We have been exploring a lot about ferrets and we are not about to stop. Today, we move to a more complex part of owning a pet ferret; how to breed ferrets. This, as with any other pet, is not going to be an easy process.
It is possible to breed ferrets if you have a male and a female who are of sexual maturity. Fortunately for ferret breeders, it is only going to take 4-8 months from birth. The bad news is that when a female ferret, called a jill, goes into heat, they remain that way until you get them spayed or mate.
Now, you do not have the option to leave her on heat as it could develop into fatal infections. In this article, I am going to breakdown the process of breeding ferrets from mating to weaning. As I said earlier, breeding ferrets should be done with care and expertise.
Can I breed my ferrets?
This is certainly an important question you need to consider before you go ahead. There are so many factors you must consider before mating your ferrets. Note that this process can be quite expensive.
However, are you ready to breed your ferrets? You should consult an expert in breeding ferrets (See our book here) before you get to it. Once again, it is all about correct timing. Make sure you have a male ready to mate when your female ferret goes on heat.
The male ferret will go in heat twice every year. You can notice this by a strong musky smell from his body secretions. The male ferret might also mark his territory around the house using his urine.
There is nothing easy about the entire breeding process. Even after birth, you must take good care of your ferret and the kits. However, if you decide to go ahead and breed your ferrets even with the complexity, then this guide is going to be useful for you.
A simple guide on how to breed ferrets
I assume you have already understood the complexity of breeding ferrets. However, this should not keep you from doing it if you want to do it. Below, I am going to explain to you how to go about it, and when to ask for help.
The mating process
Now, once your ferret comes of age, it is time to get started. After all, there is no need to keep your ferret waiting and in pain. Have you got a male who is in a rut as? If so, get him to your female ferret’s cage.
Understand that you will need to be around during this process. I am not going to lie as the mating process can be quite uncomfortable. Unlike humans, there is nothing to look forward to when you want to mate your ferrets.
The male ferret will bite the female before they get started. The foreplay is a little bit too aggressive. However, no matter what happens, you must not get them separated. Sometimes you might observe the male dragging the female around the cage, and she allows it. It is more of their mating ritual.
Once the mating begins, you cannot stop it. Yes, your female might seem to be in pain but she is fine even with all the screaming. As I said, breeding ferrets is not for the faint-hearted or amateurs.
The biting is not meaningless. Rather, the male bites the female on the neck for stimulation purposes. The female can only experience induced ovulation. She has hormone glands on her neck that will stimulate the release of an egg from the ovaries for fertilization.
Understand that the mating process could take a few hours, and sometimes a day. This is not going to be the time of your life but you must be around during this process.
I am sure watching your ferrets mate was not an easy experience but worth it. It does not stop there. You will need to keep watch on your ferret to tell if the mating was successful. This is going to take about 14 days before you notice. You can take your ferrets to their respective cages.
Other ferret owners prefer to leave the male with the female even after mating. Now, I will need you to remember that if the mating was unsuccessful, your female will remain in heat. This could put her in danger because of all the cuts incurred during the mating process.
However, you will notice when your ferret gets pregnant. She will gain weight quite fast and might start losing her coat in preparation for her nest. Now, earlier on, I mentioned that breeding ferrets can turn out to be a very expensive process.
You will need your vet to perform an ultrasound to confirm pregnancy. This can be quite pricy and thus you need to be prepared. On the other hand, you need confirmation because sometimes it could be all hormonal and your ferret is not pregnant. As with humans, it can be a result of hormonal imbalance.
Once you confirm that your ferret is pregnant, you need to adjust a little bit to accommodate her. Luckily for you, the pregnancy will last for 42 days before she gives birth. During this period, you must provide enough food and water for your ferret.
Note that your ferret needs to be strong enough to handle giving birth to her litter. I suggest you upgrade her diet with foods high in fats and proteins. Failure to feed her well might lead to pregnancy toxemia-which is a complication during birth.
You would need to call your vet for a C-section birth. While putting her with the male ferret might work, you need to move her to another cage as she comes close to the end of her gestation period. Two weeks before giving birth, have her cage ready with paper beddings.
The position of the cage should have enough light and ventilation. It should also be quiet to provide the required privacy as she comes close to giving birth.
The birth process
If your ferret has gone through the pregnancy safely, she will be welcoming her liter in 42 days from mating. Now, you need to be prepared to welcome the babies. At the same time, you must offer your pregnant ferret as much privacy as possible.
Unfortunately, this is something that your ferret will have to do on her own. You cannot help her give birth unless there are any complications. In such a case, I suggest you keep your vet’s number close to you as your ferret delivers. Many breeders will call their vets to come and witness the birth process.
However, you should not distract your ferret as she delivers. This is why I mentioned that you should move her to a private and secluded area. Do not let people in and out of the room where she is set to deliver.
Even with the need for privacy, you should keep watch without distracting your ferrets. Sometimes babies might get stuck on the way out in the birth canal. This could turn out to be dangerous as it put both the mother and kits at risk.
Also, during birth, there could be several umbilical cords coming out at the same time. Well, let me mention that it is unlikely for a ferret to give birth to a single kit. If the umbilical cords are too many, the mother might not be able to cut them all and could end up mixing up.
If this happens, then you must be there to aid your ferret in a very calm manner. She should not feel scared, threatened or disturbed during this time. Another birth complication in ferrets is kitted getting stuck in the placenta. Once again, you can silently and carefully help free them from the placental sack.
The bottom line is that it is not always an easy task to breed ferrets. However, if you are concerned that your ferret is having complications, I advise you to call your vet immediately. The birth process can be long and painful for the ferret.
The babies are here, now what?
The process of breeding ferrets does not stop at birth. As I have previously mentioned it is a lengthy and complex process. Now that the babies are here what do you do? You are going to give the mother and the babies some space to connect.
At this stage, you need to be careful about how you approach their cage. A ferret will eat their babies if they feel like they are in danger! Therefore, offer as much privacy and security as you can in their room.
What about cleaning and feeding? It is no secret that the room your ferret delivers in is going to start smelling. I suggest you provide as much ventilation and lighting as you can. Cleaning the cage must be done swiftly, without distracting the mother.
The babies are born blind and deaf, and also hairless! I suggest you provide warm and clean beddings every day. Start by adding some food in your ferret’s bowl. This will distract her and you can now clean the cage up.
Let’s talk about feeding a lactating ferret. As with pregnancy, your ferret is going to require a lot of energy to nurse her babies. I suggest you feed her healthy foods and double the amount she used to consume.
Ferrets with a large litter may lose weight when nursing them. I mean, for instance, if your ferret has about 9-12 kits, she might lose weight from nursing all of them. Now, not all kits survive at birth, so take note of that.
Of course, your ferret is going to be very protective of her cage now that she has company. The kits will stay close to the mother but after a few weeks, you will see them walking around, trying to explore the cage.
Should one kit get separated from the mother, sometimes she will reject them. It is especially if they have lost the body warmth they get from her. Well, do not return the lost baby in the cage until it is warm enough for the mother’s acceptance.
Taking care of baby ferrets
Baby ferrets are cute and adorable. However, this is not reason enough to breed ferrets. They need extra care during and after pregnancy. What’s more? You need to be careful about how you handle the kits.
Baby ferrets come to the world blind, deaf and hairless. They do not know anything else but their mother protection. Taking care of them right after birth can be quite challenging, especially for new breeders.
After a few days, they have gotten acquainted with their mothers. It is now a great opportunity to clean out the cage. To move the babies from the beddings, you need to be gentle. This should be about one week after birth. Do not forget to keep feeding the mother.
After three weeks, the babies will have grown a beautiful coat. They can now hear and see everything. You can make it an easy job for your ferret by feeding the kits. Liquid baby food will work well at first as you train their bodies to digest. Use this for a few weeks before you introduce ferret dry foods.
Do not forget about the necessary vaccinations. At 2 and 3 months, your vet will administer the canine distemper vaccines. In the 3rd and 4th months, your vet will vaccinate your kits from rabies.
Most people breed ferrets for business. After 3 months of age, you can now release the kits to go to their adoptive homes as they are ready to leave their mother behind. During the nursing period, make sure that the kits are healthy and growing bigger.
Breeding ferrets should only be done when you have expertise on the matter. As we have discussed above, it can be quite a lengthy not to say expensive process. However, if you are convinced to breed ferrets, then go right ahead.
I have outlined the most important parts of this process to guide you. I still insist on asking for the professional help from your vet, especially if this is your first time breeding ferrets. Watch your ferret carefully from the mating process until the day she delivers.
Once you have the kits, it is your responsibility to make sure that they are all feeding well. Do not forget to take care of the mother as well. Within 12 weeks, your kits are going to be ready for adoption. Should you decide to keep them, you will have a home full of happy ferrets!