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For Ferrets Only
Ferret School

 

 

Breeding Ferrets


 

 

I receive questions about ferrets and health issues from around the world, in answer to a much often asked question about BREEDING FERRETS, the following is an article I wrote for a new Canadian magazine, PET TALK.

 

To Breed or Not to Breed - That is the question...

"They are so tiny", most people exclaim when they first see a newborn ferret! Wiggly, pink, naked and blind and no larger than your 'pinky'! As they wiggle and squirm it is hard to tell just how many babies, called kits, have been born. Poor mother is trying her hardest to keep all of them tucked into the neat little circle she has formed around them, to keep them warm. She will leave them only when she needs to eat.

 

Box Spring PepperSo you may be thinking of breeding ferrets just to see what it is like, to experience the wonders of birth, or perhaps as a hobby, or business. There are some things you might want to consider before taking on such a responsibility.

 

1) -How many ferrets do you think might be born and do you have homes for them? Whilst an average litter may be 7 kits, there may also be 12 kits born and therein lies a problem. If they should all survive, will you have that many friends who will want a ferret from you?

 

2) -At birth there may be complications, will you be there to make sure mother and babies are okay? We had a ferret named Snowflake who produced 12 babies in her first litter, they were all tangled together in their umbilical cords, what a mess! My husband had to tie thread around the cords of each one, while I held on to the squirming mass of tangled bodies. Then he precariously severed them apart with scissors, a nerve racking job for both of us, a false move would have been deadly! ALL 12 kits survived!

 

3) -Will you have the time to help the mother with her babies if necessary, she only has 7 workable teats for feeding and therefore her kits may need supplemental feeding? Also she may develop mastitis, if so, she will develop hard lumps under her breasts which will need immediate attention from a knowledgeable veterinarian.

 

Snowflake was a wonderful mother, rotating her babies at feeding time and all 12 grew up to be fine healthy kits. However her second litter produced 11 kits, only 8 survived after another entangled mess. This time Snowflake developed mastitis when the kits were 10 days old and it now meant intervention by us if we were to keep the kits alive.

 

It was exhausting work, we started by putting the kits into a warm box, then having another box of the same temperature to transfer each one as we fed it, so we would know who had been fed.

 

Until about 3 weeks of age the kits need stimulus to defecate, normally the mother licks each kit to produce the desired results, however that did not appeal to me. Instead as each kit was fed, I would take a warm, wet cotton ball and gently wipe the genitals until nature took it's course! "Fun" you might say, but not every 2 hours around the clock!

 

4)-At about 3-4 weeks kits need handling a great deal, we call it 'humanizing', will you have the time? Since ferrets are predators their normal play or behavior is a learning period for them, to practice on each other how to attack, to get ready to kill their prey. It is important therefore to intercept that behavior, to prevent them from biting as they mature. They must learn the difference between their siblings extremely hard and impenetrable skin and our thin, tender skin!

 

This is a time of great reward as you see the kits develop their own personalities, you may become so attached to these curious, loving and extremely playful little beings that you will not want to give them away, now you are faced with a real dilemma!

 

There is more to consider before breeding, especially the responsibilities we bear for producing living creatures with needs similar to those of our own and being prepared to find them 'forever homes' with people who will care and protect them.

 

Please give every thought and concern whether, to breed or rather 'not to breed'

 


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