies at an old age can take a lot out of a nanny, quite possibly reducing her life span.

When selecting a nanny, never use a doe that has had babies before. If she has, it greatly increases the risk of her stealing the babies. Previous moms usually have a stronger maternal instinct than virgin does which is what makes her desire to take the babies for her own stronger. If baby theft happens, fighting often occurs. Some mice will literally fight over the babies, playing tug-of-war with them. This results in injured babies and often dead babies. A mother and nanny can actually rip the babies in half by tugging on them.

The nanny you choose should be lower in the pecking order than the mother. This helps insure that mother and nanny will get along and the mother has more control. It also helps reduce the risk of the nanny taking the babies. Using a more dominant nanny is a huge risk to mother and babies. Because it is best to use a nanny lower in the pecking order than the mother, it is best to use a nanny that has previously been housed with the mother so you know which one is more dominant. This also helps insure that introductions will go smoother and they will get along better. A mother should never be stressed when pregnant, including introductions. The most ideal circumstance is using one of the mothers less dominant sisters as her nanny.

When introducing a mother to her nanny, do so in a neutral territory as you would when introducing any mice to another. It is best to hold them together, rubbing their scent on each other. Then place them in a small holding area with plenty of ventilation and room to move around, yet not much else to do other than get to know each other without distractions or things to fight over (such as a wheel, food, treats, etc). Being in a small area helps insure that they will ge along. A small or medium kritter keeper works well. While they are in the holding area, prepare the nesting tank. Do this close to the newly introduced does so you can take action if fighting occurs. Read the section on Housing for mother and babies for ideas on nesting tanks. Once the tank is fully prepared, place mother and nanny in there at the same time. Watch them closely to insure there is no fighting. Small spats that involve mild squeaking and slapping are fine. If the mother and nanny get too upset, it is best to separate them by removing the nanny. Note that mice need to work out their pecking order. This is perfectly normal and needs to take place. It is okay if they don't get along perfectly right away. However, they should never fight, argue constantly, bite for keeps, or rumble (rolling around fighting). If you need to separate mother and nanny, do not introduce another doe to the mother for at least 24 hours. If you try a new nanny, again use good introduction techniques. It is generally not recommended to try more than one nanny as it can be too stressful to the mother. It is also best not to introduce the mother to any other mouse within 3-4 days before she could possibly give birth. At that point it is best to let her rear her young by herself as more introductions closer to birth will increase her stress too much.

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