The Ferret

VIII.–BREEDING AND TRAINING.

 

Ferrets are rather difficult animals to raise in numbers–it requires a

large amount of patience, great care, and scrupulous neatness, although

when full grown they are very hardy. The writer’s ferret breeding

grounds consist of special farms, on which are erected numbers of small

barn-like structures, each furnished inside with a dozen pens, and an

aisle running through the middle. Every pen is as large as a horse’s

stall, the boarding and other accessories are kept clean by vigorous

scrubbing, the sawdust on the floor is changed once a day, and the pens

and the ferrets are otherwise attended by experienced ferret men. Here

the ferrets are taught to do their work of killing and hunting by

practical experiment on live rats. Although it is in the nature of

ferrets to hunt and kill rats, the same as it is for a bird to fly, yet

we find a little extra course of training is necessary in both cases.

 

It will not do to hunt with ferrets until they are at least seven months

old. Ferrets breed but once a year, and have from four to nine at a

litter on the average–it is very rarely they have two litters a year.

They are trained to the whistle by feeding them every time this

instrument is used, so that after awhile they promptly respond. The

ferret is ruled through his stomach. The time of the ferret’s getting in

heat is in March, nine weeks after which they breed. The male invariably

takes hold of the female as if he were going to strangle her. The young

are born without hair, and must, therefore, be kept warm. They have

their eyes open in thirty days, and should be fed on as much milk as

they want.[A] The male should be removed from the female before the

littering, the symptoms of which are exactly like a cat or a dog, or

else he will destroy the entire brood. Care should be taken to have the

female well supplied with food during the period of copulation, or else

she may casually munch up the young herself, and the writer has lost

many a pretty litter by this little habit of the unnatural mother. As in

crops, there are years for raising ferrets which are more fortunate than

others, some seasons having a fatal effect on the young ones.

 

[A] They ought not to be handled before they are one month old.


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