I have ten years' experience as a reptile breeder. I handle rats and mice on a regular basis.
So Why You Would Want to Breed Rodents?
There are many reasons. I got started because there was an actual nationwide shortage of available rodents! Yes, believe it or not, for a couple of years there was no regular supply of rodents to feed to our hungry reptiles. Local breeders that I knew in person had stopped selling altogether, and large online suppliers put you on a waiting list and had limited quantities!
The Five Major Benefits of Breeding Feeders
The following are the five major benefits of breeding feeder rats and mice. We'll go through each one in more detail below:
- The ability to always have the right size, species, and quantity on hand.
- The ability to save money—lots of it.
- The potential to have your hobby paid for or even start a business!
- The prevention of money, time, gas, and food waste.
- The ability to raise higher-quality feeders in a more humane way.
1. Always Having Feeders When You Need Them!
So the first pro is supply. Breeding your own rodents will always ensure that you never run out!
Rodent Shortages Can Happen
So why was there such a shortage? There is a high demand for rodents. There is always a steady need for them in the medical field, and the demand for feeders is increasing as the hobby of keeping exotic pets, such as reptiles, continues to grow.
In addition, oil had gone up, which caused corn to become more expensive. Corn is a major ingredient in commercial feeds for rodents. So the breeders had two options: Pay more for feed and lose profit, or have the same amount of bills but cut down on feed and rodents. Breeders also narrowed their client list down, refusing to take any new customers, and compensated on price by increasing shipping.
I was able to usually get free shipping. Once they had run out of the correct sizes and quantity I needed, I was forced to look elsewhere. I found a company that would sell me what I wanted, but I had to pay for overnight shipping, to the tune of $110.00! Suddenly my usual rodent order had doubled in price.
2. Reducing or Getting Rid of Your Costs
So the second pro is cost. You can absolutely save money by breeding your own rodents. You can avoid the waiting time, price hikes, and shipping costs. You can also save money on feed by negotiating a bulk price with your local feed store or by supplementing commercial bags with healthy kitchen scraps, such as fruits, bread, and vegetables. My rats sit up and beg for raisins. Heck, that's kind of cute and fun.
3. Making That Money!
The third pro is all about profit! Isn't that exciting? Getting set up with equipment can be costly in the beginning, but once your system is set up will you often start producing more rodents than you will ever need. Many people, including myself, sell the extras to help thin out populations in the cages and to earn a little extra on the side.
I have a somewhat large snake collection, about thirty, depending on what I hatch out or sell. My ball pythons would cost about $4,000.00 annually to feed if I had continued to purchase from somewhere or someone else. Thankfully, I breed my own feeders, which would cost me about $1,300.00 in purchased food. Except that it doesn't.
Your Rodents Will Eventually Pay for Themselves
My rats and mice pay for themselves. Yes, I earn enough from selling the extras that they pay for the cost of electricity, water, cleaning supplies, bedding, transportation, and food. There is the cost of the amount of time I put in. I'd like to get to the point where I could pay myself an hourly wage. The initial investment of equipment would be amortized over time.
Many people completely cover their maintenance expenses and make a nice side income each month. There are a few people who become so successful that they turn rodent breeding into a business and make a living doing this!
4. Preventing Waste
The fourth major reason, or pro, for doing this would be the prevention of waste. I've had the maddening experience of going through the effort and expense of getting just the right-sized rat, thawing it out, presenting it to the ball python, only for the picky thing to decide that she didn't want to eat that week! Oh, and by the way, none of my other snakes wanted it either! So I had to throw the rat out.
Not only did I waste my time, not only did I just throw money down the drain, but that poor rat's life was wasted. He was born and grown to be a feeder. He was not eaten, therefore his was life was wasted. Now that is a tragedy.
Most people who breed their own feeders don't bother to do frozen-thawed rodents. It's too time-consuming and so the snakes get used to eating live prey. If the rodent you try to feed does not get eaten, you can put him back in his colony to be with his brothers and sisters. No harm, no foul, no waste.
5. Getting Quality Over Quantity
The fifth major benefit is quality. The rats and mice can have better, more varied food, more attention, cleaner housing, and be happier in general. You can feed your reptiles fresher food and therefore, have better nutrition.
Rodents can be a vector for disease. There are some breeders who do massive breeding in suspended wire floors. No attention is paid to the crowding, the stress, or the happiness of the rodent. High mortality rates are common and these rodents will often get sold to customers with respiratory infections or internal parasites, which can be passed on to your pet or even you. Ammonia and disease levels are so high that the breeder will go in with a gas mask and a HAZMAT suit on. The place will stink to high hell.
You Can Ensure That Your Rodents Are Healthy and Well-Treated
No animals should live this way, whether they are being raised as food or not. I can keep up with the forty cages of rats and mice that I have. I know all the breeders and what type of genetic mutations they have. I know which ones are good parents with high fertility rates and I know which ones are fearful or aggressive. I know this particular rat loves scratches behind the ears, and one who puts up with it but will crawl onto my hand for raisins.
Doing my method takes more time, labor, and money for the number of rodents produced but I also have healthy animals not crawling with parasites. They are happy so they don't bite me when I come to clean their cages, and they are not packed together so the place doesn't make people gag when they walk in. Except for on cleaning day, forty cages worth of rodents only smells like fresh pine bedding.
So, Is It Worth It?
That's up to you as it's a matter of economies of scale. Breeding in massive numbers (think about a million in one warehouse) can produce rodents for $0.50. Breeding my way will produce fewer rodents over time for about $1.00. I still make enough to pay for my hobby.
Is it worth it? For myself, I can absolutely say yes. If you can't start breeding yourself, support a local rodent breeder and buy from them. You'll have the benefit of being able to see the conditions of how the animals are being raised as well.
Can you think of more reasons or benefits towards breeding your own rodent feeders? If so, leave your comment below, and thanks for reading!
What a Beginning Breeder Set Up Might Look Like
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2014 Power Ball Pythons
Power Ball Pythons (author) from Mobile, AL on August 30, 2020:
There was a shortage when I wrote the article but that was a few years ago.
Allan on August 11, 2020:
Rodentpro in indiana has saved me $375 everytime i order. I use to buy from local breeder for $1.99 per mouse now i pay .37 a mouse way cheaper then breeding yourself and i juat started order ing this year. So i have no idea where you got the assumption that there is a rodent shortage????.
becca on December 25, 2019:
hey britney they are saying that if you try to feed a FROZEN mouse to a snake and it doesn't eat it you have to throw it out. Not a LIVE mouse.
britney on October 24, 2019:
throw the rodent out if the snake doesn't eat it ? Because it was meant to be a feeder? Maybe look around for someone to love him and give him a loving home and change his meant for life , into something different .... Give him a different beginning .
Might be a feeder rat but you brought him here by your male/ female rat)
But I suggest is the ones the that the snake doesn't take find a home for them somebody that takes any rats like that in and takes care of them and just love them.
And give them a deal on it ... $5 for males $7 for female rat for full size/young.....
Glenn on September 27, 2018:
John, go save the world with all of that positive energy and righteousness.
John on March 20, 2018:
Breeding conscious, feeling animals just to be cruelly killed to feed an animal you shouldn't be keeping in an aquarium in he first place. All so unnecessary and unethical!
Ksparky911 on May 22, 2017:
I'be been considering starting to breed my own mice to feed my corns once I get my own place again, and this article helped, so thank you! I already have a breeding colony of dubia roaches for my water and bearded dragons, and feel the need to be more self-sufficient.
TheFancyRatVet on February 01, 2017:
Nice! I might start breeding as a hobby, but not for snake food! I'm waaaay too fond of rats. Thanks for the convincing anyway!
Allenrat on January 25, 2015:
Hi all: I had been debating breeding rats for my Boa Constrictor, "Bobby"
I got a little push into doing it, first I had gotten a great deal on a 110 gallon aquarium, which left me with a 55 gallon holding cage.I bought a rat and Bobby would not eat it, so I put the rat "Now named Lucky, into the holding cage, I tried to feed Bobby the rat twice more, then when I came back to try again I was greeted by a litter of 11 pups. She was pregnant when I got her! So, the rats made up my mind to breed them, I already had the equipment to do it, so, why not? I know that I want to treat the rats well, I know how they are treated and what they eat, also, I take any rat out when it does not get eaten and wait another week. Snakes are not indiscriminate killers, I have seen several that won't eat a pregnant female and occasionally will keep a rat or mouse as a "pet". So, no waste, better treated and fed rats, and a happy snake, and save a few bucks, sounds like everyone wins here. I just need to make sure my cat does not get in that room and eat them
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 26, 2014:
Interesting and so helpful. You made such useful suggestions here.
Power Ball Pythons (author) from Mobile, AL on March 12, 2014:
Thanks for the comment! Freshness absolutely impacts nutrition. We had a meeting at the Mobile reptile group where we talked about live vs. frozen-thawed. Basically, nutrients start breaking down as soon as the animal is no longer alive. Freezing just slows the decomposition down. After a year in the freezer, the feeder rodents' nutrition is suboptimal. I have experienced better feeding rates with snakes using live prey over frozen-thawed as well. What do you think of the nutritional value of feeding several different species of prey to a snake, like lizards, insects, fish, chicks?
Cent Phillips on March 02, 2014:
I have been breeding my own rodents for a few years now and honestly its worth it to me. I have noticed a huge improvement on growth of my snakes with home grown then when I use to buy frozen in bulk. I have snakes that eat quicker and also worked with a few non feeders and they start eating here because of the food being fresh. The problem with buying frozen in bulk is you do not know if they are getting the frozen ones that have been in the freezer for months to sell. I freeze mine and still give my snakes frozen thaw vs live. I have less wasted rodents that other snakes just do not want to eat. There is a lot of pro's in home growing vs buying frozen in bulk.
Power Ball Pythons (author) from Mobile, AL on March 01, 2014:
Thank you sweetheart!
Shelby on February 23, 2014:
That was very informative and well written. Glad you can provide your animals with a healthy food source. Keep on writing.