So at the beginning of March I will be starting my very first colony of feeder rodents. I am trying to research as much as possible, and I have come to a crossroad: mice or ASF rats? I know that ASF rats smell significantly less than mice do, which is favorable. But which is better? Which do you prefer, and why? Another problem I've found is, where would I even get ASF rats? They are not sold at any local petstore as far as I can tell, and I can't find any breeders on craigslist. Do you order them online? Finally, my local petshop sells dwarf rats as feeders, and I was wondering if they are similar to ASF rats smell wise, and are they good breeders? Thank you!
ASF's by FAR. I just started raising feeders a while ago and will be shutting down my mouse production in the next few months. Reason's below:
1. Male mice REEEEEK. So unless you cull them early you have to deal with the smell (it really is bad). By culling them early you are, on average, losing half your production as smaller / younger rodents. ASF's barely smell in comparison.
2. Mice scatter when you open their tubs and catching them (especially hoppers) is a challenge when cleaning / swapping them between tubs. ASF's just sit there and are very easy to move between tubs (I use the scruff method instead of picking ASF's up by the tail). They are just so much easier to deal with on cleaning day.
3. Faster production when they finally start breeding. This is because you cannot remove and reintroduce the male. Females are usually pregnant again within a few hours after giving birth. ASF's have evolved to reproduce this way so the females can take it.
4. Because you do not have to separate out the males to rest the females between pregnancies, you use fewer tubs.
5. ASF's grow larger (about 1.75 to 2 times) than mice so can produce more of a meal for the predator.
Once you've decided, let me know and I can give you some tips on setting up your tubs. Alternatively, if you or someone you know is handy, build (or buy) a rat rack.
Regular rats are apparently in between mice and ASF's smell wise but I haven't raised them. I believe their breeding requirements call for the most tubs as females need to be separated out into their own nursing tubs (1 female and litter per tub). I could be wrong about that though.
Last Edit: Feb 8, 2015 14:32:19 GMT -5 by bitbyter
Thank you so much! Today I bought two tubs to keep the critters in (I'm not buying the rodents until March but I figured I should start preparing now), do you still have to separate the babies from the parents with ASFs or is one tub all you need? If so, I guess I'll have to be returning one. ASFs definitely seem preferable to mice, and thankfully I found some breeders in the area. I think that is what I will go with. Thank you again for your advice!
Actually, I found two breeders in the area, and I am wondering if I should buy females from one and the male from another, to ensure that there will be no inbreeding. Is that a good idea or can you not introduce ASFs together if they were not born and raised together?
You can try introducing ASF's as long as they are very young (just after being weaned). Once they reach sexual maturity you CANNOT put them together or they will kill the intruder. Basically if you only have one breeding group (usually 1 male to 3 or 4 females), then you need 2 or more tubs depending on what size you want to cull them at.
If you are willing to cull them just as they reach sexual maturity then you only need two tubs. One for the breeding group and one for the weanlings (called a growout tub). As long as the ASF's in the growout tub are culled before sexual maturity, you can always add more weanlings as they are produced by the breeding tub.
If you want to cull the ASF's at full size, then you need more grow out tubs (not exactly sure how many yet) as you'll need to separate them into male and female groups. Doing the math, it looks like you'd probably need 5 growout tubs for them to reach full size. ASF's reach full size between 3 to 4 months old and once the breeding group is up to speed you can expect a new litter about every 3 to 3.5 weeks.
So, one tub for the breeding colony, one for the weanlings, one for the females at sexual maturity and one for the males? What else?
This seems like it will be very overwhelming, with how quickly they reproduce! I imagine you get the hang of it quickly though, and it's all about trial and error.
What do you feed your ASFs? I saw an organic homemade recipe for mice, but is there an option for rats? I'd like to feed them the best diet possible. I've seen a lot of people feeding them lab blocks, but I've also heard that they are not very nutritional.
Thank you again for all your help, I really appreciate it!
Being able to swap breeding pairs With ASF rat can be done. I have had much success. I only had one issue and that was with a group of Juveniles that I mixed together. Once of the Males was A serial killer. He went crazy and was snapping the others necks as fast as he could. He got 3 of them before I identified him, Once he was removed everything was fine. I have not come across any other issues. The only thing i have not been able to do is get Females to join each other. If any of them are pregnant or have young they absolutely will not accept any other rat to join the group.
I have been following the instructions (at the end of this post) for swapping groups and it works great. Keep in mind that a lot has to do with the temperament of your ASF rats. Mine are quite docile. I have only been bit by a pregnant or expecting female and they give a warning nip first. most of my females are so calm that I am able to grab a newborn pinky right from their nest. (most of the time to remove dead newborns)
My Ferrets now will only fight over ASF rats. Since I have been feeding them ASF's they are not as enthusiastic over the frozen mice I bought from rodentPro.
IF you have 2 different breeders and you can get them young enough. I would get 1:4 from one breeder and 1:4 from the other and swap the males. If you can keep track of them (It may be hard to do when you have over 100 of them) you can do line breeding and you could go for years without running into problems. From what I hear the largest problem with inbreeding is small litters and Neurological issues.
ASF rats breed like crazy and I would say have 1/3rd the smell of mice. I found the food recipe for rats on here a while ago I will see if I can find it and post a link to the thread. It gets quite expensive especially if you start getting hundreds of rats. I am moving over to a bird seed mix that has most of the ingredients and adding the other grains and nuts to it. Sunflower seeds will get the weight on the rats quick and helps when it is cold out since they are desert rats they do not like the cold.
One Issue I have come across is when you have 2 week old fuzzies and the another female gives birth in the same nest. the newly born Pinkies have to compete with the older fuzzies, this generally does not end well for the pinkies. If you have a Good mother she will notice this happening and relocate the pinkies to another nest. But then she could end up being the only on feeding them if the other females stay in the original nest. The good thing is you can transplant newborn pinkies to another female that have recently given birth. Also ASF's will not eat the babies just because you handled them or moved them. (like mice do) Sometimes you will have a mother that eats babies, But I found there is a reason most of the time, either they are sick or dying or not nursing. Sometimes they will eat the babies if it is too cold or they are not getting enough protein in their diet.
I have had great success with 4 1:4 breeding groups (in process of making it 1:5) with transplanting smaller litters of pinkies to another mother who has pinkies. The largest amount of pinkies I have had a mother with is 30. This is too many for just one female but with 4 or 5 females they will all take turns nursing.
ASF swapping groups Taken from (http://www.metalmonkeyexotics.com/blog/?page_id=822)
Remove the male: This is the first step. Remove the male and place him in his own enclosure for a few nights, then it is usually safe to put him back in a general population tub with other males with minimal risk of fighting. Remove Females from "Nest": Once the young are weaned from the final litter (1.5-2 months since removal of male), you can safely put the females into a general population tub. The act of removing the females from their "nest" and into a high density population usually (but not always) removes any intolerance or aggression issues. Create your new group: Once you have successfully integrated all of the female rats back into the general population for a few days, those same females can now be easily paired with a new male and other females. Be cautious! I have been able to break up and create new groups this way, but please make sure you pay attention to the individual dynamics to ensure there is minimal stress and the best chance for reintroduction of new animals.
Thank you so much, all this information is very helpful!
I think two groups of 1:4 would be too much for me, at most I could start out with two groups of 1:2 and swap the males, and even then I feel I may be overwhelmed. I only have two ferrets at the time who eat a frozen feeder mouse about once every other week, but I am starting this project so that they will get more whole prey in their diet; it seems that I will have no problem with that. At the rate that ASFs breed, I may have to start selling them just to keep up!
I've heard from a lot of people that their ferrets get extra excited over ASFs, more so than they do with mice. This is exciting to me because my ferrets loved the mice I gave them at first, but seem to have gotten bored with them over time. They used to devour them the second I put them in the feeding den, but now they wait a while to even touch them, and sometimes don't eat them at all and I end up having to throw them away Hopefully some ASFs will get their excitement level back up!