A ferret is a great pet that offers something a little different from the more traditional cat or dog. They can go out for walks with you, climb all over your body and they’re small enough to keep in a cage when necessary.
But your ferret doesn’t just have to be a companion – it can also be a great way to bring in a little cash if you’re willing to help your ferret breed. Bear in mind though that breeding ferrets is in itself expensive and there’s a lot that can go wrong meaning you won’t necessarily be successful the first time. This is an investment, but it’s certainly not a guaranteed one – make sure this is a labour of love and that you are willing to fail.
First of all you will need a ‘hob’ (male ferret) and a ‘jill’ (which is a lady ferret). Be aware that this isn’t going to be a romantic union in the vein of Disney, and it’s certainly not one for the kids. Your hob will have one thing on its mind and that’s hanky panky. In short then, set your ferret in the right direction and that’s your job as Cupid done.
What’s more important is timing. Female ferrets come into season twice a year, normally around March and August, though this will vary – look out for the vulva protruding like a chickpea and wait 14 days. Meanwhile males will go into rut one month prior to this, so the start of March and August are the best times for your hob to get lucky. You’ll know when your ferret is in rut because it will smell a lot worse than usual and will develop some rather unpleasant habits. Yes, your hob will start to develop a taste for peeing itself and then dragging its stomach through the urine. Like I said – they’re no Romeos.
In fact they are such unromantic souls, that they won’t be particularly picky when it comes to finding a mate. It’s important then that you keep your related ferrets apart as they’ll have no qualms about breeding otherwise which can lead to genetic problems through inbreeding.
Of the two, it is certainly the female who is going to be more picky, so make sure she’s ready (as mentioned that’s 14 days after the vulva starts to bulge or there will be a fight. And make sure that you bring the male to the female rather than the other way around).
This is where the magic happens – the disgusting and violent magic which is better simply not to watch. The mating process can last several hours, during which time the jill will be dragged and thrown around her cage. It looks horrific, but it’s actually necessary due to the male’s ‘J’ shaped penis bone which locks into the female. Don’t try to separate them as you’ll do more harm than good.
Once the process has ended separate the ferrets and be sure to check the jill over. Look around the neck for puncture marks and inspect the vagina over the next few days for infection – take her to a vet if necessary.
Pregnancy and Birth
Pregnancy will last around 42 days, and you’ll be able to tell if the conception occurred as she will start swelling in size, clucking, and pulling the hairs out of her tale. Note that the latter two items can still occur even in the case of failure as phantom pregnancies are common.
Your ferret will then give birth to tiny hairless ‘kits’ and you should try to avoid disturbing them for around a week after the birth. If you interfere it’s not uncommon for the mother to get scared and eat her babies as a result. Which is again, horrible.
Your job then is to be stealthy like a ninja – putting the food in and checking the litter while drawing minimum attention to yourself. It’s important you maintain a good diet for your jill to ensure she can feed the ferrets. After one week you may handle the kits (leave the soiled bedding where it is). Around week three your kits will start eating normal ferret food, at which point you’ll need to increase your ferret budget. By the 7th week your new family should be open-eyed, fang baring and ready to start exploring. By week 8 you can consider finding them a good home, but you should wait as long as possible here to ensure they are happy being separated from their mother.