The response of C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ mice to increased housing density.

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see Reprint Collection (a pdf is available)

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J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci 2009 Nov; 48(6):740-53.


Increased numbers of mice housed per cage (that is, increased housing density) is seen as 1 way to reduce the costs of conducting biomedical research. Current empirically derived guidelines are based on the area provided per mouse depending on body weight as documented in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals. The current study aimed to provide a more scientific basis for housing density by examining the response of C57BL/6J and BALB/cJ mice to increased housing density from weaning to 5 mo of age, to determine those parameters most useful for future larger-scale studies. A wide range of phenotypic characteristics--including growth rate, body composition, hematology, serum biochemistry, hormone and metabolite measurements, in-cage telemetry, behavior, and cage microenvironment--was examined at various time points. The parameters showing greatest changes were: growth rate, which was significantly reduced in animals at the highest density; adrenal gland size, the proportion of adrenal cortex, and concentration of fecal corticosterone metabolites, all of which were increased at higher densities; and anxiety and barbering, which were more pronounced at higher densities. Cage microenvironment deteriorated with increasing density, but the increases in measured parameters were small, and their biologic impact, if any, was not apparent. The current findings indicate that mouse housing density can be increased 50% to 100% above the current recommendations (as floor area per mouse) with no or few apparent affects on mouse overall wellbeing. However, weight gain, fecal corticosterone metabolite levels, and barbering differed significantly with housing density and therefore are suggested as good measures of the response to alterations in housing.

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