Saturday, April 28, 2012

Starting A Rattery Part 4 Finding your place of Zen.

Once you have left the bickering and have a few friends to enjoy, its time to have fun. Most don't last past the bickering. Unless you enjoy the fight. But for me I have no interest in it. I am interested in the rats. I don't pine about whats been posted on the Internet. We all have so much stress because of the recession we live in. This economy has hit us all hard. We have so much turmoil in our every day lives from scrambling to pay our mortgage or rent, buying groceries, raising kids and health issues with no insurance that we need a release from all of that. I firmly believe that everyone should have a hobby. Something to enjoy and get your mind off things. For me that's my rattery.

My husband asked me 2 days ago he said, "with all we go thorough what is going through your mind at any given moment?" And my honest answer was, "what my next breeding will be, or what my inbreeding ratio's are." And he laughed and said, " well that's pretty innocent. At least your not drumming up trouble like some of your family members are". And its true. This is why I haven't aged in years. Not a grey hair on my head. I have honestly been breeding for 28 years this year. I bred parakeets since 1983 as well....

So finding your happy place is more simple than you ever had imagined it. All it is about is the animals in your house and the fun people you have met while adopting them out. And if your lucky, your mentor. You can also build the best relationships with adopters that eventually want to breed. All 3 that I mentor were my adopters, and I got to know them for years before they started breeding. So before they bred they would come over and we would just talk for hours. And it was fun for me. And still is. We are always calling each other, texting or emailing about something.

This is all I recommend. Just have fun! Do not worry about your approval rating. Spend time with your family, play with your rats and enjoy your live. Leave the drama out of your hobby. This world provides enough of that.

Breeding quality rats cannot happen until you have found a happy place, gotten good rats which I have explained my thoughts on how to do that. By mentor ship, and building a good friendship with a breeder who breeds the variety you like. And after you have learned genetics. As I stated before in my personal opinion that takes 2 years to get a good grasp of. Your not going to be able to succeed if you cannot predict the out comes of your breeding's.

Quality rats will not happen over night, but you can get a head start by getting rats with pedigrees and health verifiable history. And this requires at least 6 generations of pedigree but your better of with even more. 6 gens is considered a new line and there has not been sufficient time to track the longevity of each of those generations since they are probably still all alive. At at lest they should be hopefully. I was able to get some with 17 or so generations behind them, and that was because I worked so hard at making great friendships with people and proving that I could be trusted. And you can too.

Once you have the new rats, and you know you've got the health and longevity your looking for you can start choosing the best babies in the litters. And its not always the your favorite colored or marked baby. Be sure your not choosing according to color. You will loose type and size in the line if you do that. You can always add color or pattern later. Choose the babies that are the most robust, shortest heads and nicest size. You should not have to work really hard to determine which babies have the best temperament since its genetic and you already have that covered with pedigreed rats. They should all be well tempered. And on the rare occasion you get a crazy baby, just don't choose it.

That's all I have to say, I hope it will be of some help to new breeders. Its is and has always been my intent to help the newbies in the community and suggest alternative ways to get some longevity under your belt. I hope some of what I have written might help you, and give you suggestions to help relieve some stress. If I am missing anything and you still need helpful suggestions, please don't hesitate to email me and ask. I am always here to help.

Starting A Rattery Part 3 Steps To Avoiding the headache!

I am going to tell you how to survive the on slot of angry people. These are only suggestions to help breeders who feel cornered and are looking for a way to get past it. I do want to encourage new breeders to start up a rattery. After all who's going to continue with the progress the breeders before us have made. Its up to the new generation to continue our work.

I don't think the breeders I have mentored have even had to deal with any of this headache. Here in Colorado at least we have found out how to get along. And things have been peaceful for years. We are just happy, and cannot wait to talk to each other. Seriously! It can be done! And this is a community that I was left with all alone to build, as the breeders before me all left at the same time due to not getting along anymore. I literally built it from scratch and started anew by myself. And its a huge community now. We aren't perfect, I am not suggesting that we are! But I have learned my lesson and stopped poking my nose into things in the community where people cannot and refuse to get along. An old time breeder in FL once told me, now that the community knows your there, back off. And every now and then, post a simple comment. All they need to see is that you exist. And in several years, all they will remember is that you have been around for a long time. So that's my tip #1 for you. It doesn't mean to hide under a rock either.

For some reason we all seem to think we need to poke our noses into the forums, post and get the approval of all the other breeders in the US. In all actuality, we don't! We really don't need them at all. What is needed is to research, look at websites, do your reading, and get a mentor. That's the only person we need. Those other people in the forums who are mean and don't listen do not affect you and what you do. Along they way you will find other good people in your searches. You will..

I really got hit with the drama hard, for a long time. And it was very taxing on me. In the beginning you want to be enthusiastic about everything, and you want to chime in and post on all the groups. But that can be both good and bad. And no one that's in the community knows you, so everyone sees that as a threat. Everyone is tired of people coming on line and saying they have years of breeding experience when they just showed up and no one can provide proof of it. So people target you because of it. You cant change their minds about that. Or if your genuinely new to breeding they just plain disrespect you because they can see you don't know a lot. Rat breeders have not learned how to get along in this day and age. Its sad to say but very true. They will automatically look for the negatives in everything you say and point it out. Instead of looking at the positives. And there are some exceptions to that aw well. But the majority of the rat community is very negative towards each other.

I have become skilled for a very long time at staying to my self and getting the longevity in the community by building my own community. There is an art to it.

Step #1 At 1st you post on groups, let them know your there. You'll get some heat for it out of sheer disrespect. Its going to happen. Rat people are mean. But this is the 1st step towards your freedom and happiness. Once your known to everyone, back off. Leave all the communities and groups on FB or yahoo. What ever it is. You don't need them. Except for the few people who were polite and helpful to you. What you do need is step # 2, your own community. These are people you adopt to and from. Keep them close. Have a forum for your rattery if need be. These are the only people you need! Don't let the rest tear you down! Invite all your adopters to join as well as the polite breeder you have met. They will be a good source of info for you.

Starting A Rattery Part 2 How to get rats & the headache of breeders!

Ahh you've decided to breed. Well now your on the lookout for rats. But its likely that no one will adopt to you if they do not know you. They don't want top see their rats get into the hands of an unknown. Old time breeders want to see longevity on your part before they will adopt to you. Many of the old timers have been burned multiple times by adopting out stock and then the breeder up and quits. Or immediately shares their stock with some other breeder they don't know.  And they end up all over the country. So the veterans want to get to know you first to see what kind of person you are. And that's understandable. You would do the same.

So get your name out there. And show how patient you are. They will also be looking to see how professional you are. So they will expect to see a website where they will be able to track the progress of the lines they might send you. And just having a Facebook account is not professional enough to be a rattery. You cannot adopt out all your babies that way. And its not a respected way to do things in any breeding community. A website shows you are putting forth a real effort. And since you obviously have rats already, (you fell in love with them some where....) post your pets on your site. Put up clear, not blurry pictures. Explain that your new and doing your research and that your willing to wait. Post your goals and tell the truth! Be honest. That's respectable.

Find a mentor! There may or may not be a reputable breeder in your state. And if there isn't that's perfectly fine. But find someone who's been breeding for several years with pedigreed rats, someone that has the varieties your interested in so that you can learn. Do not expect for them to ship to you right away! They need to get to know you and for me personally... I have a policy where I need to get to know a person for 4 years before I adopt breeding stock to them. Many breeders are this way, some more lenient, some more strict. But I prefer to have a friend that I can trust. My rats are my children and I worry about them being sold on the black market and ending up missing. So I want to have close friends that feel my babies are individually as important as I do. All of the breeders I have mentored were my adopters and became close friends first. Long before they started breeding.

While your developing a relationship with your rattery of choice, you will no doubt be getting on some forums, Facebook and other rat communities sites. And what your going to find is quite stressful. We have breeders not wanting to adopt to newbies and bashing them, newbies bashing old time breeders for not adopting to them, and for breeding unpedigreed rats... and pet only people bashing everyone for either breeding too much, or not giving their rats enough plush toys...people complaining about ethics, feeding, vetting... OY! The list goes on! And you will be singled out as soon as you join the groups. I guarantee it. You cannot get away from it if your in the groups unless you follow my steps in the next article. So you can either get thick skin and weather through it, or give up on the idea of breeding or, you can do what I do and find your place of zen. My next article in the series will help you in the event that your being overly stressed and don't know how to handle it. Should you want the help, I hope that I can provide some useful info for you in that regard.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Starting A Rattery Part 1 Starting out.

While I am not one to encourage fly by night breeding, I do encourage well thought out plans, I even mentor those with a good heart and ethics, although I may be hard on them at first until I see where their heart really is. I wanted to post this so that all of you can seriously consider what it takes to be a breeder, should you decide to do so. Am I discouraging breeding? No, no I like having other breeders to work with, I am just letting you think. I have done my best to provide all of you with a comfortable community to thrive in weather you are a breeder or general rat enthusiast. So please don't think that I am discouraging those of you who wish to breed someday. This is just food for thought.

This is what every person should think about if you are thinking about breeding:

1) Study up on genetics 1st. It takes about 2 years to get to know it. And that should be going on before you breed.

2) Decide what your ethics are.

3) Decide what club you will join that most closely represents your ethics and breed standards.

4) Decide what your going to breed and why.

5) Develop a close relationship with a local breeder who is in good standing in  your rat community. Have them mentor you. Even long before you breed. This will also get your foot in the door in your local community and get you well known before you need to adopt out babies. You will also earn respect from other breeders and future potential adopters if you do this. If you pop up on a group with a brand spanking new web site wanting to adopt out the litter you already had born and look as though you only care about re-homing babies, you will not get that respect.

6) Never compete with the local rat breeders. It's not a competition, you'll never get help that way. You need to work WITH them, not against them. That is what the local community is there for. They will help those who are in the right heart condition.

7) Decide if you can afford it. If you are a small rattery these are things to consider:

a) Caging & accessories. Each cage can be a minimum of $130. You will need several but at least  four. One for females, one for males and two for babies(male and female at age 5 weeks) although you may be able to get two $50 cages for the 5 week old babies to save money. You will also need several nursery cages/tanks for pregnant and nursing moms. 10 gallon tanks and a screen top with a water bottle and bowl will run you $45 each set up. You may need 3-4 of those. Each cage needs a wood toy which will cost $7, and those may need to be replaced every two weeks. Plus other assorted fun toys you may want. Durable food dishes are around $10 each, 16oz water bottles are $8 each for a good one.

b) Food, proper food. Not cheep superstore food. All the supplements and fresh foods as well. If you are feeding Harlan blocks and sending some home with adopters to use because that is what your babies are eating, you maybe spending $200 every other month on that alone. Or with grain you might spend a little more. Vegetables, pasta, treats and grains can be up to $30 a week.

c) Vet bills. Can you afford a $100 X-ray on your pregnant female should her pregnancy not go well? That may happen with no time to think. Then she may need a C-section. In a breeding colony adults can be more territorial and fights may and will happen, can you afford to get stitches or getting an abscesses fixed. Believe me this will happen! And not just once.

d) And very expensive shipping costs for breeding stock is something to think about. Many times you cannot get stock from your area, or you want something different so you need to ship up to once a year to keep your lines healthy and unrelated to a certain level. This is something you will keep doing throughout your breeding courier. Just the airplane ticket can be $190 plus the cost of the animals and you will need to get 6 animals to make the shipment worth while. Each animal can cost from $20 - $30 each from a reputable breeder. Airline costs go up every year.

e) Can you afford to clean your cage every other day and replace bedding that often? Bedding is the least expensive thing, but plan on spending $20 - $25 a month on it if you are using aspen which moms need to have their babies on. If you can get paper bedding from a feed store for the adults it's only $8 a bail. But those costs increase yearly.

8) Decide if your pocket book can handle being upside down on rattery costs on a constant basis. You need to have a job outside the rattery that can support it. Your rats will not make enough money to pay for themselves every month out of the year. Sometimes they might, but don't count on it. This is not a business, it's a hobby and should be looked at as something fun for you to do, not for a money making venture. These are rodents, not $10,000 horses. That is the basic truth. There is no getting around that.

9) Breeding should only be considered once you can comfortably handle all of these situations. You need to have the right state of mind. Think about this:

a) Can I last as a breeder? Can I keep these animals and care for them properly long term? Because if I don't last, what will happen to the poor animals involved who were entrusted to me by veteran breeders who were there to give you a good start?  What will your adopters who counted on you and needed and respected you do when you are gone? You need to think hard about this one before you consider becoming a breeder. You quitting has a profound affect on not just yourself.

b) Lets hope we don't have to think about this one: If I can't last, what can I do to ensure all the breeders who adopted rats to me are happy with where the animals went? Those breeders are highly concerned about where each and every rat born in their rattery goes, so if you can't keep them you will need to clear that with them first.

And last but not least, I could put this first, but after considering all of the above I will list this thought for you now:

10) First and foremost before any planning starts, you cannot throw a rattery together all the sudden out of no where in one day or one week or one month after you thought about wanting to breed, even if you already have several well tempered rats to breed! A good breeder breeds good quality rats, a pet shop or ware house breeds pet shop and mill rats. For example:

a) Just because your pet rats are sweet and healthy, does that mean they are a good foundation to your future breeding stock? No! Not at all. Even if your pets are the ones that made you consider breeding in the first place.

b) Can you say without a doubt that all of the past say ...100+ rats in your pets ancestry were bred for health, temperament and type? No! Do you know for sure that the rats in your line did not have cancer or bad immune systems or tumors? No! Those things are all very genetic. Can you guarantee that just because your pair are healthy that they are not the only healthy rats in their family? Because you can have 1 healthy rat out of the 100 in it's family tree. You better believe you can. Pet shop rats are not bred for health.

c) Can you be fairly confident that in 2 years your babies will be cancer or tumor free? This is after you are 4 generations deep into breeding that family of all unknown ancestry. How will the children who adopted from you be affected? Have you see little kids who have a dying pet...

d) On the contrast, can you predict the health outcomes in pedigreed lines to a reasonable degree, can you be sure that most of their line was healthy. Yes! Because these things are genetic and they were bred for health, temperament and type and their health was documented by the breeders to which you can contact and confirm that with.

And on a side note:

11) If once you are a well seasoned breeder, can you breed an unpedigreed rat into a pedigreed line? Well that is a conscience matter. But something only a veteran breeder should attempt in my opinion. This is only done if this veteran breeder knows there is something about that rat that can be of benefit to their existing colony, and knowing that the babies from said rat will be of 50% known ancestry and health is then bred into said rats new line. This is usually a rat that veteran breeder does know something about, it's not a rat that is just any pretty, well behaved healthy rat. But the veteran breeder knows to adopt this new line out with a clause on the contract or at least lets the adopter know of the potential unknowns on their website.

This is just here to help you decide what you can handle and what your situation allows. Please make your own decision weather to breed or not based on these facts.

I am only posting these things because I deal with them on a daily basis. This can give you incite on what goes on from the breeders perspective. These are things you cannot possibly think of until you are head first into it up to your eyebrows and turning back is more difficult than previously thought.

Breeding can be a very rewarding venture and hobby. And it is in the right situation. But if you hadn't thought it out well enough it can make you miserable if you cannot handle the things it takes to make it in this community.  So in conclusion, just think about it. Think hard. Yes they are just rodents, but there is a lot more involved than you can possibly imagine. Their lives are at steak. And just because rats are not million dollar race horses does not mean their lives are less valuable. You still need to make sure your not breeding them in a way that's going to ruin them or cause lots of dead babies. Each living creature has value.

Starting A Rattery

I want to start a series of posts about starting a rattery and the perils it brings. The purpose of these articles is to help new breeders if they feel cornered, stressed by the community, or confused at to how to start up a rattery. Hopefully it will provide something helpful to you if you need it. I have had so many people tell me they wish someone would write something on how to deal with certain issues. The issues I have been asked about and intend to write about are as follows:

Part 1 will be about starring a rattery and the cost involved. Also it will talk about the risks and ethics that you need to think about.

Part 2 will be the after math of that. Once you have gotten past the idea of expenses and decided that you can handle the financial burdens, how do you get rats? And the realization of the headache of dealing with the other breeders! Yes I said it, its a headache! People can be mean.

Part 3 will be about avoiding the headache. The headache of the constant bickering from the community your now in. There are ways to get past it!

Part 4 will be about finding your place of zen and really enjoying your hobby. And making a difference with the rats you breed.