Animal Welfare Information Center Newsletter, Summer 1997, Vol. 8, no. 2 *************************

Environmental Enrichment: Does It Reduce Barbering in Mice?

Anne Marie DeLuca, B.S.
Radiation Biology Branch, National Cancer Institute,
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892

One of the problems in maintaining group-housed mice is barbering one or more mice chewing (barbering) the fur and whiskers of other mice. A group of 300 mice of both sexes, which are being studied over their lifetime, were housed in a climate-controlled environment with night/day cycles. In order to alleviate barbering, their environment was enriched with toys and other objects at two different times.

Photo:  mice and a stainless steel cylinder Groups of 10 mice were housed in large microisolator systems containing Care-Fresh bedding. They were given 2-3 nestlers and small hiding/climbing articles such as a nesting box (fig. 1), a stainless steel cylinder [4" x 2.5"] (fig. 2), a transparent hamster log [A.J. Buck or Otto Environmental], a play cube or a Sleep n'Play hide-away [Otto Environmental]. Small cat/bird toys which can withstand cage wash temperatures (180oF final rinse) were also used for enrichment. One of the following cat/bird toys was placed in each cage: a spinner ball or lattice ball, a jingle bell roller (fig. 2), a geometrix ball, or 2 -3 poker chips [U.S. Card Playing Co.]. The toys were replaced every other week; at no time was the same toy used for more than 2 weeks. Toys were considered used if the balls had bedding stuffed into the holes or if the other toys had teeth marks around the edges or had pieces chewed out (fig. 2). The mice were often seen carrying the chips and rollers and rolling the balls around the cage (fig. 3).

The extent of the barbering behavior was decreased by the enrichment program. If the environment was enriched as soon as the mice were gang-caged, barbering was kept at a minimum that is, only the smallest mice (less than 2 percent of the total number of animals) were barbered. If the enrichment was delayed for a month or more, barbering occurred to about 23 percent of the mice. Barbering in control mice (no enrichment) was about 60 percent. In these experiments, enrichment was most effective in reducing barbering when it was started when first housing the mice in group cages (fig. 4).

[*ICON*] Figure 4.

Sources for Mouse Enrichment Supplies
(Item with catalog number)

Nesting boxes MB 00

4960 Almaden Expressway
Suite 233
San Jose, CA 95118

Nestlers NES 3600

Ancare Corp.
2647 Grand Avenue
P.O. Box 814
Beflmore, NY 11710


Lattice Balls #337790
Spinner BaRs #394112
Jingle Bell Roller #2208
Bx Geometrix Balls #341121
Hand Helds (bird toy) #399152
Hamster Logs #8677

A. J. Buck & Sons, Inc.
11407 Cronhill Drive
Owings Mills, MD 21117

Poker Chips

U.S. Card Playing Co.
Available in variety and hobby stores

Large variety of small hiding places suitable for mouse cages

Discovery Play-Cube SAM 85
Sleep n'Play Hide-Away SAM 14
Hamster Log 61336

Otto Environmental
6914 N. 124th St.
Milwaukee, WI 53224
1-800-484-5363 Ext. 6886

This article appeared in the Animal Welfare Information Center Newsletter, Volume 8, Number 2, Summer 1997

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