Animal facilities vary in size, organization, and support to meet the needs of the local researchers. It would be impossible to address the individual features of any given site. Proper ventilation, illumination, and temperature controls are certainly important, and will vary. An overview of the important aspects of the physical plant is capably described in the Physical Plant chapter of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. Husbandry topics specific for the mouse are also considered in the Animal Husbandry and Production part of The Laboratory Mouse. Some aspects of husbandry, such as the social environment, will vary by strain or by experimental conditions, and will need to be explored specifically for those cases. But there are some foundational components that would be required for maintenance of mouse colonies anywhere in the world.
Access to potable, quality water must be provided. Sometimes these are simple water bottles, other times more complex automated systems. This organization will vary by the demands of the local facility.
Bedding and Sanitation
The primary enclosure for mice generally consists of a secure and safe cage, with bedding material. Of course, proper ventilation is required, and a means to feed the animals and clean the cages easily are required. Cages and bedding need to be changed and sanitized regularly. Activity and resting space is necessary. The specific enclosure will vary depending on the experimental needs, and depending on the local facility’s practices. Supplements to the cage environment can be provided. For example, some researchers will use “mouse igloos” to provide benefits to the living situation. These may be plastic or can be cardboard devices placed in the cage for the mice to use. The choice of this may vary depending on whether visual access to the animals is needed.
Food and Diet
Proper nutrition is crucial for the health of the mice. Providers of animal feeds can offer specific details of the components of the mouse chow that are suited for the animals. If it is necessary to autoclave or irradiate the food—for immune-compromised animals for example, special considerations for the vitamin content may need to be addressed. It may also be important for the strain or experimental situation to alter the standard diet, for content or certain dietary restrictions. These aspects should be coordinated with the animal care staff of the facility.
Colony Management Tools
Managing the research animals also requires a means to track the individuals correctly, and supervise the breeding program appropriately. Physical aspects of this can include tagging the mice in various ways, such as ear tags or notches, or sometime tattoos. Radio-frequency chips may also be employed in some facilities. Cage bar-coding may also be in use. Record keeping strategies around all of the data is necessary. Most commonly, colony management software tools are used for this. One system particularly suited to the needs of mouse researchers is The Jackson Laboratory Colony Management System (JCMS). This actively supported project provides free software for this purpose, and community support is available as well. A related pedigree tracker is also provided. More details can be found in this publication. Other freely-available software and commercial packages are available and may be right for different purposes of colony management and pedigree tracking and analysis.