If you live near fields you may have seen Harvest mice. They are cute little rodents and many wonder if they can keep harvest mice as pets.
They are the smallest of British rodents. Fully grown they are between 5-7cm long and weigh around 4-5 grams. They have long tails which they use to help them climb and balance.
They are distinguished by the white fur on their bellies and are incredibly agile. They use their tails to balance on crops and plants in fields, and can be seen jumping and moving quickly across plants.
Most pictures capture harvest mice hanging around on wheat crops, which they love to eat. In their natural habitat in the wild they face a number of predators.
It’s their agility, speed and exceptional hearing that keeps them one step ahead of most predators. This means they are extremely shy and hard to tame however, but people do keep harvest mice as pets.
In this article I will detail everything you need to know if you are going to keep a harvest mouse, or several harvest mice as pets in your home.
Harvest Mice Housing
Harvest mice can be kept in a cage you can make yourself from wood, glass and a mesh roof if you’re handy with construction. You need to make the cage as large as space allows, the more room they have to exercise the better.
The easier option is to buy a regular mice cage. Amazon stock a wide range of cages as affordable prices, such as the one in the picture here. Ideally you want a two-story cage, or one with some obstacles and places for the mice to climb.
Tanks work really well too. They have great visibility and are easy to clean. There is less chance of a mouse escaping, and I really like the look of them.
Make sure the cage bars are very close together if you have a cage. As well as the mesh lid being finely meshed and secure. Harvest mice are very small and wily. If there is a way to find a way to escape they will.
As far as bedding and flooring, I find that a generous amount of wood shavings and some hay is what they are most happiest with. Follow my guidelines with bedding and avoid anything potentially harmful materials.
You can use the same type of water bottle you would use with other pet mice. As well as food bowls. Put some extra accessories in their cage to keep them entertained and happy.
You will find these little rodents fascinating to watch. They are very entertaining at times, and I have had hours of fun watching and playing with the harvest mice I have kept.
Feeding Harvest Mice
Feeding harvest mice is fairly easy. Their diet consists of a good mixture of seeds. You can use good quality wild bird food mixes. Hanging millet in their cage and putting some in their bowls gives them options.
They also eat some of the foods you would see fancy pet mice eat. Although harvest mice are a lot more fussy, so don’t be offended if they don’t take to bits of cucumber or berries.
In the wild they eat seeds and wheat as and when they can find it. Being tiny mice they don’t eat a lot, but always have plenty of food available. If you’re using seeds they will not overeat to the point of making themselves ill.
Caring and Cleaning Harvest Mice
The good news is that harvest mice are not as smelly as fancy and pet mice can be. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep their cages and living areas clean however.
If you are proactive you can keep their cages clean every week or so. But you can leave it a month or so depending on how many mice you have, and how big the space is.
Obviously if you start to smell their cage, it needs cleaning. Mice have sensitive noses and if it’s bothering you, it will be bothering them a lot more.
When handling them you should be incredibly delicate and careful. Harvest mice are very small and fragile. Never chase them around their cage or stress them out. Instead coax them into a tube or something similar and get them out that way.
Put them in a small container while you are cleaning out their cage. They may have a little nip on your finger, so try not to be too startled and jump if that happens.
If one does happen to escape into your home you will have quite the game of cat and mouse on your hands. So be extra careful not to let them escape, take it from me it’s not fun trying to catch them.
Breeding Harvest Mice
If you want to breed harvest mice you should be experienced with breeding mice in captivity. It’s not easy to do, and without proper direction and supervision there is a high risk of problems occurring.
You can buy a pair of mice from a private breeder or sometimes a pet shop. I would always recommend a private breeder as they generally take more care with their animals.
If you have one of each sex, they will start to breed when they hit sexual maturity. If you have several mice of each sex, there is a hierarchy that forms. With the most dominant male breeding with the females.
Once babies have been born you need to remove the male from the tank. As well as separating the mice before they reach sexual maturity. This is to ensure that only separate lineages breed.
If you remove a male after breeding and introduce a new male they will not breed. Also, you will notice a mother fussing and be very protective over her babies and starting to ignore the males.
It’s rare to see aggression, but there will be a visible divide in the tank. The female needs enough space and attention to care for her newborns. So do everything you need to to keep them comfortable and safe.
I recommend putting a shallow dish of water near the nest the mother has made for her babies. They become independent after about two weeks and will start fending for themselves.
This is when you should remove them for their own safety. It’s not until around six weeks you will need to sex them and separate them accordingly.
Part of your responsibility breeding harvest mice is that you keep them all safe. Separate them from interbreeding, and do everything in your power to care for them.
Sexing a Harvest Mouse
If you have adopted mice from outside it’s helpful to sex them and know what sex mice you are keeping in a tank together.
The easiest way is to lure the mouse into a clear tube. Handling them may be tricky. This way you can inspect them from below without them struggling to escape.
Males have a distinctive swelling and lump where you would expect to see their genitals. While females have nipples that are much more visible. They may be hidden by fur, but you will find them if you look.
It’s not easy to do. But after checking a few mice you will start to notice how males and females look different and it will become easier.
Keeping Harvest Mice as Pets or Releasing Them?
If you have been breeding harvest mice what are you going to do with them now? They breed quickly if you have been allowing them to, and you may have a lot on your hands.
One option is to take them to a local pet store and see if they will buy them. But this is not easy nowadays, and will probably not work out.
You can also try using pet adoption websites. They actually cater to mice and small rodents very well in my experience.
There is the option of releasing them into the wild. This is controversial for some, but for me I don’t see a problem with it if you do it correctly.
This means releasing harvest mice when they are still young and not too dependent on the luxury of capacity. While also being big enough to fend for themselves.
If you are releasing them into an area they would normally habitat you are giving them the same chance of survival they would have anyway.
Another point to note is that although not closely tracked, it’s widely believed numbers of harvest mice in the wild are on the decline.
This is reason not to feel bad about releasing more into the wild. You may start or add to a productive ecosystem of harvest mice in your area.
Either way, keeping harvest mice as pets, or releasing them into the wild. I hope you gain a lot of experience and satisfaction dealing with these wonderful little rodents.