Author Topic: Breeding for non-pets  (Read 9612 times)

Offline Wheeljack

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Breeding for non-pets
« on: May 05, 2011, 09:48:58 PM »
This sticky is for anyone who breeds rats for food but is interested in doing it as humanely as possible.  Please just remember that this is a PET rat forum and while there are some snake lovers on here, the majority of people don’t want to be reminded the animals they love are sometimes fed to others.  Pictures/discussions of euthanasia or feeding are not to be posted here.  Please use the search bar first to find answers to your questions but if you need further help pictures of setups are fine, just put something in the subject line of the post (ie: feeder setup) so our more sensitive members can elect not to view the post.
You can also always contact me via PM if you have enough posts (username is Wheeljack) or email me directly (osakajones @, if you have any further questions.

The search box is in the upper-right corner of each area of the forum.  If you have a housing specific question, it’s easiest to go to the ‘Home Squeak Home’ section and do your search from there.  If you have a general question and aren’t sure what forum to go to, you can do a search from the main ‘Rats Rule’ area and it will search all the sub-forums for you.

Caging:  Large wire cages with plenty of ventilation are best for adult or juvenile rats.  Giving each rat as close to 2 cubic space of feet is ideal.  Rats have very delicate respiratory symptoms and aquariums, racks or bin cages simply do not provide enough ventilation for optimal health.
Craigs List, Kijijji and Free Cycle are great places to get used ferret, sugar glider, chinchilla or large bird cages that can be modified for rats.  If you want to invest in something more long-term Martins Cages and Ferrer/Critter Nations by Midwest are excellent cages.
Pregnant moms and very young babies (under 3.5 weeks old) can stay in a bin cage or aquarium until the babies are old enough for a wire cage.
Bedding:  Cedar and pine are toxic to rodents (and to your herps).  Softwoods such as these give off phenols which raise liver enzymes in mice and rats as well as cause respiratory irritation.  There is also some concern that feeders living on softwoods can have oils on them that will be transferred to your snake—at this time I can’t find any hard info either proving or refuting this, but wanted to mention it.
Good, safe beddings are Aspen, any of the unscented versions of pelleted litters made out of recycled paper (Yesterday’s news, Esquisicat Recycled Pelleted bedding, ect) or unscented loose litters made out of recycled paper (CareFresh, Sunseed Fresh World Bedding or Ecobedding).  Plain shredded paper is also an option, but it does need to be cleaned more frequently than the other types.
Enrichment:  Rats are very intelligent animals and cannot be kept humanely without ‘something’ to do.  Racks, aquariums and bin cages simply do not allow them the opportunity to climb, jump and run about enough to develop proper muscle tone (remember, your snake will be eating this anima eventually.  Do you want them eating an animal that is full of lean muscle or one that is nothing but fat because of lack of exercise?)
-Wheels are usually popular.  For rats you need a minimum of a 12” solid surface or mesh wheel  Wheels with horizontal bars are not save.  Silent Spinners, Wodent Wheels and Stealth Wheels are all popular
-hides:  these are simple, basically anything they can hide in that is easy to clean or replace.  Empty coke, cereal or any cardboard box works great for this.
-Misc—boxes and bags to play in, tissues to shred, bird toys to play with, cat balls stuffed with food, stuffed toilet paper tubes stuffed with treats, hammocks, ropes, etc.  The housing section of this forum has a ton of ideas.

2. Diet:  For your snake to get the best nutrition possible, your feeders also need to have the best nutrition possible.  This means feeding a species appropriate diet.    Ideally you would feed a rodent block and supplement with fresh fruits/veggies and healthy leftovers from your own dinner.
Some good blocks are:
Harlan Teklad Rodent diets (the 2018 is a good one for breeding colonies).  HT is only available online, if you search you’ll see several rescues sell it.
Oxbow Regal Rat :  Some Petsmarts sell this in store and it can be ordered from several sources online.  It’s a very healthy food, but some rats refuse to touch it.
Mazuri 6f:  Fairly popular food for people who breed rodents in bulk.  Available at some feed stores or online.
Non medicated hog feed:  There are a few brands of hog and sow feed that have an identical ingredient list and nutritional profile to Mazuri 6f, just be sure to make sure it’s not medicated and doesn’t have extra copper added.  Available at feed stores.

Non block options:
You can also make a fairly decent diet for rodents by using a high-quality dog food and a grain mix.  For the grain portion,  just search on this forum or google for ‘Suebee’s’ to get an idea of what’s good to include.   The grain portion does not contain enough protein so you have to add a dog food that is appropriate for rats.  This means they need less than 18% protein and as low a fat content as possible (if you are raising African Soft Furred/Natal rats, they can take up to 23% protein).  Senior or lite formula dog foods are your best bet on this, just make sure it’s a GOOD dog food.  Cheap dog foods contain dyes and possibly ethoxyquin which are not good for your feeder animal and definitely not good for the predator that eats them.  Good brands are Solid Gold Holistique, Blue Buffalo, Wellness or Natural Balance.

Rats enjoy fresh vegetables, fruits, and leftovers from your own dinner.  Nearly anything you can eat, they can eat also.  A list of what is NOT safe for them to eat is available here ->
Pregnant moms enjoy some extra protein in the form of scrambled eggs, chicken bones, baby food or superworms.

Things not acceptable as a staple diet
Seed mixes, Hamster/gerbil/mouse/rat diets from the petstore, alfalfa pellets, rabbit or guinea pig food, anything manufactured by KayTee, sugary human cereals, cat food, dog food only or a diet of only human junk food.  Remember, whatever goes into your rat eventually goes into your snake, so keep it healthy.

3. Breeding
 Since this is a forum for pet rats we obviously want the breeding done as responsibly as possible.  You will find a ton of information about good, ethical breeding practices by searching the forum.  Breeding for food is a little bit different in the number of babies produced and the number of litters a female has, but in general don’t breed your female rats too young or too old (minimum of 4 months, maximum of 12months) and breed them as little as possible.  They physically can have back-to-back litters but it’s hard on them so if at all possible try to give the mom’s a rest if you can.
Rats should stay with mom and be allowed to wean naturally if possible.  This means leaving the babies with her until 5 weeks.  The male babies need to be separated from mom and their sisters at this point as the boys are now capable of impregnating females.

One other thing I want to mention.  It’s always fun to play around with colors, but please familiarize yourself with a condition called Megacolon and what markings are linked to it.  Many of those lovely rats with blazes and split-caps are carrying a gene called high-white which has been linked to Megacolon.  This is a painful and fatal condition and animals carrying high-white should be removed from your breeding program.   This site has some good info on it:
4. Euthanasia
The stance of this forum is to feed humanely pre-killed food whenever possible.  We do understand there are a few snakes that will only take live, but believe that for the sake of the snake and feeder both, converting to eating pre-killed is the most ethical choice.
As of right now, the latest edition of the AVMA’s euthanasia guidelines only list two methods of humane euthanasia for small animals that are accessible to the general public—cervical dislocation or a gradual introduction of Carbon Dioxide.  There is to be no discussion of euthanasia on this forum, but feel free to email or PM me if you need any additional information on it.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2011, 09:51:48 PM by Marybelle »