Home: Feeding

Feeding Your Mice

By Cait McKeown

Vegetables and Seeds Live Food, Health Shop Foods and Balanced Diet DIY Mixes and When Should I Feed?

How Much do Mice Eat and Drink?
A large fancy mouse will eat around 8g of food and drink around 8ml of water per day while a small pet mouse will eat 5g and drink 5ml. But it would be silly to measure out these tiny portions. Since mice don’t naturally overeat (i.e. they will not eat just because there is food available) you can just let your mice help themselves to what they want. However, you should be aware that topping up the mouse's food too much will result in a plentiful supply of the fattier parts of the mix, which they may favour in comparison to the healthier portions. To make sure that your mice eat all parts of the mix make sure you give a good balance and do not top up if unecessary (i.e. if the bowl is still almost full). Also, try to avoid giving a large supply of food at once, but top up with small amounts more often.

Two does eating (Roisin - self black and Gina - BE cream)

Food consumption varies with the quality of the food(s) offered, the age, health and breeding status of the individual, the environmental temperature and the time of day. Mice tend to feed at night, though daytime feeding is quite common. Mice are voracious feeders and consume proportionately more food per day than rats. This is because of their smaller body size and relatively high metabolic rate. If you only have a small number of mice you may not notice the food diminishing in the same way as with larger colonies, but take it from me, mice can actually eat quite a lot in a night or two between them!

In the wild mice eat various vegetables: but then your mice are not likely to be wild, so you have to be careful to feed with caution since they are domesticated and will be sensitive to certain things. If you are feeding a new vegetable, like anything else only feed it in moderation at first. After a couple of days if there have been no adverse effects (e.g. diarrhoea) then you know that you should be able to carry on feeding this food to your mice. Always make sure that any vegetables (and other fresh food) is washed and peeled as it would be if you were going to eat it yourself. This will help to remove any pesticide residue or bacteria that may be present. My male Syrian hamster actually removes and discards cucumber peel even though it has been washed, and so do several of my mice! I would put this down to the possible taste of pesticide on it, since they absolutely love the cucumber itself. Despite this kind of behaviour, I would still recommend you strictly wash and peel your mouse's food - think of them as children who do not necessarily know what is bad for them yet.

Mice don't eat any one particular sort of plant or seeds exclusively and will enjoy eating a range of different foods if presented to them. Many different kinds of seeds suitable for consumption by mice are available either at the pet shop, supermarket or health shop. These include yellow millet, budgie seed, mixed corn and sunflower seeds. Just remember to check the ingredients and be creative with your mix! And although seeds are a good constituent of a mix, they should not make up the whole thing - just think variety.

From left to right: yellow millet, mixed corn, oat groats and 50/50 budgie seed

Live Food
Sometimes in the wild, a mouse will catch a worm or a small insect in order to fulfil its need for animal proteins. A pet mouse obviously does not have this opportunity and should get as versatile diet as possible. You can feed small live mealworms to pet mice (not the large ones), but I have never tried this – sounds messy to me! But by all means try it if you want to, just remember to remove the leftovers ASAP or you could have a serious hygiene risk for your pets on your hands.

Health Shop Foods
My mice absolutely love cooked soya beans. I had trouble getting any in a supermarket (which surprised me) but they were easy to find in a health food shop, where I also got advice about how to cook them. They are simple to cook - simply soak them in water overnight and boil them for an hour. Just remember to check them so they don’t boil dry (I speak from experience!!!).

Soya beans

Balanced Diet
Getting back to a balanced diet, some owners recommend mouse/rat lab blocks because every bit tastes the same. The idea here is that mice cannot pick out the tastiest parts, which are usually the fattening seeds. The blocks also contain all the vitamins and trace elements a mouse needs. However, mice can also find this diet boring and enjoy searching through their food mix. I know mine adore scrabbling around the food bowl to see what they have got this time. And it also tends to be the case that most things get eaten too, despite the fact that they are able to pick things out. They like to try everything and will eat a varied diet of their own if you don’t supply too many treats and fatty foods as constituents of the mix.

A versatile seed mix is suitable for the basic constituent of a mouse's basic diet, but should not be its exclusive make up. Mice do not like the 'rabbit pellets' alfalfa (which are just hay pellets) found in many mixes, and will leave them uneaten. Because of this it may be better to choose a seed mix without these pellets if you can find one. Some seed mixes have been constructed to please the eye of the owner more than the stomach of the mouse. Therefore, it pays to take a close look at the contents of the seed mix and make sure it is not mainly composed of coloured corn flakes or sunflower seeds.

A commercial hamster food

An ideal mixture will have a variety of ingredients such as seeds, grains, flaked peas, sunflower seeds (but not too many), dried sweetcorn, corn flakes and dry dog food pieces to name a few. A substantial portion of the mix is likely to be seeds and grains which mice enjoy. I have not seen many mixes that are specifically made for mice, but this is ok because they will eat mixes sold for hamsters (but not other animals such as rats, rabbits or guinea pigs as a general rule). Just remember to check that the food looks appetising - if it looks old and crumbly and the bag is full of dust do not even consider it.

DIY Mixes
You can also make your own food mix. If you live in a rural area, it is quite easy to buy seeds from farm shops. You can vary the contents of your own seed mix according to what is easily available at the time. If you use a self-made seed mix, you should add dry dog or cat food in the mix. This contains protein and other vitamins and minerals, but be careful not to put too much in as this is not good for the mice as it can be quite rich (especially cat food).

The more mice you have, the more food they will consume. When you have more than 20 mice, it is no longer practical to feed them with small bags of food available at pet shops. It's better to buy in bulk or make your own seed mix. I personally have been making my own mix for almost as long as I have had mice (I gave up commercial mixes in the first couple of months) and I can vouch for the difference it makes. Whenever I get new mice that have been fed a boring or commercial mix by the breeder they are very eager to try their new food and often spend a long time eating when they first arrive. I also find that skinny mice will put on weight nicely using a homemade mix and then remain at this ideal weight. Trust me, when a judge comments that 'it’s nice to see some mice that are well fed' you will feel the rewards and see just how much difference you can make.

The mix I use

When Should You Feed?
Mice should be fed once a day. Larger groups of mice or does with litters are better fed twice a day if possible, but will be ok with one feeding/change of food if this is not possible as long as you make sure to leave plenty spare. Each feeding time, give enough food so that there is some left over at the next feeding time to ensure your mice won’t go hungry. I tend to check my mice’s food morning and evening and either top up or change the food at night just before their most active period.

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