This story was originally published on mouse@horns by Angela Horn.
It is reproduced here with permission from Angela Horn.
I retrieved this story from the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.
Unfortunately I was unable
to retrieve most of the pictures. I did manage to get 2 pictures which I've included. - paul
James - June 25, 1999:
You'd better warn American readers NOT to keep wild mice because of the deadly hanta virus. I recently watched a documentary over here in the States about the virus. According to scientists the virus is no longer just in the south and north-west US, several cases in mice have been found in New York. They think the virus is not so much spreading, but is probably already there. I guess I have been lucky with my mice for if they had the virus I would probably be dead by now. However the virus does appear to be prevalent in Deer mice, and not so much house mice. Just stick a big warning up.
The Muffin situation, let me recap. First of all let me say Muffin is still alive and well, but there have been quite a few changes in the mice population around here. If you recall I originally had 4 wild mice. Muffin, two other females and a male. For this document let me refer to them as Muffin, Female 2 = F2, Female 3 = F3 - and the Male.
If you remember Muffin's taming came about when she was quite badly beaten up by the other mice, especially the prime specimen female F2.
During her recovery I checked on her often and discovered by accident she enjoyed being handled etc. Muffin also escaped outside one day only to return to her cage the next morning.
I tried integrating Muffin into the group in various ways but she could not get along with anyone, not even the Male. Muffin never warmed to his advances, instead beating him up whenever he tried.
In a bid to find her some company I purchased a young female Fancy mouse, Fawn. For the first day or two things were fine but soon Muffin was back to her old tricks. Damn she's unsociable. Fawn suffered numerous tail bites and was becoming quite scraggy and mopish.
I decided to make the bold move of purchasing yet another female, only this time a full-grown female fancy mouse, Goldie. Muffin's behavior changed overnight as I am sure she had never dreamed mice could grow so large. Fawn found the breathing space she needed and all three settled down. Phew.
The other seven babies were up and about at two and a half weeks of age. It was then I made a cage for them alone which was connected to their mothers, but closed off with a hatch. I gave them a wheel, food and water and Prawn now enjoyed up to four hours a day receiving F2's undivided attention.
Believe it or not F2 appeared to enjoy having a rest from the other seven kids. Then I would open the hatch and the seven would visit their mother. Next day I would repeat the exercise, and each day everyone seemed happy, especially Prawn.
And so for a while it was a mouse circus around here. I also have pics of the Seven doing their thing on the wheel together. After a while F2 no longer seemed interested in having the Seven come to see her. Aged 4 weeks, she would attack and chase them, while always looking after the Prawn.
So I segregated the Seven from F2 permanently. I also decided I was going to release F2 and her babies once the Prawn was fully weaned.
During that time I decided to let Fawn and Goldie mix with the Seven and they all got along fine.
I made a point of not putting Muffin in, as I was unsure of how she might react. Not only that, Muffin had been somewhat irritable towards Fawn and Goldie for some reason. She was edgy and was not so happy to be handled as she once was. Why I did not know.
However Fawn just loved being surrounded by the Seven babies and would spend her time trying to snuggle with them whenever she could. Goldie was more a loner.
With Muffin now being alone I bought another full-grown female, a dark brown one I named Cocoa. Muffin was not amused and I soon had to place Cocoa with Fawn and Goldie.
Then I decided to give Muffin a chance to socialize. I placed her in the cage with Fawn, Goldie, Cocoa and the Seven babies. My feeling was, with Muffin being the outsider she might not be so territorial. I was wrong. Almost instantly she was chasing babies left right and center, not to mention up and down the tubes. I quickly removed her again.
It was then I discovered one of the Seven was hiding in a corner. Turned out it was fatally injured and barely able to walk. As I am sure you can imagine, I was not only angry with Muffin but most of all with myself. I tried placing the injured baby back with F2 but she was not interested. The baby died.
A few days later I released F2 and the remaining six into the wild. Now I had the Prawn to deal with. I purchased my "final" fancy mouse, a white and black spotted baby I named Sprog. I should point out that at this time I was a little unsure of Prawn's sex. Because he was stunted it was very difficult. I assumed he was female and thus asked for a female at the pet store.
Then Muffin escaped within the house again. This time she was more clever than ever. Unlike other times she did not want to return to her cage. With seeds placed around the house on all three floors I was able to track her movement day to day. I decided to catch her as I had the very first time, but would she fall for it? Well there's no denying the power of the wheel. Once she found it she could not help herself running on it, despite the noise. Muffin was once again in captivity.
From then on she mixed with all the other mice, including the Prawn. And so it was, one big happy family. Cocoa became fat, seems she was just pregnant when I bought her. The babies were all stillborn.
Then one day recently my wife pointed out that the Prawn had a little more hanging than usual. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the Sprog was male too. I got them out of there pronto but who knows what damage has been done?
In the near future I may very well be reporting the birth of Fancy/wild hybrids. Considering the father is a half sized male, I'm not sure if they will survive. Or that he's even got it in him. Only time will tell. But what on earth will I do with all the babies? My worst nightmare is that Muffin, Fawn, Goldie and Cocoa all give birth on the same day.
Anyway, Muffin is back to her old self again and loves snuggling with Fawn, Goldie and Cocoa. No fights, just harmony. I wonder if its possible Muffin's odd behavior for a while had anything to do with being in heat? Is it possible at certain times she is climbing the cage walls and wants a male mouse? I know she's never been cool with males before. Although looking back now, she loved hanging out with the Prawn and Sprog.
In conclusion, Muffin is still my favorite mouse, and for obvious reasons.
I'm fond of Prawn too, purely for what he went through to be where he is today.
He's full grown but one third smaller than Muffin, a female. Those early days
fighting for milk have stunted him permanently I fear. As a result I can never
release him into the wild, he would never make it. Besides he's cool being
handled, this life of captivity is all he knows. My only mouse problem at
present is making a habitrail big enough for him and Sprog not to fight. Boys
will be boys. It's hard work, but what's a man to do?
As Angela says on mouse@horns, cleaning the Sam system can be tricky, but I've got it licked. All those tubes are dish washer safe. With the weather now hot outside, all I have to do is wash them with a huge pipe cleaner and leave them on the back porch to dry.
I've found the Habitrail system to be less satisfactory, I mean how much
would it cost them to knock a few holes in their system? I bought one of their
half plastic, half cage designs and its excellent, no ventilation problems
there. However I did initially use their nest-box for F2 and her babies. It
wasn't long before it was dripping with condensation and I had to move them
all to a better ventilated Sam unit. Meanwhile I got busy on all the Habitrail
units with a drill to make them acceptable.