Unfortunately, Metal Monkey Exotics no longer keeps or breeds Norway rats!
I strongly believe in responsible ownership of all animals, including feeders. So whether you decide to feed live, pre killed or FT, know all the dangers involved with each method and properly ready yourself for any and all mistakes, the care of, or exceptions.
Breeding Age and Weight
-Female rats are able to breed sometimes as early as 5 weeks, that should not be confused with ready to breed. Breeding early is higher in risk, and also doesn’t guarantee a high number in her litter. For those reasons, I go by the rule of “5 Months, or 250+ Grams“. Once a female has reached either of these two markers, I consider her to be able and ready to breed. Any sooner and I would be taking a risk. Considering how much time it takes to raise a female rat, or to choose females I believe will improve or maintain high production in my colony, I do not want to lose a female rat because of simple impatience.
Being kept on the schedule in this article, my females have shown to produce good sized, healthy and chubby litters up to and over 15 months, even if it is a small litter near the end; and females will gradually produce smaller litters as they age. Once they reach the 15-17 month mark, I will retire them to baby sitting duty for grow up females or weaners. They do a good job of socializing with the younger girls.
**It should also be noted that any females that have a poor experience (extended hard birth, cannibalize litter for any reason after many successful litters, poor health after weaned) she is evaluated and it is decided whether to retire with good quality of life, or if it would be more humane to put her down.
-Males are fertile between 6 and 7 weeks of age, however, many females will not allow a male of that size and age to breed with her. It may be because she does not recognize him as a suitable or desirable mate. For that reason, I will wait to breed my males until they are near or over 300+ grams. You can certainly put them together as soon as you think is adequate, but realize that you may not get litters very quickly, especially if the females are seasoned and large breeders.
I’m going to attempt to make this next part as easy to understand as possible. I know how I write and how confusing it is to read! If you have any questions or want further advice, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or as always, seek out a forum like ball-pythons.net, where there are many people all very experienced with rats and their care; and willing to help out.
If you’re coming from my last article “Breeding Feeder Rats – Housing and Food “, then I am to assume you have covered all of the necessary arrangements to keep rats.
12 female rats – 1 litter a week
The goal here is to breed enough rats to provide a feeder rat each week. This is easily met with one litter weaning a week. Most rats give an average number of 9-14 pups per litter. It takes conscious selective breeding for the largest and healthiest females with excellent mothering skills to achieve high numbers. ALWAYS hold back females that grow quickly and are from a line of good mothers.
- 2x Males
- 12x Females
- 4x Nursing tubs
- 2x Breeder tubs
- 2x Holding/resting bins **At any given point in time, you will have 1-3 females resting for 4 weeks before they move back into the cycle.
That is the schedule for your female rats while they are breeding. I like to do everything on a Saturday, so for that convenience, we will use the month of August – October to outline what happens each Saturday.
August 2 – Week 1
First female (1) goes into the male’s tub to begin breeding
August 9 – Week 2
Female 1 has finished one week with male
Second female (2) goes in to breed
August 16 – Week 3
Female 1 has finished two weeks with male
Female 2 has finished 1 week with male
Third female (3) goes in to breed
August 23 – Week 4
Female 1 has finished 3 weeks with male
Female 2 has finished 2 weeks with male
Female 3 has finished 1 week with male
Pull 1 and put her into an empty nursing tub to give birth
(female 4 is put in with male)
August 30 – Week 5
Female 1 has birthed a litter (days old)
Female 2 has finished 3 weeks with the male
Female 3 has finished 2 weeks with the male
Pull 2 and put her into an empty nursing tub to give birth
(female 5 is put in with male)
September 6 – Week 6
Female 1 has had her litter for a week
Female 2 has birthed a litter
Female 3 has finished 3 weeks with the male
Pull female 3 and put her into an empty nursing tub to give birth
(female 6 is put in with male)
September 13 – Week 7
Female 1 has had her litter for 2 weeks
Female 2 has had her litter for 1 week
Female 3 has birthed a litter
(female 4 is pulled to birth in empty tub)
(female 7 is put in with male)
September 20 – Week 8
Female 1 has had her litter for 3.5 weeks
Female 2 has had her litter for 2 weeks
Female 3 has had her litter for 1 week
(female 4 has birthed a litter)
(female 5 is pulled to birth in empty tub)
(female 8 is put in with male)
– Pull Female 1 and put her into a resting tub, her litter is either gassed, fed off or growing in a holding tub to reach a larger size.
September 27 – Week 9
Female 1 has been resting for 1 week
Female 2 has had her litter for 3.5 weeks
Female 3 has had her litter for 2 weeks
(female 4 has had her litter for 1 week)
(female 5 has birthed a litter)
(female 6 is pulled to birth in empty tub)
(female 9 is put in with male)
– Pull Female 2 and put her into a resting tub, her litter is either gassed, fed off or growing in a holding tub to reach a larger size
I’m sure many of you are scratching your heads at all of that, not understanding a word of the mumbo jumbo. Well, for those of you that learn by seeing, here is an excel spreadsheet with the rotation represented.
MALE 1 = Male 1’s Bin
MALE 2 = Male 2’s Bin
LTR = Tub number, and week litter is born
T# (ex. T1, T2) = Tub number, and nursing litter
V = Weeks the female is resting (vacation)
You can see I prefer to have 2 males. I like to have a back up male just in case one doesn’t get it done. It happens more than I’d like, so it’s a good insurance plan to keep Mother Nature in check. For those of you that can’t see the little picture, I’ve included a link to the spreadsheet at the bottom of this page.
Realistically, rats are ready to wean at 3 weeks (21 days) of age, and it’s honestly the way I do it all the time, unless it is a late in the week birthing. If you find a female rat is giving you that look; tired, thin and trying her best to get away from the little teat suckers, you can definitely wean them and give the female a break if you’re just at 21 days.
Humane Euthanasia for Rats
I am writing this small section to direct you to my Humane Euthanasia article that outlines the socially and humanely acceptable methods for euthanizing your rats.
I do not support other methods, I understand some commonly practiced methods may be approved by the AVMA, but only for qualified and supervised professionals in a controlled environment. I feel that the margin of error is too large to promote with good conscience regardless of the condoning by the AVMA.
Feeders or not, they deserve respect. Without them, you would not be able to keep your snake.
I’ll update this as I think of things, but this should get you well on your way. 😉 Have fun!!