Mice to buy, mouths to feed

Grab and swallow

The price of feeder rodents seems a lot higher than it was 10 years ago. Lately I’ve been feeling a little sticker shock: I now have fewer snakes in the house than at any time in the past last decade (though still a lot by rational standards), but the cost of mice — we buy in bulk every two months or so — isn’t going down by a commesurate amount. Mouse and rat prices are going up faster than the snake numbers in our house are going down.

Cheap bastard that I am, I thought it might be a good idea to figure out exactly how much each of our snakes costs to feed (at least on paper: the real cost depends on their willingness to eat when fed and our remembering to feed them on time). One thing I was particularly interested in was whether there were any cost outliers: i.e., whether there were snakes that were more expensive to feed.

Not really, as it turns out. With a few exceptions, most of our snakes cost between $36 and $52 a year to feed — 70¢ to $1 a week, sales tax included.

The exceptions are the big snakes, who eat rats (which are significantly more expensive); several snakes whose heads are too small to wrap around the mice they should be eating, and who, as a result, eat smaller mice more often; and one obese glossy snake, who’s getting small and infrequent meals as a result (when you’re a lizard specialist, an all-mouse diet in captivity is a little rich).

Those exceptions aside, snakes that eat larger meals tend to have them less often: larger mice tend to be more expensive, but you don’t need to feed them as often (at least with the species we keep). One adult mouse every two weeks costs $4.36 less per year than one hopper mouse every 10 days, and one hopper mouse every 10 days costs $11.62 less per year than one fuzzy mouse every seven days. But rats are more expensive than mice: one rat every three weeks costs twice as much as one adult mouse every two weeks.

Much to my surprise, the sweet spot is adult mice, not fuzzies or hoppers, which are cheaper, but need to be fed more often. A third of our snakes eat adult mice already. But the third that eats fuzzies will probably never change: for the most part, they’re small species and they’re already full-grown. And the five snakes that eat rats really can’t eat anything else. There isn’t much that can be done: they eat what they eat, and it costs what it costs.

But when you go through a thousand feeder rodents a year, every dime saved per mouse saves you $100 a year. So it may be worthwhile shopping around to see if we can get better prices. If we have to travel great distances or pay for shipping, or buy a bigger freezer so we don’t have to travel or ship as often, that may eat up any savings, so it may not be worth it in the end. Still worth exploring, since we spend almost as much on mice as we do on cable.