Questions from a first-timer

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Questions from a first-timer

Post by seafolly on Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:43 pm

Hi guys,

I was just reading through the threads about methodologies and I know this is precisely where I hesitate regarding breeding. I understand why culling is good. The weak ones weren't necessarily meant for survival and it gives the stronger ones a better diet. Also, bucks...I'd rather know they were euthanized humanely rather than give them to someone who might live feed or neglect them. I feel 100% responsible for lives I bring into this world and am realizing that I probably have to do this alone as I haven't found any contacts that want unknown pet store type mice for feeding purposes.

How do you guys cope? I mean, I'm picturing the moment I hold up a pinkie ready to flick and am so aware that hesitation can lead to error. Has anyone messed up a flick before? When do you do it? I am not remotely skilled enough to sex pinkies so young (and they need to be really young for me to have a hope of handling it). This might sound dumb but would anyone be willing to coach me through this when the time comes? ie. if I post photos of the pinkies, perhaps you all might be able to vote buck or doe, or perhaps suggest culling or saving one I might have misjudged. And you're sure the flick is the quickest, surest way? I know my hand isn't a baby mouse head but when I flick my skin it feels so harmless.

I'm that girl who likes to save every living creature (bald nestlings, orphaned voles, etc) so the idea of purposely bringing life into this world and immediately taking it away is a concept very new to me that I'm trying to figure out. (no I'm not judging anyone! I just know I need to be committed to this to start!)
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by WindyHill on Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:09 pm

Im like you, the girl trying to save everything.
It was hard for me the time time I had to do it, but I kept telling myself, it was the good of the litter & the momma. The smaller babies would of struggled to live. With the smaller ones out of the way, the other babies got enough to eat without draining the mom.

I actually had two litters born at the same time. I culled one litter to 5 and left the other litter at 12. I took pictures everyday at the same time to compare, and you would be amazed at how much bigger the 1st litter (the one I culled from) was! After that I started culling all my larger litters.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by seafolly on Mon Apr 09, 2012 6:27 pm

Thanks so much for your reply! And it really helps hearing from others who have similar values. I've really got to amp up the logic to it. I understand it, I do, but for some dumb reason it helps to hear it from other people who also prefer to save lives rather than take them. I know no one likes culling, but it doesn't bother some as much.

From looking at the growing up photos of the litters here (max eight) I can definitely see how lovely and chubby the few remaining are. Almost look like baby rats. Happy (which is a compliment - I adore rats)

I guess it just comes down to figuring out the method. Flick or freeze. In the UK forum someone suggested I test drive with a store bought pinkie to see how fast it freezes which makes a ton of sense, I'm just wondering if there's something around the house (a berry or vegetable or something) I might try instead. Probably one of the weirder questions you guys have heard, haha! Because I'd rather freeze, if it is fast. I just want to be sure my freezer will be fast enough.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by lunalady on Mon Apr 09, 2012 7:31 pm

I understand what you are going thru. Today, I had to cull a litter of 13 to 7. I just couldn't less than that. I did for the first time the flick to the head. I hit it the hardest I could. That little guy was still alive. Oh God, the horror. I put him on a napkin and smashed it with my first. How evil and very very bad I felt. Flicking as hard as I could sucked. I will not tell you how I culled the rest. I am sick to my stomach. I also, stop and rescue animals. This was a horrible thing and I will have nightmares tonite. I understand it is a needed process, but is there a less guilty one to do. So Sad, feeling so evil. Robin

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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by Laigaie on Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:11 pm

Lunalady: I'm so sorry you had to deal with that today! Are you aware that twitching and spasming of the muscles is a normal thing for dead animals? It's easy to think they're still alive when they're moving, even if the moving is mindless. They're already dead, but the neurons are continuing to fire aimlessly. Heartbeats and breathing stop, and the brain dies (or in this case generally is destroyed). You are not evil for stepping in where biology fails.

Also, I guess I'm posting on both of the cross-posted threads. That feels weird.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by lunalady on Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:22 pm

Crying as i write this, it was horrible. Snuffing out a newborn life. I hated playing God. I understand the necessity but I still feel like crap. What is the other options for the newborn babbies????

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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by seafolly on Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:24 pm

Haha yes it does feel weird. Happy I just wanted to gather as many opinions as possible to solidify my own, if that makes sense. The reptile forums are pretty useless saying "___ is bad." or "____ is humane." and won't actually explain why. My biology major self needs to know! x)

Lunalady, I'm so sorry you went through that. That post alone is enough to sway me far, far into the freezing camp. I cannot imagine how upset I'd be given I break down whenever a pet mouse dies of natural causes. It'd feel so much worse if I had a hand in it. At least the others went quickly though, hang onto that! You did well. *hugs* As far as I know, there are no other options, save letting the mother choose to cull. But then of course there are cons to that too.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by lunalady on Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:27 pm

I did need that hug. Thanks. Ok so freezing would be a option on newborns.

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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by seafolly on Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:29 pm

As far as I've read, only new, yes. Once pigment begins to form one needs to go another way. After a very focused day on the culling subject I'm fairly sure my plan is to cull the bucks on Day 3 (or 4, assuming they need three full days).
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by kawmice on Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:39 pm

Oh man Luna -I am sorry. It can be hard guys, I know. I have to get my butt in gear to go to work but I will respond in more detail when I get on the bus and thus have more time.

For baby mice before their eyes open I use the freezer method. Thus is how I was taught and in my experience it is quick ad long as you do not constantly check on them. Just a few short mins and they are gone. I know one or two if the breeders frown upon this but I have been doing it for many years. I can't flick either.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by lunalady on Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:50 pm

I just culled the smallest. I have no idea if the were bucks or does. Bucks are to go first.??? How can u tell them apart that small. Geesh this is rough.

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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by tinyhartmouseries on Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:33 pm

It's hard...but it is easier to know that I will not have extra mice to stress me out or to accidentaly go to bad homes despite all of my care in placement. I also have seen a large litter vs. a small and because of that, I do cull.
I don't prefer to flick but instead throw down hard on a hard floor. It was easier to do it at my old house, in this new one I may have to flick. I don't really like to freeze much anymore. It's too tempting to go get them out.

Even adults will still twitch and spasm, it's really gross. Rest assured that if a neck is broken or a head crushed, it's passed away.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by m137b on Tue Apr 10, 2012 9:35 am

When I first bred mice, back in high school, I decapitated the pups I culled, and back then I really culled litters, most I kept only 1-2, and always girls. It was a fool proof method, no chance of failure and it was the most reliable one I could accomplish.

Now I break the neck like I do with the adults. Simple, clean and again fool proof.

Freezing works, but they need to be exposed, no closing them up in a baggie or box.

A magnifying glass works wonders for sexing. Its just a matter of staring at them up close and personal, taking your time and comparing. Ususally I'll go through the litter at 1-3 days, do an initial sorting, put the bucks in one pile the does in the other than recheck 2-3 times. Once I'm certain the bucks are bucks I cull all but the one or two I think I'll keep then put them and the girls back with momma. Then at 5-6 days I go back and make my final decisions.


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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by doganddisc on Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:08 am

Here's a question that I've had on my mind for some time: with freezing, would it be possible/more humane to freeze with dry ice? (Assuming one can get their hands on and keep dry ice).
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by kawmice on Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:00 pm

Sorry I did not get back to you sooner. Working nights keeps me busy Plus I have been feeling a bit off lately. Sad

Anyway...... I refused to cull when I first started breeding. I started breeding (and have records from) in 2001. I started culling I believe in 2005ish. Like tiny said- I am a lot less stressed with less mice, especially bucks, to have to care for, rehome, ect. Plus the pups I do not cull are bigger and healthier then they would have been with a larger litter.

As far as who I choose to cull? It depends. I first cull the runts. Then it depends on what I am expecting from that particular litter. Bucks are always culled heavy and first after the runts. I then will cull the pups who are not what I wanted from the litter. Example:

My newest litter yielded 7 pups. I am trying to determine what these guys carry so I waited to see what colors they would be. There were no runts. I first culled a black pied carrier buck because he was a buck and because I do not need him. I wanted mom to have fewer, healthier babies. Next I culled his sister - another black pied carrier. I then culled an agouti pied carrier doe and kept 4 with mom. The four are a beige satin buck doe, ry satin doe, a beige buck, and a ry broken/ pied buck. So it all depends on your goals. Are you breeding for a specific color, recessive trait. Ect? These are questions you must ask yourself.

Dry ice- I do know breeders who use a co2 chamber with dry ice. It does work for young pups and pinkies. It does work for adults though.

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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by doganddisc on Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:17 pm

Kawmice, I was thinking more of freezing the pinkies with dry ice.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by seafolly on Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:46 pm

Thanks SO much for all of your replies. It really helps me to just talk it out with people. And obviously know I'm not alone in having trouble with "playing God" as Luna so aptly put it.

I know once the pigment shows, or rather the more they look like mice than pink blobs, there won't be culling from me. It must be done immediately, so I'd have to go by gender. Am I right in thinking it's harder to sex when they're new? In other words, is Day 3 okay to cull via freezer? I don't want to disturb the mother and lose them all.

I'm also glad to see a few step by step reports! I don't know if I can take them out all at once without freaking out the mother? Just to have as many comparisons as possible. And how long do I have to make my decision? Can I go by the process of elimination and put the "for sure does" back in as I go? Or will that make the mother more stressed to only get a few back at a time? As I said, I'm new at this, haha. I just need to do this right.

I can see the reasoning behind culling a really runty mouse, like if they're sickly, but using my dog as an example...she was the runt of the litter and today she's just as big as her siblings, a picture of health. Is there a high failure to thrive rate of runty mice?
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by LittleSniffs on Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:47 pm

kawmice wrote:Oh man Luna -I am sorry. It can be hard guys, I know. I have to get my butt in gear to go to work but I will respond in more detail when I get on the bus and thus have more time.

For baby mice before their eyes open I use the freezer method. Thus is how I was taught and in my experience it is quick ad long as you do not constantly check on them. Just a few short mins and they are gone. I know one or two if the breeders frown upon this but I have been doing it for many years. I can't flick either.

This is how I plan on doin it, the freezer, I don't think I would be able to do the other ways.

I don't see why they don't like it, unless there is a real reason. I would think it would be less painfull myself, just in case the flick don't work, they would suffer I would think.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by Rhasputin on Tue Apr 10, 2012 2:42 pm

Flicking pinkies is much more successful, and much less painful. Flicking a pinky in the head, completely crushes it's skull and, excuse the graphic description, but it scrambles their entire brain. Putting them in the freezer can take 10-15 minutes, which in my eyes isn't humane at all.

I use the flick method for mice up to 1 week old with 100% success. 2-4 weeks takes 2 quick flicks and a little more skill, but works just as successfully. For adults, I flick and dislocate.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by seafolly on Tue Apr 10, 2012 2:46 pm

I was hoping you'd reply! I remember reading you were against the freezing.

I just found this:
"4.|Between the ages of 5 and 20 days the body temperature for the onset of shivering increased linearly to the level found in adult mice. This was taken to indicate a change in the threshold temperature of the central control of shivering. The concomitant increase in the muscle size also contributes to the development of the thermoregulatory function of shivering."

Definitely indicates one needs to be really fast if choosing freezing (aka doing it ASAP). Any older would be a flick for sure for me. Can I ask, er, how messy the flick is? : /
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by jencandy on Wed Apr 11, 2012 2:10 pm

Im also new on the breeding scene (I dont even have a pair of breeders yet, just pet mice and am researching all the ins and outs of breeding first). Im glad to see someone asked what has been on my mind for weeks (regarding culling tactics). Ive asked a few breeders for their thoughts on this, and read quite a few articles about it. Im convinced at this point that it is necessary, but I feel like Im cheating nature. A big part of my goal is to be ethical, and I cant help but feel like culling isnt (even though I know it has to be done for decent, healthy babies). I think part of my problem is that most of my life my focus has been dogs (I turned my home into a doggy day care for a year, rescue every stray I find, etc), and I cant imagine seeing a litter of puppies and grabbing 1/3rd of them (or more) and going "well, you guys arent good enough. And youre a boy, you pee everywhere... So, time to die". Has anyone found ways to cope with the culling aspect of breeding? Or can someone find a way to get that image out of my head? lol. I know its needed, and I know if I leave it up to mama, its not going to work out in my favor. I agree with it from a logical stand point, but its the emotional aspect Im struggling with.

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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by seafolly on Wed Apr 11, 2012 3:49 pm

Hey Jen,

You're welcome! I've been meaning to ask for a while, I just had to pluck up the courage. Indeed, it's the emotional aspect that's the struggle as it's easy to see why we should do what nature would likely do for us in some other way if in the wild.

Reading about culling for days somewhat numbed me a little. I try to skip over the horror stories of attempts gone wrong. I think it's just a matter of searching within yourself what you feel you can handle. For me, having the logic at the forefront of my mind is critical. I also intend to do it the moment I'm allowed back in the cage so they're as non-mouse-like as possible. Distance is also necessary for me. Although I'm not 100% convinced, the stuff I have found does indicate that prior to day 4 or 5, their thermoregulation system hasn't developed and thus freezing might be the best way for me to do it. I've mulled it over for weeks and just know that I can't stomach a flick or a throw.

Despite settling on a method, I don't think it'll ever feel right to me. I may not last in the breeding circle but that's okay. If I try it once and regret it, I just won't do it again (breed). I completely understand how you're struggling with the, "Well you're a boy." or "Well you're the wrong colour." In terms of the boys I just think of the life ahead of them. Sure, I love male mice, but I can't take more than a couple at a time before the stench is too much. Other people may not be responsible if they can't handle the smell and set them "free." Or something awful. But that's my criteria - males go. It'd be different if I had fellow mouse fanciers nearby but I don't, unfortunately.

In short, I don't think this is something we'll ever truly feel okay about, and that's where we need to decide if we're suited for the breeding world or not. In my case, as I mentioned, I'm going to give it a go, but am aware once might be enough. Or I might be okay, knowing that going in, what I'm going to do. Preparation is pretty helpful.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by m137b on Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:40 pm

Try not to think of it as playing god. You already blew way past that phase when you put the buck and doe together. There is nothing natural about domesticated pets, they are 100% man made and as such it's your responsibilty to make sure you breed the healthiest mice possible. You made them, you might as well make them right.

Mice in the wild do not have giant litters, they just aren't built for it. If they ballooned out like our does do they'd either starve or be eaten. When I've raided wild mouse nests I usually find just 2-6. It's human selection that has produced mice who are capable of producing litters of 20+. Unfortunately their milk production hasn't expanded enought to compensate. So the pups either eek by in a constant state of malnutrition during their development, or they starve to death slowly. Sure they live, mice are survivors they can endure a lot, but does that mean it's humane.

And lets say there was a way to successfully raise a litter without culling. Now you've got a litter of 16 pups[to be modest], 8 bucks and 8 does. I can see 8 does, 8 does could be useful and easy to house since they can all stay together. But 8 brothers...

Culling has never bothered me, sure its unpleasant. But there are far more unpleasant aspects to breeding animals. And I'd rather cull a pinkie than a 6 week old who just doesn't make the cut.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by Rhasputin on Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:50 pm

Seafolly, the flicking really isn't messy at all. Sometimes the mice will have blood come out of their nose, but only a little.

A friend of mine once would wrap them in a paper towel, and flick them through the paper, so they didn't have to watch, and wouldn't see the blood if there was any.

I agree 100% with Cindy, also. There is nothing natural about raising mice in captivity to begin with, so we have to do things to keep them healthy and safe. Diet, housing, and husbandry, to include culling. Mice just aren't made to raise 10+ babies.
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Re: Questions from a first-timer

Post by seafolly on Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:37 am

The paper towel is an interesting method! Though I'd probably worry about it padding...I don't know WHY I think I'm going to screw up something so simple. Do you just lie them on a surface and flick downwards? Paper towel potentially on top? I think I was picturing something bizarre like holding them but that likely would mean huge room for error.

Very good point about how we'd already blow past the playing God by putting them together. Moving that to the top of my list of reasons why this has to happen. Though my buck and doe have yet to meet the time is getting close!
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