This article is from the Sep./Oct. 1991 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Karen Hauser
Ihave had people over the years ask how I keep track of my animals and what kind of records I use. I will share with you the system I use in hopes that you may get some ideas on keeping records of your own.
Record keeping is a very necessary and potentially tedious task (unless of course you only have one litter a year). Keeping records can be as simple or as detailed as you make them, but most of all it should be customized to fit your particular breeding program. It not only informs you of the background information of a particular animal in the form of a pedigree, but it can also be as detailed as to descriptions of every litter produced, facts about temperament, milking ability of the mother, deformities or traits that you would need to know not to breed for, as well as other things you may feel are necessary in your breeding program.
Some basic things you will want to keep records of are: date of birth, litter size, and pedigrees of your breeding stock.
Some additional records you should keep are health records. If an illness or epidemic breaks out, the treatment/ dosages used, length of illness/problem and success/ mortality rate. Fortunately, our rats and mice don’t need vaccinations, de-worming, or licensing and are normally very healthy.
You may also keep records of birthing problems, milking ability, number of each sex per litter, a detailed description of each baby as far as color/markings, etc. (this is useful when working with genetics and breeding for certain colors, etc.), number born, number lived, number of male/female per litter, who you sell your stock to (name, address and phone number—this is helpful if you have a problem with the stock and can inform your customers of potential problems), size/weight of the litter (which has a lot to do with milking ability of the mother), bone structure i.e. big, robust, fat tails, good weight, or slim, slender, thin tails, dainty looking (some of this may be from diet, but a lot is hereditary), temperament (calm and sweet or feisty and jumpy, etc.), any deformities, abnormalities such as swollen joints, ringed tail, hernias, swollen heads, babies born dead and deformed, etc., how many litters and who bred to on each breeder animal, if you keep any from a litter, their name/number, when an animal dies, is euthanized or is sold and why (old age, tumors, illness, etc.), show results/wins (this adds to your pedigree information), etc., etc.
Now to actually keeping the information on all your critters and being able to tell those rats and mice apart in the same cage!
For cage labels I use masking tape cut in pieces (you could also use regular labels or 3 x 5 cards, or ?) and write the information of each animal in the cage, it’s number, description, dam, date of birth, litter size (number born) and sire...
Silver Grey Tan
When I move a female to be bred, I take her label with her. When she is bred and ready to deliver, I place her in her own cage and make a new label—this one the litter label. This has the number of the dam, the date born, number born, number lived (if some are born dead—I find it’s very rare to lose babies after delivery) and the sire’s number...
If I cull any out, I will write that right on the litter label and the sex culled.
The way I identify my animals is with a number, which is a litter number, then dash and a number if it is a female, or alphabetical letter if male i.e. KK (for Karen’s Kritters) E (for purebred English) 719-1 (female) 719-A (male). Every litter produced gets a number in chronological order (the number 719 means it is the 719th litter produced in the last 4 years. If you use 3 x 5 cards, you can keep all the information of each breeding with the basic information of the animal.
I also have a breeding log listing each litter produced that I keep in each shed for the rats and mice: assigned number per litter, dam, sire, date born, number born, number lived, male and female per litter, number kept—male and female (see sample on previous page).
At weaning time I will usually keep a detailed description of each rat litter giving colors, markings, sexes, any kept/sold, problems if any with the litter/mom, etc.
Many of you will find that the pedigree/record forms the club sells are quite adequate and won’t need any further records (see below).
As far as keeping your records together (pedigrees, breeding records, etc.), you can use a card box, notebook or other item as long as you have some sort of organization and is easy for you to use. You can group by name/number of the animal, description, sex, age, date, etc.
You don’t have to have pedigreed stock to start keeping records. Just take what you have and make up record sheets on those animals and once you start to breed, then you will be making your generations and can go from there. Of course you may want to cross reference your records.
Keep a calendar in the same room as your animals along with a notepad or paper. You may even keep your records all in the same room as well, as long as they are in an area where loose animals won’t get in and destroy, or by chance weather or dirt won’t ruin. I personally keep my main records in the house and just the breeding log and notebook to write litter record information in the sheds.
Another thing you may find helpful if you have a large amount of animals, is keeping an “inventory” of all the animals in your colony listed by description then age right there with your animals. I keep a clipboard with a list of all the animals (number, description, date born, dam, sire) broken down by sex and categorized by American and English in the rats; English, Spotted, Siamese, Other in the mice.
If you take the time once a week to go through and update all your information, you will find you only need to spend a few minutes doing it, and not hours or days if let go. Each person, no matter how small a breeder, should keep records on their stock. Record keeping not only informs you of how you are progressing in breeding, but also keeps you aware of the health and well being of your animals.
I hope this has been of help to you and given you some ideas on how to keep records for your breeding program. If anyone has a system or tips they are using that works well for them, please write about it and send it in. Everyone has a different way of doing things and you may find some ideas from other people will work for you and others won’t.
Note: These records and others are available for your use to download. See the Record Keeping section.