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
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
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.
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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