Caring for wild baby mice
If for any reason wild baby mice have been placed in your care, I’ve included some tips on care and feeding to help give them a chance at life. Note that even in the wild, mice have a 50% chance of surviving beyond 5 months of age, if given normal rearing. The mice that produce it can live up to about 5 years if they are healthy. A couple will have a better chance of survival than a lone mouse.
As soon as you have your baby mice, it is important to keep them safe and warm. You can use a small pet carrier, a large plastic tub, or any other suitable box that you can put them in. Cover the bottom with a towel and place the mice on top. Then use another soft material to lightly cover the mice like fleece. Put the box in a warm place, making sure it is not hot; otherwise the mice will become dehydrated. A heater on the lowest setting may be all that is needed. Try the towel the mice are lying on so it feels comfortable and warm in your hand.
If baby mice are less than 14 days old, they will need a dropper fed a milk replacer until they are weaned. They usually open their eyes when they are about to be weaned and can eat on their own. You will need to feed them every 2 hours, so be prepared to get up for the night. Set your alarm. When I was caring for wild mice, I would get up every 2 hours to check them. I have since read that during the night the mother mouse would be out looking for food and could only return to the nest once to feed her babies. Use common sense, if you can manage a few night feedings, all the better for the babies’ chances of survival, especially in the first few days.
Kitten milk is available to buy at pet stores. I used mixed and strained raw coconut. It should be 1 cup of coconut for about 2 and a half cups of water. You can also use soaked almonds to make an almond milk using the same proportions. Make sure the nuts are natural and plain. Once you have prepared the milk, store it in a sterile glass jar and keep it in the refrigerator until you need it. When you go to feed the mice, take a quarter cup of milk and warm it by pouring it into a small jug and placing it in hot water. Use a dropper or a baby syringe (you can get these at the pharmacy) to feed 1 or 2 drops of milk at a time into the baby mouse’s mouth. When mice are really young, they may not open their mouths. Be careful not to let the milk get into their noses, if it does, they will cough or spit. It can be dangerous to your health if you do. The way I fed the mice was by putting a cloth on a table and placing one mouse on it at a time. You can then gently hold the baby’s head while you administer the milk with the dropper. You’ll get the hang of it with a little practice. Your baby may not seem to be drinking a lot of milk, don’t worry. Very young babies may only need a drop or two in their mouth / tongue until they can take more. The main purpose here is to keep them hydrated one small drop at a time every two hours.
Once the baby is fed, it is necessary to stimulate the bowel movement. To do this, put some warm water in a small bowl and dip a cotton swab in it. Then put the cotton swab between the baby’s back legs and gently twist it. You should see a little brown spot, that’s his poop. Dip the other end of the bud in the water and gently caress the baby’s body, this emulates the mother licking. After all that, put the baby down on his soft bedding and put him in a warm place. This is the basic routine that should be repeated every two hours during the day and at least 2-3 times during the night, especially around 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.
As you can see, taking care of wild mice is a huge commitment. But there is also a great reward in caring for them and the bond you will feel as a caregiver.
When babies start to open their eyes or at least take a peak, they may be drinking a lot more milk and starting to walk around a bit. This is when you should be very careful; one fall is enough to be fatal. You can make a small secure roaming area at the bottom of a pet cage or shoe box / sink. Line it with newspaper and leaves to simulate a natural environment. The little ones will enjoy stretching their legs and taking their first steps. This is important as it will make your muscles stronger and stronger.
Once babies start to bite your fingers quite firmly when you feed them, they may be ready for some solid food. They will also begin to open their eyes (12-14 days old). Get started very slowly with this. Try some baby fruit puree to start or plain rice pudding. Food should not get cold. Let them lick it off your finger. Avoid putting the purees in a dish for the mice to feed on, as they could get dirty and end up with matted fur, which should be avoided. Some other foods to graduate are porridge, banana, tomato, dehydrated oat flakes, strawberry. Just go easy on the food and keep it simple and easy to digest to begin with. Congratulations! In fact, it has reached the weaning stage, which is quite a bit with wild baby mice.
Continue to provide a safe space for the mice to sleep and, once weaned, they can go out at night to feed. Give them a small plate near your bed so they can feed during the night. At least now you can get some sleep! Continue offering milk throughout the day and give them some water. Wild mice will generally still have breast milk until about 4 weeks of age.
Now you have to decide whether to keep them or release them in the wild. I don’t know how many mice have been successfully hand-reared and released into the wild. I think they are unlikely to survive. However, you’ve done your bit and if they seem strong, healthy, and quite active, you may be able to release them. Or you can keep them as pets.
Finally, if you tried your best and the mice died, don’t feel bad. The chances of survival in the best conditions, that is, with his biological mother, remain low. Just enjoy the experience you’ve had with them and the chance to get a glimpse of their little lives. They are little bundles of love and it is wonderful to have given them at least a little love when they might otherwise have perished.