Automating mouse weighing in group homecages with Raspberry Pi micro-computers

J Neurosci Methods. 2017 Jun 15;285:1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2017.05.002. Epub 2017 May 3.


Background: Operant training systems make use of water or food restriction and make it necessary to weigh animals to ensure compliance with experimental endpoints. In other applications periodic weighing is necessary to assess drug side-effects, or as an endpoint in feeding experiments. Periodic weighing while essential can disrupt animal circadian rhythms and social structure.

New method: Automatic weighing system within paired mouse homecages. Up to 10 mice freely move between two cages (28×18×9cm) which were connected by a weighing chamber mounted on a load cell. Each mouse was identified using an RFID tag placed under the skin of the neck. A single-board computer (Raspberry Pi; RPi) controls the task, logging RFID tag, load cell weights, and time stamps from each RFID detection until the animal leaves the chamber. Collected data were statistically analyzed to estimate mouse weights. We anticipate integration with tasks where automated imaging or behaviour is assessed in homecages.

Results: Mice frequently move between the two cages, an average of 42+-16 times/day/mouse at which time we obtained weights. We report accurate determination of mouse weight and long term monitoring over 53days. Comparison with existing methods Although commercial systems are available for automatically weighing rodents, they only work with single animals, or are not open source nor cost effective for specific custom application.

Conclusions: This automated system permits automated weighing of mice ∼40 times per day. The system employs inexpensive hardware and open-source Python code.

Keywords: Automation; Mice homecage; Operant task; Weight.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Automation, Laboratory / instrumentation*
  • Automation, Laboratory / methods*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Body Weight*
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Radio Frequency Identification Device
  • Wireless Technology* / instrumentation