Housing: What Type of Tank/Cage to Use?
There are always several opinions on this subject, which mainly boil down to wire, glass or plastic as materials for your tank.
Large Perfecto glass tank with shelves, with strong homemade wire-meshed lid
I prefer glass or plastic, as I find wire has several disadvantages. First of all, there is the possibility that your mouse may escape through the bars. Secondly, the mice may chew the bars, which will make a lot of noise and probably not be overly healthy for them. The bars can also rust meaning that the cage will have to be replaced more often and may not last for the mouse’s whole life (unlike plastic and glass). Bars on a cage may let the air through to keep your pet cool in summer, but will also allow the smell to reach your nose more easily! More importantly, it may also be draughtier for them in the winter, which will result in your mice being less active and spending more time inside the nest to keep warm. The gaps in wire cages also allow the mice to kick all the bedding out onto the floor when they are digging and rearranging the cage – this is avoided when using glass or plastic.
This tank would make a good home for a large colony of mice
To make the best use of the space you have got, whether your tank is large or small, make sure there is something for the mice to do in the vertical space, i.e. between the floor and roof of the tank.
Doe peering over the edge of a hanging basket nest, sold for birds
Mice will love hanging items, which are best attached to a wire mesh roof. The mice will also climb upside down on the roof, so make sure the holes are not big enough for them to climb though, and the mesh is strong enough to resist a little chewing.
We decided that we would make our own glass tank after discovering the prices charged for aquariums (and the thickness of the glass and therefore sheer weight). To do this we recovered some sheets of glass from the local recycling point (free) and cut them to size with a glass cutter (looks like a craft knife). To fix all the sides together we used clear silicone of the same type you use to seal a bath and propped all the sheets of glass in position while it dried. After a few days we cleaned the tank up and it was ready to use as soon as the lid was ready.
To make a lid we made a wooden frame and covered it with fine strong wire mesh held in place with staples from a staple gun. Even if you have to buy a staple gun to do this (i.e. if you can’t borrow one) they are not expensive. If you are extremely handy it is best to put a wooden strap across the middle of your lid and attach the mesh in two separate sections to get a tighter fit. This will stop the mesh sagging.
If you are not a handy person and do not have anyone you think can help you build a tank, you might want to look for second hand aquariums either in the local paper, or more often at rubbish dumps/recycling centres. People may have thrown them away because they are not watertight, which does not matter at all to those of us wanting to use them to keep mice instead of fish! Just make sure that any glass tanks are not cracked or very badly chipped, which may mean they are not going to last long before shattering. The other important thing is to look inside the tank for sharp edges that may be a hazard to the mice. If you are satisfied with the condition of the tank remember to give it several thorough washes with a pet-friendly disinfectant or washing up liquid and warm water. Then simply make a lid as described above and you have a new home for your mice.
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