Ferret breeding is definitely not for the faint-hearted and it takes a lot of money and preparation. Jills can get into heat anywhere between one to five times a year. This is because they go into heat when the days get longer, instead of a specific time of the year.
This makes spring and summer the usual time ferrets can be bred. If you’re a ferret breeder, it’s recommended to mate the jill every time it comes into heat. If not, opt for spaying as quickly as possible as ferrets can even die if they’re in heat with no chance to mate.
Jills can make as few as 1 kit or as many as 15, but the normal pregnancy has between 6 and 8 kits. In this article, we’ll talk about the most important details any ferret breeder needs to know from the start.
When is the Ferret Breeding Season? How Can You Tell?
Ferrets can reach sexual maturity during the first spring after their birth. Generally, jills are ready to mate at 4 months old, while hobs can mate at around 6-8 months old. As days get longer and warmer, you can start looking for signs to see if your ferret is in heat or not.
Usually, you will be able to tell when your ferrets are ready to mate just by the pungent smell they suddenly started to emanate. It’s disgusting and you’ll need a special place for them, otherwise, your whole house will start stinking terribly.
A ferret in heat will also have very greasy skin. You can tell when a jill is in heat by checking her vulva. If it’s very swollen and enlarged, your jill is definitely ready to mate. You will also notice a pink and watery secretion coming from her vaginal area.
And if you think that’s gross, wait until your hob is in heat (commonly referred to as “rut”). He will start to completely ignore his personal hygiene, and will even start to secrete more oil to mark his territory. More than that, he will begin urinating on his bedding and start dragging his stomach through it.
The rut ferret will also have swollen testicles that will drop and become very noticeable. When this happens, you need to take the male ferret out of the shared cage as he will soon start to get aggressive. This includes attacking and potentially killing the other male ferrets in the cage.
Placing The Hob With The Jill – When To Bring Them Together
When you notice the enlarged vulva of your jill, wait 14 days before putting her together with the hob. And make sure you have a lot of free time during that period as you’ll have to be around. It’s better to wait a few more days than letting it happen when you’re not there.
Once you’ve placed the two ferrets in heat together, the part that’s not for the faint-hearted is about to start. The mating ritual between two ferrets is very far away from being anywhere near romantic. It’s best to not see it happening but remain in a nearby room in case something happens.
Don’t be alarmed and don’t try to stop the mating when the hob starts biting the jill by the neck and drags her around the cage. This is a completely normal ferret mating behavior and you might even hear the jill scream. But don’t intervene in any case.
The reason why the biting is important is that jills are induced ovulators, which means she needs a stimulation to start the egg production. When the hob bites her neck, the jill has hormones released into her body that triggers ovulation.
Unfortunately, the whole process can last for hours. More than that, it’s recommended to leave the female there the entire day to ensure the pregnancy. You should also keep in mind that hobs have a curved penis that causes a “lock” with the female until they finish mating.
This means you can do a lot of harm if you try to separate them just because you think it’s too disturbing. After you notice that the process is over, take the jill away from the hob and look for bad punctures around the neck that might need a vet’s attention.
A Jill’s Pregnancy – What Happens
After two weeks, you will start to notice that the jill gets fatter and will start to pull out fur from her tail and body that she’ll use for nesting. If you pick her up and she gets close enough to your hair, she might think your hair is great for her nest as well and will start pulling at it.
During the pregnancy, jills may also start making a clucking noise. However, there are also chances of experiencing a phantom pregnancy where the jill acts exactly the same as if she were pregnant but she’s not. If that happens you’ll need to place them together again.
The safest way to know if your jill is pregnant is to pay a visit to your vet for an ultrasound, which can be pretty expensive. You should also take your ferrets to the vet before mating them to perform various health checkups and ensure the two ferrets are not related.
If the ferrets are related, the kits can come out so deformed that they might have to be put down. But if everything is fine, after 42 days your jill will give birth to anywhere between 1 to 15 kits. You should brace yourself over the very high possibility of finding some of them dead.
The first week, the jill needs to have her privacy with her kits and you should only show up to feed her. You can throw a look over the kits but don’t touch them. Jills are known to eat their newborns when they feel threatened.
At 3 weeks old you can start feeding the kits solid food, at 5 weeks they’ll have a nice coat, and at 12 weeks they’re ready to be rehomed. Always take the kits to a vet check before rehoming to check them for any deformities, fleas, diseases, etc. Learn more about taking care of baby ferrets here.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
What time of year do ferrets have babies?
Ferrets have babies around spring or summer and then again in fall if they’re tricked into thinking the days are longer.
How do you know when a ferret is in season?
A jill in heat will have a swollen vulva while a rut will have swollen testicles and will start getting more aggressive towards other hobs. Both of them will also start smelling very badly.
At what age do female ferrets go into heat?
Jills become sexually active at just 4 months old.
How do you get a ferret out of season?
The best way to bring a ferret out of season is by spaying or neutering it.
How many babies can a ferret have in one litter?
A jill can give birth to anywhere between 1 and 15 kits, but the usual pregnancy has 6-8 kits.