Preferences for Nest Boxes as Environmental Enrichment for Laboratory Mice
Abstract:In nature, mice live in burrows with nest chambers where they breed and may hide from predators. In the laboratory, a shelter or refuge is an, easily applicable form of enrichment which may enhance the welfare of laboratory mice by giving them more control over their environment. Six nest boxes made of different materials were evaluated in a preference test with male and female mice of two strains (C57BL/6J and BALB/c). In general, mice showed a preference for cages with a nest box made of grid metal as compared to clear or white perspex nest boxes, or no nest box. They also showed a preference for a cage with a nest box of perforated metal as compared to nest boxes made of grey PVC or sheet metal, or no nest box. When offered a nest box with one open side or a nest box with two open sides, most mice preferred the nest box with one open side and were observed to lie in it with their heads directed towards the opening.
The results of this study show that nest boxes may be used for enrichment purposes in caged mice, although it is not yet entirely clear what are the main features influencing the animals' preferences. When providing nest boxes as shelters, the structure and design of this type of enrichment should be taken into account, because these may have an effect on the social structure of groups of mice.