Small Scale Rat Breeding
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.
This method is ONLY good for a snake that eats Frozen Thawed prey.
This method is NOT for snakes that will only eat LIVE prey.
- You want to breed your own feeders
- You have 1 snake
- But you don’t want to be over run with rats either
If you have 1 snake, I still recommend either buying bulk F/T from online suppliers. This is not only economical, but saves you a lot of time, smell and frustration.
Cost to Raise Your Own Feeders- Is it worth it?
As always when embarking on a new project, the first thing to outline is the COST, and it's no different here. Some of you may not care the cost and are interested solely in raising quality rats to feed your animals and that is understandable, but it's always nice to see a little bit of math and how much everything adds up.
Below is a short excerpt based on a topic from the forum Ball-Pythons.net by Sean (aka, Lord Jackel). It outlines the general costs for raising rats to feed 5 snakes for 6 months.
5 snakes means 5 rats per week * 26 weeks (6 months) = 130 rats total
|To buy at the pet store : 130 rats * $4 per rat = $520 avg.
|To buy F/T from a .com : 130 rats * $0.92 per rat = $120 for 6 months.
Avg. $0.69 each rat + $0.23 ($0.23 is what is costs to ship each rat total = $30)
|Initial Setup Cost : $368 - $428 for first 6 months.
Then $222 - $282 for following 6 months. Close, but not really worth it. And, this doesn't factor in time, smell and frustration!
If your snake only eats live, I do not recommend this.
Breeding Age and Weight
-Female rats are able to breed sometimes as early as 5 weeks, however it doesn't guarantee a high number per 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. 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.
Minimum Rat Breeding Group
At the very minimum, I recommend buying 4 young rats. 2 males, 2 females. They MUST be separated by sex!!!
٭Rats are social animals and need to have a partner at all times! Rats appear to suffer negative effects when not with a partner. For their physical and mental health, they need to be with other rats.
You’ll need at least 3 different spaces for these animals. (Maybe 5, if you need to raise up rats)
- 2 large tubs for the nursing mothers
- 1 large tub or cage for the males while not breeding females
- Optional **2 tubs for any weaners that you need to grow up to a larger size (one for each sex)
- CO2 Chamber, or have a source for dry ice to gas with CO2. Dry ice can be found at stores like Walmart or Krogers. I do not recommend any other form of euthanasia. (click here to go to my humane euthanasia article)
- Bedding: Pine pellets, shavings or recycled newspaper pellets. Mothers do need nest building material.
- Food: Mazuri 6 or 9F, Harlan 2016 or 2018, Kent rodent feed or a healthy mix
**If you plan on just feeding weaners, you can CO2 the animal at 4 weeks of age. They should weigh anywhere from 60-80 grams avg. This means you wouldn't need the 2 holding tubs.
Once the females reach 5 months of age, or 250+ grams, they are old enough and big enough to breed with minimal risk. If you’ve taken the time to buy young rats and socialized them, you’ll have a much easier time dealing with the mothers and her young when cleaning or moving.
Day 1 - Pair up one male and one female into each tub. Both females are being bred at the same time.
Week 1 (day 7)- Check on the little love birds!
Week 2 (day 14)- Is momma getting big yet?
Week 3 (day 21)- After the 3 weeks, you will remove the males from the tubs and put them into one large tub/cage to keep each other company. Females go into their own tub by themselves to birth.
Week 4- Both mothers should have plenty of nesting material. Shredded aspen works very well. They should have their litters during this 4th week.
Week 6 - You can put the females together to nurse both litters, the pups are old enough now that they should all be strong enough to each get their fair share of milk.
Week 8- The pups will be weaners and need to be removed from the mothers, separated by sex to grow up, or be euthanized with CO2.
With this process, your 2 females will have anywhere from 9-16 pups average. You can CO2 the litter, and you’ll have 18 - 32 weeks worth of food in your freezer for 1 snake.
- Prepare ahead of time and give yourself at least 2 months in advance to produce more weaners.
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.
Raising 4 adult rats to feed 1 snake
4 rats to feed
.83 lbs ea wk /rat
3.32 lbs eaten /week
13.28 lbs /month
50 lbs /bag
3.77 months/ 50 lbs bag
3.18 bags /year
$25 * 3.18 bags = $79.50 /year
40 lbs /bag
3 scoops /tub
36 scoops /bag
12 tub changes /bag
5 tubs /week
2.4 weeks /bag
21.67 bags /year * $6 = $130.02 /year
Raising your own feeders
Aspen l x w x h (Aspen is cheap and has been given very generously. This is an optional number)
4 cubic feet /bag
.083 cubic feet /tub (12″ x 6″ x 2″)
.42 cubic feet /week (for 5 tubs)
9.5 weeks /bag
2.4 months /bag
5 bags /year * $12 = $60 /year
Raising your own feeders w/ lots of aspen
Buying FT Bulk online
.99 each small rat
2.6 bags /year
$51.48 /year FOR 1 SNAKE
$38.16 shipping /box
$38.16 * 2 (for shipping once every 6 months) = $76.32 shipping /year
Buying Bulk online:
Raising your own feeders:
Everyone is welcome to double check those numbers. I checked and double checked, but I very well could have missed something.
Hope this helps those of you willing to pay for quality. This is still more costly than buying bulk F/T or from the pet shop, especially in initial setup cost, but it does guarantee quality food for your snake.