does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

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does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by scaredymouse on Sun Jun 05, 2016 6:41 am

I feel like I have a pretty good handle on female colony dynamics. However, I find myself in a new situation and I'm just not sure what to do. Some of you may have seen my posts about my ladies recently. Quick recap. I had a colony of five happy ladies, two of which are elderly (over two years old). I feel in love with a baby mouse and had to bring her home. After quarantine and introductions, one mouse was very aggressive and drew blood. This mouse, Bitsy, is the smallest of my colony which I did not expect. I tried a time out but it did not work. So, I split my colony. I paired Bitsy with her bestest friend. And they are happy together. And my other colony of four is very happy together.

The problem is that Bitsy's friend has aggressive cancer and tumors that get bigger every day. Bitsy has always been a really anxious, fearful mouse. And she is really attached to her friend.. I'm sure she is going to have a difficult time dealing with Annie's death.

I have no way of knowing how she will react if I bring two new mice to her. But I know she will be very lonely without Annie. In the last week, her behavior had already started changing with me when I handle her. She is less fearful and will sit still in my hand now. Which had made me reconsider the possibility of trying once more to reintroduce her back into my colony. They already love her, except the baby she bit! And she already knows them.

Has anyone had any success reintroducing an aggressive female after being away for a while? Female colonies are so fascinating to me but also a real pain in the butt. Bitsy beat up the baby mouse pretty bad. I would hate to traumatize the little mouse but she handled it all very well. I would be able to spend 24 hours within earshot of the tank, and sleep with them nearby. So, I would be able to intervene at the first sign of trouble.

Thoughts? Ideas? Suggestions? Unless anyone can talk me out of it... I'm pretty sure I'm going to try it as long as Bitsy's behavior continues to change for the better.
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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by CallaLily on Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:59 am

I would say try again. Seren was very aggressive the first time I introduced her. Mostly against cheeseburger though, so once she passed I tried again. She still was aggressive with the other mice (still drawing blood) but I pushed through and eventually it worked out.

But then there was my previous four girls that no matter how much I tried, I still ended up with two groups of two. If it doesn't work out, maybe try putting one of the other four in with Bitsy?

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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by CinnamonPearl on Sun Jun 05, 2016 8:54 am

I would give it a go. I think it'd be for the best if Bitsy is safely introduced with the others when it's Annie's time. It'd help her to have others to comfort her. It's part of the reason I don't want Mabel and Egg to be my last two mice.

Something I've noticed is that it's always the smallest mouse who gets the angriest over new colony members being introduced. Alpha Mabel has always been chill about it and will take the time to straighten out any newbies who are acting up, but Little Cow on the other hand has always gone bonkers with anger. I think the reason is because as the smallest mouse, she's the most in danger of being pushed even lower in the hierarchy when someone new is introduced. Little Cow was not happy with Egg being introduced, but she didn't do too much because Egg was twice her size and had Mabel's support. But when Lilith was introduced, she was tiny enough that Little Cow felt comfortable roughing her up nonstop.

I would recommend that you keep Bitsy and Jellybean alone in a tank with only a food bowl and a water dish for a few days to force them to get along, but it was only really a temporary solution for Cow and Lilith. But maybe it'll work better for your girls?

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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by scaredymouse on Sun Jun 05, 2016 9:56 am

So, there is no way I can put someone else in with Bitsy. My other four are Gilly and Furgie (inseparable), baby Jellybean, and Delilah. If I take Delilah out, then Gilly and Furgie die... Which they will, they are elderly... Then Jelly is left alone to cope with that. We are all in a pickle. That little Jellybelly really shook everything up. But its always worth it if you save a sweet little soul. For everyone else, this is a bump in the road. Certainly no worse that anything they would have ever encountered in the wild! Sure, Bitsy is having a rough time. But she's in good hands. I think she has earned another chance to come home if she wants to. You know it's so funny... Maybe she never even cared for the other mice and the new one just set her over the edge! I like to think about stuff from other perspectives. The is no way we can ever really know stuff like that. We just see the behavior and then make everything else up. Anyway, i guess I'll feel better i try. I think she just had a tantrum. She's not that different from Penny. A squinty eyed, tail rattling, bratty little scaredy mouse. I can work with that.

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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by CallaLily on Sun Jun 05, 2016 1:22 pm

Oh duh, you'd be back in the same position. Doh Hopefully this reintroduction will work.

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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by MouseLover on Sun Jun 05, 2016 2:18 pm

My experience has also been that the smallest mouse makes the biggest fuss about introductions. I guess it makes sense, they would likely feel more threatened than other mice? I think it's worth another shot. Just be there on standby to break up any fights. It would be great if they could all get along.

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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by scaredymouse on Sun Jun 05, 2016 3:41 pm

It seems mean when I say it out loud, but after Annie dies, I plan to leave Bitsy alone for about a week. Of course, I'll spend a lot of time with her at least twice a day. She'll learn to like me and she'll be real good and lonely. Then I'll plop her back in with the other girls. By then, my little Bean will be bigger (she's growing like a weed!). I wonder if you leave, do you lose your spot in the hierarchy? Maybe Bitsy won't even care anymore. My group of 4 is doing great, not a peep out of their tank and everyone sleeps in a pile.

I'm so glad Jelly isn't wimpy. She gets knocked down, she gets back up, dusts herself off, and goes about her mousie business. So at least I'm confident that it won't be too stressful for her.

I spoke to a breeder who has two females available but they are only two months old. Then still need to be tamed and they're still pretty little. Not quite what I had in mind if Bits needs new friends but like I mentioned before, if she doesn't like them, I could put them in with Jelly and Delilah. And if I really wanted to ruin everyones lives, I could take Delilah out and put her in with Bitsy. What a mess! So, basically, Bits just needs to go home and hop in the coconut and make nice.

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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by peas on Sun Jun 05, 2016 5:06 pm

So, I would be able to intervene at the first sign of trouble


If she bit her bad enough, it's possible she'll do it again. You can't intervene fast enough when two little bolts of lightning are tearing at each other even if you are awake and ready to. I had two mice fighting over a cheerio and it was shocking how little i could actually do to stop them, if they were inclined to do real damage it would be done in a few seconds.

Personally, i wouldn't risk it if a hard bite has already been observed. In my experience, which is limited with females but it seems to me that aggression only gets worse and easier to commit in most people and animals. Once a dog, person,mouse, bites once, does anything once, it's far more likely they'll do it again and again.


If everyone is happy, except the bitey mouse, then why put the bitey mouse back?


I had a female mouse, that was far happier living alone. (not my current mice) After her cagemates died, i was worried she'd get lonely and depressed. The opposite happened.

You're obviously in the best position to know what to do but if the bitey mouse seems happy enough alone, she might be.

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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by Peachy on Sun Jun 05, 2016 5:57 pm

I'd give Bitsy and Jellybean another chance. Do you introduce in a playbin or put them together into a clean tank? I had girls who didn't get along at first but did well together after a few months apart. I also had a super territorial girl who drew blood during introductions twice a day for a few days... And after she was finished with that craziness, they were best friends and lived together very peacefully.

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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by CinnamonPearl on Sun Jun 05, 2016 6:17 pm

@peas wrote: You're obviously in the best position to know what to do but if the bitey mouse seems happy enough alone, she might be.  

An amazing point as always from Peas. But the thing is, Bitsy isn't alone right now. She's living with Annie. I think Scaredy was worried about how Bitsy will react when Annie passes. She might need other girls to be there for her when her best friend is gone.

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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by peas on Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:09 pm


My girl turned on her sister before she passed. About 5 days before her sister died, she started acting aggressive towards her. It was sad.

So my poor mouse had to spend her last 5 days alone, because her sister started being rough with her when she was too sick to fight back. Maybe it was payback for a lifetime of cheerio stealing! I think though, they just start to smell different and that causes them to sometimes try and weed the sick out. I imagine in the wild, pushing sick mice out the door might have benefitted the colony as a whole.


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Re: does anyone have experience with female colony dynamics?

Post by Brynne on Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:21 pm

Yup, healthy mice attacking an ill mouse is natural behaviour.  On Fun Mouse, members shared several graphic examples of it over the years.

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