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ghorsley 10-22-17 10:16 PM

Expanding Our Rat Breeding Operation
We currently own 22 snakes and breed ball pythons as a hobby. We have owned more in the past, and likely will again, but we have refined our collection for now and are about to move, so it will stay this size for the next 6-12 months at least.

We work with another local breeder (ball pythons and green tree pythons) to put on reptile educational programs and to exchange breedings/hatchlings. They currently keep around 40 breeders and produced 20 hatchlings this year. They will also likely expand in the future, but probably no sooner than 6-12 months from now.

We have been breeding our own rodents (Norway rats and African multimammates) for almost a year, and we have seen tremendous savings in doing so (down from spending $100+ per month to under $30). We have produced enough to feed our collection well, to feed the other local breederís hatchlings, and to produce extras for friends with snakes and to sell as pets. Itís been really fun, too.

Because of the intensity of this move and all of our other animals and projects, we have decided to euthanize all of our rodents and wait to start over in the spring, which is not going to be a problem, seeing as our freezers are full of rodents. However, the other local breeder with whom we work would like us to expand our production in this upcoming year to produce for them as well, and would like to eventually partner with us to stock our local pet stores by providing funding and labor.

Thus, I have a lot of work to do.

Our current plan is to build a rat barn on our new property next spring/summer (weíre thinking cob/strawbale style for maximum climate control efficiency). I am trying to determine the necessary size/facilities now. I will likely need tonnes more help in the future to figure out the specs, but for now, these are some of my most important questions:

(1) How many breeder females do we need in production to feed 60+ adult ball pythons/GTPs and a seasonal production of 40+ hatchlings? Is there a handy formula that we can apply to figure in expansion?

We have never actually bothered with calculations. Breeding rats has been so cost-effective that we just chose to wing it and produce a bunch more than we needed.

(2) What is the best chew-resistant bin to use for rats?

We use black plastic concrete mixing tubs for our Norways, but certain groups seem to chew out more readily than others, which is an expensive problem over time. We didnít want to take risks with the multimammate mice after raising them experimentally in glass tanks, so we bought stainless steel buffet bins and used them for the ASF rack. These have been perfect, but they are not large enough to breed Norways in.

(3) Whatís the best watering system to employ?

Currently, we have nipples suspended in the bins on tubing that is connected to a valve on a 7-gallon plastic brewing bucket that sits on top of the racks. Is there a more efficient way to do this?

(4) Where do you buy your water nipples?

All of the ones that we buy end up leaking a lot. A lot. We took each and every one apart and tightened the spring mechanisms inside. Still leaked. We cut the spindles short so it would be harder for the rodents to hold them in place and let them drain. Still leaked. Some have nickel in them, so we thought they were corroding. We bought brass nipples, and had to redo the system because they required a different size of tubing. That helped, but didnít seem to fix the problem entirely. Do rodents prop them on drip with pieces of bedding to make our lives harder?

Thatís a good start. If anyone else has built their own medium-scale rodent operation and has some great tips, they would be much appreciated.


pinefamily 10-22-17 11:22 PM

Re: Expanding Our Rat Breeding Operation
Can't offer too much in specifics, as brands etc. will be different to over there. However, it's been our experience that rats will chew any tub that isn't completely flat inside (no raised edges or corners).
We've actually gone away from rats, due to the time involved cleaning, the smell, and how they seem to go off breeding during winter. Now we are breeding rabbits (Flemish giant x NZ giant) and guinea pigs. Less cleaning, and the upside is we get occasional meat for ourselves.

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