3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

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3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Quisp_ on Sat Dec 09, 2017 1:01 pm

Hello everyone.

I am very new to the forum and I tried looking in other threads for answers to my question but no luck in finding a situation similar to mine. I am really hoping to get some advice, I tried on other groups on facebook but very little response.

I have had 3 female mice (all from the same litter, roughly same size) for about 5 months now: Milka, Cookie and Latte. They initially lived in a 45 litre bin cage. They have been getting along fine with minor squabbles before. The problem has escalated in the past 2 weeks. I have noticed that the fights would start as soon as the food showed up in the cage. Fights have become more serious and then I have found one of them (Milka) bloody outside of the nest last week. I assumed she fought with Latte because she also had one bite on her tail. I rushed to the vets just to be sure Milka will be okay, she had a couple of bites on a tail and one on the rump and one of her toes dislocated/broken (the vet could not tell but said it shouldn't be a worry). She got a painkilling solution to receive for 3 days but I only managed to give her one dose and after she seemed completely fine so I didn't continue with it. I changed the food from muesli to lab blocks/nuggets to avoid fighting over tasty bits and I started feeding them unlimited amounts following the advice I received on a nother forum. I have also increased their living space by attaching another 35 litre bin cage below the initial one connected by a tube and adding another running wheel (they have two now). The fights have seemed to stop and just occassional squeeking or chase would happen but nothing unusual. All the chases however were initiated by the victim of the previous fight Milka, as if she turned to be a bully now but no blood was drawn.
Tonight I entered the room their cage is in and I noticed Milka again is bloody on her rump and another big bite on her tail. I believe this time she got into a fight with Cookie as she had a small wound on the face. I don't know what to do anymore, I have spearated them for about 20 minutes and put some tea tree cream on Milka's rump wounds. It looks as if she is the provoking one but at the same time she always ends up being beaten up. They are quiet now, together in one nest but I don't know how long will this peace last this time, I am scared to find Milka nearly dead next time I enter the room. I was thinking of separating her as she seems like a bully but is it possible for a bully to actually sustain the biggest injuries in a fight?
Please, any advice would be appreciated. Ask away if I didn't include some vital information.

PS: They have unlimited food, two water bottles and plenty of toys and paper tubes.

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by CallaLily on Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:40 pm

You need to determine which is the bully and separate her for about a week or so (I would assume not the beat up, bloody mouse kicked out of the nest). Usually missing her buddies will teach her to chill. But when you reintroduce, do it on neutral ground like you would when introducing new mice.

How large is their bin?  Length × width?  Sometimes larger spaces don't work out for some groups of girls. Also, two connected spaces can sometimes make things worse and increase the risk of the colony splitting. When you reintroduce, you may want to consider trying them in the minimum size recommended for the number of girls. At least for a time, until they're better bonded. (200 square inches for 3 girls)

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Quisp_ on Mon Dec 11, 2017 9:53 am

CallaLilly thanks for your response. I wish it was so easy to determine which one is the bully. Everytime I think I have managed to determine one I see the other two kicking off with each other and so on and so on. Therefore I am worried I will separate the wrong one out. I will observe them closely for the next few days although they seem to have calmed down now but this seems to be a reocurring problem.
The first bin cage was initially 51cm x 37cm if I remember correctly which give around 250 inches sqaure floor space from what I calculated. Now they have another one attached with the same floor space as the first one but slightly shorter in hight. I also thought that attaching the next one could cause teritorial behaviour but I also had conflicting info about increasing their living space.
Thanks again for your response. I will keep this thread updated when something changes.

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Quisp_ on Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:04 am


So I think Cookie is the problematic female and I have removed her from the cage to like a small kritter box for 20 minutes yesterday. She caused another fight literally within 5 minutes of coming back to the cage so I took her out for another 30 minutes and then let them all meet outside the cage and the rest of the night went peacfully. Today I just had to separate her as she was attacking the same female as yesterday but not the same one I have found bloody the other time. She just seems to be turning on everyone. When I separated her yestreday though the other two mice also had a small squable between each other. I no longer know if they are just stressed after the attacks from Cookie or if there is some sort of imbalance in the group.
My question is, should I try separating Cookie for a couple of nights and see if anything changes? If so, for the separation tank can I just use the other tank I have given them to increase the space? Should I clean them properly to get rid of their scents? Wooden toys have by now absorbed their smells as well. I attach a picrute of the setup so it's easier to imagine how it looks like. The bottom and top can be separated so I was wondering if that can be used for the time of separation?

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by CallaLily on Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:13 am

I would separate the bully for around 1 week. Yes, you can just split apart the two bins to make two separate living spaces for this time out. When you reintroduce at the end of the week, do so in neutral territory - clean of all of their scent. If all goes well for around an hour there, then you can try them back in the completely clean/neutral bin. Nothing with their scent. I would also suggest starting off with only one bin, at least for a few weeks, just to be sure they're getting along well before you think about attaching the second bin again.

Small squabbles are pretty normal. It's only when blood has been drawn that things have become too serious and we need to step in.

Btw, your bin cage looks very nice. I hope it all works out so they can eventually go back to enjoying all that extra space again. Smile

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Quisp_ on Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:48 am

Thank you so much, I might try in the next few days, I don't have a week because I am going away for Christmas next week and they will be staying at my friends so 4 days might be the longest I can currently do or just try after. And thank you for your quick reply and help, much appreciated as I was becoming very upset about this.
Will keep you posted how it went.
Merry Christmas!

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Quisp_ on Sat Dec 16, 2017 3:03 pm

Hi there, me again. I was hoping to get back here and say everything is running smoothly. The bully mouse has been separated for 4 days and 4 nights. Two girls were getting along just fine, not even a single squeek.
I have joined them together tonight about 1 hour ago. First in an empty container with nobody's scent and then to a sterile cage with cleaned toys and no scent on either. I gave them the usual food an water and once I thought it is all good the bully attacked again. Didn't draw blood but have I not stopped her, she would. I took her out to a critter container for 15 minutes. While she was out the other two mice started going crazy at each other too! After 15 minutes I put the bully back in and then they were all just bouncing off walls. Somethimes I think once they get so scared of the attack then any sudden movement makes them bolt like a lighting. I made a couple of videos to show how it looks like and whether I should intervene or just let them settle this? But I am not sure I can submit videos or how to do it. While I am typing this they seem to have settled but I worry they will start off again later tonight.
For filming I had to take the lid of the container of and the mouse that got really badly bullied that first time literally jumped on to the top of the container and onto my had just so she could get out. She had a small nip on her rump but no visible blood. Any ideas on how to share the videos and what to do? Give them more time?
Could it be that they will not get along any more and I will have to rehome one? They were fine in the beginning, they are from one litter and I would be sad to give one away.

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by CallaLily on Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:25 pm

Can you upload the video to YouTube or a similar site? And then just link it.

Usually, if blood is not drawn you need to just let them work it out. It can seem pretty intense to us but usually it's not as bad as we think.

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Quisp_ on Sat Dec 16, 2017 4:45 pm

I managed to upload the videos onto Vimeo, there is three of them there to see. Have a look and let me know what you think. So far they seem to just be squabbling every 10/15 minutes and then settling down for a while. But so far still no blood, jusr roughed up fur.

https://vimeo.com/247643295

https://vimeo.com/247643319

https://vimeo.com/247643328

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by CallaLily on Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:17 pm

I know it looks scary but with no blood drawn I would leave them to it. They mostly look freaked out and nervous to me. They should settle in eventually. Keep us updated.

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Peachy on Sat Dec 16, 2017 9:43 pm

Agh, my poat disappeared. My phone has been so glitchy. Undecided

The video you shared shouldn't be typical day-to-day behavior, but I think you're right that they're just freaked out at the moment. To add to that, sometimes mice attack freaked out mice because they're tired of them being a spaz. You could compare it to a "Pull yourself together!" slap. Once the freaked out one calms down, everything else calms down. Occasional squabbles are normal, and even occasional blood can be normal... Sometimes mice get carried away. If it's consistent fighting and injuries, if it's never peaceful, then you have some work to do with them.

If they don't settle down this time, there's a couple things you can try. A lot of problems like these start because one mouse is territorial, and they need to learn to share the essentials before they're okay with sharing the fun stuff. Putting them in the smallest space you have available with only the essentials should help accomplish this. During this time, go crazy working on getting them tamed. Tame mice will do so much better together than wild, crazy ones.

Alternatively, separate the one that can't get along for a little longer than a week... Give it three weeks. This does three things for you:
1. The problem mouse really misses her friends and will be more likely to play nice when reintroduced. In the mean time, you become her friend and get her nice and tame.
2. Your other two girls bond and are more likely to stick together if the problem mouse comes back and tries to cause problems again. This can help get the bully mouse to back off, when she sees that the other mouse won't follow her lead.
3. Everyone gets time to relax and cool off, preventing the "Pull yourself together!" slap.

Sometimes mice really just won't get along. In this case, you can separate her and try to find a new friend, keep her alone, or find someone who has the resources to put the work into her. I had a territorial mouse who drew blood every time she came in contact with a new mouse... but after a few tries something clicked and they became best friends! Later I learned that the territorial mouse was happiest living in a pair, with only one other mouse who could handle her. In a group, she started all sorts of fights. It was just her silly little personality! Amazing to witness how picky and complex they can be. Smile

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Quisp_ on Mon Dec 18, 2017 3:52 am

Hi guys, thanks again for your replies they kind of keep me sane.
So this is update on the caurrent state of things. Since the reintroduction on Saturday things haven't really calmed down like I wished to. Both morning I found the same mouse with new bites on her tail, it was quite badly bruised as well with some blood in the corners of the bin and the running wheel. This morning I made the decision to separate the bully for a longer period of time like suggested by Peachy. I am going away for Christmas and they will be taken care of by my friend so I also didn't want to put her in a dificult situation where she finds one of them injured and doesn't know how to help. I thought this will be best for everyone involved. Also the bullied mouse seems to be thinner now than ever, perhaps due to stress and constant chasing so I found it unfair to just keep leaving her there for the night with the bully and expect the best. She got some tea tree cream on her wounds to prevent infections.
I am back right after Christmas so by that time the bully will be separated for 8 days, I will give her two or maybe three weeks of loneliness and then try again. I was also wondering: I found them in the morning rather calm and not chasing but it was obvious they did fight over night. Will the bully still get the massge that she was separated due to her behaviour if I separated her when she was calm after the deed was done?

Now, if I could have some advice on what is considered essential in the cage so I give them bare minimum first and then expand their toy supply. Also, I already thought they were tame but since all those problems started they are very fidgity and runn when I open the lid of the tank. They come out right after but are definitely less friendly than before so how can I gain thier trust again?
Looking forward to your replies guys!
Smile

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Peachy on Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:12 am

Oh no. Sad This sounds like the right decision. I'd give her three weeks and then reintroduce carefully. I'll touch on that in a minute.

I don't know if mice 100% understand the cause and effect of bullying and being separated, but not having friends does soften them a little so they appreciate them more when they have them back. Sometimes it takes a couple tries, but we hope that they get the message the first time. If it doesn't work out after this, I would stop trying for a few months if you can maintain a second setup long-term. I'm suggesting this because I've had mice that chilled out with age, too.

So, essentials are basically ONE hide, a food dish/scattered food, and one water bottle. This makes it harder for one mouse to claim anything. (With my troubled girls, a breeder outside of the US actually suggested starting mice out in an empty cage overnight.) If they're doing okay after a couple hours, or after a night, or a couple days, or whatever, you can start slowly adding in toys. A TP tube. A wheel. Whatever else you might have. Slowly, so you can spot any troubles arising.

When it's time to reintroduce, do it in a larger space so they can come to each other on their own terms. A bathtub is great for that. Give it 15 minutes. If they're doing fine after 15 minutes, bump the timer up to 30 minutes. If at any time during these 15-30 minutes blood is drawn or they start reacting to each other like blood will be drawn, separate them and try again the next day.
It's important to differentiate between normal scuffles and actual fights, and it can be nerve wracking, but trust your instincts here. Mild chasing, sniffing, squeaking, humping is all normal. If they start chasing each other relentlessly the way they're chasing each other in your video, it's time for a break. Locking themselves into tight little balls is an actual fight. Working it out is a necessary part of learning to live together, so you don't want to separate unless you have to, but you do want to separate if things get too rowdy.
Try again and again, until they've made it through the 30 minutes peacefully. This took me three days, with two meetings a day. Gradual exposure so they can get used to each other. This isn't how we normally advise to introduce mice, typically it causes more issues than it solves, but occasionally there's a special one that needs the leeway. When they've gone 30 minutes without bloodying each other, you can move them to their essentials cage.

Hopefully with some time to de-stress, your girls will stop being flighty. How you work with them is up to you... some prefer removing the mice from their cage so they have to focus on you, others prefer to rest their hands in the cage and let the mice come out on their terms. I do both. Time and patience will get you the best results.

Good luck!

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Quisp_ on Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:51 am

Thank you so much for all the information. I will apply this in practice once I am back and the bully had some time to cool off and miss her friends. I will keep you posted and I really hope it will be some good news this time!

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Re: 3 female mice and sudden aggression problem

Post by Quisp_ on Thu Jan 04, 2018 4:28 pm

Hi guys, so I am back with the update on how things are currently going. I was away for Christmas and mice were under care of my friend. The bully was separated, it's been nearly three weeks now. The other two apparently, had two squabbles while under my friends care, she said nothing serious, just chasing each other. I saw a couple of small blood stains in their cage after I collected them back, but only very little. They have been squabbling while under my care too. Milka has been nipped on the bum a couple of times, very little blood was drawn. They would chase each other for a short while but fights never realy escalated and would die down quickly so I didn't separate. But that makes me wonder if the two girls actually ended up bonding better with each other? It didn't seem like so to me sadly.
Also, they all became supper skittish, never want to come out to interact. Before, when they didn't get ad libitum food they seem to be more social but now that they get it in abundance they seem to be less interested in socialising and not interested in treats so I have no bargaining tarif with them. Is tricking them outside of the cage and making them spend some time outside with me a good option?
I will be reintroducing tomorrow, first in the bathtub and then essential cage.
Just in case it doesn't work, I have one more question. Since it is only Milka (the usually bullied mouse) that seems to be getting bullied by everyone is it possible that she doesn't know how to show submissive behaviour or is just socially akward? Would you suggest that separating her for a couple of days or a week could be helpful? Or is she going to get ripped to pieces when she gets reintroduced? 
Sorry to be a pain, I am just considering all options.
Keep your fingers crossed for tomorrow!

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