For an unsterilized female ferret, reproduction is almost a matter of life and death. Indeed, if a ferret does not mate, it will suffer from very serious health problems. Also, it should be able to reproduce every year. If you want to embark on this type of adventure, you need to be very well prepared. This article aims to provide you with the basic information you need to master so that everything turns out for the best, both for the animal and for you.
When does a ferret reach sexual maturity and when can it reproduce?
Regardless of its sex, a ferret reaches sexual maturity between 6 and 12 months, often in the spring of the year following its birth. But mating is not necessarily possible as soon as the animal is ripe to reproduce. Indeed, it is customary to say that it depends on the cycle of the seasons. A female ferret will not have her heat on a well-defined and predictable date in advance.
The main factor is the sunshine duration to which animals are exposed. A female ferret who lives in a permanently heated environment and under artificial lighting (living conditions in an apartment for example) can trigger her heat in the middle of winter.
Normally the breeding season stretches between March and August. The fact that the female is in heat attests to the fact that she is ready to reproduce, but it is the protrusion of the male that triggers ovulation.
What are the signs that ferrets are ready to breed?
You will observe physiological signs: the female’s vulva grows to reach about 1 cm in diameter and it is possible that a small amount of bloody fluid is drained. His coat is fatter, with a possible yellow coloration of the white coat, and his odor becomes a little stronger. During this period, its behavior also changes: the ferret may see its appetite drop and become more cuddly.
You might be thinking that as long as a female ferret doesn’t meet a male, everything is going to be fine. But you will understand that in the absence of protrusion, this situation will not end. The level of estrogen in the blood will increase to cause anemia which puts the life of the animal in danger, especially when its immune defenses are at its lowest. In the absence of any reproduction, it is obligatory to sterilize the female.
In males, the size of the testes increases. It is much more aggressive, especially with its congeners, and smells very strong. It marks its territory with jets of urine.
Ferrets are able to reproduce for 3-4 years.
How does coitus work?
Mating is violent. As soon as a male crosses a female, he bites her neck and tries to mate with her. The ferrette is ready to protrude 7 to 10 days after the swelling of its vulva. Also, if she is not in good condition, she manifests it by biting and shouting at the male too quickly enterprising.
Mating is not a peaceful affair and the “fight” can last between 30 minutes and 3 hours. You can let the pair start over for two or three days to make sure the female is successfully impregnated. Note these dates in order to estimate the birth of babies. If the female should not be full, she must be taken to a veterinarian to place an implant to stop her heat.
Gestation lasts between 38 and 44 days. During this period, the female’s appetite increases: it is important to satisfy it. She also sleeps more. During the last two weeks, she must be isolated of her fellows, including the father, because when she gives birth, other ferrets will pose a threat to the young.
The environment of the future mother must remain peaceful. The most suitable litter to accommodate the little ones is made from recycled paper.
Calving and cubs
The female gives birth alone, without your help. A litter of up to 18 cubs, it takes the mother a few hours to give birth to all these little people. But more commonly, the average number of young per litter is between 8 and 10. When there are very many, all are unlikely to survive. The female licks them to clean them and cuts the umbilical cord herself. It is common for the mother to eat the placenta. If she does, it is because she needs it to regain her strength: it is indeed an important source of vitamins and minerals.
A baby ferret weighs about 8 to 10 g at birth. They are blind, deaf, and covered with a thin, barely visible white down. They open their eyes and begin to move around the age of 1 month. From there, you can start manipulating them to get them used to being close to humans and make it easier for them to socialize in the future.
Afterwards, the young can be separated from the mother from 6 weeks of age. Do this gradually to gradually reduce the production of milk. You start by removing the larger ferret and so on. When weaning is complete, the female can be in heat again, unless it is autumn, the season which marks the end of reproduction.