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The Fun Mouse: Mouse Information: Housing for mothers with babies.


Selecting a nursery tank

After separating your breeding pair, you should put the mother in a nursery tank. It is safest to use a fish tank with a mesh lid (NEVER use a cage with bars of any kind as babies can fit through any bar width). If you intend to use a nanny, now is the time to introduce her to the mother on neutral territory. I find that 10 gallon tanks work best for mothers with babies. You should never use anything smaller than a 10 gallon tank as it is too small. Using a larger tank can work, but mothers often feel less secure in larger areas when they have babies. Keeping track of a dozen+ babies is hard to do and even harder when there is more places the babies could wonder off to. If the mother has a litter that is too large for a 10 gallon tank, you can move them all to a larger tank when the babies are 3 weeks old.

Food and water accessibility

When setting up the nursery tank you will need to make it adequate to support mother and babies. You also need to make it safe. Make sure they have an adequate water bottle. The bottle needs to be big enough to hold enough water for as many babies as the mother has as well as the mother and nanny, if you use a nanny. The bottle should be placed low enough so the babies can drink from it when they are around 2 weeks old. Never use a water bowl when there are babies around. Babies can easily fall in a water bowl and drown. Babies are extremely clumsy and don't know that water can kill them. They will not be able to get out of a water bowl, no matter how shallow it is. In addition, water bowls are often filthy. Mice tend to bury things, including water bowls. Wet bedding is a breeding ground for bacteria which can cause severe problems for all mice involved. In addition to water, you will need a big enough food bowl to feed all those hungry mouths. Babies eat a LOT of food. Mothers with babies also eat a lot more food than they do when they are not pregnant. Food dishes should also be easily accessible to young babies. A cat food dish often works well for a mouse food dish. It will need to be filled often though.

Nest Boxes

The mother will also need a safe place to have her babies. Her nest box should be big enough to fit her, her babies (keeping in mind that the mother could have 25 babies), and the nanny if one is used. The nest box shouldn't be too big though. Mothers need security of a small and dark place to rear their young. The nest box should be completely enclosed with the exception of a hole for the mother to get in and out of. It is preferred that the entrance hole is a little bit higher than the floor of the tank so that the babies don't easily wonder out before they are ready. However, don't put the hole too high for the mother to easily move in and out. The entrance hole should be 1 inch above the bedding. New born babies can easily wiggle out of nests. Sometimes they even hang on to moms teats when nursing, causing her to pull them out of the nest. The mother will put any stray babies back if they get out, but it is more convenient for her, as well as being safer for the babies, if you take preventative measures to keep them in. Don't leave one side of the nest box open so you can view the babies from the out side. While I understand a persons desire to see the babies, one needs to understand that the mother needs security and should be given her privacy as well as your respect for her space. If a mother doesn't feel secure with her nest box, she could kill her babies! Using a nest box with a pull-off or flip top lid work great. This way you can view the babies without upsetting the mothers nest. Having a flip top box doesn't mean that you can bother them when ever you like though. The mother needs her security and the nest shouldn't be disturbed in any form when the mother is with the babies. Closed bottom boxes are preferred over open bottom boxes. Babies can wiggle under the bottom of a bottomless box and get lost. They can wedge themselves in places that the mother can not get to, such as between the side of the tank and the side of the box. Baby mice can squeeze in really small spaces and get stuck. Babies can get caught between the bottom of plastic, wood, or other hard surface material used for a nest box and get severely hurt as well. Using a closed bottom box eliminates this risk.

Nesting material

When setting up the nest box, give the mother plenty of nesting material. Things like shredded paper, unscented/no aloe kleenex, hay (make sure you freeze or bake any hay before you use it to prevent bug infestations), etc. Cotton of any kind should never be used for babies, nor should it be used with any pocket pet of any age. Cotton can be swallowed and choke pocket pets. It can also get wrapped around the babies toes and limbs causing it cut off circulation. You can use fleece material but stay away from anything with threads as it has the same risk as cotton (cutting off circulation, choking, etc).

Toys (including wheels)

A mother and babies can have toys, such as a wheel, cat toy balls, rope (never use cotton. Hemp rope is okay), etc. When picking a wheel, make sure it is safe. Refer to the section of the site about wheels. A mother will be perfectly fine with a wheel when she is pregnant and after she has babies. A safe wheel is not a large danger to her or the babies. Wheels are actually extremely healthy for pregnant mice as well as mothers with babies. An active and physically fit mother will have a much easier time delivering babies and bouncing back from having her litter. A mother will know when to stop running on her wheel. Unless she is a skittish mouse, she will not over do it (skittish mice should never be bred anyway). After a proper diet, exercise is one of the most important things for a mother. It is proven in animals as well as humans that a physically fit and active mother will have healthier babies, be healthier themselves, and will deliver much easier. Sitting on the couch eating bonbons is a thing of the past ;)

Complete nursery example, including pictures.

Below is just an example of a nursery tank to help give you ideas for your own. Yours doesn't have to look like this. This is just what I prefer, after trying many different styles of nest boxes and housing arrangements.

Click on pictures to see them larger.

Front View
Nursery Tank

Top View
Nursery Tank

Next Box
Nest Box

Relocating to a larger tank

As stated above, mother and babies shouldn't be moved before 3 weeks of age. Before relocating, make sure you take the mother and nanny (if a nanny is used) out first and place them in a holding area where they can't see what is going on. Then move the babies *with* their nest into the new tank. It also helps if you use as much stuff from her old tank as possible (food dish, wheel, toys, etc). Once the tank is completely set up, place the mother and nanny in the new tank. After they are moved, leave them alone so they can get comfortable in their new tank.

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