An Amazing Journey
A rats gestation period is only 21 to 24 days long. In that short period of time, a new life is created and is ready to come out and meet the world. It's really amazing when you sit down to think about it. When a rat is born, its eyes and ears are closed and it relies on its mother for warmth, nutrition, protection, and even to help move bowels and urine. They are pretty feeble when they arrive. On this page, I plan to document a litter of rats on their journey from naked eeping blobs of pink to fully furred, curious creatures. The litter pictured directly below was born on March 8, 2011 at four o'clock in the afternoon. I picked a random male and female and marked their tail with food coloring so that the same rats could be followed for the entire period. There are also pictures to help sex young rats, which is fairly easy once you figure out the differences. Eventually, there will also be pictures to help determine the difference in coat, ear type, and colors, but this litter is standard everything, so it will be months down the road. Stay tuned for more!
Birth of the pups Part 1
Birth of the pups Part 2
Photos taken March 9, 2011. As you can see from the pictures, they don't quite look like rats at this point. Their skin is pink, with no sign yet of future markings or color. You can look at the eyes and figure out what some possibilities may be, though. All of the pups in this litter have dark eyes, probably black with a possibility of dark ruby. If the eyes are pink, or light ruby, they are harder to see under the skin at this point. Their ears are completely closed and they rely on scent and touch to find their way around. Their skin is translucent and many of their organs can be seen clearly through their skin. When they eat, their stomach is very visibly as a yellowish white half moon in their side. This is known as the milk band, and lets the breeder know that mom rat is doing a good job of keeping her babies tummies full.
Photos taken March 10, 2011. In these photos, you can see that the skin is beginning to change colors from a bright pinkish red to a softer pink. Markings are barely visible at this point, but some are defined enough to make an educated guess as to adult markings. The skin is becoming thicker and less transparent, and the digits on the paw are becoming more pronounced. Ears and eyes remain closed. Whiskers are growing longer and coat type can be determined by an experienced breeder at this point. Both of these pups are standard coated and standard eared. Looking at the pictures, you can also see that the pups have really grown overnight.
Photos taken March 11, 2011. On day three, the markings have really darkened up with darker colored pups. A good idea of markings is possible now, though more darkening and lightening will occur over the next two days. The whiskers have grown extensively overnight and coat type is easily distinguishable, even for the novice enthusiast. The fingers and toes have grown longer, and nails are easy to see at the tips. The have not separated yet, but will do so soon. The ears are starting to unfold from the head and sometimes pop out to the sides, like with the face picture of the male above. The skin becomes even less transparent, and they eyes are the only part of the inner body that is still easily seen. The noses are starting to take more of a shape and they are finally starting to look like rats!
Pictures taken March 12, 2011. There is a noticeable change in the pups between day three and day four. A thin coat of hair has sprouted up and the markings are nearly as clear as they will get before the full coat comes in. The fingers are almost completely separated and the nails are much longer today. Whiskers are easy to see and the faces are really starting to shape up. A slit is beginning to form on the eyes, though they won't open for days yet. They still rely on mom for temperature, potty needs, and nutrition, though mom can safely spend time away from the nest for longer periods of time, as long as the pups don't become chilled. The pups aren't very active, but are starting to explore the nest a little bit with their noses, though they won't choose to venture out of it just yet.
Pictures were taken on March 13, 2011. As you can see, there really hasn't been much of a change between day 4 and day 5, but these babies have already come a long way in just five days. Take a moment to look back at the day one picture. The differences are astonishing! These pups are finally starting to look like real rats. Their fuzzy newborn coat is coming in much thicker, but the belly will remain fuzzless for a few more days. As you can see, their fingers and toes are more separated, and their markings are very dark. Now you can see who has a headspot or a blaze, and who is self or berkshire. They have become much for active and are more difficult to keep still for photos. Their whiskers have lengthened and their ears are unfolding and will soon open. Their eyes still have a ways to go, however, and will remained shut for the time being. Now they are finally starting to get the cute factor!
Starting on day five, the markings are really clear, and by this point, I can usually figure out what their adult markings will be. For example, the male will most likely be a variegated hooded and the female will most likely be a bareback. The colors for both will be black. Every few days, I will document how the markings have darkened up so that you can get a good idea of how the coat develops, and how things change.
Pictures taken March 14, 2011. As you can probably tell, not much happened between day five and day six. The fur is getting thicker and they are gaining weight at a steady pace, though nearly all development is starting to slow down considerably. The eyes remain closed, and teeth are just below the surface, though they haven't broken through yet. The nails are considerably more prominent and they look like tiny rats now.
Pictures taken March 15, 2011. Now the fur is thick enough to determine colors, enough most of the tougher dilutes. They are starting to get fatter, and mom is spending more time away from the nest, and enjoys time away from her babies. They are much more active now and will wiggle when you pick them up, especially if startled. Still no noticeable teeth yet, but they will poke through the surface very soon. Other than that, it's just a matter of the fur growing out and putting on weight for the babies at this point. Oh! And making really cute pictures!
Pictures taken March 16, 2011. There are a few changes happening from day 7 to day 8. The fur is considerably thicker and the darks are darker and the lights are lighter. The white is really showing up nicely now. They are able to find their way back to the nest if their mom drags them along when she leaves to eat or use the bathroom. They tend to squirm quite a bit more when held as well. Also, as you can see from the picture directly above, the teeth have finally broken through the surface, but just barely. These are the lower incisors and will grow much longer than the upper incisors. They start out white, but will turn yellow by three weeks of age. This normal, as all rats have a yellow pigmentation to their teeth.
Pictures taken March 17, 2011. Everything is growing at a slower pace now. The fur continues to thicken, the teeth continue to break through, and the ears start to open up. It will still be three to five more days until the eyes begin to open, but that doesn't stop them from exploring! They will crawl a little ways away from the nest in search of mom if they are hungry and she hasn't returned. As you can see from the bottom picture, the markings have darkened up considerably since the last markings shot.
Pictures taken March 18, 2011. Things are pretty much at a stand still regarding major changes. The pups aren't quite getting up to crawl yet, and still kind of drag along, though they are more active than they were yesterday (as you can see from the boy's blurry pic *sorry*). Mom is able to spend time away from them now, for as long as two hours at a time, and she really enjoys the break.
Pictures taken March 19, 2011. The pups are now too squirmy to hold in my hand for pictures. They just walk right off the edge. They are now starting to pick up their bellies as they walk along, as you can see in the female's picture. I took side shots of the faces so that you can see how much longer their noses have gotten, even overnight! They can hear a little better now, though sounds are still fairly muffled. The eyes will begin to open over the next few days, and the pups will continue to move around more and gain strength in their growing muscles.
Pictures taken March 20, 2011. On day 12, the pups really start using their neck muscles more. They will lift their heads and smell all the new smells. The teeth are very visible now as well. The can clearly be seen. The pups also start trying to clean themselves, though they aren't very effective at this point. The fur has come in on their bellies, which is the last place the fur grows. They are no longer pink, and look like a rat!
Photos taken March 21, 2011. Some of the littermates have started opening their eyes, but these two have not as of yet. Growing continues, and I can now start to determine who has good type and who does not. The male is a possible keeper because his nose is considerably short and his face is compact and well rounded. The female has a much longer nose with more angular features. I do not like the look of racy rats, so I don't keep offspring that carry the angular traits. For this reason, the girl would be adopted out to a pet home, and the boy will remain here while I monitor health and temperament as he ages, and if he proves above average, he will be used in the breeding program later.
Pictures taken March 22, 2011. On day 14, the eyes are finally starting to open. The female's eyes both opened today, but the male had one eye open, and one eye mostly still closed. Even though they can detect light and movement now, their vision is still very blurry. It will be a few days before they can see more clearly. They now leave the nest to go exploring, and will even mess around in their mother's food dish, though they haven't started trying solid food yet. They still depend on their mother for nourishment and protection.
Photos made March 23, 2011. All of the pups have open eyes now, and they are much brighter today. Their faces seem to have filled out overnight and they are even cuter now. Their confidence is growing and they will even play a little bit amongst themselves. They are putting more of a strain on their mother, and she separated them into two groups so that she doesn't have to nurse 15 large pups at once.
Pictures made March 24, 2011. It is pretty impossible to hold them and get a good shot of their face now. They are very wiggly and they want to explore! They are a bit more alert but still don't see well, and they prefer low lighting. Bright lights bother their newly opened eyes. They are developing their personalities now, and they are trying to taste new things. During this photo shoot, the little girl nibbled my ankle a bit too hard, in fact. The male, in the photo at the bottom, nibbled my finger as I held him!
Photos taken March 25, 2011. The pups are regular little versions of what they will one day look like now. Their eyes are looking much clearer and rounder today. Keeping them in one place for pictures is a real feat. They are exploring and popcorning all over the place! The teeth are now considerably longer and much easier to see. The upper incisors can even be seen now, aw well.
Pictures made March 26, 2011. The pups can now see very clearly and are bright eyed and bushy tailed when they are out for play time. Changes in appearance are now pretty minute, but changes in temperament are pretty extreme. They are now starting to develop personalities all their own. Some are more timid than others. Some will explore anything, no matter the danger. Jazz is starting to wean them now and will kick them off of her if she doesn't feel like nursing them.
Photos made March 27, 2011. The pups are super difficult to photograph now. Cicero, the male, just wants to run back to me and sit in my lap! The female just wants to run wherever she can. They are almost three weeks old, and while their motor skills are improving daily, they still aren't as sure footed as their mother and will walk right off the edge of anything without even missing a beat.
Pictures taken March 28, 2011. The cuteness is now growing exponentially. These little guys are exploring the world and now have little fear about anything. Taking these pictures is increasingly difficult because they are literally all over the place. They are now eating solid food, though Jazz does let them nurse a few times a day.
Sexing newborn and young pups is pretty simple once you know what to look for. Listed below are pictures of their "area" at various stages of growth. As you will see, there are differences that help determine sex correctly.
These photos were taken 24 hours after birth. One major difference at this stage is the distance from the genitals to the anus. In the male, the difference is about twice as long as the female. The female's genitals are much closer to the anus. Also, if you look closely, that "distance" is a little puffy on the male. This is where his testicles will be when they descend later.
The pictures above were taken 72 hours after birth. The only distinguishing factor at this point is the puffy scrotum on the male. The males genitals are also a little bigger, and experienced breeders can just glance and decide male or female correctly. The distance from the genitals to the anus is still longer in the male, but it seems less noticeable as the pups age.
The pictures above were taken seven days after birth. The distance between genitals and anus is more similar than it has been yet, and differentiating sexes is difficult at this time for the novice. Generally, the female will have a line beginning from her vagina to her anus, and the male has a puffy scrotum in the same area.
In my opinion, ear type is one of the hardest things to determine in rats younger than one week old. It is possible though, if you have had enough experience. Standard ears will tip upwards slightly, while dumbo ears have a slight downward tip. Dumbo ears are also set lower on the head than standard ears, but while the body is developing rapidly in the first week, this can be hard to see. It is also important when comparing ears, to hold the heads in the same manner, at the same angle. Certain ways can make a standard look like a dumbo, and vice versa.
Coat type is very simple to determine, and at an early age. At just five days of age, the whiskers are long enough and defined enough to determine what the adult coat type will be. Standard coats produce perfectly straight whiskers. Velveteen produces slightly waved whiskers. Rex and hairless/mock hairless produce very kinky and curly whiskers. Pictures of other coat type coming soon.