Bolton Ferret Welfare

Yarm Ferret Rescue January 2011

by Sue Lloyd

Brrrrr it's Cold

What a challenge this winter has been; indoor ferret keepers don't know what 'fun' they've missed! Us 'outdoor' folk no doubt all have our own stories to tell. Numerous times I had to dig the snow away just to get to the ferret cages. Two of our commercial-size greenhouses collapsed under the weight of it adding a somewhat sharp edge to the snow. Water bowls seemingly froze instantly and this was a worry; the novelty of numerous trips to the hot water tap in the house to thaw them out soon wore off. But I hit upon the idea of taking a bucket of really hot water out with me and submerging the water bowls which soon thawed them out.

Condensation was a problem with some of my cages but lessons had been learnt from last year. The ferrets were fine, some greatly enjoyed tunnelling through the snow whilst others just simply 'don't do' snow. Whilst the ferrets were okay, temperatures here dropped to -17°C and if I had had old or sick ferrets outside they would have been brought inside.

Classic who make water bottles now sell neoprene covers for water bottles designed to help prevent them from freezing, but they can't be expected to cope with such extreme temperatures. In any case, the steel arm remains uncovered and the water inside will still freeze. These covers are also designed to prevent green algae forming inside during summer. This is a good idea but water levels must be kept an eye on as I fear 'out of sight, out of mind'.

It's been very hard for our wildlife again. Our first snow arrived before all the trees had shed their leaves so when I first caught a glimpse of a chestnut coloured shape moving over the snow I thought it was an oak leaf. In fact it was a weasel, looking vulnerable out in the open as it searched for food; the mice and voles were well hidden under the blanket of snow. The weasel's tracks were easy to follow and I had some concern that it was so close to my hens, however it was obviously spending time near two pheasant feeders in a wood at the back of us where the grain also attracts mice and voles.

My saddest story is of a much loved house ferret accidentally being let through a front door and out to be lost in the snow. His owner and I can only hope that someone took him in. So many calls come in to my rescue about ferrets being lost this way. By all means keep your ferret in the house but in a cage, only let it out when you can keep an eye on it. An open door or window soon leads to heartbreak.

As people turned their heating up and, when combined with the lights being kept on, un-spayed jills kept in inside came into season. My vasectomised hobs are out of season so I could only suggest jill jabs, although I do wonder; if you cooled them down and kept the lights off whether they would come out of season by themselves? Has anyone any experience of this? If jill-jabbed in December will the jill then cast her coat (assuming Receptol is used) and during the following spring/summer, how many times will she come into season? Would it be better to inject jills in December with Delvosteron which, while suppressing her season she will still keep her winter coat and then, if they return in season in spring use Receptol or a vasectomised hob?

(First published January 2011)

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