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Worried about handling babies!

Hi everyone,

I am a newbie to the site, I have kept fancy rats for years, but after I lost the final girl from my last group :( , I decided to have some mice instead, as I have wanted some for years.

I am now the new mummy of four lovely girls, a mum and her three daughters. There names are Blossom, Gertie, Enid and Sylvie and they are gorgeous (and a bit mental).

I desperately need some advice though as a week after I brought the girls home it became obvious that Gertie and Enid were pregnant (they started to look like golf balls).
I'm so annoyed as they were only about 7-8 weeks so far to young really.
They have both had there babies though, and are doing brilliantly. Nanny Blossom and Auntie Sylvie have stayed with them, and they are all helping and looking after the babies together.

I haven't touched the babies or the nest as I am terrified of upsetting the mums and them harming the babies. I have managed to get a good look at them regularly though, there are 14 in total :shock: and they all look lovely and healthy.
The adults haven't been with me long enough to trust me yet, which doesn't help. We have have only got to the hand sniffing and taking treats from me stage as I have been trying to leave them in peace as much as possible because of the babies.
They are still quite skittish but they seem completely happy and relaxed when they are eating and playing etc. They must be nervous though as they relocated the nest recently.

We have decided to keep all of the babies as I have fallen in love with them. I also know that the mums and babies could suffer from health problems etc because of being bred so young, so I will feel happier if they stay with me, and I can make sure they are well cared for. I know I need to separate them at about 4 weeks old so that they don't start multiplying like gremlins.
I plan to set up two lovely new habitats for them so that I can have a girl gang and a boy gang.

This is where I have a problem though. I need to be able to handle the babies and sex them as soon as possible really. I need to know how many boys and girls in total so that I am able to order two appropriate sized tanks, and the extra kit I need, ready for the 4 week mark.

Does anyone have any advice as to how to handle the babies without upsetting the mums too much. I'm really worried that I will do something wrong and the mums will harm the babies. I know I need to remove the adults from the tank, but this is going to be a nightmare I think, because there are 4 of them on guard so the nest is very rarely left unattended.
I am also a bit concerned that they haven't been cleaned out since the day before the babies arrived. I have spot cleaned every day but have had to leave a fair portion of the cage untouched because of the nest.
Is it too risky yet to handle the babies and clean the cage up a bit and should I wait a bit longer?
Gertie's babies are 13 days old today and Enid's are 10 days old today.

Sorry for such a long winded post, thank you for reading it and any advice will be gratefully received :)

Comments

  • _AnnB_AnnB Legacy
    Posts: 161
    Hello and welcome to the forum.

    Although I've been keeping mice for a number of years, I don't have much knowledge of breeding (like you, a couple of my mice ended up giving me surprise litters). I know that breeders regularly handle babies almost from day one and usually don't have any issues. I waited for three or four days before handling mine to give mum time to bond with the babies first and then I think I just took out the house containing the babies so I could handle them but you could always put mum and her friends in an empty bath tub with some toys/food to keep them occupied, then you could have a look at the babies.

    It's normal practice not to clean out the cage too much whilst the babies are still in the nest but I would imagine that they would almost be ready to leave the nest and start exploring now so you'll be able to give the cage a good clean soon.

    It can be incredibly difficult to sex mice but by the time they're four weeks, you should be able to see testicles on the males. I find that it's easy to tell when they're sitting on the edge of a food bowl or climbing the bars of the cage. The females should certainly all be able to live together but you might not be so lucky with the boys as they can start fighting as they mature. Some of us have had males neutered so we don't have to keep them separately.
  • _Pixie_Pixie Legacy
    Posts: 122
    I handle all my babies from day two, i let mum have the first day and night with babies and then i check the babies over.
    It's important to check the mums over as soon as they have birthed for any medical issues such an swelling on the vaginal area, prolapse, and just to make sure there condition is good. I do this because any stuck babies, or any issues in the vaginal area can be fatal and must be seen to right away so make sure mums are all good.

    I let mums stay with there babies a good day or two to make sure she is settled and fed all babies and i don't interrupt before there first feeds, other than that i handle daily and check genders daily and milk bellies.

    If the mums are nervous i would suggest a quick handle to just check them over, if the mum feels there is something wrong with her babies or cannot cope that's when she will eat them, or if very stressed out.

    You say they are not yet used to you so i would say set up another area and pop both mums there secure out of the nest and pop some tasty treats and high protein food in there while you handle, rub your hands in some of the bedding and then have a look. I do this out of habit though, i like to make it less stressful for the mums and babies.


    Most my mice are already used to me but and let me handle there babies while they are around the tub but some are a little more on edge and protective so thats when i take them out of the tub and into a new area with some smelly foods.

    I also pop something tasty into the cage the babies are in after iv'e handled to show mum the good of letting me have a look leaving something positive behind after i have handled.


    edit:

    sexing mice, i can do it from day three but then best time to sex for those unsure i say is around day 9-11 when very noticeable nipples show on the babies, that's when i confirm my gender count just because sometimes the spacing can be tricky with a couple of babies.

    nipples = female
    no nipples = male

    a nice website to help you sex your babies :)

    http://www.thefunmouse.com/info/sexing.cfm
  • _Wheels_Wheels Legacy
    Posts: 10
    Thank you both for the good advice. I feel a bit less worried about handling them now.
    I think I will get the adults out this weekend and have a quick look at the babies to get a rough idea of how many of each sex I have. I'm hoping that I can do it from the nipples. Thank you for the link to the sexing page, that's going to be really helpful for me as I'm not very confident about sexing them from the bottom end :) .
    I'm hoping that I don't have any problems with the boys, I'm going to keep my smaller tank and a spare tank that I have as back ups though so I have somewhere to house boys if they start arguing and need separating. I can see me ending up with tanks everywhere :lol:
    I'm glad I can give the cage a good clean when the babies start wandering about. Should I try to keep the nest in-tact even if its smelly or can I just clean it out completely?
    I cant wait for them to start wandering around the tank :D
  • Posts: 0
    I don't have any extra advice but just wanted to wish you good luck with it all :)
  • _Wheels_Wheels Legacy
    Posts: 10
    Thank you so much everyone for your advice, I managed to get all of the girls out without to much drama last night, and was then able to have a good look at the babies.
    They have all got there eyes open now and are little loonies, they were sooooooo gorgeous. :love:
    The mums were good as gold when they went back in. I tried to put all of the babies back in the nest so it wasn't so obvious that I had been messing about with them. They were right little monkeys though and were just running about all over the place. Nanny Blossom regained order when she got back in though, and within about 10 mins everyone was back in the nest and behaving :lol:
    We discovered that we have 17 babies not 14 as originally thought :shock: There are 9 girls and 8 boys I think, so that's a pretty good split.
    The girls are no problem as they will all stay together in a big group. Im more worried about the boys though, I cant decide if I should try the boys in a big group of all 8, and see how it goes, or if I should maybe split them into two groups of 4.
    Does anyone have any opinions?
    I will try to get a nice photo of them in the next few days to post. xx
  • _Pixie_Pixie Legacy
    Posts: 122
    I keep my bucks in groups okay but i like to keep my groups to at least five and must have a lot of floor space and many hiding places.
    Id say split of into to two groups of four. All you will have to watch out for is any fighting in the group as they get older which can happen due to hormones, just a 50/50 chance really.
  • _Wheels_Wheels Legacy
    Posts: 10
    Thank you everyone.

    I am trying to get a decent picture to post so you can see the little monkeys. I have got about 50 photographs so far of blurred fur and bums disappearing out of shot. :roll:
    They just wont stop running, jumping and acting like loons long enough for me to get a good one. I will keep trying though and as soon as I get a nice one I will put it on. :)
  • _SOFdeLUX_SOFdeLUX Legacy
    Posts: 4
    Congrats on the babyboom :)

    Luckily mice can cope with way to early pregnancy and giving birth.
    Normally they are good mothers, but stress can make them harm the babies.
    It's really important to rescept the mother and what she wants.
    I usually give the nest a quick check when the babies are just a couple of hours old - I check for eyecolour and sex them.
    Then the mother gets her peace and quit. I give a check daily just to make sure both mother and babies are okay.
    You also have to handle them a bit daily imo so they can get use to you.
    Micebabies at 2-3 weeks are a bit suicidal so keep two fingers around the root of the tail so they won't jump - just until they feel safe with you.
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