End of Season 2
by Max Abell
It is now the end of February and we have stopped ferreting because the rabbits are all with young; we were seeing some pregnant does as early as Christmas.
There is no breeding season for the rabbit - they never stop. They just seem to slow right down in the depths of winter. To see young rabbits around in six inches of snow is no longer a rare sight. The old saying of only ferreting when there's an 'R' in the month has long since passed into the archives.
The reason we stop when we do is because a pregnant doe does not want to leave the safety of her warren and with loads of young rabbit kits about, the ferrets can take the easy option of killing a youngster so then it's dig, dig, dig, warren after warren. No fun at all for the ferreter and not a productive way of controlling the rabbit population. So the ferrets are on holiday for the next few months and its out with the .22 rimfire and lamp until August when we'll start ferreting again.
The ferrets as always worked well this year although we did have a long spell when an outbreak of myxomatosis had practically wiped out our permissions, but rabbits being rabbits, they always thankfully survive no matter what we humans throw at them
Sadly this year, we lost one of our jills to cancer. Ashley was a great little worker and as tame as you could wish for. She was eight years old. Unfortunately illness has no favourites. Like most of our jills, Ashley was spayed a few years ago after having her last litter. We kept one of her kits and found good loving homes for the rest, so a little part of her will always live on.
We intend to breed from Daisy this year. She is a five year old silver and a fantastic worker. She produces some cracking kits. We'll probably keep two - I have several working ferreter friends who are waiting to give a 'Daisy' kit a good home. Over the years, we've put her with two good working hobs, Boris and Charlie and she has produced good workers from both. With this being her fifth season we won't breed from her again once she turns six; she'll be neutered when she's seven and may be worked for a couple more years before enjoying her much deserved retirement. Most ferrets work fine up until about eight years of age, whilst some like Tilly our old girl, wanted to work up until the year she died, aged fourteen! At thirteen she still loved to work a small six hole warren on her own. She died peacefully in her sleep in their court cuddled up to the others, bless her.
My niece Demi was heartbroken as Tilly was the first ferret that she had bred herself when she was a little girl. Tilly followed Demi around like a little dog and they both grew up together.
Demi has a closeness will all the ferrets. She's the sort of person that animals instinctively like. She has never been bitten by a ferret, not even some of the rescue ferrets that we have been called out to. The so called 'savage' underneath the shed that has been badly mistreated or escapee from somewhere, we capture it and within a couple of hours she's handling them with no problems. Mind you she has no fear of them and has been handling them since she was a little girl; she's now twenty three and still loves ferrets to bits.
When we have a litter of kits, Demi handles them as soon as possi-ble. From then on they are handled every day without fail so soon be-come used to it. The moms' are fine with her handling them; I'm sure they think she's one of them.
I learned a much valued saying from Demi: she's always saying, "It's the owners that are the problem, not the ferrets".
It still amazes me why some irresponsible people breed year after year to get kits they don't want just because they think they can make some money from them, or they assume that the jill will die if she's not mated. Why don't they get her jill jabbed or borrow a vasectomised hob to bring her out of season? This would save a lot of suffering for the poor unwanted kits that never asked to be born. I wish people would do some research on ferret keeping before rushing in and then not having a clue on how to look after them properly.
I'm sure most suffering is caused through ignorance rather than intentional cruelty, which is why such organisations like the NFWS are so important in trying to educate people about ferrets.
On a lighter note! We are looking forward to spring so we can do some alterations to our ferret court which currently consists of two sheds with an aviary in between. The aviary has two levels with pipes, wheels, etc