Stacey Keady with one of the rats that she breeds.
Stacey Keady with one of the rats that she breeds. John McCutcheon

Is this the weirdest kind of farm on the Sunshine Coast?

IT'S stinky work but someone's got to do it.

Rodent breeders Steve and Stacey Keady, whose Sunshine Coast rural property is home to more than 700 rats and mice, say their love of animals drove them to their current vocation.

The Keadys breed the rats and mice for raptors, snakes and other carnivorous animals, with major customers including Australia Zoo.

Mr Keady said the air-conditioned facility they set up made life comfortable for the animals, and the low-stress environment meant the end product was top quality.

The Keadys are animal lovers, so there's one part of their current occupation they agree is the worst.

The killing part.

"We do get attached to them," Mr Keady said.

"The hardest part is killing them off."

They do the deed quickly and humanely, gassing them with carbon dioxide in accordance with RSPCA guidelines.

"They quickly lose breath and die within 10-15 seconds."


Stacey Keady with some rats that she breeds.  Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Stacey Keady with some rats that she breeds. John McCutcheon

He and his brother Joel, who started the business together, are known on the Sunshine Coast for their affection for reptiles, having worked as voluntary snake catchers since they were children.

The brothers learned how to catch snakes from their dad, who would drop what he was doing and re-home the slippery reptiles if they found themselves unwelcome in someone's home or business.

Sunshine Coast families might also know the Keady brothers from the educational snake displays they used to run at the former Ettamogah Pub.

While it has its grisly elements, the rodent-breeding facility allows local businesses with captive carnivorous animals to buy locally, Mr Keady said.

"Obviously people on the Sunshine Coast would rather use Sunshine Coast stock than get it from interstate," he said.

The task of breeding rats and mice - known for their short gestation - is not as simple as it might seem.

The adult rodent "community" is kept in air-conditioned sheds, divided into groups with one male and two females. Each trio has its own tub to live in.

"But it's not like you can just get them together and let them go for it," he said.

If the rats don't fancy each other, they might find new mates or they may meet an early end, Mr Keady said.

Mostly they become snake food, joining the stockpile of frozen rodents waiting for the next delivery.

It's a 21-day cycle from impregnation to birth, and "pinkies" take another two to three weeks to grow to maturity.

Mrs Keady said her husband had worked as a fly-in-fly-out environmental consultant in western Queensland before starting the rodent-breeding business.

"It's great to work with my hubby - that's probably the best part," she said.

"Now we've got a bigger facility, I can see the potential for it to grow."

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