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My Rat Colony Seems to Be Collapsing.

Discussion in 'Feeders' started by zaroba, Oct 31, 2013.

  1. zaroba

    zaroba Elite Member

    Any thoughts on an explanation for this?

    After the birthing last feb, my rat colony started to decline. Had a litter from a naked female and a regular female and since naked females don't nurse I fed off most of the babies and put the remainder with the regular female to nurse. Most the babies ended up dieing and those that survived got gassed and fed. Had saved one male to replace the naked male that was formerly used for breeding. No big deal at this point, just keep breeding.

    It shouldn't have taken him 3 months to get a female pregnant, but 6 months later none were pregnant yet. 6 Months with no births meant I was running low on rats. The colony got down to 5 females (usually have double that), the male, and nearly out of frozen rats. In September I decided to get a new male from the petshop since the current one isn't doing his job. Put the new male in with 2 females and a few weeks ago they gave birth so I fed off the old male. Put the new male in with 2 other females to get them pregnant as well.

    Seems like all is going well. The rats are getting pregnant so I'll be able to build up a stock of frozen rats of various sizes again.
    Yesterday I lost one of the nursing females. The other female ate her stomach. Now she's going to be stuck with both litters of babies which were already on the scrawny side since one wasn't nursing much.
    This morning the pet shop male died. The 2 females he was in with ate his brain. Now have no males.

    There was no sounds of fighting (light sleeper) and they were well fed and cared for. They are considered pets up until they get gassed so are treated nicely. Handled, cleaned, given treats. Pretty much spoil them with kindness to keep them happy and calm.

    This colony has been going for 5 years with rarely an issue of fighting and no cannibalism, now this year it seems to be failing. Any time I did see rats fighting they would get gassed as I want to keep aggression at a minimum. The 3 females that were involved in these recent killings would get gassed if not for being pregnant/nursing. But that would leave me with 1 female rat and 2 litters of babies with no mom.

    What would any of you do in this situation?
    I'm considering just gassing them all and starting fresh with new rats.
    Or can anybody think of a reason as to why it would fail after running strong for 5 years?
    Should I try to salvage it? Have 2 litters, a pregnant female, and 2 possibly pregnant females.
  2. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    A naked female is a 'hairless' rat?

    My experience with mice when they started cannibalizing was having to scrap the colony and start over.
    It seemed that it 'caught' on so to speak if one had the taste for it others would pick it up as well.
  3. Wyldrose

    Wyldrose Elite Member

    Cull them all and start over. Sounds like something genetic is going on, when they produce weak offspring and infertile it's time to go. Healthy animals make healthy babies. I an very picky who I keep with my mice and asf's. My 1st asf colony has been developing warts, so I have picked up new stock just growing up the old groups babies and feeding them all off. Hopefully by then the new colony is producing.
  4. mayhmmaydn

    mayhmmaydn Elite Member

    If you are breeding brothers and sister and other close relatives it will happen eventually. Inbred does become sterile and dieoffs happen. Its best to bring in new blood at least once a year if not more if you are breeding a lot. sucks.. sorry
  5. zaroba

    zaroba Elite Member

    It has gotten worse. The mother with 2 litters is on deaths door, she's barely moving except occasionally kicking. The 6 babies that she was nursing are also in poor shape. They are lethargic and shaky. All of them feel a bit cold as well. One of the other rats is giving birth, 4 babies so far but not going to keep any of them.

    Going to get rid of all the remaining rats, clean and sanitize the enclosures, and get new rats this weekend.
  6. Darkbird

    Darkbird Elite Member

    I agree with what May said. I try to bring in a fresh male at least once a year or more. Been down the road of slow/no production, and some fresh blood can do wonders. Actually may get a new male or 2 this weekend now that I think on it, lol.
  7. kriminaal

    kriminaal HH Block Leader Staff Member Premium Member

    Where are you keeping your colony?
    Any dangerous fumes of any sort around?
  8. zaroba

    zaroba Elite Member

    No new fumes or anything. They've always been kept in the living room with most of the reptiles. A large 3 level ferret cage for the adult females to live and grow in before being gassed and fed/frozen, a 30 gal for breeding, and a few 20 gals for raising the young if any are being kept and for keeping the male in if breeding is on hold. New genetics have come in at various times, usually from taking in 'pet' rats off craigslist. Would normally only let Females have 1 or 2 litters, and males father up to 5. With sons/daughters replacing them as needed. Most females didn't live to be a year old.

    I'm going to go with genetic breakdown. I guess all the breeding finally resulted in the wrong mix of genes resulting in internal organ issues and fertility issues. The hairless rat genes might have been the first sign of this. That trait sprung up summer last year, but it had been over 15 generations since I had seen a hairless rat in the colony (although I may have just fed them off before they got old enough to tell). Also have been seeing less hooded rats and more capped rats since then.
  9. jdandlucy

    jdandlucy Elite Member

    what food are you feeding. i was having very poor output till i switched to Mazuri Rodent 6F pellets. litters of 12-16 pups since the switch. even with with my mice i am getting 10-14 pups. i breed limit my females as well. to ensure health and safety to the colony i only breed 5 times then replace. the males are breeding till they are no use, or get to fat. had to cycle out my oldest male rat at 596g.
  10. zaroba

    zaroba Elite Member

    Got a male rat as a rescue last week from a person with a small rescue/rehome operation who also works as a vet tech.
    Picked up a female today, but she is too young to go with the male so will have to wait a few weeks.

    Was talking with her about the rats and as soon as I mentioned the hairless rats she seemed to know what happened. Apparently hairless rats have a very reduced or even non-existant immune system so illness was likely the cause of the decline. The min the hairless rats started showing up it meant litters with immune system issues and all it took was for one to get sick. She suggested that if a hairless rat appears in a litter, the mother should no longer be bread or at least none of the rats in that litter used for breeding.

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