Weaning & Separating Babies
At what age to properly wean and separate babies from their mom is always a topic with a ton of different opinions on! This is just alittle bit of info on when and more importantly why I do what I do.
When to wean and why?
First lets discuss what weaning means.
In my opinion weaning should be done naturally whenever possible. There may be a rare situation where you have to wean the babies yourself early but it would be very rare and for the health and wellbeing of the babies or mother.
A rat mother will naturally wean her babies at around 4 weeks old, sometimes a little older, sometimes a little younger. The biggest pro of this is that it is done slowly over time. The mother will nurse them less and less. A sudden cut off cannot be good for the babies.
Rats are good moms. They know what they are doing and do not need us to step in and decide when things should be done.
The problem comes from the fact that babies will start eating solid food on their own much earlier than 4 weeks. Many start to nibble and try food at around 2 weeks, and really begin eating at around 3.
So people think hey they are able to eat food all is well and they do not need to nurse anymore!
Honestly I think any intelligent person would realize that it is not that simple. It is not just a simple on/off switch. Babies need time to adjust and slowly come off the milk and onto solid foods.
On top of it milk is full of goodness that is so beneficial to growing babies. The longer they have access to that the better!
Let mom do her job. The babies will start eating solid foods and mom will stop nursing when she is ready.
There is almost never a reason that the babies should be forced weaned or taken from their moms before 4 weeks of age. Unless mom/babies have a health issue, let mom do her job.
When to separate the babies?
I separate my males from their mom/sisters at 5 weeks old and the girls stay with their mom forever or until they are sold or at an older age they may be moved to other female cages.
This is a hot subject for me as it really breaks my heart to see how some people sell babies much too young.
We run into the same problem mentioned above, people see the babies can eat and they go well they don't need mom anymore so why keep them around?
Do they really believe all mom is good for is milk? How sad for them (and their own moms lol)
A mom's role is so much more then just nutrition. She is teaching them key social skills so they can grow up to be balanced well rounded rats.
Besides that they are still just babies. They have yet to reach the maturity or understanding to be away from her yet.
I have a real judgmental distaste for people who sell babies too early. It is NOT for the babies well being in any way. It is purely selfishness on their part. Those that do so, are doing it to save money/space. Once the babies hit around 3 weeks and begin eating food your food bill grows by alot. You now have a whole litter's worth of growing mouths to feed. Let's say a little is average at 8-12 babies. That is alot of mouths to feed! Then there are those who breed often and want the cage for the next litter. Or those who want to sell before they have to separate the boys so they don't need yet another cage.
All that stuff comes with breeding. If you can not afford the food, cages or space... simply do not breed then. It is not right to give the babies a bad start because of it.
A myth to dispel:
Rats can get pregnant at 4 or 3 weeks old or even 5. No just no. There are multiple studies done on a rats sexual maturity and growth. It is very very rare for a rat to be able to get pregnant under 6 weeks of age. And nearly impossible under 5 weeks.
Yes there may be a fluke where a rat for whatever reason develops super early, just like every now and then a human girl may be able to get pregnant at young ages like 8 years old. But this is just not common enough to worry about in any way. It would be unbelievably rare.
Plus even being able to doesn't mean they are mature enough to get the job done. Many young males just do not understand right away or even show interest until older. I had one young boy who was like 4 months old just keep trying to hump a females head...
By far most breeders seem to not separate their babies until 5 weeks of age. I don't separate mine until then and I have no females getting pregnant.