The female mouse estrous cycle is divided into four phases: proestrus (development of ovarian follicles), estrus (ovulation), metestrus (formation of corpora lutea), and diestrus (beginning of follicle development for next ovulation and elimination of previous oocytes). The appearance of the epithelium of the external genitalia is used to identify the stage of the estrous cycle of a female mouse. This is usually easier to see in strains with either no or only light skin pigmentation. By examining the color, moistness, and degree of swelling of the vagina, females in estrus can readily be identified. To set up the matings, females are examined in the afternoon, and those in estrus are placed into the cages with males (one or two females in each cage with one male). Usually, 50% or more of the selected females will mate. The presence of a vaginal copulation plug next morning indicates that mating has occurred, but it does not mean that a pregnancy will result even if proven breeder fertile males were used. It is important to check vaginal plugs early in the morning because they fall out or are no longer detectable ~12 h after mating or sometimes earlier.