Breeding is not for the faint-hearted and taking care of baby ferrets is a quite time-consuming and expensive thing to do. Baby ferrets are called kits, male ferrets are called hobs, and female ferrets are named jills. Kits are incredibly fragile and you need lots of patience and practice to take care of them properly at home.
Typically, a ferret litter can contain around 6-8 kits, but they can be as many as 14 or as few as 1. There’s also a big chance you’ll lose some of the kits until they’re capable of taking care of themselves, especially if the litter is bigger than 8.
In this article, we’ll talk about the caring needs of baby ferrets and what you should know before taking a kit home. We’ve also discussed about the ferret breeding season in the past.
Baby Ferret Weight As It Grows Up (Birth to 6 weeks old)
When baby ferrets are born, they’re about the size of an adult human’s little finger and they’re typically pink. They don’t weigh more than between 6 and 14 grams and are between 2 to 2.5 inches long. They look incredibly fragile and you won’t really be able to tell their colors until they grow a bit older.
Kits are born without fur, but with a soft baby fuzz instead. With time, the hair gets longer and you can start telling how they will end up looking like. The light roan, chocolate, and champagne colors remain very light, while the sables turn darker and darker and maintain some grey hair here and there. On the other hand, the black solids are born with a purple fuzz that turns blacker over time as well.
The only kits you can tell what type of fur they’ll have from birth are the albinos. This is because they always have pink noses and red eyes. Other nose colors depend on the coat colors and can be light brown, mottled, solid black, and mottled. And if the paws of a ferret will have mitts, you will be able to notice the white definition on their feet.
Kits grow up incredibly fast and at 4 months old they will look like an adult and will remain looking the same throughout its life. The size and weight of the kits vary between them as the hobs are typically bigger than jills.
At one week old, a kit can weigh anywhere between 20 and 32 grams. Then at two weeks old it will weigh 54-90 grams, at three weeks old they’ll be 100-155 grams, at four weeks old they’ll be 164-224 grams, at five weeks they’ll weigh between 240 and 350 grams, and at 6 weeks they’ll weigh between 260 and 468 grams.
You will need to be very careful when handling them during this period as this will lay the ground on whether they will like human contact or not. It’s also important to have the vet on speed-dial and let him know if something seems wrong with the kits. Make sure you’re going to an exotic vet so you won’t risk any wrong diagnostics.
Behavior of baby ferrets
Kits are born completely dependent on their mother as they’re blind, deaf, and have no teeth. They will be around 3 weeks old when their teeth start growing. And in the meantime, the mother will be extremely protective of her litter.
For the first two weeks, all you need to do is feed the mother and ensure her water bowl is changed daily. It’s very important to not touch it or the kits as she might end up thinking you want to harm them and she’ll eat them. After two weeks, the jill becomes more relaxed and will even start to show off her kits to you.
The babies will do nothing but nurse every few hours and sleep. They won’t even be able to defecate if the mother isn’t around. Then the kits will start developing their ears and eyes when they’re around 4 or 5 weeks old as well.
When they’re awake, the kits already start showing their natural curiosity and potential for misbehaving. They will be very active and will blindly go in any direction until the mother gathers them again. When you’re bringing food to the jill, you should take a very quick look around the cage to make sure a kit didn’t make it into some awkward place that they can’t get out of.
Ferrets are known to have their own sound and it remains the same throughout their life. But when they’re kits, their voice is a lot higher and will start making all sorts of hilarious squeaky sounds to get the mother’s attention.
After 3-4 weeks, the more you interact with the jill and her babies, the better. This will get the kits used to human contact and will save the future owners the trouble of trying to get them used to being handled. Just make sure you’re convincing the mom you didn’t keep any kits after you’ve handled them or she will keep searching for the missing one if she can’t find it.
What do you feed a baby ferret?
Kits will be completely nursed by their mother until they are 6 weeks old and ready to eat another type of food. If there are too many kits and not enough milk, you can get another jill as they will accept other kits as their own. And if that’s not an option, your vet will provide you with the necessary milk and feeding bottles to do it yourself.
But once a kit is 6 weeks old, it’s extremely important to wean it. This is because ferrets are lactose intolerant and they will get more and more sick from milk as they get older. Plus, they’re already ready to move to real food so there’s no need to keep nursing them.
You can start by offering them a high-quality ferret food that’s full of the necessary calories. In the wilderness, the baby starts eating what the jill eats once it stops being nursed. They also complete their skeletal growth very fast.
When you start, you need to soak the kibble in warm water for about 5 to 10 minutes. It’s even better if it doesn’t completely cool off when it makes it to the ferret. Today, you can find good ferret food anywhere, which means you should completely stop feeding your ferrets any type of cat or kitten food.
Ferrets require around 35% meat-based protein and around 20% fat. The percentage doesn’t have to be 100% accurate but you should remain around these guidelines if you want your ferret to grow healthy, strong, and energetic.
The main argument for cat food is that it’s cheaper compared to ferret food, which is true. However, ferrets eat 6-8 times a day but in extremely small portions. This is because they’re excellent self-regulators and will stop eating once they’re “full”.
This is also why they need their food to be of the best quality as their bodies don’t have the time to absorb all the necessary nutrients from the food that’s mixed with things a ferret doesn’t need. Besides milk, ferrets also have a hard time digesting vegetables and fruits. Fish is also useless to them as their bodies can’t extract the nutrients they need from it.
A good and balanced ferret diet contains poultry fats that come from high-quality animal sources. Never use soy or corn gluten meals as they can’t digest them and they will starve to death. A good diet will also lower the risk of urinary tract obstructions when the ferret gets older. Poultry meals are highly recommended and you can use an egg as a treat from time to time, especially during housebreaking.
And when it comes to what they can drink, the answer is water, water, and more water. Don’t give them milk, fruit juice, or anything else. They need bottled water that has all the minerals they need and no chemicals added to get rid of other bacteria.
How often do baby ferrets eat?
Ferrets generally eat very often and in small quantities. Baby ferrets will need to be fed in even smaller quantities and even more often. Some people give their ferret meat chunks up to 8-10 times a day, while others give them some meat chunks mixed with kibble up to 4-6 times a day. The kibble tends to act as a later snack as it lasts longer in the cage.
One thing you should know about ferrets is that they have a habit of hiding any extra food for later. So if you find any food stashed while you’re cleaning their cage, make sure you start feeding them a bit less food. If meat stays too long in the cage it can go bad and the ferret can get very sick.
If you can’t tell which ferret is the one that stashes its extra food, keep giving the same amount and watch them closely until you figure it out. When it comes to water, they can go to the water bowl up to 12 times a day. So make sure they have plenty of fresh and clean water and that the bowl can’t be spilled.
There still exists the misconception that ferrets are nocturnal, which is not true. They are crepuscular, which means they are active at dawn and dusk. But the best thing about them is that they will match their sleeping schedule with yours so they can be up when you’re up to get as much food and attention as they want.
So you don’t have to worry about making a night feeding schedule for your ferrets or anything like that. It’s important to keep track of how much they’re eating, but you can spread their meals throughout the day however you want. All that matters is that the ferret gets the food it needs.
Can baby ferrets eat dry food?
You can start offering your kits hard kibble right after weaning. All you have to do is put a little bit of water on it and let it soak for a few minutes. And if raw meat that is safe is hard for you to get, there are a few ferret food-making companies that can help you out.
Fridge-dried meat is getting more and more popular among ferret owners as it comes in a completely sealed bag and can last for a very long time. You need to take a few chunks of dried meat and put some warm water on it. After around 10 minutes the chunks will become really big and you will even notice some blood. This is a good thing as it proves that they used real animals in making the food.
Adults can eat these meat chunks as they are. But it’s ideal to cut them into even smaller pieces until you almost make a paste out of it. You can also add a bit more water if it doesn’t look like a paste yet. Then you can pour this paste on top of the dried kibble and let it soak for another 5 minutes or so.
This way, you can switch your ferrets to a more raw-based diet and it’s incredibly healthy and tasty for them. And after 4 more weeks, your kits should be able to eat dried kibble and big chunks of meat all on their own.
Giving baby ferrets a proper house
Preparing a house for your kits is not hard at all. You’re simply doing the same thing you did for your bigger ferrets. The only thing you need to take care of is finding a cage that has multiple layers, is very spacious, but the space between the bars is incredibly small. If a kit can fit its head between the bars, avoid using that cage at all costs.
You might think that adding mesh to the cage can easily solve the problem, but that’s far from the truth. Many ferrets have or develop trouble breathing and mesh is very bad at air ventilation. It’s important to make sure the kits are 100% healthy before trying to add mesh. But the safest option is to get a cage with bars that are close together.
After you found the proper cage, it’s time to prepare it. Add a layer of dust-free paper litter to the bottom of each layer and prepare a litter tray in a corner if you plan on litter training them. Then add the beds and place them away from the litter tray and then add the hammocks.
Some ferrets tend to fight over food and water so make sure each ferret has its own water and food bowl. More than that, you should get heavy bowls that can be attached to the cage so the ferrets won’t be able to turn it into a toy.
Are toys a good idea?
Regardless if the ferrets are 2 months old or 2 years old, they go absolutely crazy over toys. You can provide them with lots and lots of toys as long as they’re ferret-safe. And if they’re not, only let them play with the toys while you’re supervising.
There are lots of toys made specifically for ferrets as they’re getting more and more popular as pets all over the world. These are safe for chewing and are hard to be destroyed, which is important as ferrets are natural destroyers.
Other acceptable toys are the cat ones and some baby toys and rattles. But these should only be used under your supervision. You can also give them small water bottles as they love the sound it makes when they’re playing with it. But never let them alone with it and remove it once they start biting off chunks of plastic.
You can also use old socks and turn them into a knot. They use it as a ball and it’s safe for them to chew on. Make sure you have a few special toys that are waterproof so you can use them while bathing them. Some ferrets are scared of water and turning the bathtub into a playground helps a lot.
Some owners even offer their ferrets a big tray full of water in which the ferrets can play as most ferrets actually love water. But since frequent contact with water can strip them of their natural oils, they will begin to smell worse for a few days after they play in the water. So a good replacement is a big container of rice as they love digging through that.