There are many ways to breed and everyone has their own view on this. Personally I think it is most important you stand behind your views as a breeder and that as a pet home you agree with the views of the breeder you source your rats from. The breeding ethics you will find below are no rules I set for myself, or anyone else for that matter, merely a basic guideline of how I do things. If it turns out another approach fits a situation better I may deviate from what is written below. Animal welfare is however very important to me.
The rats I keep are first and foremost my pets, they live here with me and get the best care possible. They will not be penalised for the benefit of breeding besides the inevitable risks involved. This includes the following:
My own rats will not be rehomed
They are my own pets and I am close to them, so they will live their lives here with me. Even rats which are not or no longer fit for breeding will not be rehomed, their breeding status does not influence their status as a pet. My own rats are not available for adoption, the only adult pets I might rehome are homed kittens returned to the rattery by pet homes.
Rats will not be euthanised without medical indication
This is a no-cull rattery, litters are not downsized by removing kittens and rats not or no longer fit for breeding are not euthanised.
Rats which are terminally ill and/or in unbearable pain will be euthanised humanely. I am against extending an animal’s lifespan at the expense of quality of life. Naturally all manners of treatment will be tried or considered first before deciding to euthanise and it will be done humanely by a skilled vet.
Does will usually be bred only once
There is always some risk involved with getting a litter and both the pregnancy and nursing period are taxing on a doe’s body. Besides that the goal of a well planned litter is to get kittens which are some sort of ‘improvement’ on the parents. More than one litter should usually not be necessary. Of course there are exceptions, for example to produce a different kind of litter or because the first litter did not produce any females to breed from. Still it is not common practice at this rattery to breed a doe more than once.
To improve the fancy rat as a species selection is very important. People sometimes say breeding is a guessing game and that is certainly true, but as a responsible breeder you try to make the best guesses. Not every good animal produces more good animals, but you are certainly fool if you expect good animals from a bad one!
Fit to breed
A rat is only fit to be bred from when the temperament, health and build are good, preferably exceptional. To create a good healthy line it is important to only use animals that fit that view and support that goal. A rat with questionable health or temperament is certainly not fit to be bred from!
Pedigree and line information
The above is not only true for the individual rat but also for the line it comes from, especially close family members. A rat can be very sweet and healthy, but if the litter mates have all sorts of problems it might be better to not breed from this rat. A pedigree with extensive information about the line is pretty much essential. After all you have to know who the litter mates, parents, grandparents, etc are so you can find out how they are doing health and temperament wise.
In-/linebreeding and outcrossing
When looking for a fitting pair of parents I use linebreeding and outcrossing. Linebreeding means breeding two related animals, while outcrossing means breeding two unrelated animals. Both are very important in my opinion.
Linebreeding (often called inbreeding) is often demonised these days, because it can go very wrong in incapable hands. Basically with linebreeding you get what you put in: if you breed two related short-nosed animals, you get more of that (short-nosed animals in this example). Do you breed healthy sound animals, you are more likely to breed more healthy sound animals which are again more likely to produce more of such animals.
Outcrossing is a very useful tool when you want to combine two lines with each other, or when you want to improve a certain aspect of your line. For example: you have a healthy and good-tempered line, but the rats are rather small and are only getting smaller with each generation. A solution is to outcross to a line which produces bigger rats!
However, it is a bad idea to outcross each generation, because it will end up being a mish-mash of all kinds of characteristics. This can end up seemingly positive for a while, but because there are so many different genes in there pretty much everything can pop up. For example they could be carrying a genetic disease which suddenly pops up, and because everything is outcrossed you have no idea what the source of this disease is and thus which rats aren’t carriers! You then probably end up ending your line entirely.
When linebreeding you can usually tell which rats brought in the less desirable genes and it usually crops up earlier in the line too, which makes it easier to breed away from such problems.
As you can read on my page about breeding goals, variety is not my most important goals but I do focus on a certain group of varieties. I want to avoid breeding many different mutations together, because this can influence the health of the rats. I also avoid breeding specific varieties which come with certain health problems, such as hairless/fuzz and tailless/manx.
More coming soon!