How to Breed Ferrets

I’ve been asked by many people about how to breed ferrets and my answer has always been the same. “Are you stark raving mad? Why on earth would you want to breed ferrets?” followed by Joey’s “DUH!” look!

Ask any ferret breeder how to breed ferrets and they’ll usually agree – you’re going to need deep pockets so that you can send all your vet’s children to private school with the money you would have forked out!

The list of things which could – and often do — go wrong is pretty long, and there is always the miserable chance of losing your jill, or losing all the kits, and even worse, losing the whole kit and caboodle!

Another point to consider is the temperament of both ferrets. Obviously you don’t want to mate a skittish male with a ditzy female, as no one would want to end up with neurotic, frightened ferrets that twitch then bite from fright!

Anyway – you want to know how to breed ferrets? Let’s start here….


How to Breed Ferrets Part 1 “The Courtship”


A typical male, the hob has no sense of romance whatever. No companiable fireside drink. No gazing lovingly into the jill’s eyes. No flowers, no soft music.

No sirree! The hob’s “How to Woo Your Jill” handbook is straight from the cave. The typical ferret mating game is an incredibly rough-and-tumble episode, something right out of a Neanderthal’s book of courtship.

Female ferrets are polyestrous, meaning they usually come into heat more than once a year. For us down under, that means they usually come into season around September and again in December. For those in the northern hemisphere, that’s around March and August. But like anything, it’s not a hard and fast rule.


About 7 years ago, both Friskie and Fidget came into season about 4 times during spring to autumn, and others in the Ferret Society had the same problem.


Males go into rut a month earlier and I really must stress this – the “whole male” (one with all his bits) during this period is absolutely gross. They smell vile and have rather unsavory habits! I think even their own mothers would find it hard to love them in this state!

By the way, that is one thing you better not ever try – putting a son with his mother – because even if they don’t care, it would be disastrous for the kits. Inbreeding can cause problems such as deformities in the kits’ jaws and hind legs, sometimes so bad that the kits have to be put down. And that goes for brothers and sisters, too. No incest allowed!

I thought having a teenage son was grotty enough but it doesn’t hold a candle next to a hob in rut! Their hair gets very greasy and they smell and they piddle and drag their stomachs through the piddle puddle, marking their territory, and they also get really aggressive with other males so have to be kept on their own.

Hmmmm. Kinda does sound like a teenage male..

Oh it really is revolting and the smell – oh the smell – it is BAD!

When the female goes into season, her vulva pops out and looks like a garbanzo (chickpea).


When this happens, wait for 14 days before putting her with the hob. If the jill isn’t ready, she won’t take kindly to having a bully grab her by the scruff so will fight and it could end up with her getting hurt.

Most breeders feel it is better for the jill to be brought to the male’s territory for the union to take place.


How to Breed Ferrets Part 2 “The Mating Game”


The actual mating process is not for the faint-hearted – it’s pretty vicious!

When put together, the male (the hob) will aggressively grab the female (the jill) by the scruff of her neck and drag her around the cage, mounting her several times, and even causing the jill to scream with pain. At least it certainly looks like it’s pain! Even if the jill goes limp and allows herself to be dragged around, it’s still a very distressing sight for the jill’s owner!! It’s almost like you’re waiting for the hob to bring out his wooden club!


Tip – don’t watch! Just let the two of them get on with it. Incredibly, this whole drama is essential for ovulation to occur. The hob has a j-shaped “penis bone” and once he is locked into the jill, there is no way you’ll separate them without causing damage. (So don’t try!!)


The whole process can take several hours to complete and once finished, the pair will usually stop to clean themselves up and eat and drink before the hob starts on the female again.

If you want to be sure that your jill has conceived, leave her with the male for a whole day. That should be sufficient time for pregnancy to take place.

Once finished and the pair have been separated, make sure you inspect the jill’s neck to make sure there aren’t any deep punctures which need attention and also check that there are no signs of vaginal infection in the days following the mating.

The vulva will usually start to decrease in a week, sometimes two. If the vulva has not gone down within 14 days, the jill will have to be taken back to the hob for another session. Lucky girl … NOT!


How to Breed Ferrets Part 3 “The Pregnancy”


If the mating is successful, the pregnancy will last approximately 42 days and the jill will become noticeably “clucky” during that time. She will start yanking the hairs out of her tail, I guess to feather her nest so to speak, and you will notice her getting fatter over the time. She might even get broody with you, and start pulling the hairs out of your head when she gets close enough.

Of course even if the mating was a dud, you will notice all these things happening anyway, as the jill will be going through a phantom pregnancy. This is pretty common and I wonder if it causes the jill as much frustration as it does to the owner!


As I said earlier, breeding ferrets is nothing like breeding dogs and cats. It is fraught with difficulty and can cost a lot of money in vet bills, as well as causing the death of your little jill. The ferret kits don’t always all survive and for the ones that do, have you got good homes lined up for them?


I bred Friskie and Fidget with CJ at the same time and they had their kits within hours of each other. Fidget had 12 kits and only 6 survived, 3 boys and 3 girls. She didn’t get any problems, thank goodness, but with Friskie it was a different story.

She gave birth to 6 kits and I noticed she was still straining but nothing was happening. We took her to our vet and after feeling her stomach, he found that she still had more kits inside. I had to leave her with the vet for a couple of hours while he put her on a drip to stimulate her uterus to continue with its contractions.

Rushing home, I put all of Friskie’s kits in with Fidget’s lot, then raced back to the vet. By the time I got there, 4 more kits had arrived but they were all stillborn.

I took Friskie back and reunited her with her babies and everything was fine until about a week later, when she developed mastitis. Back we went to the vet for treatment.

Thank heavens we didn’t encounter any further problems after that and we ended up with a total of 6 boys and 6 girls, all of whom were just the sweetest and most affectionate little babies ever to have been born.

baby ferrets
I had a list of people wanting to have a ferret and having vetted them, I picked the ones I thought would be the best parents. I also gave them a 5-page information pack with all the information they would need about bringing up ferrets, sterilizing them, feeding them and whatever else I could think of, as well as a money-back guarantee if they decided that they had made the wrong decision with their new ferret.

Fat lot of good it did me. One lady, who was a teacher at my kids’ high school, bumped into me at the supermarket and when I asked how her boy was getting on, she advised me blandly that he’d escaped from his cage and gone missing. I asked her if she had sterilized him, as I had instructed, and she said no. I asked if she had advised Ferret Rescue or done any of the other things I had written down in case of a lost ferret, and she said no.

I could almost feel the pulse in my temple about to burst with anger. It was obvious that everything I had told her, and everything I had given her, had not been absorbed or acted upon.

So much for all my vetting! It turned out to be quite a waste of time and effort, because I also found out later that a couple of other owners of my babies did stupid things.


Tip – just because potential owners look like they’re paying attention to what you’re saying, don’t assume anything!


I vowed I would not breed again unless I kept all the babies myself. At least then I would KNOW they’d be looked after properly and would have a long and happy life.



You can hold your breath for about 42 days and see if your little girl will become a mother or if she will need to be mated again.


How to Breed Ferrets Part 4 “The Big Day”


Assuming the union was successful, then you can expect the jill to produce tiny, hairless, blind and deaf little kits that look rather like a pile of caterpillars rather than ferrets!


Don’t disturb the mother or the kits for the first week, otherwise you might find that the mother will get spooked and eat her babies.

Let me repeat – the mother may eat her babies.

You will have to put food in the cage and will be able to check the litter when the mother is distracted or eating, and then you can make sure there are no dead kits in the pile and perhaps be able to count the number of babies. Of course if you find that you have more kits than the mother has nipples, then you might have to rethink about how to fix the problem.

As long as the jill has a good diet, she should be able to feed a large litter without any hassles, so it might not be necessary to find a substitute mother to help out.

After a week, you can handle the kits and talk to the mother but don’t throw out the soiled bedding just yet, as that might upset all of them. However make sure that there aren’t any kits caught up in the bedding or shoved to the back of the cage whenever you check up on them, especially around the 3 week mark, as the kits will start wandering about then, but will still be blind. Unless the mother yanks them back to the ‘nest’, they might find themselves out in the cold and be unable to get back.

Around this time the kits will be interested in trying out their mother’s grown up food. At this stage it is sensible to put the food in on a flat surface (like the top to an ice cream container) so that the kits can’t fall into a bowl and hurt themselves. I used to give the kits (human) baby food at this stage, as I reckoned it would give them everything they needed nutritionally. They seemed to thrive on it. As they got a bit older, I changed the diet to softened Iams kitten food before leaving just the dry kitten food for them at around 5-6 weeks old.

You should also give a small amount (like a teaspoon) of freshly chopped liver to the mother so that she can build up her iron levels but don’t give too much, as it can cause diarrhea. Also good is a smoothie made of some lactose-free pet milk or no lactose milk, with an egg yolk and a squirt of Nutrigel whisked together for added vitamins and minerals.

If you give them fresh meat, make sure you check the cage and remove any old uneaten food so that it doesn’t go off.

The kits should have fur after 9 days, with a decent coat after 5 weeks. Their eyes and ears open within 3-5 weeks and their canine teeth burst forth in their 7th week. Obviously they will have their baby teeth before then and you have to make sure they become socialized so that they know that latching onto your finger with their sharp little teeth is a definite no no. And yes, they CAN bite, so it’s up to you to handle them and socialize them properly.

It should go without saying that the cage should be protected from extreme weather conditions and have good circulation, because newborn kits are really, really smelly!

One thing I noticed with our babies is how they’d fall asleep suddenly. One minute they’d be playing and crawling over each other and then it would be like one of them died. A head drops and the body stops … enough to make you gasp with worry. But then you find they are just fast asleep.

Kits aren’t ready to leave their mother until they’re 8 weeks old AT THE EARLIEST, preferably 12 weeks. I’ve known breeders who’ve sold their kits off at 6 weeks old and I’ve taken them and put them with a motherly type so that they wouldn’t feel abandoned.

Whatever your reason for breeding ferrets, DON’T RUSH THIS BIT!



See how small ferrets are at 5 weeks? That’s Marshmallow in Philip’s pocket.

She was sold to a young girl way too early, and when the girl’s parents wouldn’t let her keep the ferret, we got her.

I don’t know if the fact that she was separated from her mother too early had anything to do with her personality, but she was a totally neurotic little girl. Gorgeous – without a doubt – but very flaky!

We also got Mulder when he was 6 weeks old. The guy I bought him from didn’t care about my suggestion that he should keep his kits with their mother longer. He just wanted to sell the babies and be done with it.

As you can see, Mulder also enjoyed sleeping in the pocket of Philip’s polo shirt 😉  The poor pocket took the brunt of Mulder’s scratching when he wanted to get REALLY comfortable!  LOL!  😀

Fortunately, Mulder wasn’t anything like Marshmallow when he grew up. He was like a big, soft teddy bear!

Personally I believe that the longer you leave the mother to look after them, the easier they are to train later on.



How to Breed Ferrets Part 5 “Wrapping Up”


Assuming all goes to plan, this is pretty much it. Like anything else though, things can go wrong, so always make sure you have a ferret-knowledgeable vet you can call.

You may have decided that it’s all too much to worry about. If that’s the case – good! I’ve always thought that breeding any animal “because they’re cute” is a pretty lousy reason, and if you’re hoping to make an income from breeding ferrets – well, you probably won’t!

Enjoy your ferrets and sterilize them! The boys will be happy as eunuchs (at least, it doesn’t seem to trouble my husband) and the girls won’t mind being spinsters.

Trust me, I know about these things  😀

But hey … you don’t have to believe me!

Here’s an article by Vickie McKimmey called “To Breed or Not to Breed?” (American Ferret Report, Vol 14, Issue 1) that you might find interesting, and this lady has been a ferret breeder for 15 years when she wrote it  😮

You can download the pdf HERE.



However, if you ARE planning to breed your jill, it’s important that you’re aware of the following conditions which can affect her and/or her kits …

Aplastic Anemia

Eclamptogenic Toxemia

Heat Periods




Another article about breeding, which might interest those of you who’re thinking about breeding your jill (but be aware that this is from a UK ferret breeder’s point of view) …

Ferrets First – Breeding Ferrets

To give you some idea of what kits are like at various stages, here are a couple of YouTube videos showing them from newly born to approximately 6 weeks old :)

Ferret Kits HD New born!! by rabbitcontrol westmids

4 week old ferret kits feeding by P Matty
Yes, they really do sound like that 😀

Ferret Babies by arieloz
These little cuties look like they’re around 6 weeks old.  As you can see, they’re still so young and need their mother so please … if you breed ferrets … don’t let them go before 10 weeks old at the earliest!



How to Breed Ferrets — 13 Comments

  1. In no way am I gonna breed them but was very interesting reading about. Just wanted to say thank u,it takes a special person to do this so people like me can enjoy and love them. I love my two. They are the sweetest. Than you again!

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed the page, Kari :)

    It was lovely to read your comment so thank you for taking the time to write 😀

  3. Thanks for the blog,I’m on my 1st batch of kits and only lost 1 out of 6,they are eating now and drinking on there own so time to take out! You have hit some interesting pointers that have came in use..thank you.

  4. Hi Baz – I’m so glad to know you only lost one of your kits! It’s pretty awful to lose them but thank goodness your remaining 5 are healthy and doing well!
    Glad to know you got something useful from this page :)
    Hope you’re checking out prospective buyers for your babies and will make sure they go to good homes. Mind you, I know that despite my attempts to ensure a good home for my kits, some of the people who took them didn’t pay attention to anything I said in the 5 page booklet I gave them :(
    If you feel like it, please post a photo of your babies here. I would love to see them and I’m sure the other readers of this page would love to see them too 😀
    Big hugs to the mama from her new buddies in WOz 😉

  5. In the 1970’s and 80’s I used to breed and sell ferrets. I would give prospective owners a small handbook that I’d made up on the care of them. When I first got them the people I bought them from fed them bread and milk for every meal !!. At one stage I had 18 ferrets who where completely had tame and in their own way very affectionate, they can’t show it but they are. The cruelty show to some of these animals by uncaring people is awful. Whenever I bought a new animal I would put it in an isolation cage for 2 weeks just to make sure they were really healthy. It obviously wasn’t long enough. It was only after I’d introduced him to the the other animals that I noticed he was favouring one foot. I checked him out and he’d got foot-rot. All the rest caught to. I tried everything but they couldn’t be treated and had to be put down. I was so fond of losing Sally, the alpha female, that I decided I’d never have ferrets again.

  6. Oh Andy, what a tragic story :'(
    I don’t understand why the vet couldn’t fix the foot rot :( Perhaps 30-40 years ago they didn’t realise that all they had to do was give your ferrets Ivermectin and that would cure them :(
    Were you living in the UK or in Oz?
    I know how ignorant a lot of breeders were here in WOz back in the mid-90s and I’d have arguments with them about feeding their ferrets bread and milk, then liver, for crying out loud. Those poor ferrets would have been weak from their diarrhea, surely :(
    And as for breeding – so many didn’t realise they shouldn’t breed ferrets from the same family. Jeez! I’m surprised we were able to keep the gene pool going with such bad husbandry!
    You sound like a very caring ferret person so I think it’s a shame that you decided not to carry on. Would you ever change your opinion?

  7. My circumstances have changed and I can no longer keep ferrets. They were favourite animal companions, I hate the word pet, it demeans the companion. I was in Oz when I decided I wanted a ferret. They were my hunting companions too. I removed 1000’s of rabbits from the bush with my companions.If you don’t understand ferrets and rabbiting you don’t understand ferrets. I set up a series of plastic pipes in their living area and they’d spend most of their time chasing each other through the pipes, that’s when they weren’t sleeping. They can’t wag their tails or purr by they now you. They’d react in a totally different way to me and strangers. I selectively bred them to be smaller and more agile. When I lost Sally I was devastated, and I still am. I have a photo of her but don’t know how to load it. I cried when I lost her, how tragic for a full grown man to cry over a ferret? if you can’t visualize it you’ve never owned and loved these amazing companions.

  8. Thank you for your informal post, I was considering breeding and wanted to get a better understanding, I understood it took alot of work, but now I see I may lose my little Chi chi, I have decided against it, thank you again.

  9. Hi Daphneanne
    I’ve never experienced that with any of my hobs – does he go through the whole two days of mating and then collapses or what?
    As you might know, the mating process is really quite “violent” so maybe he just gets really exhausted afterwards? That’s just my guess :/
    Have you spoken to your vet about this? I think it’d be a good idea just to make sure your boy hasn’t got a heart problem or anything else which might be the cause of his fainting.
    Hugs to your little guy from his new buddies in the West :)

  10. I rescued a female in tact from a lady who had gotten her at like 6 weeks and was feeding her fries from McDonald’s among other horrible things. Well I had the money saved up to fix her but she ended up getting ece from my other (fixed) male ferret so I spent that getting her healthy again now in lies the problem of she just went into heat about two days ago and I’m broke at the moment and have no in tact male to breed her with I’m so lost on what to do. Any advice?

  11. Hi Stephanie
    Oh dear God, how great for your little girl that you rescued her! The poor little sweetie – what makes people think that french fries is a suitable diet for ferrets? 😮
    These are the 3 things that will get a jill out of heat …

    • Mating her with a full male (if you want to breed)
    • Taking her to the vet for a “jill jab”
    • Mating her with a vasectomized male (to get her out of heat)

    I take it you’re in the States, yes? So, unfortunately I can’t suggest that you go to a ferret rescue to find a vasectomized boy to take her out of season, and it would be hard to find a full male :(
    Unfortunately the only solution left is a (ferret) vet’s visit to get the jill jab!
    Leaving a jill in estrus can be dangerous – when I was helping with ferret rescue I had a couple of girls who were seriously in heat but I don’t know how long they were left like that. I took them to the vet and both girls were fine after their injection so it all ended happily. Phew!
    You can read about the problems that occur when a jill is left in season for too long here …

    I understand that you’re hard pressed to find money for another vet’s visit but I would think that any ferret vet worth his salt would understand how dangerous it is to leave a female in that condition and would give her the injection and perhaps allow you to pay off the account in installments?
    When I had lots of ferrets, my vet was kind enough to do that for me, as I was bringing her lots of patients!
    If that doesn’t work is there a ferret rescue near to where you live? I doubt they’d have a full male in their care but it might be worth contacting the rescue to see if they can help in any way, maybe even giving you the name of their vet who would perform the procedure free-of-charge?
    I’m afraid those are the only ideas I’ve been able to come up with and I hope they help you to get your girl fixed up!
    Hugs to both your babies from their new friends down under :)
    Cheers (and wishing you the best of luck!)

  12. Hi, my lovely lady had 5 babies a week ago, all fat and healthy. Mom is a cuddler and from the moment she gave birth was asking to be picked up and loved, she has even tried to pull me (my hand) into the nest box! What I want to know is, will it be ok to handle the kits to sort out blankets a bit (not to remove them) her fav blanket has a few tassels on it which I found a baby had its head through and would hate for them to get stuck! I did handle that one and she was fine with it. Any info will help, thanks!

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