If you’ve recently brought home your first pet mouse, you may be wondering how you can make it more comfortable and provide it with the highest standard of living possible. After all, with such a cute pet, it’s natural for most mouse owners to want to spoil their furry friend to bits.
While reading up on mouse cages, you may have come across some articles talking about nesting, leaving you wondering whether or not your mouse will want to build a nest too.
All mice, whether wild or captive, male or female, build nests to provide themselves with shelter, warmth, and protection from predators. If you own a pet mouse, you should offer it the materials it needs to construct its own nest to ensure it lives happily and comfortably.
This article explores the reasons why mice build nests, what they’re made of, and how best to go about providing your mouse with the material necessary to build a nest of its own.
Why Do Mice Build Nests?
Nests are extremely important to mice, and they build them for various reasons, including: [Source]
The ideal temperature range at which to keep mice is 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything below this, and a mouse will start looking for a way to conserve its body heat. The best way to do this would be by building a nest.
In the wild, nests keep mice safe from the cold and make sure they stay snug and warm.
This could be for shelter from weather effects like rain or snow or protection from predators. Wild mice often burrow and build their nests underground, far away from animals like owls, snakes, and cats who may be out looking for a snack.
Mice often hoard or cache their food in their nest, especially if there are rival mice around also scavenging for food. If the nest is too small to store food, mice may construct a second cache nearby.
Baby mice are all born in nests. Their parents do this to make sure they are warm and safe for the first few weeks of their life. Baby mice are born blind and deaf and are incredibly vulnerable to outside stressors and possible injury.
By staying inside the nest, they are kept away from outside creatures and obstacles that may hurt them.
Do All Mice Build Nests?
Since mice don’t only make nests for reproductive purposes but for shelter and warmth, both male and female mice build them.
Due to the essential role in their survival, it is not surprising to discover all mice, both wild and captive, build nests at some point in their lives.
What Does a Mouse Nest Look Like?
A mouse nest looks like a sphere with a hole for them to move in or out. The size can vary from mouse to mouse but usually ranges between four to six inches. Its appearance may also depend on the materials from which the mouse made the nest. [Source]
Wild mice may build their nests in a range of locations including:
- Abandoned burrows
- In outdoor clutter like piles of wood or rubbish
- Between clutter inside houses that are easy to access
Mice usually build their nests in a dry, sheltered area relatively close to a food source. They, unfortunately, don’t keep their nests very clean, so a strong ammonia smell from urine and mice droppings may be present in and around them.
What Do Mice Build Nests Out Of?
Mice usually build their nests from materials they find in their environment. Their most common choices include:
Paper and Cardboard
Mice will often scavenge for fibrous material they can shred to use for making their nests. Paper and cardboard are both perfect for this and are in pretty good supply. They also have insulating properties that provide benefits for mice trying to escape the cold.
Grass and Hay
Another material in plenteous supply, grass, hay, and straw, can be found widely available in most places where mice make their nests. It helps maintain the structure of the nest and provides insulation as well.
Twigs provide structural support to a mouse’s nest and are essential for building a solid, strong nest capable of protecting its occupants. It’s no wonder it’s one of the go-to materials mice choose to build their houses.
Pieces of Cloth
Although pieces of cloth or shredded clothing isn’t easily accessible to all mice, many who can get into houses will use them to increase the comfort and warmth of their nest.
How Long Does It Take For a Mouse to Build a Nest?
The time it takes for a mouse to build a nest depends entirely on the mouse and the materials available. For an experienced nest builder, a nest may take only a day or two to construct.
Adolescent mice, on the other hand, could take a week or more to get their nest ready for habitation.
How Many Mice Can Live in One Nest?
Despite one mouse being perfectly capable of building a nest, it will rarely only be occupied by one mouse on its own. It is estimated up to 24 mice can live in a single nest. Out of the 24 mice, usually, at least five are females who are ready to reproduce. Each female can have around eight pups at a time.
Once a nest is abandoned in the wild, another mouse may claim it as its own.
If their nest is disturbed, adult mice may not return unless it is returned to its original state or there are babies inside who must be cared for.
When Do Baby Mice Leave the Nest?
Baby mice are born furless and blind. Luckily, they grow and develop quickly, sporting fur and adorable squeaky voices at just six days old.
By around three weeks they are weaned and can leave the nest and start looking after themselves.
Most wild mice only live for about a year, and females can start breeding at as young as six weeks old.
Should I Provide My Pet Mice With Nesting Material?
Nest building is ingrained into most mice’s nature as a survival instinct. They absolutely love burrowing and should be provided with the materials to do so.
If you want to set up your pet’s enclosure to allow nesting, consider doing the following:
- Provide nesting boxes filled with materials commonly used to construct a mouse nest. This should include shredded paper, straw, and pieces of cloth.
- Ensure the nesting box is cozy and dark, mimicking the holes or burrows mice would choose to build in the wild.
- If you are housing more than one mouse in a cage, provide each mouse with their own nesting box if they become territorial and want to sleep and burrow on their own.
- Clean their cage at least once a week, but avoid disrupting the nest too often. Unfortunately, mice nests can become a bit smelly, but that comes with the territory of keeping a mouse as a pet.
- Clean out the mouse nests about once every one or two months, depending on its state and smell. Do not remove the nests every time you clean the cage, as this could disturb and unsettle your pets. When you remove the nests, clean the entire cage out and disinfect it before replacing the bedding and supplying new, clean nesting boxes.
Caring for mice can be slightly more complicated than first expected. It is important to provide them with all the comforts and nesting opportunities they may have had in the wild while also keeping them and their cages clean and hygienic enough to prevent them from becoming a health hazard to yourself or others in your home.
Understanding why mice build nests and how to give them what they need to do so in captivity can help you and your mousy sidekick have a long, happy time together.