The Virtual Mentor

I decided to write a series of blog posts regarding starting up a new rattery through the first couple of years. I am including much of the information, strategy, techniques and answers that I really wish I had had access to when I started breeding in 1994! Hopefully, new breeders will find it and it can help them out.

I call it The Virtual Mentor because it’s catchy and is the sort of information one should get from a mentor. However one should very clearly note that these blogs are not a substitute for an actual, real live mentor. A mentor is a very important, personal part of starting a rattery and a generic blog post can never replace that.

I also decided to write a series of blogs on this topic because it’s really far too much information to put into one of my RFL articles, but I do hope that these things will compliment one another. It is important to note that The Virtual Mentor is an ideal; even though it is my experiences, opinions and what I have learned is “best” when running a rattery, that does not mean that I have followed it in every instance. Many of these recommendations are written in hindsight, after harming my own breeding program in some way. Also, not every rattery will do all these things all of the time. There are lots of circumstances that will interfere with doing things in the “ideal” way; though we always strive to improve and do better, we will always, as humans, fall short.

Part One: The Decision

Part Two: Starting Out

Part Three: Planning Your Bloodline

Part Four: Your First Litter

Part Five: Shows & Clubs

Part Six: Population & Selection

Part Seven: Inbreeding & Outcrossing

Part Eight: Health Challenges

Part Nine: The Final Word

Breeding for Longevity and Health

Building a Rattery Website

What Does “Ethical” Breeding Mean?

Please do not reproduce, copy, or distribute without permission. Feel free to link to these articles, either this aggregate page or individually, but please do not re-post on another site. Thank you!


7 thoughts on “The Virtual Mentor

  1. Hello,
    what if you are still having trouble locating reputable mentors?

    I have done hobby breeding based on genetics, and have gotten both desirable and undesirable results depending on the pairings. The rats used though haven’t came from large scale or known breeders.

    I have taken classes for genetics, classes in animal nutrition, and have a several classes and experience for a pre-vet degree.. I am also in the process of getting my animal rehabilitation license. I have references from pet owners and veterinarians. I have also owned rats for 12yrs, but mainly as pets.

    Again I have been hobby breeding since summer 2008 – spring 2010 and have now stopped due to personal reasons. I would like to breed again in 2013, with more well formed areas of focus and better lines. I am also register with the NARR, which I used to help manage things better. Along with keeping good detailed records.

    Unfortunately, I am having problems locating mentors and breeders willing to sale from their lines to another breeder (me).

    I am looking for more advice on networking. That by 2013 I can begin breeding again with good lines and be more involved in the rat community.

    Thank You,
    Hilary Edgin
    Fort Wayne, IN

    • That’s certainly a valid concern.

      I believe I do address it in the actual Virtual Mentor post though. What new/returning breeders need to do isn’t look for someone who will immediately sell them stock to breed from, you need to form a relationship with a breeder who shares your interests and ethics.

      For me personally, I form a relationship of at least 1 year with a new (to me) breeder before I sell them any breeding stock, and it doesn’t matter if they’re brand new or if they have been breeding for 10 years, those are just the rules I personally go by. No one gets breeding stock from me until I know them well, I’ve been burned too many times.

      So really, if you know now that you want to breed in 2013, then now is the perfect time to start forming relationships with the other breeders and clubs in the area – and luckily, you’re right in the same area that the two clubs I belong to, RFL and NIRO, have most of their members and hold their shows.

      Going to shows, meeting breeders face to face, talking about your goals and getting to know them (and their lines!) BEFORE you want to actually purchase breeding stock is the best way I could recommend for anyone to go about this.

      There’s a NIRO show in Valparaiso in May, and an RFL show in Lansing in November, every year! Check out both clubs and their membership, check out the breeding stock of the participating breeders, and join one or both clubs!

  2. Pingback: Starting a rattery: Learning and Finding a mentor « moonlitwatersrattery
  3. I have been reading your words everyplace I can find them. Trying to learn. I went to the member sites Your club and am soaking that info also. I can find no mentor so I am not breeding now. I am still doing rescue. I may just have to go it alone with the old “three generations of registered rats.” Or whatever it is. No one wants to help and no one wants to give up/sell any nice breeder stock. I ran my mouth when I saw yucky stuff happening and then took the consequences. I would take the consequences now.
    Maybe I should do what Camarattery (sp) is doing and breed a bunch of lab rats. Lord knows I have rescued enough labbies. Do people have any idea of what the labbies could carry genetically? I doubt it, not when they are coming from a LAB (not where they were birthed) and you can’t have their papers. So maybe I am better off startning by myself. Soon Breeder rats in a lot of the US will have variegated (LOL) labby genes. Anyhow, you and a few others are the only breeders I would want to learn from. So, I glean what I can and search for more. ❤ Londa

  4. Hi I want to start breeding rats as a business and make a profit of it. I want to make a rattery website also. I need a mentor and I have no clue where to look for one. I have owned rats for about 2-3 yrs and currently have 12. A week ago I had 26.
    I have had two litters, one on purpose for a school project. The other unexpected and I decided I wanted to go somewhere with this.
    Please email me any info you can supply me with. Thanks.

    • Hi Kaylyn,

      I feel like you haven’t really read the blog on which you’re commenting to ask these questions. Breeding rats is NOT a business, and you CANNOT make a profit at it, let’s just start with that. The only people who make a profit breeding animals are mass-breeding in poor conditions and selling those animals in bulk to retailers or reptile hobbyists for food. A google search would show you that the reputable, ethical breeders of any animal species find that they spend much, much more than they could ever possibly make on their animals. Between quality food, constant care and attention, veterinary care, website and membership fees, proper cages, and etc – you could never ever charge an amount for babies that would make that cost up. Besides which, in order to produce quality animals, you cannot be breeding very often, as you must dedicate a lot of time to evaluating, selecting and socializing your babies.

      I have a blog specifically about how to best make a rattery website, feel free to search the blog to locate it.

      What happened to your population to cause it to go down by half in a week? You say a week ago you had 26 and now you have 12 – where did those other rats go?

      The best advice I can give you is to thoroughly read this blog, then re-evaluate breeding with your current stock. Join a local organization, make friends with REPUTABLE breeders, hold yourself to a high standard of care, and then find a mentor who can supply you with QUALITY pedigreed breeding stock and help you get started.

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