General Photos

The harvest mouse, Micromys minutus, is so called because in the wild it often lives among tall grasses and sometimes cereal crops where it builds a grassy spherical breeding nest clearly attached to plant stems. Recreating similar conditions in captivity isn’t easy but if achieved allows you to observe these mice behaving perfectly naturally and in a manner that would be nearly impossible in the wild.

This is our smallest and most elusive mouse and has been seen by very few people in modern day Britain. They are however often depicted in pictures clinging to ears of wheat and to depict a rural scene.

They are truly minute creatures weighing between 5 and 10 grams (1/3 oz.) and measuring only 50-70 mm. (2-3 ins.) in length. The adults have a bright orange-russet coat, and a prehensile tail which they use to manoeuvre about in tall, dense grassland habitat. This prehensile tail is perhaps its most distinguishing feature which it uses to wrap around objects such as grass stalks in order to improve its balance. This, along with its light weight and small front feet, which have toes adapted for gripping, make harvest mice superbly adapted for moving skilfully between blades of tall grasses and reeds well above ground level.

Harvest mice are truly fascinating creatures and keeping a colony in captivity allowed me to observe and photograph many aspects of their lives. The photos here are more general shots of adults in a purpose built large enclosure with dense clumps of vertical grass stems for them to climb.

 
Feeding
 
Being very small harvest mice need to eat large volumes of food every day to maintain their body temperature. When feeding on seeds it has been estimated that an 8 gramme mouse needs to consume 30% of their body weight per day.
 
They are able to manipulate the smallest of seeds with their front paws and can carefully extract and handle the smallest of seeds whilst balancing on a high thin grass stem which is waving in the wind. They are extremely entertaining to watch and photograph.
 
Harvest Mouse eating
Harvest Mouse eating
Harvest Mouse eating
Harvest Mouse eating
Harvest Mouse eating
Harvest Mouse eating
------- Harvest mice feeding -------
 
Ablutions
 
I am often asked if harvest mice smell, they simply don’t. I have kept breeding colonies in the house without any major problem. They are in fact fastidious at cleaning and grooming themselves, something that is fascinating to watch as they seem supple enough to scratch any part of their body with any limb. No mean task especially when accomplished high up on a grass stem. Their whiskers are particularly important for finding their way around and are cleaned especially carefully.  
  
Harvest Mouse scratching
Harvest Mouse scratching
Harvest Mouse scratching
Harvest Mouse washing whiskers
Harvest Mouse washing whiskers
Harvest Mouse washing whiskers
------- Harvest mice grooming -------
 
  
Exploring
 
Harvest mice are extremely active climbers feeding and nesting in the stalk zone of long grasses and reeds, particularly around dusk and dawn. They are able to run up and balance on the thinnest of grass stems from where, aided by their prehensile tail and very light weight, they can feed on fine grass seeds.   
Harvest Mouse exploring
Harvest Mouse exploring
Harvest Mouse exploring
Harvest Mouse exploring
Harvest Mouse exploring
Harvest Mouse exploring
Harvest Mouse exploring
Harvest Mouse exploring
Harvest Mouse exploring
Harvest Mouse exploring
------- Harvest mice exploring vegetation -------