Our Journey into the Mouse Kingdom

Michael Bonnycastle
From the RMCA web site, June 2004

About 6 months ago my interest in mice was rekindled. I signed onto "Mouse@Horns" and after reading a lot of her material, I was hooked. I found 2 female mice but they were very skittish. I couldn't catch either one, and had to move them in a toilet paper tube to clean the cage. Generally they were a disappointment. Oh, well, I thought, perhaps if I breed one and get a litter, the offspring will be trainable if I start with them when they are young.

I looked for a male and finally (towards the end of February) found a pair of grey mice, William and Alice. They were quite young (3 1/2 weeks) and completely different from the ones I got earlier. From the day I got them, they would crawl onto my hand, explore, sniff around and, in short, they were wonderful pets. I kept them in a cage by themselves separate from the first two mice. They grew steadily. I weighed them regularily on a postal scale. When I got them William weighed 13 grams, Alice 20 grams. By the middle of April they weighed 24 and 30 gms. Then, on April 19, Alice's weight jumped to 45 gms and she was getting definitely pear shaped. On April 21 she weighed 51 gms so I moved William to a separate cage. Sure enough, on April 23 there were a whole bunch of babies.

Small Mice We waited a week before disturbing her. Then I picked up Alice and we moved the nesting material and found 9 very small, wiggling babies. Several were pink, two were black and others were mottled. Some were fat and 3 were definitely quite small. Finally, on day 12 (May 4) we cleaned out the nesting cage, moved Alice and the babies to a cardboard box and we (Louise and I and all our 6 children) picked up and handled all the babies. Alice seemed a bit nervous, but she trusted us. There were 6, quite large ones - 2 were white, 3 were grey and 1 was black. Then there were 3, really small ones, 2 grey and one black. A couple of days later they were 2 weeks old, and we handled them again. Now they were at the flea stage and would jump off your hand if you let them so the children had to sit on the floor and hold onto their tail if they wern't on the ground. We have handled them regularily ever since.

We noticed that Alice had separated the 3 very small babies from the bigger ones, for when she got into the nesting box to nurse, the bigger ones would push the small ones out of the way and they just couldn't get to suckle. Three days later (May 9, 2 1/2 weeks) one of the very small grey babies died. I thought that the small ones still wern't getting enough to eat so we put the 6 larger mice into a separate cage and left Alice with the 2 remaining tiny babies. We put food and water in the new cage and sure enough the larger mice were able to eat and drink. Even so, we put Alice in with the larger ones for 3 hours later in the day and then moved her back with the tiny babies for the night. We did this for several days, then when the litter was 3 weeks old we kept Alice with the small babies and weaned the larger ones. They did just fine.

Small Mouse At 3 weeks old the tiny black baby weighed just 3 gms, and the grey one 4 gms. The larger ones weighed 11 - 12 gms. At 3 1/2 weeks, Tiny Black was 4 gms, Tiny Grey 5 gms, larger ones 13 - 16 gms. A week later (May 20, 4 weeks old now) we separated the 6 larger mice into separate cages - 3 male and 3 female. We left the tiny babies with Alice. Now, (June 15, 7 1/2 weeks old) the larger female mice weigh about 23 gms and the males about 26 gms. But the tiny babies still havn't grown much! The Tiny Black weighs 8 gms and the Tiny Grey weighs 11 gms and they're still with their mother. They seem to be doing well, they're active, climbing all over the cage, drinking from the water tube, eating from the food dish, but at 7 1/2 weeks old they're amazingly small. Tiny Black has a glossy black coat and loves to be picked up - that's the children's favourite mouse. Tiny Grey is just like its mother and is really easy to handle too. All the mice are very easy to handle - sure, they'll hide in a tube if you try to pick them up, but pick up the tube and they'll crawl out onto your hand and sniff around, explore, run from hand to hand and generally be fun to play with.

William, in the meantime, lives in his own cage and seems just fine. He loves to be handled and comes out of his little box and noses the lid of the cage when I come around. I put my hand in and he crawls right onto it (after a good sniff or two) and then when we sit down to watch TV he explores around my lap, checks out the sofa and then he nestles into the crook of my arm and stays there while we watch the news. He's a very friendly mouse and a joy to be with.