Breeding rodents for money

In terms of unusual business ideas, the idea of breeding rodents is definitely up there. But, it is this unusual idea that will create a successful niche for you. There is plenty of room in the market for another business. You can make decent money from it as a side business or, after a time doing it, go commercial. You can sell local or use the Internet to sell globally. How you do it is up to you, but without proper management, you can easily fail.

First, you need to make sure you have plenty of room to house the animals. Building your own “racks” is the easiest, cheapest, and least labor-intensive way to do it. The materials you would need are two by four and one by two pieces of wood (cheapest product would come from a local sawmill); small and large mortar tubs for grow out cages; busboy trays; one-half inch hardwire cloth mesh for the rats and one-quarter inch mesh for the mice, and some form of watering system; whether water bottles or build a watering system with pvc pipe and brass nozzles. The watering system will also cut down on the labor by avoiding the need to clean and fill water bottles on a daily basis. Those bottles become filthy pretty quick.

Second, you need to find a wholesaler or large breeder that sells live animals. Most rodent businesses out there only distribute frozen animals. Keep in mind that you need to purchase an appropriate number of animals to support your potential clients.

For example, one pet store may need 50 mice and 10 rats per week. In order to fulfill this requirement, you would need a minimum of 10 female mice and three rats giving birth per week. It takes three weeks for the babies to wean off the mother. Many stores require certain sizes as well, further complicating the ratio.

If you decide to sell nationally through a website, plan on your customers ordering at least 50-100 units at a time. A good number to start with is 100 mice and 50 rats. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself too quickly while you are still learning. You can purchase your first breeders from a pet store, but it will be a lot more expensive than going through a wholesaler.

Third, find a supplier for bedding and feed. You will go through a lot of both per week. The feed should be made specifically for breeding rodents. Mazuri, Harlan Teklad, Zeigler’s, and Sand Valley Farms all distribute laboratory-quality feed. Breeding and nursing rodents need at least 16 percent protein in their feed for optimal breeding and health.

The bedding should be aspen or paper shreds. Using pine and cedar have been known to cause adverse health in rodents. You will lose money and animals if you do not give them a perfect environment to thrive in.

Fourth, you need to research parasites and diseases that can affect your breeders so you know how to recognize it and form a management plan. Quite a number of diseases can affect your stock quick and force you to start from scratch.

All new animals that you bring in should be quarantined for at least three weeks before being put in the same room as your stock. The bedding must be cleaned at least once a week. If you can smell them, it’s 10 times worse to them.

The caging should be scrubbed down at least once a month with a good antimicrobial soap. It doesn’t hurt to also keep an exotic vet on hand, nor does it hurt to send stool samples from your breeders to a laboratory for quarterly testing.

Fifth, research your market and decide how you will market your products. Are you going to sell frozen, live, or both? Selling frozen animals will require equipment to dispatch them- carbon dioxide and a container to gas them in. Then, you will also need to find a local supplier for dry ice and food-grade shipping containers. Shipping times should not exceed two days in transit, which is a hefty cost that will be passed on to your customers.

Selling live to pet stores will require you to drive to the stores. Spend some time going on forums and see what you customers like and dislike about current distributors. Potential customers are pet stores, reptile owners, rodent enthusiasts, bird of prey owners, colleges, zoos, and laboratories. Each segment has different needs and requirements that you will need to meet before doing business with them.

The easiest way to move animals quickly and get paid is by selling directly to a pet store distributor. The distributors by hundreds of live animals at a time, cutting out the need to cull, ship or drive all over the state.

Figuring out the amount you will sell them at all depends on the demand you have and your costs. Babies under three weeks of age are cared for by the mothers, while adult animals will cost more to care for. Constant breeding of rodents will cause them to lose production numbers within a year. Staggered breeding will prolong their usefulness, but not by much. New breeders should be introduced once a year.

See what other companies are selling at, but don’t sell yourself short. Keep in mind that those companies are moving a lot more animals at a time than you will be. You will not make any money selling adult rats for a dollar with a small operation. If they cost too much though, no one will buy.

Once you have your operation up and running, wait a year before marketing your animals. That gives the animals time to get into the full swing of breeding and for you to learn the ins and outs of caring for rodents. Grow the business slowly and wait until you know for sure what kind of production you will have on a weekly basis and can guarantee a variety of animal sizes as needed.

The keys to success here will be meticulous planning, cleanliness and health of your breeders, and knowing your market beforehand. It will be easy to become overwhelmed once the word gets out there, so take your time.