If for any reason you have been given wild baby mice in your care, I’ve included a few tips on care and feeding to help you give them a chance at life. Please note that under normal rearing, even in the wild, mice have a 50% chance of surviving after 5 months of age. Mice that do this can live up to about 5 years if healthy. A couple will have a better chance of surviving than a lone mouse.
As soon as you have baby mice, it’s important to keep them safe and warm. You can use a small pet carrier, a large plastic tub or any other suitable box to put them in. Cover the bottom with a towel and place the mice on top. Then use another soft material to gently cover the mice, such as fleece. Put the box in a warm place, make sure it is not hot; otherwise the mice will be dehydrated. A heater on the lowest setting may be all that is needed. Test the towel that the rats put on it so that it feels comfortable and warm to your hand.
If baby mice are younger than 14 days old, they will need droppers fed with milk replacer until they are weaned. They usually open their eyes when they are about to wean and can eat on their own. You will need to feed them every 2 hours, so be prepared to get up at night. Set your alarm. I used to get up every 2 hours to check on wild rats. Since then, I’ve read that the mother mouse will be away during the night to forage for food and may only return to the nest once to feed her young. Use common sense, if you can manage a few nights of feedings it’s best for babies’ chances of survival, especially in the first days.
Kitten milk can be purchased at pet stores. I used blended and drained raw coconut. To 1 cup of coconut should be about 2 and ½ cups of water. You can also use soaked almonds to make almond milk using the same proportions. Make sure the nuts are natural and plain. After preparing the milk, store it in a sterilized glass jar and refrigerate until needed. When you go to feed the mice, take a quarter cup of milk and warm it by pouring it into a small jug and soaking it in hot water. Use a dropper or baby syringe (you can get these at the pharmacy) to feed 1 or 2 drops of milk into the baby mouse mouth at a time. Mice may not be able to open their mouths when they are really young. Be careful not to get the milk up their nose, they will spit/cough if you do. If you do, it can be dangerous to their health. The way I fed the mice was to lay a face cloth on a table and put a mouse on it at a time. You can then gently hold the baby’s head while giving the milk with the dropper. With a little practice, you will understand the subject. The baby may not seem to be getting much milk, don’t worry. Very young babies may only need to put a drop or two in their mouth/tongue until they can take more. The main goal here is to keep them moist with a small drop every two hours.
After the baby is fed, you need to stimulate a bowel movement. To do this, put some warm water in a small bowl and dip a cotton swab in it. Then place the cotton ball between the baby’s hind legs and gently turn the bud. You should see some brown spots, that’s their poop. Dip the other end of the bud in water and lightly caress the baby’s body, this imitates the mother licking them. After all this, lay the baby in his soft bed and put him in a warm place. This is the basic routine that should be repeated every few hours during the day and at least 2-3 times at night, especially around 1am and 5pm.
As you can see, taking care of wild baby mice is quite a responsibility. However, caring for them and the bond you will feel as a caregiver also has a great reward.
When babies start to open their eyes, or at least peak, they may be getting a lot more milk and starting to wander a bit. This is when you need to be extra careful; One fall is enough to be fatal. You can make some safe crawl space at the bottom of a pet cage or shoebox/sink. Align with newspaper and leaves to simulate a natural environment. Teens will enjoy stretching their legs and taking their first steps. This is important because it will build up his muscles and strength.
Babies may be ready for some solid food when they start biting your fingers pretty hard when you feed them. They will also start to open their eyes (12-14 days) Start very slowly with this. Try some baby fruit puree or natural rice pudding for a start. Food should not be refrigerated. Let them lick from your finger. Avoid placing purees on a plate for mice to feed on, as they can become messy and result in matted fur, which should be avoided. Other foods to graduate from include porridge, bananas, tomatoes, dried oat flakes, strawberries. To start, keep foods simple and easily digestible. Congratulations! In fact, you have come to the weaning stage, which is quite important in wild baby mice.
Continue to provide a safe space for the mice to sleep in and after weaning they will be able to go outside to feed at night. Give them a small plate by their bed so they can feed at night. At least now you can get some sleep! Keep offering the milk throughout the day and provide some water for them. Usually, wild mice will have some mother’s milk until they are about 4 weeks old.
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 bred and released into the wild. I thought they were unlikely to survive. However, you have done your part and if they seem strong, healthy and quite active it may be possible to release them. Or you can keep them as pets.
Finally, if you’ve done your best and the rats are dead, don’t feel bad. Their chances of surviving in the best conditions, i.e. with their natural mother, are still low. Enjoy your experience with them and the opportunity to get a glimpse of their little life. They are little bundles of love, and it’s great to have at least given them some love, otherwise they would be gone.