Two things happened in the summer of 2007 which brought me to the decision to begin breeding rats. One of my pet girls had a suspected pregnancy which forced me to consider the logistics of housing and caring for a larger number of rats (and possibly made me a little rat-broody). Secondly, a group of rescue brothers all developed respiratory problems at around three to four months old. One died of a heart attack at nine months old after being nursed back from pneumonia. A second died at eleven months having simply faded away. I lost two more at 16 months old and another at 17 months. Just one of the boys made it to a respectable 23 months. My other rats, some of whom lived with the affected brothers, were all untouched by the infection. It brought it home to me with great clarity the effect of genetic makeup on the disease resistance and longevity of my rats. The fact that two of the brothers also had some aggression issues despite being well treated throughout their lives has also made me (painfully) aware of the issue of temperament and its link with heredity.
While I was considering the above, I was also aware of the research and work that Alison of Shunamite Rats was doing with regard to extending the average lifespan of rats, and possibly pushing up the maximum lifespan too. This is something that captures my interest far more than winning rosettes with my rats.
So that's my motivation. To produce healthy and long-lived rats, along with the good temperament that makes a well bred rat such a pleasure to own.
Why breed more rats when there are already so many rescue rats? This was my hardest question. The answer, I think, is an investment in the future. Accidental litters will always happen, but the purposeful breeding of unselected rats for sale in petshops, which can then be bought without the need for forethought and planning, contributes a lot to the population of rescue rats. You need an alternative before anything can change. See the 'Why not use pet shops?' article on www.brecklagh.com.
If the only rats that are ever bred are the unhandled, farm-bred pet shop rats and their random descendants there will be no selection for improvement. I hope I will always have room for rescue rats here, but for myself and for the rats' sake I would aim to produce a line of selectively bred, well tempered and healthy rats.
I've completely failed at this. I took £40 for kittens in 2008, £50 gifts for rat sitting, and £20 donation for taking in a rehome. That's £110. Set against the £1,600 I spent in vet fees, £220 on food, £220 on substrate and £300 on cages I don't think I'm going to break even any time soon. :-P If I factor in my time, half an hour every morning and three hours every evening, I begin to see why my family think I'm crazy...
Costs for 2011