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Care of Wild Baby Mice
If for some reason you have feral baby mice in your care, I’ve included some tips on care and feeding to give them a chance at life. Remember that even in the wild, mice have a 50% chance of surviving past 5 months of age if they are raised normally. Mice that do this can live healthy for up to about 5 years. A pair has a better chance of survival than a single mouse.
As soon as you have baby mice, it’s important to keep them safe and warm. You can use a small pet carrier, large plastic tub, or other suitable box to put them in. Spread the base with a towel and place the mice on top. Then use another soft material to lightly cover the mice like a fleece. Place the box in a warm place, making sure it is not hot; otherwise, mice are dehydrated. A heater on the lowest setting may be required. Test the towel the mice lie on so it feels cozy and warm in your hand.
If the mouse pups are less than 14 days old, they need to be drip fed with milk replacer until they are weaned. They usually open their eyes when they are almost weaned and can feed themselves. You have to feed them every 2 hours so be prepared to get up at night. Set an alarm. When I was taking care of the wild mice, I would get up every 2 hours to check on them. I have since read that at night the mother mouse is away foraging and may only return to the nest once to feed her young. Use common sense if you can manage a few night feedings, all the best for babies to survive, especially in the early days.
Kitten milk can be purchased at pet stores. I used raw coconut blended and drained. It should be 1 cup of coconut for about 2 and ½ cups of water. You can also use soaked almonds to make almond milk with the same ratio. Make sure the nuts are natural and plain. Once you have prepared the milk, place it in a sterilized glass jar and store in the refrigerator until needed. When you go to feed the mice, take a quarter of a cup of milk and heat it by pouring it into a small jug and standing it in hot water. Use a dropper or baby syringe (available from a pharmacy) to give 1 or 2 drops of milk at a time into the baby mouse’s mouth. If the mice are really young, they may not open their mouths. Be careful not to get the milk in their noses, they will sputter/cough if you do. If you do, it can be dangerous to their health. The way I fed the mice was to put a face cloth on the table and place one mouse on it at a time. You can then gently hold the baby’s head while feeding the milk through the drip. With a little practice, you’ll get the hang of it. It may seem that the baby does not take much milk, do not worry. Very young babies may only need a drop or 2 in the mouth/tongue until they can take more. The main goal is to keep them hydrated by dripping them every few hours.
Once the baby is fed, you need to stimulate bowel movement. To do this, put some warm water in a small bowl and dip a cotton ball in it. Then place the cotton ball between the baby’s back legs and gently turn over. You should see a small brown spot, this is their poo. Dip the other end of the bud in water and gently stroke the baby’s body – it imitates a mother’s licking. After all this, put the baby in this soft bedding and place it in a warm place. This is a basic routine that needs to be repeated every few hours during the day and at least 2-3 times at night, especially around 1am and 5am.
As you can see, taking care of baby wild mice is quite a commitment. But caring for them and the bond you feel as a caregiver is also a great reward.
As babies begin to open their eyes, or at least climax, they may take in a lot more milk and start moving around a bit. This is when you need to be extra careful; one fall is enough to be fatal. You can create a small safe roaming area in the bottom of a pet cage or shoebox/basin. Line it with newspaper and leaves to simulate a natural environment. Young people enjoy stretching their legs and taking their first steps. This is important because it increases their muscles and strength.
If babies start biting your fingers quite hard during feedings, they may be ready for small solids. They also start to open their eyes (12-14 days old). Start with it very slowly. Try baby fruit puree or natural rice pudding to start. Do not refrigerate food. Let them lick it off your finger. Avoid placing purees on a plate for mice to feed on as they can become messy and end up with a matted coat that needs to be avoided. Some other foods to stop are porridge, banana, tomato, dried oatmeal, strawberry. Be very simple with food and keep it simple and easy to digest to begin with. Congratulations! You’ve actually reached the weaning stage, which is quite something for wild baby mice.
Continue to provide the mice with a safe place to sleep and once they are weaned they can come out to feed at night. Give them a small dish near the bed so they can eat at night. Now you can at least get some sleep! Continue offering milk throughout the day and give them some water. Usually, wild mice are milked by some mothers until about 4 weeks of age.
Now you have to decide whether to keep them or release them into the wild. I don’t know how many mice have been successfully hand raised and released into the wild. I think their survival is unlikely. But you’ve done your bit, and if they seem strong, healthy and fairly active, it may be possible to release them. Or you can keep them as pets.
Finally, if you did your best and the mice died, don’t feel bad. The chances of survival in the best conditions, i.e. with their natural mother, are still small. Just enjoy the experience you have with them and the chance to get a glimpse into their little lives. They are little bundles of love and it is wonderful that we have at least given them love, otherwise they would have perished.
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