Home improvement: C57BL/6J mice given more naturalistic nesting materials build better nests

J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2008 Nov;47(6):25-31.


Environmental enrichment of laboratory mice can improve the quality of research, but debate arises over the means of enrichment and its ability to be used in a sterile environment. One important form of enrichment is nesting material. Mice in the wild build dome-shaped, complex, multilayered nests, but this behavior is not seen in the laboratory, perhaps due to inappropriate nesting material rather than the nest-building ability of the mice. Here we focus on the use of naturalistic nesting materials to test whether they improve nest quality through the use of a 'naturalistic nest score' system; we also focus on materials that can be sterilized and easily used in existing housing systems. We first determined whether C57BL/6J mice build naturalistic nests when given shredded paper strips. We then compared these shredded paper strips with other commonly used nesting enrichments (facial tissues and compressed cotton squares). Nests were scored for 6 d. We found that the shredded paper strips allowed the mice to build higher quality nests than those built with any of the other materials. Nests built with tissues were of intermediate quality, and nests built with compressed cotton squares were of poor quality, similar to those built by the control group. These results suggest that C57BL/6J mice given appropriate nesting materials can build nests similar to those built by their wild counterparts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cotton Fiber
  • Female
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL / physiology*
  • Nesting Behavior / physiology*
  • Paper