Bolton Ferret Welfare

Off to Market

by Kingswinford Codger

Val and I had often heard people speak of the market at Penkridge and say what a good market it was, with a huge variety of stalls to suit everyone's needs, so when Michelle from the rescue asked us if we were interested in going with her we jumped at the opportunity. The reason that she was going was because she had a 'feeling' that there were going to be some ferrets in the livestock auction.

We arrived at her house at the appointed time and we all duly set off for Penkridge. When we arrived the usual car parking problem put us in a field a short walk away from the site but no matter, we were in plenty of time.

Our first port of call was the auction shed to see what was there. We were met with an array of various-sized boxes which contained fowl, ducks, bantams, doves: you name it, they had it. The first open-topped boxes that I looked in had three separate pairs of tiny six-week-old kits in them. To be honest, they looked near to death to us as the poor little things were undernourished and to top it all, they were on newspaper and their water bowl had been over-turned. The seller came over and was made aware of our feelings but all the response we had was a shrug of the shoulders and the comment "I always put 'um on newspaper; been breeding 'um for years." Breeding most animals is the easy bit, it's the bringing up to being weaned that's more difficult.

A long walk along the rest of the boxes proved little better; there was even one little jill in a plastic bucket. A total of eighteen little ones none in first class condition, confirming Michelle's 'feeling'. All were to be auctioned off later in the day.

To be honest we found seeing all these little ferrets in various containers, most without water or food, very upsetting. It was difficult, but we managed to hold it together.

Outside the weather was getting hotter and hotter it must have been the hottest day of the year to date. We had a word with the auc-tioneer when we collected our bidding number and he confirmed the lots being sold started at about 11:30 hours with the livestock at about 13:00 hours; an age away. A quick coffee and it was back into the auction room and, as you can no doubt guess, being of metal construction, the heat was beginning to get unbearable. It would be at least another hour until the auctioneer would get to the livestock, so the decision was made to go onto the market and buy some water bottles and a spray bottle which were filled with cold water so that the kits could at least have a drink and be cooled down a little.

At last the auctioneer started on the livestock and the first 'lot' of ferrets came under the hammer, as it were. Bidding was poor to say the least as only two people were interested. The auctioneer started them off at five pounds pounds but as there was no response, he asked for a starting bid. In most cases it was a mere one pound which rose to three pounds to seal the deal. The most we paid was ten pounds and that was for a pair.

The six-week-old ones that I mentioned earlier went for an astonishing ninety-nine pounds. A case of two people bidding against each other; if only they had got their heads together and made things clearer at the start I'm sure that the six would have fetched no more than a fiver a pair. I wish the new owner good luck with them as I am sure they will need (and I hope, get) a lot of TLC.

Michelle managed to secure twelve of the kits. Our only thought was to get them out of the varied mixture of containers and into some pet carriers, so after going to the office to pay it was straight back to the car to collect some more suitable containers, then it was full speed back to the auction shed. The ferrets were handed over and put into carriers then outside for a breath of fresh air, though it was still very hot and humid it was cooler than inside the shed. Our plan for a quick look around the stalls was abandoned and the carriers were loaded into the car and it was back to Michelle's.

Once there, the little ones were given the once-over and put into a large playpen. To say that they went berserk would be an understatement: they ran round like they had been shut up for a week. Perhaps they had. One little jill took charge of the food bowl, sitting in the middle and threatening all the others that went near for a feed. Most of the others had a good rough and tumble except one little polecat coloured hob that insisted on climbing up the mesh on the playpen and out onto my lap. No matter how many times I returned him, he did it over and over so he was destined to come back to our house and well, he had to have a friend (I'm sure you all know what I mean!). Val chose the tiny albino jill and they were both returned to a carrier and after a quick coffee and kisses - to the ferrets - it was back home post-haste.

A pen was set up for the two little newbies with a sleeping box full of nice clean blankets, food and water. We noticed that the polecat coloured hob wasn't eating the dried food we'd provided so he was treated to a little Irish minced beef, now that was a very different story and it disappeared within seconds! After their bellies were full it was off to explore their new surroundings then into their box and that was the last we saw of them until the next morning.

To my great delight I found they were both eating the dry food out of their bowl, and eating with gusto! They were also given some kitten food and some more lean mince. Wow, when this was offered they were like two mad things, each trying to devour more than the other!

To date things are going very well and the newbies are putting on weight and have nearly stopped biting.

Ten days later and to our great delight we have mixed them (Henry and Alice) with a little sandy jill, Pipper; this was a little lady that would mix with no-one. We've been trying for over a year to mix her in with another group with no success; that is until Henry and Alice. She accepted them without so much as a chatter. I had one of those 'feelings'; must be catching, Michelle!

Two weeks passed and the urge to pay another visit to the market became stronger and stronger, so off we went. More folks than ever this time; which meant that it took even longer to get in and park, but we finally managed although we were quite a way from the market itself. Our first port of call was of course, the live-stock auction shed. Nothing changes. There was a recycling box with seven kits in, all very small and two looked very, very poorly. There were several others of which one was a little chap in a really small tub, he just had enough room to curl up in the bottom, another with back legs that didn't work and one who was blind in one eye.

Before the auction started we met a lady from another rescue and we agreed that she would do the bidding and we would sort things out afterwards. To cut a long story short our new friend, Angela, was successful in securing most of the ferret lots.

Later we met up in the car park and we sorted out the ferrets. We took the box of kits, the little chap in the bucket and the one-eyed one. By this time an appointment had been made at the vets for the one with the paralysed back end.

We made tracks back to Michelle's rescue and sorted them out. Val and I chose a stunning little girl out of the seven kits, whilst the two weaker ones were given a pen in the house to have that 'special' care treatment. The little chap that was in a small tub was given a run round only to find he had bad hips and only plodded along, so we took a shine to him too and ended up taking another two home!

Update:- The little hob with the hip problem is coming on in leaps and bounds after much massaging and exercise, whilst the little jill is putting on weight and seems a happy and contented soul. We have named them Bertie and Bess plus they've mixed with Pipper's group making five and all is well.

(First published May 2012)

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